Reformed jockey Ray Dawson says crashing his car "drunk" was the wake-up call he needed to make a success of his career.
The 28-year-old seeks a first Group 1 victory on Saturday – the highest level of horse racing – in the Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes.
But he admits he may not have got the opportunity to ride leading contender Zain Claudette without making significant lifestyle changes.
Winning the Newmarket race, which carries a £160,915 first prize, would bring Dawson full circle, as the accident in the town two years ago kick-started his recovery.
"People my whole life said to stay away from Newmarket but it was the best thing that ever happened. It was a rocky road but I had my licence with (trainer) Jane Chapple-Hyam," he said, having failed to hold down jobs at other stables due to his personal problems.
“I then got drunk one night and crashed my car in Newmarket on May 4 2019 and that was the last time I had a drink.
“Whatever it was about that night I thought, ‘I have to stop this as it is crazy’. That was the start of it and from then my career has taken off.
“I’ve put down the drink for good this time and got the proper help and continued to get the help.
"Once I could live a life without needing a drink on the weekends to deal with life I was able to give my career a proper shot."
With more than 50 winners under his belt this year, three coming aboard Zain Claudette, Dawson hopes the Ismail Mohammed-trained filly can step up again.
She put in a polished performance to deny hot favourite Sandrine in the Group 2 Sky Bet Lowther Stakes at York, who reopposes at the weekend.
Dawson says he knew his mount was special from the word go.
“She went to Goodwood first time out and I was supposed to be banned. I was in a piece of work with her and I thought ‘what is that?’ as she left me for dust," he said.
“I rang my agent and said we need to move my ban from Friday to Saturday but he said you can’t do that as it is a big day and I said we have to as there is a filly running which I think might be nice. The whole week I thought, ‘have I made the right decision?’
“I was looking at the price (Zain Cladette was returned at 25-1) and she kept drifting and I thought, ‘what have I done?’ but she only got beaten on the line by one of George Boughey’s called Hellomydarlin, which was heartbreaking but at least we knew she was nice.”
Zain Claudette is 7-2 with Grovesnor Sport for the next assignment – and dad-of-one Dawson has faith that he can achieve the big win, backed by agent Adam Brook, his partner Abbie Wibrew and the trainers who employ him.
"Zain Claudette went to the Princess Margaret and I thought she had a bigger chance than most thought. She won even though I rode her wrong that day," he added.
“All the hype was on Sandrine in the Lowther but I was thinking if we can get first run on her we will have the better of her. She went there that day and beat Sandrine by a length and she has got better since then.
“Going to the Cheveley Park with her on Saturday is weird as last season was what I describe as my first proper one riding and here I am just over a year later I’m now riding a horse that is near favourite for a Group 1.”
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