Seamus Heffernan

Seamus Heffernan has been an integral part of the Aidan O’Brien stable for well over a decade and has shared in some of the many big-race successes in the Ballydoyle operation. Many stable jockeys have come and gone over the years, but Heffernan has remained as one of the few constants in the operation.

Principal Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Seamus HeffernanNotable Wins:

  • Irish Champion Stakes (Cape Blanco 2010)
  • Ruby Stakes (Steinbeck 2010, Common World 2005)
  • Moyglare Stud Stakes (Misty For Me 2010, Again 2008)
  • Golden Fleece Stakes (Zoffany 2010)
  • Eyrefield Stakes (Mikhail Glinka 2009)
  • Derrinstown Derby Trial (Fame And Glory 2009, Dylan Thomas 2006, High Chaparral 2002, Galileo 2001)
  • Sun Chariot Stakes (Halfway To Heaven 2008)
  • C.L. Weld Park Stakes (Chintz 2008)
  • Irish St Leger (Septimus 2008)
  • Brownstown Stakes (Cheyenne Star 2008)
  • Irish Derby (Frozen Fire 2008, Soldier Of Fortune 2007)
  • Irish 1,000 Guineas (Halfway To Heaven 2008, Imagine 2001)
  • Vintage Crop Stakes (Yeats 2008 + 2007)
  • Killavullan Stakes (Jupiter Pluvius 2007, Kincara Palace 1997, Shell Ginger 1996)
  • Railway Stakes (Lizard Island 2007)
  • Alleged Stakes (Dylan Thomas 2007)
  • Gallinule Stakes (Alexander Of Hales 2007, Urban Ocean 1999)
  • Saval Beg Stakes (Yeats 2007, French Ballerina 1998 + 1997)
  • Coolmore Stakes (Warsaw 2007)
  • Mooresbridge Stakes (Septimus 2007)
  • Swordlestown Sprint Stakes (You’resothrilling 2007, Miss Childrey 2003)
  • Loughbrown Stakes (Honoured Guest 2007)
  • Ballycullen Stakes (Tusculum 2006)
  • Renaissance Stakes (Beauty Bright 2006)
  • Derrinstown Stud 1,000 Guineas Trial (Queen Cleopatra 2006)
  • Leopardstown 1,000 Guineas Trial (Kamarinskaya 2006)
  • Beresford Stakes (Septimus 2005)
  • Heritage Stakes (Solskjaer 2005)
  • Anglesey Stakes (Oratorio 2004, Air Of Distinction 1996)
  • Athasi Stakes (Lucky 2004, Kincara Palace, Proud Titania 1996)
  • Victor McCalmont Stakes (Fionns Folly 2002)
  • Phoenix Sprint Stakes (One Won One 2002)
  • National Stakes (Beckett 2000)
  • Waterford Testimonial Stakes (Risk Material 1998)
  • Debutante Stakes (Photogenic 1997)
  • Concorde Stakes (Wild Bluebell 1995)
  • Silver Stakes (Ballykett Nancy 1994)
  • Birdcatcher Nursery (Zayaleta 1993)

Early Days

Apprenticed to Jim Bolger in the early part of his career, Seamus showed steady improvement year after year and eventually became joint-champion apprentice with Daragh O’Donoghue in 1994. Runner-up to Pat Smullen the following season, Seamus enjoyed some good victories for Jim Bolger in the early-1990’s and his strength in a finish was just one characteristic of his riding that helped him to get established. Most of his notable wins in the early part of his career were for Jim Bolger, with him landing the Birdcatcher Nursery at Naas on Zavaleta in 1993, the Silver Stakes at the Curragh on Ballykett Nancy in 1994, the Golden Pages Handicap at Leopardstown on Royal Vision in 1994, the Joe McGrath Handicap at Leopardstown on Ailleacht in 1995 and the Coolmore Concorde Stakes at Tipperary later that season on Wild Bluebell.

Aidan O’Brien Beckons

Heffernan became attached to Aidan O’Brien’s yard in 1996 and immediately made his mark when partnering Proud Titania to win the Athasi Stakes at the Curragh in April. With Christy Roche as first jockey for the stable, Seamus learned a lot off this seven-time Irish Champion Jockey and with the stable concentrating more on the Flat horses around this time, it was no surprise to see Seamus falling in for some quality mounts in the better class races. He finished off 1996 with another couple of Group race wins to his credit, partnering Air Of Distinction to take the Anglesey Stakes at the Curragh and Shell Ginger to win the Killavullan Stakes at Leopardstown.

As a fully-fledged jockey, Seamus was in constant demand with other trainers and he formed a particularly good relationship with the Pat Flynn-trained French Ballerina. This high-class mare landed the Savel Beg Stakes in 1997 and 1998 with Seamus on board and also won the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with Graham Bradley doing the steering. Sadly, French Ballerina had to be put down after sustaining a serious injury in the 1998 Ascot Gold Cup and for her rider, this was a particularly big blow as she had helped to raise his profile considerably.

Group 1 Glory

In the late-1990’s, the Group and Listed race winners continued to mount up for Seamus with Photogenic winning the Debutante Stakes at Leopardstown, Kincara Palace taking the Killavullan Stakes and Risk Material winning the Waterford Testimonial Stakes. He also rode Urban Ocean to win the Gallinule Stakes in 1999 and it was the following year that he managed to strike at Group 1 level for the first time. As usual, O’Brien saddled several runners in the National Stakes at the Curragh and Seamus was nominated to ride Beckett. Generally considered to be inferior to his better-fancied stable companion, Darwin, Heffernan’s mount confounded that belief with a convincing three lengths victory.

Classic Success

Better was to follow for Heffernan in 2001 as he rode his first Classic winner when guiding Imagine to victory in the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh with stable jockey Michael Kinane again choosing the wrong one as he rode Toroca into third place. This was a very popular result among the racing professionals and his fellow jockeys and no-one could begrudge this hard working and dedicated rider his moment of glory. The Derrinstown Derby Trial at Leopardstown is another race which Seamus has managed to win on four top-class horses in recent years, namely Galileo, High Chaparral, Dylan Thomas and Fame And Glory.

In the seasons that followed, more and more big races were claimed by Seamus and while the majority of those victories were for the O’Brien stable, he has also notched up some notable victories for other trainers including the Phoenix Sprint Stakes on the Joanna Morgan-trained One Won One and the Victor McCalmont Stakes at Gowran Park on the Irene Oakes-trained Fionns Folly in 2002. 2004 saw him partner Oratorio to victory in the Anglesey Stakes as well as riding Lucky to success in the Athasi Stakes. In 2005 he won the Ruby Stakes at Tralee on the Tom Hogan-trained Common World, as well as the Beresford Stakes on Septimus and the Heritage Stakes on Solskjaer, both for Aidan O’Brien. While in 2006, he landed both of the 1,000 Guineas Trials at Leopardstown on the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair Kamarinskaya and Queen Cleopatra. He also won the Ballycullen Stakes on Tusculum as well as the Renaissance Stakes on Beauty Bright.

A Year To Remember

2007 was a particularly lucrative season for Heffernan as Kieren Fallon’s drug ban, which resulted in him being absent from the racecourse until mid-June, meant that Heffernan was riding as the stable jockey to Ballydoyle in Ireland up until that point and he capitalised fully on the situation, riding a multitude of pattern race winners with notable highlights coming on Dylan Thomas in the Alleged Stakes, Yeats in the Saval Beg Stakes and the Vintage Crop Stakes, Alexander Of Hales in the Gallinule Stakes and You’resothrilling in the Swordlestown Stud Sprint Stakes. With Fallon back in the fold, many thought that Heffernan may not get the same sort of opportunities that he got in the first half of the season, Heffernan confounded those doubters by having arguably the best day of his career on the 1st July 2007. He opened his account on the day by giving Lizard Island a tremendous front-running ride to win the Railway Stakes before going on to claim a second Classic success on Soldier Of Fortune in the Irish Derby, who quickened right away to win by no less than nine lengths. He wrapped up what was his best-ever season with yet another big-race success on the O’Brien-trained Jupiter Pluvius in the Killavullan Stakes at Leopardstown.

As remarkable a season as 2007 was for Heffernan, he has arguably managed to better it in 2008. During the course of the season he won no less than three Classics, namely the Irish 1000 Guineas on Halfway To Heaven, the Irish Derby on Frozen Fire and the Irish St Leger on Septimus. This was a truly remarkable achievement for a “second-string” jockey and one that gained him worldwide attention. If that wasn’t enough, he added another Group 1 win to his tally when claiming the Moyglare Stud Stakes on the David Wachman-trained Again. Away from the highest level, he gained other notable wins on the Francis Crowley-trained Cheyenne Star in the Brownstown Stakes at Leopardstown and in the C.L. Weld Park Stakes on the David Wachman-trained Chintz at the Curragh.

Down From The Clouds

Having enjoyed two remarkable seasons in succession, Heffernan returned to the ranks of mere mortal in 2009, for all that he still enjoyed a highly-successful campaign by normal standards. Perhaps the highlights of his season came when winning the Derrinstown Derby Trial at Leopardstown for the fourth time on Fame And Glory and later in the season he won the Eyrefield Stakes on Mikhail Glinka. However, the first-named colt came close to giving Heffernan arguably the biggest success of his career, as he found only the incomparable Sea The Stars too good for him in the Epsom Derby.

Back To His Best

2010 saw Heffernan bounce right back to form. He managed to ride the runner-up in the Epsom Derby for the second year in succession, this time on the unconsidered pace maker At First Sight. Given a well-judged ride by Heffernan, the son of Galileo slipped the field around Tattenham Corner and for a few strides it looked like he had built an unassailable lead. Alas, Workforce swopped in the closing stages and denied Heffernan a memorable win. The following month, he rode the subsequent Group 1 winner Zoffany to success in the Golden Fleece Stakes at Leopardstown and the month after that, he won the Ruby Stakes at Killarney on Steinbeck. However, the best was still very much to come for Heffernan. Riding Misty For Me in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh, the daughter of Galileo answered all of Heffernan’s urgings and ground out a game length success. Remarkably, less than a week later, Heffernan managed to better that win. Riding the O’Brien-trained Cape Blanco in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, Heffernan led his rivals a merry dance from the front and his mount positively bolted up by 5½ lengths, giving Heffernan his first win in what is arguably Ireland’s top race.

Seamie Heffernan is without doubt riding better than ever, as well as getting better opportunities than ever and he is sure to remain on the Group 1 landscape for many seasons to come.

Info supplied by Horse Racing Ireland - Updated January 2011