• In The Stables with Ross Coakley

    No matter what you do in life, there are always going to be highs and lows. This season has certainly been one of contrasting fortunes for me but at the moment, I’m definitely enjoying a high!

    I’ve made a full recovery from my fall at Ballinrobe last month and things got better again when I won the Tote Irish Cambridgeshire on Elusive Time at the Curragh on Sunday. It was the biggest win of my career and I was delighted to share it with Takashi Kodama.

    The horse has been with Takashi for three or four years now and he has certainly been minding him, picking and choosing where he runs. He has been sliding down the handicap but he is definitely on the way back and I think it’s because it we are riding him differently these days.

    Whereas we had always been handy with him in his races, I suggested a while back that we drop him out and try to get him to finish his races a bit better. It worked a treat at the Curragh at the beginning of July when he finished fourth to Silverkode and when we tried it again over a mile at Leopardstown and it resulted in him winning his first race in two and a half years!

    He ran well again for Denis Linehan behind Silverkode again at the Curragh a couple of weeks ago and after that Takashi decided to let him take his chance in the Cambridgeshire. I didn’t even think that I’d be able to ride him on Sunday and was talking to Takashi about who might be available. But thankfully the weights went up 6lbs after the declarations were made last Friday morning and all of a sudden he was in my range.

    I remember thinking at the time that his wide draw didn’t give him much of a chance as he’d be on the flanks and would be too far from the action. The plan was to be patient and I followed Kevin Manning. He gave me a great tow. Elusive Time got into it without me having to push him and he picked up so well. It was a long last 100 yards but I knew there was nothing coming out of the pack and it was quite the feeling.

    Elusive Time has certainly turned a corner. Johnny Wixted rides him out every morning and that’s been a big help. The weights for the four handicap races on Longines Irish Champions Weekend were published yesterday and Elusive Time is one of 48 entries in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF ‘Sovereign Path’ Handicap at Leopardstown. Takashi is mad keen to have a runner and it’s a dream come true for him.

    The fall was a low to say the least. Things had been going well for me in the couple of weeks beforehand. I was riding in plenty of races and making loads of new connections and contacts which is important for any 3lbs claimer. I was arranging to ride work for more and more people and was building up a bit of momentum.

    It was nobody’s fault. I remember the fall and hitting the ground! The two horses in front of me banged off each other crossing the road and as they separated, my horse just went for the gap between them. She just took a bad step. A freak accident. I was out cold for 30 seconds, no more than that.

    I suffered a fracture below my eye socket and had to get stitches above my eye. Not very pretty but nothing that wouldn’t heal. When they handed me my phone in the A&E in Galway, I took a picture and tweeted it. I was just letting everyone know that I was okay. Social media is good for that sort of thing. There was a huge reaction and you get a lot of comfort when you realise how many people care. Loads sent their regards and it certainly meant so much.

    Initially, I was told I’d be out for six weeks but like every jockey, I hoped to be back sooner. Within a week and a half I had passed the concussion test and thought I’d be back in a matter of days. But the eye specialist in Galway didn’t agree and wanted me to hold off for two more weeks as a precaution. You have to take their advice, in the greater scheme of things, what’s a couple of weeks?

    I kept myself busy though. I was under strict instructions from the doctors not to overdo it in the gym and got myself a fit-bit watch to track my heartrate! You bring it up to a certain level and then back off. I met up with Warren O’Connor for a few sessions on the simulator. When I finally got the all clear, I was ready to go.

    Sunday’s winner will help build the momentum again. I’m apprenticed to Johnny Murtagh but I also ride out for Keith Clarke and Michael Halford one day a week. Eoin Doyle has been very good to me too and I have a great strike rate for him, winning races on St Lawrence Gap and Fiesole this season. My agent Ruaidhri Tierney forged that link.

    Now that my dad Denis is training himself, it would be a dream to ride a winner for him. We had great fun together on the pony racing circuit a good few years ago and I’ve ridden winners in Dad’s colours when he had horses with other trainers. It was always an aspiration of his to have a licence of his own. Targets are hard to set in this game. To ride a big handicap winner certainly ticks a box. And to ride a winner for Dad would tick another, it’s a definite goal in the short-term.

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