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
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
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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