It’s nearly a year since I rode my first winner on the racecourse and in that short space of time things could hardly have gone any better. My background is very much in pony racing, I rode my first winner when I was 11 and I was champion rider in 2015 with 70 winners. Along the way I rode 100 more and gained great experience.
I signed up as an apprentice with my dad Eamon when I first got my licence but it was Paul Nolan who gave me my first ride at Gowran Park. I met Adrian Keatley outside the weighroom that same afternoon and within three weeks he gave me my first winner on Rahyah at Dundalk. It was some feeling I can tell you. I had a great time on the pony circuit and rode plenty of winners but this was very different. It was great that Dad was there as well.
It’s very different riding at the track compared to the pony racing. The lads we are riding against are more experienced anyway! In the pony races, there is always plenty of pace and it’s usually flat out. It’s more about tactics now. They ride much tighter, that’s for sure. You grow up pretty quickly.
I spent last summer in Ballydoyle and it was a fantastic experience. I learnt loads over the couple of months. But you had to, given that you were riding work with the likes of Seamus Heffernan every morning. It’s a pretty special place, really state of the art.
I'm with Adrian since the end of last year. He’s been so good to me. I'm still at living home in Graignamanagh and the drive up takes about an hour in the mornings. I’d be there for 7.30 and we’d pull out at 8. Adrian has given me the majority of my winners and the biggest of them all so far came at the Galway festival where we won a nice handicap over the extended mile with Jet Streaming. It was my first year riding at Ballybrit and it was a big boost to ride a winner there. It was Galway Plate day and there was some atmosphere.
I had won on Jet Streaming at Leopardstown a few weeks earlier so I knew her well. The plan was to jump out and get into a rhythm but she hit a flat spot coming down the hill and to those watching on, she looked the first beaten. But she picked up well in the straight and powered home to win very well. It’s not every day you get to beat Pat Smullen and Chris Hayes at Galway and my first reward was an interview with Luke Harvey on Attheraces! The race wasn’t on RTE unfortunately so I didn’t get to meet Tracy Piggott. Maybe next year.
I rode plenty of doubles and trebles on the pony circuit and got seven on the card one day at Thomastown which is the track nearest to home. My double at Bellewstown last month was the first of my career on the racecourse and it was rather unexpected to say the least. Tom McCourt was good to me and gave me a nice few rides when I was starting off and he put me up on Accladora which was a 66/1 chance for the claiming maiden. Her win was a bit of a surprise and so too was Bert Leaf’s success for Seamus Fahey in the handicap. She was a 20/1 chance but like Accladora had bits and pieces of form and they should both win more races when they get their conditions. They were my first winners for both Tom and Seamus which was great. I read afterwards that the double came to 1406/1!
Ruaidhrí Tierney has been my agent from the start and is my link to most of the trainers I've been lucky enough to ride for. Obviously I spend most of my time with Adrian but I've ridden work for Willie Mullins and do my best to get to anyone that wants me. The more contacts I can make the better and it’s one of the reasons things have gone so well.
It’s very tight in the race for the apprentice championship and it’s not something I’ve given much too much thought to. I'm not all that far off the pace but there are a good few ahead of me. The aim is to keep riding winners and if it comes, it comes. To win it would be a great achievement and I might be better placed to give it more of a go next season.
I was very young when the likes of Rathgar Beau was winning all those big races. I remember being at Punchestown the day he beat Moscow Flyer in the Kerrygold Gold Cup and hopefully those days will come around again for mam and dad. I could never thank them enough for what they did for me to get me started off. All those Sundays driving me to Kerry and to Donegal and everywhere in between for the pony racing. It was some commitment from them over a good few years. I was lucky to have them back then and I’m lucky that I can turn to them for advice anytime now.
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