• In the Stables with Ricky Doyle

    It was around the millennium that we moved out of Dublin. My dad is in the Army and transferred to the Curragh so Kildare town became home. I was about six or seven at the time and it was a big change. 

    I started off in a new school and was lucky that one of my first friends was Conor Brassil. As we got a little older, we would always go to his house after school and we would go out on the ponies. I got a few lessons at a riding school in Blessington and I was hooked. 

    John Quinn lived around the corner from me and he was always leaving his riding boots at the front door. Curiosity got the better of me one day and I asked him what his connection was with the horses. When he told me that he trained on the Curragh, I nearly died. I was 11 at the time and I became a regular in the yard. Every day I wasn’t in school I was there. He was brilliant to me. 

    When I started riding on the pony circuit, John drove me around the country whenever my parents couldn’t. I rode for two seasons and in all I had 35 winners. My best horse at the time was Love Boat Captain, I won a good few on him, including the Dingle Derby in 2009. I could never thank John enough for what he did for me back then. 

    When I was in fifth year in school, I was riding out regularly for Martin Brassil and I went to Willie McCreery’s for a day during the mid-term break that February. I went back to school the following Monday but just to tell them that I was leaving! It all happened very fast. My parents wouldn’t let me leave school just to go to a job but they were happy if I had an apprenticeship to go to and Willie stepped in. 

    I had my first ride at Cork a couple of weeks later. It was a five-furlong handicap and it was all a blur to be honest. It all happened so quickly and I remember very little of it. But my second ride was a winner, Mini Chou at Navan. And I had two more winners in my next five rides. I couldn’t have made a better start. 

    But after that, I wasn’t getting the rub of the green. Horses were running well for me but I just wasn’t getting the winners. And my weight was starting to creep up too. We decided that I should give it a go with John Murphy in Cork and that was really my first introduction to the National Hunt side of the game. I was getting plenty of rides but I was getting heavier and it was all a bit of a struggle. I was doing plenty of schooling and I was loving that. But again, I needed a change. 

    I rang Martin and he said that he had a job for me. I was happy to be moving back to Kildare and back home. Things picked up again and with Martin’s help I was picking up a good few outside rides. Martin was ringing around on my behalf and that was a huge bonus. He had some nice horses on the go and one that I looked after was Double Seven which won five on the bounce. I led him up in the Grand National at Aintree and he finished third to Pineau De Re under Tony McCoy. He was only beaten a few lengths. It was a great day. 

    I’m with Conor O’Dwyer for two years now and things have really picked up. I’ve ridden as many winners in that time as I had done in the previous five years. And it’s all down to Conor. He has great trust in me and I’m blessed that basically he lets me ride whatever he runs. 

    The summer went quite well for me but things had just begun to slow down a little when I rode a double, the first of my career, at Wexford at the end of last month. It was badly needed! I’d ridden Antimatter for Donncha Duggan at Ballinrobe in late August and I fancied him a good bit. They went a good gallop at Wexford and that was always going to suit, when they got tired up front, he just kept going and ran out a good winner at the line. 

    I knew Come Home Quick from Mark Fahey’s and was very aware how tricky she could be. We got her to the start well enough but she just began to play up a bit. Mark told me to jump off her and lead her around and I had just leant forward to get down when she threw her head back and she caught me lovely. I had smashed all my teeth in a fall at Kilbeggan in the summer of last year and my gumshield saved me this time. 

    In the race itself, she was fine. She didn’t jump great early on but was brilliant over the last four. She winged the second last and I thought she might be placed but then she picked up and I went for the right gap which was the winning of the race. It was a pretty hectic finish but we came out on the right side, just! I thought I’d won passing the line but I wasn’t so sure looking at the replay as we came back in. It was a great relief when I was called the winner. 

    Conor’s team of horses are in great form. They are running well and all paying their way. He has a nice team of young horses and there is loads to look forward to with them. His older horses are sound and will be winning races too. I’m delighted to be involved. 

    Conor has put me on the map over jumps. He’s very much in my corner and like Martin before him, would do anything to help me along. There isn’t a conditional rider in any other small yard in the country that is looked after as well as I am. 

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