• In the Stables with Declan McDonogh

    When it comes to riding horses, thankfully I take after my mother and not my father. They both rode back in the day but it was Helen who enjoyed by far the greater success in the saddle. No contest as Dad would say! She was very much a pioneering lady rider, riding about 130 point-to-point winners and 15 more on the track, including one in France. 

    She comes from a racing background too. Her father was Cyril Bryce-Smith who along with his wife Jean were responsible for loads of winners back in the 60s. Mum won 34 point-to-points on her family’s Still William which is pretty remarkable. Even my arrival in early 1980 didn’t put a stop to her gallop. She was back in the saddle shortly after I was born in January and her first winner back was no less than Monksfield in the BMW Amateur Riders Hurdle at Down Royal at the end of April. Ted Walsh rode the second that day and I think Mum puts it down as her greatest win. She’s one tough lady.  

    And it was Monksfield’s last win. What a horse he was in a golden era for racing, two Champion Hurdles and three Aintree Hurdles just to begin with. Very special indeed. And there were others, Strandfield, Herbert United and Brevit were all big winners for Dad. There was Assigh Lady and Royal South and the one that got me started was Aine’s Pet. Vincent Keating bought her and she was a lovely one to have. I won three races on her. That’s a long time ago now!

    Fillies have been good to me throughout my career. Rebelline, Termagant and La Collina were all Group 1 winners and I’ll never forget Miss Beatrix either. More recently Creggs Pipes has been a star. She has come up through the ranks, winning a Listed race at Killarney and then a big handicap at the Galway festival last year. And to cap it all, she won the Group 2 Lanwades Stud Stakes at the Curragh back in May.

    She definitely wasn’t herself at the Curragh last weekend and I’m delighted for Andy Slattery that the injury she picked up isn’t as bad as was first feared. She took off on me like a sprinter in the Pretty Polly on Sunday and her race was over very early on. Hopefully she will be back later in the season, when there is a nice cut in the ground. I’m sure Andy will have one or two for Galway and one I’m watching out for is Flowerhill Nova which just lost out in the seven-furlong handicap on the opening night of the festival last year. He has plenty of pace and travels, just what you need around Ballybrit. Andy has had a great couple of years and long may it continue.

    Plenty of good judges are of the opinion that Beckford is the best two-year-old we have seen so far. He was pretty good on his debut and he won the Group 2 Railway Stakes in great style at the Curragh on Saturday. The logical thing would be to look for a Group 1 for him now and I’d have no doubt that he’d be up to the task. I won the Phoenix Stakes on La Collina for Kevin Prendergast back in 2011 and at this stage he is certainly as good as her. That might be the race for Beckford and I hope he goes from strength to strength for his new owners, Maurice Regan and Newtown Anner Stud Farm. 

    Mouse O’Ryan rang me last year and asked me to ride for the syndicate he was putting together with his dad Bobby, Gordon Elliott and Nick Bradley. They are off to a flyer but I’m not surprised. If Bobby and Mouse can't find you good horses, who can? I missed out on Monkeylou when he won at Listowel at the beginning of last month as I was suspended but he is clearly another nice one they have. I’m sure the boys are looking for a ‘winners of one’ or a Listed race for him and the Tyros Stakes over seven furlongs at Leopardstown in a few weeks might be the one. I’ll get to sit on him on the Curragh later this week and I’m looking forward to that. My agent Kevin O’Ryan is in the syndicate and I hope Attheraces have the cameras on him when they next have a runner! He certainly gets a great kick out of it and it’s brilliant to see.

    Gordon can turn his hand to anything and can train any type of horse with any level of ability. But the Flat lads needn’t worry, his main business is still the jumpers! But they will be buying yearlings again this year so watch out. I've known Gordon since his amateur riding days and we have been pals for years. He’s a great supporter of mine as is Charles O’Brien.

    John Oxx’s is a great place to work and the stable has certainly enjoyed better fortune of late. He is battling away and not short of nice horses which is great for both him and the staff. Our luck deserted us however at Royal Ascot last month.

    The boss knows what it takes to win the Ribblesdale Stakes and we really fancied Naughty Or Nice for the race. But her saddle slipped after just 100 yards and I was right up on her shoulders. It was a shame and a day to forget. But she is a decent filly and deserves her chance in another big one. She goes for the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh in a couple of weeks’ time and she’ll run well. John will have plenty ready to run around that time and the yard is full of anticipation. Some of the lads have been there for years and they deserve it.

    June was quiet enough for me but I had a great Irish Guineas weekend the previous month and I have no complaints with how July has started off. It would have been great to win on Willie Mullins’ Wicklow Brave on Sunday but he didn’t lose anything in defeat. He was trying to give a stone to Rekindling and it was a fine effort. There’s no disgrace in losing out to an improving three-year-old who is now third or fourth favourite for the Doncaster St Leger. 

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