• In The Stables with Ruaidhrí Tierney

    The last few weeks have been a bit of a rollercoaster as I’m a jockeys agent to Flat and National Hunt riders and Colin Keane is one of the lads I have on my books. Colin has been with me since he first took out his licence at 16 and is now fighting it out with Pat Smullen to be champion jockey.

    Things are fairly tight at the moment with Colin just five in front but I suppose it is better to be five in front than five behind. It would be a massive achievement if we held on but it won’t be easy.

    Big credit in all of this has to go to Ger Lyons for his support. I think both Colin and I are fully aware that neither of us would be in this situation if it wasn't for Ger’s support and he’s been pivotal in us challenging for the title. 

    I have looked after champion apprentices in the past but this is new territory for me as an agent and for Colin too. Colin was second for the last couple of seasons but this is a different situation and Colin is taking each ride as it comes and that’s all you can do and give it your all between now and the end and hopefully it will work out. 

    I genuinely absolutely love my job. A normal day would see me in the office for 8am getting stuck into the entries for racing the next day and once declaration time passes you are straight into looking at the ballot numbers for racing three or four days in advance and then after that you have the entries out at around 12.30pm. Between that and the end of the day you are just continuing to dot up the week as things change along the way, like maybe a horse no longer running or something like that.

    I have been around racing since I was about 16 when I started to work for Tom Hogan. I had a little stint in America after that and then I came back to ride for John Murphy for a little while and I also trained for a little bit but about six or seven years ago the agent work really started to take off so I started to concentrate on that and thankfully it has worked out so far. 

    At the moment I’d have about 15 or 16 lads riding over jumps and similar number on the flat and I’m quite lucky with the numbers I have. I’ve a nice mix of some well established and experienced riders and then some good kids coming up through the ranks. 

    This year has been quite a memorable one I suppose in that Padraig Beggy won the Epsom Derby and Seamie Heffernan won the Irish Derby so they were two fantastic days. Without a doubt it is very satisfying to see any of the lads ride a winner but those two races are special. There’s many satisfying elements to this job and I suppose I have worked with Colin from the minute he got his licence so to witness, and be part of, a rider rising up through the ranks is certainly the good side of the job. 

    Padraig’s win in Epsom was very much a shock and you’d look at the race and think the horse was beaten and then nearly have to look at your Racing Post again to see was it really him coming inside the last furlong.

    I’m very lucky to have Padraig and Seamie attached to Ballydoyle. I also do Emmet McNamara and once you have riders attached to that yard nearly everything you ride has the potential to win and you’ll always get your turn there and thankfully we won both Derby’s this year and that’s the way it goes - it goes full circle and we’ll take it when we get it. 

    You do get trainers ringing you at times looking for them and you may have to say that Aidan has three or four in the race but after dealing with it for so many years you go about it subconsciously. I just find that any trainers that enquire about a jockey, like Seamie Heffernan for example, I just be honest with them and tell them that we think Aidan might need him and ask them to hold out for us and 95 per cent of them will. That is the benefit of having a big book of jockeys then because I can also offer some of my other lads as well. Quite often lads hold fire to see what is happening and go from there.

    Things aren’t going so bad but you always have that worry in case you let things slip but I’m very lucky to have the lads that I have. I also have Killian Leonard who is currently three behind Oisin Orr in the apprentice championship and although we are fully aware it is an uphill battle, he’s determined to give that a good rattle before the end of the season. Over jumps it has already been a good start to the season for Sean Flanagan and I’m delighted with how that is working out for him. 

    The hardest part of the job is keeping lads happy, both the jockeys I have and the trainers I work with. It is impossible to keep everybody happy all of the time but all I try to do is try to work as hard as I can and keep my foot on the pedal and once one does that you can’t really do any more. 

    Come hell or high water I try to be in front of the printer every time the entries or ballot numbers come out so being based in Kinsale makes it difficult to get racing much but I try to get racing once or twice a month at least. I like to be in the office and have all the relevant information to hand but whatever happens I’ll definitely be at Naas on the last day of the Flat season and I’ll enjoy my gin and tonic that day! 

    There is always new lads coming onboard. I do try to get pony racing a couple of times during the year just to keep an eye on the youngsters coming through and that is a circuit that has provided us with Colin Keane, Connor King and a lot of good riders over the years and that is a massive asset as you are getting almost ready-made riders with a 10lbs claim. Then you’ll always have lads who may want a change but my main objective over the last couple of years is to keep the lads I have happy. 

    There have been a few good days this year but the championship battle has been such a slog for a while now that it would be quite satisfying to get Colin over the line but there’s a bit to go yet. 


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