Colin with the Championship Trophy at Naas
©Healy Racing Photos
It has been a good few weeks since the season ended and it was a pleasant surprise to have so many people coming up to me in Trim, shaking my hand and congratulating me on winning the championship. It was nice because a lot of the people you wouldn't think follow racing so to have caught their attention and for them to want to come up to me and say ‘well done’ is a nice feeling. It has definitely sunk in now.
The following that we had was brilliant to be honest. The last day at Naas I had heard there was a few busses leaving Trim but I couldn’t have thought there would be as many there and they made plenty of noise too so they really added to the occasion. It was an amazing day.
At the start of this season my target was the same as every other season and that is to better tally from the previous year. Then about half way through the year when things were going well I said to myself, ‘this might be a bit unrealistic but I’d love to get to 100 winners’ and thankfully on the last day we got there. It was looking for a long time that it wasn’t going to happen but I was delighted to get it on the final day of the season. The only problem is I’ve to try and beat that next year now!
At that halfway point in the season Dermot’s horses just weren’t firing for Pat and I probably felt then that if either of us got to 100 winners for the season it would be enough to win the championship but Pat doesn’t go down without a fight!
All the way through it I tried not to think about the championship too much. I just wanted to keep it simple and not over-complicate things. If I had a bad day I’d just forget about it and move on, it was over and you had to look at the next day and I suppose the only annoying part of it was when people were starting to congratulate me too early. Weeks before the end I had people coming up to me saying “You have it in the bag” and I was only five in front going to Dundalk at that stage and then Pat had a four-timer, but I knew exactly the difference a day could make.
Having led for so much of the season it was probably around Listowel I left thinking that Pat might claw it back. It got back very tight that week and that was the first time I thought it was going to be a real struggle from then on. It was cat and mouse from then on, I’d have a couple of winners and Pat would ride one more than me and that sort of thing.
But Ger’s horses just kept winning and I simply wouldn't be where I am without Ger. The Friday night at Dundalk when it became mathematically impossible I let myself enjoy it then all right. Ger has been very loyal to me since I started and he even took the chance of appointing me as first jockey when I was an apprentice which was a big call and I’m very grateful to him. Every year I’ve been with Ger, every year has been a better year between owners and good horses so hopefully it can stay going that way. He’s a great boss to work for, a bit mad, but a good mad!
To cap it all off going to Italy and riding the Group 1 winner for Tony Martin was brilliant because I think it was Ger that was saying I’d have been the first champion jockey to have not ridden a Group 1 winner so that was a nice record not to have and to ride it for Tony who is another local man and another trainer that has been so supportive of me this year and all the way through, was fantastic.
A lot of my winners this year that weren’t for Ger were for local men like Tony, Tom McCourt, Gordon Elliott, Noel Meade and my father, Gerry, who has been a massive influence all the way through my career and pitched in with a few important winners this year along the way.
My agent, Ruaidhrí Tierney, has been with me since day one and he did a fantastic job throughout the season. When Ger didn’t have runners he always had me on the best possible chance and when there was runners over from England we’d be on them as well and managed to get a view winners that way so he’s been a big part of this success.
Pat is a gentleman and a world class rider and was one of the first to congratulate me when it was all over. When I first started riding it would have been Pat and Johnny Murtagh that I’d have been looking up to. Johnny would have rode a good bit for my father so to be riding winners for Johnny now means a lot to me.
At the moment we are busy in Ger’s and at home with my father with young horses and breakers and things like that so I’ll just stay at home and concentrate on them and Dundalk for now. I’ll have a bit of a break over Christmas and get back into things in the new year, but I’ve never got any approaches to go away for a winter in a foreign country or anything like that and I’ve never gone looking so I’m happy enough where I am and working away.
Every season I’ve been riding we’ve managed to better the tally from the season before so that’ll be the big problem next year! But that will certainly be the aim again and I’ll work as hard as I can to try and make sure I do it anyway.