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It’s a little over two years since I retired from race riding and while I don’t miss the day to day lifestyle of going here, there and everywhere, I do miss that adrenalin buzz from a race that you can never replace.
I still ride work for Willie and do a bit of schooling but nothing will ever replace that thrill of riding and winning races but it can’t go on forever either.
Retiring and what would happen next was something I would have obviously thought about and spoke to Willie about. I’ve been with him a very long time now and he always said that when the time came to retire from riding that there would always be a job there for me.
I never really wanted to go training and I knew Willie’s place inside out so it was probably a natural progression to take up a full time role with him so it just happened to be that when I told him I was going to retire at Listowel (2015) he mentioned that Max Dynamite was going to Melbourne for the Melbourne Cup a couple of weeks later and going with him to oversee his preparations might be a nice way to start the job so off I went to Australia!
I am working for the biggest trainer in Ireland at the moment so it’s a fantastic position to be in and now I’m back in Melbourne again as Willie has three runners in the race tomorrow, Max Dynamite, Thomas Hobson and Wicklow Brave and having been so involved in getting them to the race over the last few weeks it is certainly exciting to see how they fare out.
I know how Willie likes things done and what way he is thinking and Willie can’t be here all the time so it probably made sense for me to come down here with the horses. Each year you come down to a place like Melbourne you are always trying to pick up those nuggets or bits of information that will help you to go closer in the race itself or get the horses to perform to their absolute peak.
With a young family at home it is difficult at times and you’d obviously prefer to have the family here with you when you are so far away but then there is an element of satisfaction in the job you do too. I enjoy making sure the horses are right down here and making the decisions that we do the right work in the morning.
Working with Willie you are working for the biggest yard and trying to learn from the best. I do bits of everything back at home. I still ride out and ride work, I do the boards in the morning to determine the lots and when Willie is doing entries and declarations I’d organise the horses in the yard and help out with other stuff.
Willie will ask my opinion at times and I will give it when I’m asked for it but at the end of the day everybody knows Willie’s ideas and he is rarely wrong and the statistics will prove that but if he says something about a horse and I think differently I will tell him that because he wants as much feedback as he can get.
The more winners you have the better it is but we’ve had quiet times as well and horses get sick or get hurt which can be trying but everyone has just got to work hard to maintain the standards and sometimes it can be as hard to maintain those standards as it was to reach them in the first place.
This years Punchestown Festival was a great week but we’ve been lucky to have a lot of good festivals. I thought if things went our way that week that we’d have a chance of winning the championship because I knew the horses were going there in good form and we’ve had good Punchestown Festival’s in the past so for it to happen and win the championship from that position was great. Cheltenham was tough for the first two days but when you looked back on it, we didn't really have a stand out horse that underperformed. The second half of the week were our better chances and we got our winners then and it was brilliant. Any festival you have winners at is great.
As a jockey, I’ve had a couple of Cheltenham Festival winners and everybody wants to win on the big stage. They were very special. Both my Hennessy winners were huge days, Rule Supreme and Kempes, but when I won on Rule Supreme I think I was only after coming back injury. I think I was just back riding the previous day after being out with a broken leg and you always need a boost after an injury like that so winning a Hennessy couldn't be a bigger boost.
I was lucky enough to win a Galway Plate on Ansar and you couldn't ask for a better horse to ride around there and I rode in 15 or 16 Aintree Grand National’s and just the thrill of that was fantastic. I didn't manage to win one, I finished third on Snowy Morning, but they were all brilliant thrills and just days like that are what you look back on fondly.
The Melbourne Cup will be exciting. There’s pressure involved but I think we have the three horses going there as well as they can be. On their day any one of the three could give a very good account of themselves so you just pray for a bit of luck in running and see what happens after that.
Back at home all the big horses are starting to work and get ready to make their reappearances and I’ll be looking forward to getting back in time for those. I think a couple of days after I get home the Lismullen Hurdle is on at Navan and the following week is the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown so we’ve a nice team to look forward to this year and being based with Willie Mullins is a great team to be a part of.