Sean showing off his Christmas Chase trophy
©Healy Racing Photos
To be honest it is still only sinking in that I’ve won a Leopardstown Christmas Chase but when I do sit back and think about it, it’s a wonderful feeling. It was only really on Saturday I got to sit down and watch the rerun of the race again and see how impressive Road To Respect was and it certainly gives you plenty to look forward to.
This year has just been phenomenal really and working for a man like Noel Meade just makes life so much easier. The association with Noel really came around by chance but I’m sure glad it did and to be riding horses like Road To Respect to win Grade One races is beyond my wildest dreams.
I was hopeful going to Leopardstown that the horse would have a good chance but it was a tough race and you had the likes of Sizing John and Yorkhill there but our fella had done little enough wrong only maybe raced a bit too keen in Down Royal but we knew he was in good form at home.
During the race I was probably a bit further back than I had planned but once he got into a rhythm I knew he was on his game and crossing the line I just couldn't believe it. It’s a special race and Noel and I have struck up a great partnership and he’s just a brilliant man to work for. The Gigginstown colours have been very lucky to a lot of lads in the weighroom and I’ve had some days I’ll never forget in them too and Thursday was one of them!
If you’d have told me a few years ago that I’d have been Noel Meade’s stable jockey I’d have laughed at you. I never doubted by own ability really but there was a few years there when things got very quiet and five years ago I didn’t even bother renewing my licence. I couldn't buy a ride, nothing was going right for me, and I didn't ride for the guts of four weeks. If a neighbour down home, Andrew Doyle, hadn't persuaded me to go meet him and ride work I wouldn’t be doing this now. As far as I was concerned I was finished with riding. To be in this position now I’m just very, very thankful. I remember going to ride a horse I thought had a chance when I really needed a winner and I couldn’t wait. I was creeping into contention on him when he got badly injured and we pulled up. I was gutted, but that was my run of luck and it just wasn’t changing so I felt it was time for me to change what I was doing. For some reason though I couldn't wriggle out of riding work that day and thank God I didn’t.
When Davy Condon had to retire in 2015 I just started going in to Noel Meade’s and it was just a thrill to be riding out in the mornings with some of the jockeys in there. The facilities Noel has are top class and he has a great team of horses and staff, it is a great place to be.
When Paul Carberry had to retire it opened up a few doors for me and I suppose it was just a matter of taking the opportunities then with both hands as best I could and one thing led to another and you are back in the game a bit. There’s so many jockeys out there that are capable enough but it is just about the right man putting his trust in you and you can take off.
In my mind I was finished. Dusty Sheehy had been very good to me but when Dusty finished up training for a while I struggled a bit. I just couldn't get rides. Liz Doyle was doing her best for me but it was tough. Throw in a few injuries here and there and it’s hard to get going in this country so I tried something else. I did a stint in America and in England but it just wouldn't happen for whatever reason but that is all in the past now and it is important that I keep riding to the best of my ability. My days of looking back are over now and I’m just trying to concentrate on what we can do in the future and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2018 has to offer.