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My Racing Story

My Racing Story

Niall McCullagh

Niall McCullagh
© Photo Healy Racing

The buzz I got out of having a winner on Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby weekend was unbelievable, and a premier handicap winner at that.

Effernock Fizz was very tough, game and honest when taking the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Ragusa Handicap from the front and finding plenty at the end to have a length and a quarter in hand at the line. She galloped all the way to the line very strongly. She was really tough.

From the mile, to the six, to the four, to the two, I kept asking for more and she kept responding. I couldn’t believe it. She was so game, just the head down, flat out, trying hard. Every time I gave her a belt she tried for me and in fairness to her, she was very tough and brave.

She actually sensed Vultan coming and she went again. That’s how brave and honest she is. It’s not many that try like her.

It was a great win to get too for the trainer Katy Brown and her partner Danny Dunne, and all their team, as well as the owner Tom Sheridan, who bred her himself. She has been a great dual purpose mare and she’s going from The Curragh to run in the Grade 3 Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary tomorrow (Thursday).

Danny and Katy were very complimentary about her before the race. They thought that she had worked very well with the horse that was second in the Apprentice Derby with Nikita Kane, Allora Yeats and that gave them great hope.

Mark Gallagher had ridden her work and usually rides her on the flat but was unable to take the ride this time, so it was a lucky one for me. He said, ‘Niall, she’ll run well. Don’t mind her odds or anything else.’

Niall and Effernock Fizz winning at the Curragh
© Photo Healy Racing

It paid to be around the pace on the day on the quick ground. We watched the race before in the weigh room, the Curragh Cup won by Amhran Na Bhfiann, and I said to the lads, ‘See what Colin Keane did there? I’m going to do that.’ And I did! They must have thought I was joking but we got there.

As I said, I was absolutely buzzing afterwards. My circumstances have changed. Johnny Murtagh appointed Ben Coen as his stable jockey. John Oxx no longer trains. I’m a 52-year-old freelance.

But I love what I do. I’m getting around as much as I can and still loving the game so to ride a winner on Derby weekend was an absolute joy.

To see my son Scott doing so well is great too. As a dad, there is great pride and joy from it and all the family is the same. He has done very well but that’s because he’s riding very well and more power to him.

The opportunities were scarce for him over here initially so he went off to England, rode plenty of winners and picked up a lot of experience. He was apprenticed to Mick Channon and rode for a lot of trainers. Now he’s back home and doing well, I am very proud.

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