Michael O'Sullivan© Photo Healy Racing
I’m 22 and I finished my degree in Agricultural Science in UCD in May.
We have a dairy farm at home in Lombardstown, near Mallow, and it’s good to have that qualification under my belt. I lived in Dublin during my time in college and enjoyed myself there very much. I was still able to ride out in the mornings and ride as an amateur on the track and in point-to-points during my time as a student.
My dad William won the 1991 Foxhunters at Cheltenham on Lovely Citizen who was owned and bred by my grandfather Owen and trained by my uncle Eugene, who’s just next door to us at home. My grandfather was the one who started breeding a few horses and got the family involved in point-to-pointing and racing. Eugene won the race again two years ago with It Came To Pass who was ridden by my cousin Maxine.
I started riding ponies when I was nine or ten and then I did pony club with the Duhallow Hunt pony club and went out hunting as well. I also did a lot of showjumping and eventing, including dressage which I find very useful when I’m working with younger horses. Dad was great, bringing me to showjumping under lights down in Waterford many an evening even though he had to organise all the milking on the farm as well.
I didn’t do much pony racing but point-to-pointing was where I got most of my experience. I was champion novice rider in 2019. I probably had around 300 rides in point-to-points and I’ve had the same number of rides under Rules at this stage. Wilcosdiana was my first winner under Rules at Mallow in 2018 which was a great day.
Michael winning on Marine Nationale at Punchestown in May© Photo Healy Racing
I thought long and hard about turning professional but decided to give it a go this year. I have that bit of experience now and have a few winners left with my 7lb claim, which will hopefully help me to get on a bit of a roll. I had my first winner as a conditional on Dangan Des Champs for Robert and Mary Tyner at Sligo recently. I’ve had plenty of success for Robert so it was nice to get my first one for him.
I’m living in Paulstown Co Kilkenny at the moment. Richie Condon is my housemate and we have a few non-racing people in the house as well. It’s no harm to talk about something else in the evenings!
I won the John Thomas McNamara Series and one of the prizes was a morning at Willie Mullins’ yard. I’m in there two days a week at the moment and, obviously, it’s a great yard to ride out in with so many top quality horses and people there. I would have known Patrick from the weighroom anyway and the Mullins yard is just a great place to work in and be a part of.
I have a good connection with Barry Connell as well and go to his yard in Nurney Co.Kildare three mornings a week. Barry has been very supportive of me and has a lovely bunch of horses. He has the likes of Roger Loughran and Garrett Cotter there who have a wealth of experience. I’ve won two bumpers this summer on Marine Nationale and he’s just one of several exciting young horses that Barry has.
I go to Eugene’s yard at home on Mondays. He has plenty of horses there but it’s hard to find staff at the moment and I’m happy to do my bit and it’s nice to keep in touch with everyone at home. My younger brother Alan has ridden a few point-to-point winners and has two rides for Eugene at Listowel this weekend.
When I was in college I used to ride out for Gordon Elliott and he’s been good enough to give me plenty of rides lately. I was looking forward to Hurricane Georgie in the Kerry National but unfortunately my stirrup leather broke after jumping the first and I had no option but to pull her up. It was just one of those things and hopefully I’ll have other chances for Gordon in the near future.
I thought I was going to have my first Cheltenham winner at the October meeting in 2018 when I jumped the last in front on a horse of Eugene’s called Oighear Dubh. He was nicely clear but ran out through the tape dolling off the run-in from the rest of the course. The tape was quite low that day and my fella just thought he had to go around again. The same thing happened to Harry Skelton in a different chase that day and by the following day the tape was gone and they had put in a rail there instead! Hopefully I’ll get another chance in Cheltenham this season.
I’m getting plenty of support from different trainers and my agent Ken Whelan is working hard on my behalf. It’s great to have the family at home all rooting for me. My grandmother, in particular, never misses a race and is quick enough to tell me what I’ve done right and wrong! Hopefully I’ll steer clear of injury and get a bit of momentum built up as we head into the winter.