'We need more races to keep younger jockeys at home'
Last year Derek O'Connor conducted a series of one-day training courses for up-and-coming young jockeys and these are taking place once again throughout May, with the next one scheduled for tomorrow.
Delivered by the Racing Academy and Centre of Education (RACE) in Kildare, and co-ordinated by several of RACE's leading instructors, the objective of this course is to improve the technical and tactical riding skills of qualified riders. It also emphasises the importance of fitness and race-riding preparation.
"There are so many young jockeys starting out and it's important that they get some extra grounding for the point-to-point circuit, especially," says Derek.
Even riders at the top of their game can make mistakes and face the stewards on any given day. Rules in racing are there to protect all and Derek stresses that in order to succeed, these young jockeys really need to be fully up to speed when it comes to race tactics and common sense.
With regard to the amount of young jockeys on the Irish racing scene, Derek believes that more could be done to keep them in Ireland.
"We have some fantastic young jockeys here in Ireland, especially females, but so many others have left here for opportunities abroad. Ideally if we had more races for these youngsters it would encourage them to stay at home."
In a bid to further strengthen relationships with jockeys in the UK, in the coming weeks Derek will team up with another former champion in Jamie Codd, in addition to current leading rider Barry O'Neill and Noel McParlan for the annual Bicester Office Park Anglo-Irish Point-to-Point Challenge. This takes place at Kingston Blount in Oxfordshire on Friday, May 26. The riders will compete in four races - two for men and two for women - twice the number of previous years.
This will be the fifth year the challenge has taken place, with Great Britain having won on the previous four occasions, including in Co Cork last year.