Cesarewitch glory caps great week to be Welsh in Ireland
Published 14/10/2011 | 05:00
It wasn't a bad week to be Welsh in Ireland. My boss Kevin Prendergast enjoys his rugby, so he allowed us all to start work a little later than the normal time of 7.0 sharp last Saturday morning.
That meant we got to watch the first half of the big game, and it's fair to say that I was a little more optimistic than the local boys on the yard when we did arrive for work at half-time.
Back home, rugby is something we are passionate about. There just isn't the same level of interest in football, and our supporters didn't have the prospect of European Championship qualification to look forward to this week like Irish fans had.
That meant winning on Saturday was huge for us. Like most Welsh lads, I played a good bit of rugby when I was younger, so it was great to cherish a win like this.
As you'd expect, there was plenty of banter around the yard after we heard the result. And the smile on my face got even wider at The Curragh the following day.
I had received a call from my agent Kevin O'Ryan more than a week beforehand to say that John Oxx had been in touch.
He had told him that Minsk would run in the Cesarewitch, that he wanted to claim off him and that he wanted to book me to ride.
That was a nice call to get. In the meantime, I kept hearing from Mr Oxx's lads that Minsk had been working very well -- there was massive confidence behind him.
I've been lucky in a few big handicaps already, but when you're having your first ride for a trainer like Mr Oxx on a favourite in a competitive, 19-runner Cesarewitch over two miles, the nerves do get to you a little beforehand if everybody is telling you that they think the horse should win. Thankfully, it did.
Before we even turned for home, Minsk was travelling so easily that I knew he wouldn't be beaten, and the official winning margin was five and a half lengths. It was some performance.
Shortly afterwards, the news filtered through that Evan Williams had also secured a Welsh win with West With The Wind in a Grade Three chase down at Limerick. All in all, then, a good couple of days for the Welsh!
With a bunch of brand new yearlings being broken in at the yard at the moment, I returned to earth pretty quickly on Monday morning. Things are quieter on the Flat racing front now, so helping with jobs like that has become part of the daily routine.
Still, that's all part of the fun. I rode away a couple of nice colts for a first time on Wednesday morning, and they both went off without too much commotion.
Getting up on lively yearlings can be a precarious business, but that new blood is vital to any yard. It also gives you an early feel for next year's juvenile crop.
I've been here for four years now, and I've been lucky that things have improved for me each year. I had been based with Peter Bowen near home, but his was a jumping yard and I was light enough to give the Flat a go.
My dad was working as a huntsman in north Galway at the time and suggested that I try to find a job here. I ended up in Mr Prendergast's and haven't looked back since.
Next stop is Dundalk tonight, when I have half a dozen spins. Two that I'd be hoping will feature prominently are Willie Fitzpatrick's Primalova -- which always runs well at the track -- in the first, and Brazilian Breeze for the boss in the fillies' handicap.
When I finished third on Brazilian Breeze at Roscommon recently I probably hit the front too soon, so I'd be keen to put that right now. She should go close.
As for the rugby tomorrow, a 9.0 start means that I'll probably be relying on the boss to keep me informed about how it's going. Here's hoping he'll have more good news.
For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie