Wednesday 7 December 2016

Need for Speed made me quit show jumping

Published 05/08/2011 | 05:00

On Monday, I rode Oneeightofamile in a hurdle race at Cork for John Kiely. It was the third time I had ridden him, and we maintained our 100pc record together.

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Horses like that are hard come by, especially for a seven-pound claimer like myself, so I am very lucky to have got the opportunity on him. Credit for that goes to my agent Ruaidhri Tierney, who convinced Mr Kiely to put me on Oneeightofamile in a conditional jockeys' race at the Punchestown Festival in May.

In fairness, my job has been the easy part, as the horse is dead straightforward.

On Monday, with just four runners, we were a little worried that the race might develop into a tactical affair, but David Casey took us along on Valain to start off with.

When David slowed it down with a circuit to go, I let my fellow bowl on. He travels and jumps and probably has more stamina than speed, so there was no point in sitting in behind. In the end, he just ran them into the ground.

I'm extremely fortunate that the owners and Mr Kiely have let me keep the ride on Oneeightofamile. I don't know what they have in mind for him next, but I'd love to be on him wherever he goes because his best days could still be ahead of him.

He has certainly raised my profile. I have been based with John Murphy in Upton for some time now, and things have really started to pick over the past couple of years.

John has always been extremely good to me. He would have been an old friend of my father, Robert, which is how I managed to fall in with him in the first place. I had a rough time of things with injuries for a while, but John always kept in touch and supported me as soon as I got back riding.

Just after I turned conditional, I broke my left leg in three places when I took a fall at home.

I spent eight months sidelined after having a plate inserted. Within another couple of months, I broke the same leg badly again and was out for another five months.

All the while, the plate continued to cause me discomfort. When it started to pierce through my ankle, I finally understood why! I had to go back to hospital to get it removed, and it was another three months by the time the infection cleared up.

So you can understand why one of my main priorities these days is to stay injury-free -- that's half the battle in this game. I could have opted to follow my father into the show jumping arena, but I much prefer the challenge of racing, despite the risks.

I did mix both disciplines for a few years as a teenager, but it got to the stage where I had to choose one career over the other. It was a pretty easy decision, as I just chose the one that I enjoyed more -- racing.

I'd have been going from riding out on the gallops and schooling at John's to doing a couple of hours slow work on a few jumpers at home. That became a bit of a drag, so opting for speed wasn't a difficult decision. I don't miss the jumping at all.

With the Dublin Horse Show on this week at the RDS, it is obviously a big week for dad in his role as chef d'equipe of the Irish team, but he was delighted to see me have another good win on Monday. He has always backed me 100pc since I told him I was going to stick with the racing, which meant I was never under too much pressure.

Fingers crossed that things keep going as they are now. At the moment I am doing five mornings a week in John's, and things should continue to get busier from here on.

My goals are pretty simple: keep my head down, get as many rides as I can and steer clear of injury. If I'm totally honest, I would love to get my claim reduced from seven pounds to five, sooner rather than later.

I need another five winners to do that, so that's a realistic enough short-term target -- or at least I hope it is.

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie

Irish Independent

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