Sunday 18 March 2018

Fairyhouse double rounds off whirlwind few months

Avondhu Lady, with Mark Enright up (left), jumps the last on the way to getting the better of Our Girl Salley (Barry Geraghty) at Fairyhouse
Avondhu Lady, with Mark Enright up (left), jumps the last on the way to getting the better of Our Girl Salley (Barry Geraghty) at Fairyhouse

Waking up last Monday morning, having ridden a double on the Grade One card at Fairyhouse the previous day, felt kind of surreal.

On Avondhu Lady in the mares' chase, I found myself beating the Barry Geraghty-ridden Our Girl Salley and then Murchu led on the line to deny Give Us A Hand and Paul Carberry.

I was sure I hadn't got up, but, when your luck is in, it's in.

Beating two of the best riders around en route to a first double was more than I could have ever imagined. To be honest, the last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind.

Things had been going well for me on the Flat, but I only rode my first winner over jumps on Great Oak for John Nicholson at Wexford in June. My agent, Alan Donoghue, has done an incredible job since, finding me 14 'outside' winners in total.

With my boss Dessie Hughes supplying another, I am now two clear in the conditional riders' table.

It's still early days, but it's a fine spot to be in, considering I was heading for England until Bryan Cooper suggested there might be a job in Mr Hughes' last year. The whole thing has just taken off for me.

This day last week, I finished second on High Class Show for John Joe Walsh at Thurles, then rode at Dundalk that night and flew to London from Dublin the next morning at 9.0.

Mr Hughes and Gigginstown House Stud put me on Magnanimity in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and, although he struggled, it was a huge thrill to ride in such a prestigious event.

By 8.0 that night, I was back home and into bed to recharge the batteries for Sunday, which simply couldn't have gone any better.

I went out for a meal after in Kildare with Davy Russell, who has been a fantastic support to me since I started out.

I'm from Castlemahon in Limerick, and fell in with Billy Lee's father as a kid. Then I worked for Mick Murphy in Dundrum, before spending two years with Tommy Stack.

None of my family is involved in racing, but I was lucky to be surrounded by good people from day one. I was 12 or 13 before I ever sat on a horse and the transition from riding solely on the Flat to jumping fences wasn't easy because of that.

Riding over jumps is what I always wanted to do, though, and Davy has been hugely influential in showing me the ropes.

He is a thorough professional, who dissects every race that I ride in to help me understand what I might be doing wrong.

I live with Robbie McNamara, and he is the same, always keen to help. You'd struggle to meet a more entertaining housemate – even if he doesn't mean to be.

Robbie had a tooth knocked out earlier in the year and takes out his replacement plate whenever he is eating, which usually means it ends up getting misplaced.

It's not unknown for the dog to wander off with it, so the plate is probably on borrowed time!

This week has been steady. I'm in Mr Hughes' every day and a couple more seconds were the best I could manage at Wexford on Wednesday and Clonmel yesterday.

I'm bound for Dundalk again tonight and I am really looking forward to riding Western Leader for 'Shark' Hanlon in the handicap hurdle at Navan tomorrow and Great Oak in the graded mares' chase at Cork on Sunday.

At his best, Western Leader is better than a handicapper, while Great Oak is just a brilliant, versatile mare.

She'll need to be at the top of her game if Willie Mullins runs Tarla, but you never know what might happen in this game. All I can say is that we'll do our best to win.

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out

Irish Independent

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