| 8.3°C Dublin

Fighting with friends to secure apprentice title

With two Flat meetings scheduled for last Sunday, I had to decide where I would go at declaration time on Friday morning. I could have had eight rides on the all-weather at Dundalk, but Liam McAteer had Croisultan in a Group Three at Tipperary and I wasn't going to get off a good horse to ride handicappers.

I'd already won a Listed race on Croisultan and we were just beaten at The Curragh last time, so it was a no-brainer. Unfortunately he wasn't good enough on Sunday but I'd made my choice and whatever was going to happen after that would happen.

Joseph O'Brien and Gary Carroll, who I'm involved in a bit of a three-way battle with for the apprentices' title, both rode winners. Joseph won the first two races at Tipperary and Gary won the last at Dundalk, which put him one ahead of me.

Joseph looks like he'll be the one to beat, as he rode three more winners at Navan on Wednesday. He has some serious ammunition behind him at Ballydoyle. You need to be riding horses with chances to win, and he is.

Gary isn't in a bad position at the moment either. With Shane Foley injured, he is riding most of Mick Halford's horses, so that will be to his advantage now too.

I'm not going to give up the fight, though. I have a great agent in Ruaidhri Tierney, who is an old friend from my hometown of Kinsale, and he does a brilliant job.

I'll keep putting myself about. For example, on Tuesday morning I was in John Oxx's to ride work at 6.30. At 9.30, I skipped over to Ger O'Leary's to ride a piece of work for him, and I was back at Mr Oxx's in time for the next lot there just after 10.0.

When I finished on that one, I rode another horse on The Curragh for Maria Kelly at 11.10 before jumping on one for Valerie Keatley straight afterwards. I then got on a two-year-old for John McConnell to finish up with, so I am doing what I can.


Wednesday morning was much the same before we left for Navan. Even though Gary and myself are going at it for the championship, we are good friends and we go racing together every day along with Conor Hoban, Leigh Roche and Sam James.

Most days I even have dinner at Gary's house. His mother Sally is a lovely woman, and I'd say she looks after me even better than she does him at this stage!

She always invites me in for dinner, which is nice. There's no tension between Gary and myself anyway, but we are competing against each other and I think she is conscious of that.

In the end, neither of us had any luck at Navan. It was hard watching Joseph ride a hat-trick, but that's just the way it goes.

White Diamond did run well to be third for me in the last. We were drawn wide in stall 19 but weren't beaten that far, and I'd fancy her to run well at The Curragh on Monday. I'd expect her to have a chance if she goes there.

Regardless of what happens in the apprentices' championship, I've had a fantastic season. When I asked Mr Oxx at the start of the year if he would take me on, he said he didn't really need another apprentice but he gave me a chance and it has worked out well.

I think one of the main reasons my riding has improved this year is because I have been riding work alongside the likes of Mick Kinane, Fran Berry and Niall McCullagh. That has stood to me, and Mr Oxx has been very good to me. Obviously Fran and Niall are ahead of me in the pecking order, but he gives me a lot of support.

At Dundalk this evening, I don't ride any of Mr Oxx's three runners, but I have three spins of my own. Tom McCourt's Spring Hawk, in the Dundalk Stadium On Facebook Handicap, is the pick of them.

Tom has always been brilliant to me and Spring Hawk has a chance if she runs up to her best. She likes Dundalk and has been working well, so she should be thereabouts.

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

Irish Independent