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'Hannon is close to a genius'

I am from the Navan Road in Dublin, right beside the old Phoenix Park racecourse. My brother, Jim, is a trainer on the Curragh. We were always interested in horses, and I rode my first winner on the ponies at the Phoenix Park before going to the apprentice school in Kildare, which is now RACE. I was the first graduate to ride a winner.

I had a good career as a jockey, serving my apprenticeship with Con Collins. I rode 30-odd winners on the Flat before becoming a jump jockey. I was Paddy Prendergast Jnr's first jockey for a couple of years before moving to the late Peter McCreery.

Then I went to England to join Peter Cundell and I still had my licence when I moved to Richard Hannon in 1990, but I'd had enough of riding by then and was ready to move on.

Mr Hannon had just bought a new yard called Herridge and needed somebody to run it. At the time we had 15 horses in the yard. We've now got 180 so we've built it up over the years.

We have had some very good horses, including Canford Cliffs, Dick Turpin and Paco Boy, who gave us some super successes. And Mr Hannon has been champion trainer for the last two seasons.

He's close to a genius. A lot of it's what he doesn't do and an awful lot of it is just nature. We don't use many machines and we don't weigh the horses. We feed them the best, we exercise them and we send them racing.

I'm married with two children, so moving back to Ireland was never an option, but I enjoy coming back home when we have runners so I can visit my mother and the rest of the family -- Sky Lantern won a Listed race at Naas a fortnight ago.

We will be back again for the Derby weekend. There are good two-year-old races during the Festival and as everybody knows, we tend to have plenty of contenders for those.

It's 12 hours door-to-door and when you travel through the night, it's stress-free. We come over on the ferry but I go back on the boss's private plane. They let me go if we've had a winner!

I get into work at 6.15am when we feed. Then I've the board to do, which is the list of what the lads ride in the morning. We'll have blacksmiths and vets in -- and the owners will be around -- so the horses have to be out at the right time to coincide with those visits.

I'll be there until about 12.30 and go back up around 3.45. I do all the stalls work on the two-year-olds in the afternoon. We do a lot of that in the winter, but in preparation for a race we'll do it again in the afternoon when things are quieter. The trick is not to frighten them in the first few visits. I'll usually clock-off around 6.0.

The two-year-olds have been a bit slower this year but they're just coming good in time for Royal Ascot. The two-year-old entries are massive. We'll be two- or three-handed in each race.

We have a great record at Royal Ascot. That's our Derby. The Taj looks a very good horse, while Jalaa will be in the Chesham. Lyric Ace and Sir Prancealot will travel too, so we'll be very strong. Hughesie (Richard Hughes) is the one who's going to have the biggest problem trying to sort out what he's going to ride.

I'm very lucky to love my job, which is why I work seven days a week. I keep a few point-to-pointers as well, while my wife, the girls and I are all into showing as well. I'm having a good year as I've a Connemara stallion that's winning everything. So there's always a horse around.

Irish Independent