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Happy days are here again

It's funny how things can turn around. Every year, I always aim to have 10 winners on the board by Irish Derby weekend as a starting point, but I've got to the end of the past couple of seasons without ever hitting that target.

I broke my leg late on in the 2007 season and just struggled to get things going over the next couple of years when I returned. This time round, though, I managed a few early winners and gathered a bit of momentum again.

By Derby weekend, I had 14 winners to my name, before adding two more over the past week. I won on Action Master for Dessie Hughes at Bellewstown on Sunday and Lady Pastrana for Brian Galvin at Roscommon on Monday. Happy days.

The win on Action Master was particularly sweet. He is something of a reluctant hero, shall we say, so he needed to be persuaded to put his best foot forward. We got there by a short head in the end, and while he actually won nicely, there wasn't much chance of him obliging by any more than he did. That's just the character he is.

Having had the couple of slow seasons, I'm really enjoying my good fortune this term. As second jockey to Johnny Murtagh at John Oxx's yard, decent rides are never far away and I have made a point of spreading myself around a little more too.

On Wednesday, for example, I was on The Curragh for 7.0 to work one for John Coleman. Then at 7.30 I rode two for Michael Grassick; I rode one for Reggie Roberts at 9.30, before jumping in the car to go up to Frank Dunne's in Dunboyne. Every ride and every winner is appreciated, so if there is a job that needs doing, I'll be there.

There might not be much glory to be had at Bellewstown or Roscommon, but when you see cards like the one at Leopardstown last night, with just seven or eight runners in all bar one of the races, no opportunity can be passed up.

Still, being a jockey in Ireland is a fine lifestyle if you can make it work. It's one of the most competitive racing environments in the world, and I'd rather what we have here to spending the amount of time in the car that the lads in England do, tearing up and down the country to ride at a couple of meetings a day. Even though Wednesday morning was busy, I was still finished by lunchtime, which means you have time to spend with the kids or to go for a round of pitch and putt or a swim.

I don't have to sweat at all, so it's grand to have an afternoon to yourself before heading to the races in the evening. It's not a bad life.

I'm 42 now and I've been riding since I was 16. Two weeks before sitting the Leaving Certificate exams in 1985, I rode my first winner for my father Michael, and that sealed it. It took me another year to ride my second, but I knew this was for me.

I've always said that I'd ride until I hit 50. Mick Kinane did it, and it's a milestone I'd love to reach. If I stay injury-free, hopefully I will get there. The game has been good to me, so I'll certainly try and squeeze as many seasons as I can out of it.

Of course, it helps when you are riding horses with winning chances. This weekend, with Johnny Murtagh suspended on Sunday, I'm really looking forward to partnering Sharestan in the conditions race at Fairyhouse.

He won a maiden at The Curragh on Derby weekend and has the makings of a proper horse, so Sunday's race could be a stepping stone to bigger and better things for him. Suffice to say, when I worked him at Mr Oxx's on Tuesday morning, he felt great.

While Sharestan would be the pick of mine over the next few days, Mr Grassick's Philosophers Guest has a fine chance in the seven-furlong handicap at Gowran Park tonight as well. He was second at Bellewstown over a mile last Friday, but now that we've had the drop of rain seven furlongs will be ideal tonight. With just 8st 10lb to carry, he could take a bit of stopping.

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

Irish Independent