A quick spin with the former jockey turned racing pundit
How did you get started in racing?
I was born into a racing and breeding family. Mum (Mary) is a very good rider of eventers and my Dad (Jimmy) used to ride a bit but trains obviously. My brother Patrick was champion conditional and his twin Brian is a farrier so they are all employed in the industry in one way or another.
Horses were all we ever had, we never really had bicycles, we never played GAA. We were always at the races or watching it at home.
What is your favourite race track and why?
When I was riding, it was Punchestown because I had the most luck there and I just enjoyed going there, it’s a very good National Hunt track. As a broadcaster, I love going there as well. The Punchestown Festival is as good as anywhere in the world.
Who is your favourite horse and why?
Kauto Star. He’s the best my generation and younger have seen. I loved the fact that he had such longevity in his career. When people wrote him off, he came back and won another King George too.
What is your favourite Cheltenham Festival memory?
It’s probably Rachael Blackmore winning the Gold Cup last year on A Plus Tard. When you say memory, you think you have to go back 20 or 30 years to your earliest memory but I think for as long as I live, the fact that I’ve seen the first girl to ever win the Gold Cup . . . that’s pretty special.
What’s your favourite Festival race?
The Gold Cup. That’s what everybody who gets involved in racing aspires to achieve, whether they are a breeder or somebody who works at home with horses, that’s the kind of horse you want to find.
Who’s your sporting hero?
Growing up, it was Sonia O’Sullivan because she was a Cork woman who was on the television a lot. I grew up in the era of Sonia O’Sullivan and today it’d be someone like Roger Federer. There’s a man whose career has stretched over such a long time, you can’t help but be in awe of him.
Name an opponent or rival you especially admire and why?
From a punditry point of view, it’d be Nick Luck. I think he’s the best at what he does and I admire his work ethic and his tenacity. From a rivalry perspective in the saddle, any day you beat Nina Carberry was a good day. It was a rare day, but it was a good day.
What’s your racing ambition? Do you have one?
I always set myself goals in terms of always wanting to be the best at what I do so I just want to make sure that I play my part in racing’s overall appeal to the public. As somebody with the national broadcaster, it’s very important that we appreciate how important a role that is and I don’t take that lightly. I want to be an asset for the industry in the role that I do.
Name your dream racing trio (jockey/trainer/owner).
The Sea The Stars team. Mick Kinane as jockey, John Oxx as trainer and owner Christopher Tsui. I’d love to have seen how the Breeders’ Cup would have worked out had he gone there.
If you could change something about racing, what would it be?
I suppose I’d love to see more of the better horses in a variety of yards!
If you could be associated with one horse in training, who would it be and why?
It has to be Constitution Hill, he’s got everything. I wasn’t around for Sea Pigeon or Golden Cygnet or Night Nurse and I don’t remember Istabraq. I only remember Istabraq pulling up in his last race so I think Constitution Hill could be the horse for our generation that is that legendary horse.
If you could relive one racing occasion, what would it be and why?
I would have loved to have been at the Dawn Run match race with Buck Race at Punchestown in 1986.
One horse that you think could be a superstar in the future.
I think Impair Et Passe could have it all!
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Doesn’t have to be about racing
I’d love if I could operate on four hours’ sleep, I’d get so much more done. I’m one of those people that needs their eight hours of sleep and if I don’t get it, you can tell.
What’s your most treasured possession (racing or otherwise)?
I don’t think I’m a materialistic person, probably my phone realistically.
Who’s your favourite jockey of all time? Why?
Ruby was the best when he was riding but I didn’t really like him when he was riding because he was never on our horses. I think later this year we’re going to say goodbye to the best Flat jockey that we have seen so far in Frankie Dettori. For a jockey to stay at his level for that period of time, over 30 years at the top is incredible.
Who would your three dream dinner guests be? (Doesn’t have to be racing) What venue would you choose?
I’d be by the fire at home in Cork with the dessert and there’d be a few dogs around as well. Taylor Swift, Graham Norton (a Cork man with a bit of a sense of humour) and Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand prime minister). I feel like she’d be a smart lady and I’d like to pick her brains.
What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
Chocolate and strong tea in front of a fireplace with good company and a good film.