Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 24 February 2018

New role is growing on me -- unlike tash

It was only last week that Horse Racing Ireland approached me about taking on an ambassadorial role for the remainder of the jumps season.

I didn't have to think for too long before accepting. Racing has always been good to me, so I only have to be asked if there is anything that I can do to help raise its profile.

If that means bouncing around St Stephen's Green on an inflatable horse, which is how my tenure began on Monday, so be it. The added bonus to doing a photo shoot like that was the opportunity to promote the 'Movember' prostate cancer initiative.

Andy McNamara and David Casey joined me in Dublin on the day. All three of us are sporting a tash of some description. I've gone for the deeply ironic handlebar option, though I won't miss it when it's gone.

apprehensive

It's not growing on me, if you like. That said, I'm a bit apprehensive about the shave-off too, as my boss Michael O'Leary is pencilled in to do the honours at Fairyhouse next week. To the best of my knowledge, he doesn't possess any barbering skills and I wouldn't be letting him anywhere near me with a blade if he weren't my boss.

On Tuesday morning, I was due to school Better Times at Michael O'Brien's old yard in Kildare for Denis Cullen, so I elected to stop overnight with Bryan Cooper, Robbie McNamara and Mark Enright. Rarely would you encounter such a trio of pranksters.

Being athletes, they opted to go for a McDonalds that evening and headed off in Mark's new car. Mark and Robbie came back out before Bryan and decided to try and confuse him by moving the car.

In the meantime, another car that was almost identical to Mark's pulled into the spot that Mark had just vacated.

You wouldn't believe it, but when Bryan emerged he jumped straight into the back of this random car -- which, by the way, wasn't empty.

Bryan got the fright of his life when he saw this strange man in the front seat, leapt from the car and ran like the wind. The lads reckoned he wouldn't have moved as fast with one of his Dad's horses under him!

Anyway, Better Times went well the following morning and the session paid off nicely when he won for me at Thurles yesterday. I had got off the mark earlier on Is Herself About for my old friend David O'Brien, the first winner I ever rode for him. When I was a young lad, I spent my summers with David and his father Frank in Piltown. David practically taught me to ride, so it meant a lot to have a winner for him.

I had been at Cork the previous day. Ballysteen took the opener in style there to continue the great run that we are enjoying with the Gigginstown horses right now and it was good to see Fists Of Fury gain a deserved win at Wetherby as well.

We are blessed with a wonderful team of horses at the moment -- to the extent that one of my biggest challenges can be choosing the right one to ride if we have more than one in a race. I get it wrong the odd time, but you won't hear me complaining.

It's not easy to call it right when you are learning about the horses and you just hope we can keep the best of them apart come the big days.

Punters often expect you to know what is going to win every race, a fact that I have become even more aware of since entering the world of Twitter and Facebook in my new capacity.

patience

The whole social media thing wouldn't be my forte -- I don't really have the patience. I'm quite happy to explore it, but I'm definitely not on there to tip winners. To me, the main thing is that the horses are healthy and well. Once that is the case, what will be, will be, and thankfully we have horses to be competitive at the moment.

My approach to the jockeys' championship is the same. I'm nicely clear at the moment and it's a great position to be in, but the week before the Punchestown Festival is as soon as you'd want to be worrying about actually winning the thing.

I'll keep trying to do my best on every horse and then it's just a case of hoping that everyone else rides fewer winners than you. If it happens, it happens.

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

Irish Independent

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