A quick word with Paul Nolan
How did you get started in racing?
There wasn’t much of an outlook in sheep farming at the time so I went up to Jim Bolger to work there around 25 years ago, or some time in the dark ages, and that’s basically how I got started. I never had real involvement in it before that.
What is your favourite race track and why?
I’d say Leopardstown, I just think it’s the fairest track in Ireland. You’d be a little bit concerned with how fast the ground is starting to get since it was drained, though, and they might look into watering it a bit more for different meetings. The drainage works for some tracks but in some of them it makes the ground too quick for jumpers. We’ve been lucky in Wexford and Limerick as well down through the years but Leopardstown is my favourite.
Who is your favourite horse and why?
I’m very fond of a horse in my yard called Discorama, he hasn’t won that much but as regards personalities he’s a very nice sort of a horse. I’d have a soft spot for a horse called Joncol as well, we won a Hennessy Irish Gold Cup (in 2010) with him and that was probably the biggest race we ever won and he was a big gentleman as well.
What is your favourite Cheltenham Festival memory?
I’ll never forget Dawn Run winning the Gold Cup because she looked beaten and she got back up to win, but Noble Prince (in the 2011 Jewson Novices’ Chase) was a pressure day for me and that was a very fond memory. It was the first race on St Patrick’s Day and I’ll never forget the feeling after, and the craic that night.
What’s your favourite Festival race?
The Queen Mother Champion Chase is a fantastic race with the pace that they go, but it’s very hard to get away from the Gold Cup. That’s the main event of the whole Festival and decides who is the best long-distance chaser in the world.
Who’s your sporting hero?
Tony Doran, Wexford hurling legend. He’d be my oldest sporting memory of going to the matches with my father when I was young. The excitement when the ball came within the vicinity of Tony Doran always brought a roar from the crowd because normally he always got it and rattled the net. He’s an absolute gentleman too.
Name an opponent or rival you especially admire and why?
A good friend of mine is Gordon Elliott. I’d admire Gordon for where he has built up his yard to having came from small beginnings to being a contender in all of the best jump races in the world.
What’s your racing ambition? Do you have one?
To be able to continue to make a living out of the business that I love doing and to get better horses and win better races.
Name your dream racing trio (jockey/trainer/owner).
Ruby Walsh as jockey. I’d have fierce admiration for Martin Pipe because he’s a fantastic man to give advice if people ask for it. He just brought racing to another level fitness wise and he doesn’t mind sharing his secrets with others that are willing to listen. The owners that I have at the moment, I wouldn’t swap them for anyone because you always have loyalty to the lads that stuck by you through lean times and difficult times in terms of winners so I wouldn’t swap them for anyone or pick out any individual owner.
If you could change something about racing, what would it be?
That lads would give me a chance to win more. I’d put every horse in a race carrying 12 stone and mine would carry 10 stone.
If you could be associated with one horse in training, who would it be and why?
Envoi Allen is probably the best I’ve seen and if I could be associated with Monkfish I wouldn’t have ran him against Latest Exhibition on his last three starts. He’d have scoped wrong the day before and he would have been pulled out!
If you could relive one racing occasion, what would it be and why?
I’d say the first big race that we won was the Galway Hurdle with Say Again (in 2002) because we went in with an outside chance and it was unexpected even though we had a chance. That is one of the most prestigious handicaps in the country and it was one of the biggest thrills that we got.
One horse that you think could be a future superstar.
Looking at some of the bumper horses there at the moment, I think Sir Gerhard could be an exceptional animal.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Doesn’t have to be about racing.
I’d prefer not to worry as much. I worry a bit and I’d prefer in the build-up to races and things if I didn’t get as worked up about everything.
What’s your most treasured possession (racing or otherwise)?
An All-Ireland junior hurling medal I won with Wexford in 1992. We beat Cork after a replay in Walsh Park.
Who’s your favourite jockey of all time? Why?
I’d have to say the greatest jockey I’ve ever seen is Ruby Walsh. His reading of a race and his comments afterwards and is overall professionalism was second to none.
Who would your three dream dinner guests be? (Doesn’t have to be racing) What venue would you choose?
Muhammad Ali, David Attenborough and what do call the blondie one that had her dress blow up, the famous one, Marilyn Monroe. We’d go to a lovely Italian called Via Veneto in Enniscorthy.
What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
Sitting with good friends having a meal.