O'Hare believes Battle can stay the distance
Mark O'Hare was extremely satisfied with his career, having ridden more than 250 point-to-point winners, claimed multiple northern championships and enjoyed a 40/1 success on Another Run in the National Hunt Chase on his first Cheltenham Festival spin in 2005.
A farrier by trade, he had begun training a few younger horses with a view to selling them on through the pointing network. Anxious to learn best practice, he approached Noel Meade last winter about riding out a few mornings, to see how things were done in Tu Va and maybe pick up a few spares when Nina Carberry, the legendary stable amateur jockey, was unavailable.
Now, 12 months later and at the age of 38, the Banbridge man has ridden 15 winners under Rules this season, the latest aboard 11/4 favourite Behind The Curtain in the bumper at Cork yesterday. Having always focused on pointing, his best before that was five.
"It's given me a new lease of life," O'Hare admits, taking a short break from shoeing horses, the job that fills his afternoons. "I was always in love with my local point-to-points and still am. I'm just enjoying riding good horses for Noel at the moment. It's a great buzz to ride good horses in big meetings.
"Nina retired and I happened to get a few winners for Noel and it snowballed from there. As Noel says, I was in the right place at the right time."
Among those he has been victorious on to date this term are Valdieu and Barrington Court, two progressive horses that cross swords in today's two-mile maiden hurdle at Naas. The latter is trained by Jessica Harrington, while two others that impressed him, Santa Rossa and Jeremys Flame, are conditioned by Dermot McLoughlin and Gavin Cromwell.
Riding primarily in the north, his talents weren't known. Now that they've been advertised on the Meade neophytes, he is in demand.
The trading of younger horses remains a focus however. Livelovelaugh was an Oldcastle victor in 2014 that was sold to Willie Mullins, while Honeysuckle looks quite exciting at two from two over hurdles, having been purchased by Henry de Bromhead following her Dromahane triumph last year.
O'Hare has two Doyens, two Jeremys and a Carlotamix for the spring campaign between the flags and while work is still to be stepped up, he is happy with what they have shown him to date.
He keeps them with Jerry Cosgrave and it was the Shanrod Stables handler who legged him up on Battleoverdoyen to beat subsequent four-time winner in England, Court Liability, easily in his only point-to-point outing in April 2017.
Now owned by Gigginstown House Stud and trained by Gordon Elliott, the Doyen six-year-old followed up an easy bumper success at Punchestown with a stunning maiden hurdle success at Navan.
He now steps up considerably in class in today's Grade One Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle but O'Hare, who will be in attendance to ride Zambezir ("he's been working well") in the closing bumper, is confident that the increase in distance will suit.
"I was impressed with him in Navan. He's a monster of a four-year-old. He won well first-time out. He was a good horse then but he'd the potential to turn into a very good horse when he filled into his frame. He's over 17 hands and he's still going to grow up. It's great for northern point-to-points and Jerry for him to do well.
"He showed a ton of foot in Navan but he does stay. He won his point-to-point at a top track in Loughanmore. That's a stiff three miles and he did it easy. He's a lot of options and definitely the step up from two to two and a half miles at Naas will not inconvenience him at all."
It would be a thrill to see him become a star, and to have played a part in the story. Regardless, O'Hare is busier than he ever could have dreamt. His wife Sara, niece of the first woman to ride a winner of the Irish Grand National, Ann Ferris, and a former point-to-point rider herself, keeps the show on the road at home with Penny, who is three, and Sally, who came into the world two months ago, crowning an unforgettable year.
"Unbelievable," O'Hare concurs. "If 2019 is like 2018, I'll be a happy man."
Sunday Indo Sport