Sunday 17 December 2017

Olympic dreams and Supreme ambitions

This dispatch comes to you from the International Horse Trials at Ballindenisk. I'm very lucky at the moment to have a horse that can compete at a very high level in three-day eventing, and also be in a position to race-ride against some of the very best jockeys.

Jantar, the horse that I am eventing, is a superb prospect. Only last Sunday he finished third at a warm-up competition, beating some of the squad horses that are on the long list for this summer's Olympics.

Our national team hasn't qualified for London yet, but there is an opportunity to do so at Ballindenisk if we accumulate enough FEI points, so this is a huge weekend for Irish eventing.

While Jantar is outside the Olympic squad, if things were to go well this weekend, we may be considered. To compete at an Olympics would be a dream come true, and might go a fraction of the way to helping me emulate my mother, Jessica.

She went to two Olympics and finished third at Badminton before focusing on training racehorses, so those are big boots to fill. I would also love to ride around Badminton, and over the Grand National fences at Aintree -- I'm not ambitious at all!

Racing is probably where my long-term future lies. I graduated from UCD with a degree in politics and social policy before Christmas and it was important to get something like that under my belt, but I'm happiest around the horses in the yard.

I've been full-time at mum's Commonstown stable in Moone since the turn of the new year. All the way through college, and before, I could just swan in and ride out as I pleased, so it's different to have to be there from 8.0 in the morning until 5.0 in the evening now.

The cushy student lifestyle is no more and I'm not mad about taking orders from my big sister Emma, but I love being so busy. I exercise Jantar before work at 6.45 and I am due to bring in two more eventers shortly. That will mean riding one at lunchtime and the other after work, so roll on the long evenings.

career

Now that I've finished college, I'm keen to progress my riding career. Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh set the standard for female jockeys these days and I'd love to follow in their footsteps, so I'm determined to put my head down and work hard.

Mum's yard is a great place to learn. She is trying to teach me about how to place horses and I see the organisation and admin work that Emma does behind the scenes in the office.

Out in the yard, our headman Eamon Leigh is an encyclopedia of equine knowledge and I'm basically a dogsbody to them all, soaking up whatever I can. As well as that, our stable jockey Robbie Power was once an accomplished show jumper. He has been an excellent tutor.

At 7.0 on Wednesday morning he gave me a lesson ahead of Ballindenisk and it's brilliant to have that kind of expertise at hand.

The previous day, we took a bunch of horses to gallop at Dundalk. I rode a gorgeous Hurricane Run four-year-old that went really well. He should be ready to run in a bumper over the next few weeks and I'm looking forward to riding him.

Of course, we are all excited about Cheltenham, with Steps To Freedom one of our yard's big hopes. He has been absolutely flying at home.

Mum changed her mind about running him at Dundalk last week. She did exactly the same thing with Cork All Star five years ago. Just like Steps To Freedom, he didn't run before Cheltenham in March after scoring there in November, but it didn't stop him winning the Champion Bumper.

Here's hoping for a similar outcome in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle with Steps.

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

Irish Independent

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