Monday 17 December 2018

'Pat Smullen got me a job and a wife'

 

Family affair: Joseph O’Brien with his uncles Pat Smullen (left) and Kevin O’Ryan after he had trained Latrobe to win this year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby. Photo: www.carolinenorris.ie
Family affair: Joseph O’Brien with his uncles Pat Smullen (left) and Kevin O’Ryan after he had trained Latrobe to win this year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby. Photo: www.carolinenorris.ie
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

It only takes a quick glance at Kevin O'Ryan's Twitter bio to realise that he is one those people that you marvel at how they find time in a day to get everything done.

He likes to keep busy and his bread-and-butter roles as a jockeys' agent, presenter with At The Races, Goffs Horses-In-Training agent and running a breaking and pre-training yard for young horses make sure of that.

That's not to mention being MC at Leopardstown, Gowran Park, Thurles and Naas and the go-to host for preview nights the length and breadth of the country, but the wise words of his parents growing up - 'if you're willing to work, you'll make a living' - is the creed he lives by.

"There are days you'd be like an antichrist where I'd say, 'why didn't I have brains in my head and go off and be a doctor or something' but on the whole it's a hobby that I gladly make a living off," O'Ryan says.

Coming from strong racing bloodlines - his father Bobby was head lad to Jim Bolger and Mick O'Toole among others - an equine life was a natural fit and he has gone racing "as long as I can remember".

Life started as a jockey where he notched more than 70 winners as an amateur with successful spells in the saddle for the likes of Dermot Weld, Frances Crowley and Charlie Mann.

It was at Rosewell House with Weld that O'Ryan would meet Pat Smullen, but little did he realise the effect he would have on his life.

"We just clicked and I owe a lot to him. He got me the job in Frances Crowley's because he was going out with Frances at the time. My wife Angela is Frances's sister and she had just come back from Australia and she went assistant trainer to Frances. That's how I met her so Pat Smullen got me a job and a wife," he says.

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Smullen also encouraged him to become his agent 15 years ago and 19 jockeys' championships have followed during that time with 12 Flat titles - the Offaly jockey is responsible for nine of those - as well as six apprentice Flat crowns and one National Hunt championship.

Representing 16 jockeys - most notably champion jumps jockey Davy Russell and Jack Kennedy - his work as an agent commences after pre-training every morning for the likes of Weld and his nephew Joseph O'Brien and he's rarely off the phone.

"The whole thing is to have good jockeys that you can stand over and sell. I don't want to put the phone down to a trainer and let him ring another agent, I want to have whatever he is looking for," O'Ryan says.

"I've a great bunch of jockeys, I get on with them all. If I can't get on with them I get rid of them because I have to like them. They have to be able to ride and I have to get on with them."

O'Ryan's wife Angela - "the brains of the operation" - keeps the show on the road while he heads to the race track or works with At The Races, something which came about after chancing his arm with Gary O'Brien.

It was a case of "being in the right place at the right time" and the colourful 40-year-old has seized any chances which have come his way.

Irish Independent

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