Wednesday 13 December 2017

rUBI DIDN'T let me down ON his BIG DAY

I'M hoping to return from injury next week, so I squeezed in a visit home from my base in Chantilly last weekend. I had been on the phone to Robbie Hennessy to sort out passports for a couple of horses that I bought for him recently.

The reports were good ahead of Rubi Light's tilt at the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown last Sunday. Rubi was the first horse that I bought for Robbie, so I was keen to see how he'd fare on his big day. He didn't disappoint.

Andrew Lynch reported that he felt he would improve for the run, which was encouraging ahead of another serious test in the Lexus Chase. I don't envisage Rubi having any problems over three miles at Leopardstown.

When I sold him to Robbie, it was as a staying chaser and his pedigree backs that up. It's only in the past few years that I have branched into bloodstock, but it is something I enjoy.

My fiancee Louisa Brassey specialises in horses' pedigrees and conformation, while I focus on watching races and riding the horses to get a feel for them. All being well, we plan to start up a bloodstock company in the coming weeks, so it's an exciting time for us.

That said, I will continue to ride for as long as I can. Since June last year, I have suffered an array of fractures. First off, I broke two bones behind my nose near the upper jaw area. The following October, I fractured three vertebrae in four places, as well as two more fractures in the pelvis area.

Within weeks of coming back in December, a horse knocked a chunk off my elbow and that needed surgery.

Since June this year, I have broken my lower arm twice. I am due for an X-ray on the arm on Monday. It feels perfect now, so I expect to be cleared to ride ahead of what is a busy period here in France.

Chantilly is a massive training centre, with gallops meandering up through a big forest. At this time of the year, though, Pau and Cagnes Sur Mer in the south is where all the racing is.

We're even racing on Christmas Day in Pau. Like many trainers, Francois Cottin, who is married to the former Irish trainer Irene Oakes, whom I ride for, stables horses down there, so you'll have stable staff, jockeys, trainers and racecourse personnel spending Christmas Day at the races.

At this stage, I'm all revved up, eager to get going ahead of the new year. Francois was champion trainer here in 2008, and there are only a few trainers in Ireland or England that could have given me that kind of opportunity.

I moved here full-time in 2009. Francois' yard is just a kilometre from where I live and Paris is a 25-minute train journey, so I often take a trip up there on a day off.

At the moment, with the horses that are racing based in Pau, we are concentrating on putting the two-year-olds through their paces in Chantilly ahead of the three-year-old hurdles and chases in the spring.

They start early here. Often, there's a non-thoroughbred influence in the horses' breeding and I think that hardens them and makes them a little precocious.

Speaking of precocious, my all-conquering sister Nina received a presentation for her success in this year's Irish Grand National at the Irish Racing Awards on Monday.

You could see the pride in my parents' faces as Nina won the Outstanding Achievement category.

Our family has a long association with the National. My brother Paul has also won it and I remember breathing a sigh of relief that I had kept it going when I won on Point Barrow in 2006.

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out

Irish Independent

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