Sunday 21 January 2018

'Shark' giving me chance to make grade

I remember reading in Richard Dunwoody's autobiography 'Obsessed' how he once got seven rides on a busy day's racing when he was still an unknown.

His boss, Captain Tim Forster, told him that he wouldn't be strong enough to get through them all, yet Dunwoody ended up with four winners. The rest is history.

I have never had more than two rides in one day on the track in my life, but today I have five at Gowran Park. That's a big deal for me starting out as a professional, although I'd settle for one winner as opposed to four.

Trabajo and Benefique would be the two that I'm most looking forward to. Trabajo, which is trained by my boss John 'Shark' Hanlon and was a convincing winner under Andy McNamara at Listowel, should go close on his handicap debut in the three-miler.

The Kilkenny handler Donal Fogarty has Benefique, a bumper and maiden hurdle-winning mare. I haven't ridden her on the track, but she was second at Downpatrick a month ago, so I'd like to think that she will have a squeak in the conditions race.

It's amazing how things change. For the first few weeks after I turned pro, not much went right, as I suffered a few falls and my tack slipped twice. Stupid stuff really.

Because I was riding at lighter weights, I was using a much smaller saddle than I'd ever used before. Whatever way I was holding the horses, the tack was shifting up their necks, so the whole thing was getting slightly frustrating.

Then I went to Perth for two rides last week and they both won. Barry Connell has always been very supportive of me since my days as an amateur and he and 'Shark' put me on Mart Lane in the maiden hurdle over there.

I had won a bumper on the horse in January and we have always thought a lot of him, so I must admit, I felt a bit of pressure not to mess up. In the end, Mart Lane won easy, and then One For Joules doubled up for me in the very next race.

It turned out to be a great day at what is a really welcoming track. Everything about Perth is local and homely and it is very accessible.

The same day, Downpatrick was on here. After flying back from Edinburgh, I was in my house in Carlow watching Perth replays when I spoke on the phone with James 'Corky' Carroll, who had been at Downpatrick, and he was still an hour from home.

Things have improved for me here since Perth, too. At Listowel a week ago, Ardglen gave me my first paid win in Ireland and then he followed up at Clonmel last Sunday.

I got a real buzz out of the Clonmel win. We had jumped the last fence in second place and looked beaten, but Ardglen dug deep to just get up on the run to the line. It was adrenaline-pumping stuff.

The following night, I was sitting in a restaurant having dinner with a few friends when the race came on 'At The Races'. I'd been nominated for 'Ride of the Week' for the Clonmel win and, although I didn't get the nod, it was brilliant just to have been considered.

Johnny Murtagh was one of the others on the shortlist, so it was an honour to have even got a mention.

I come from Rosscarbery in West Cork, and riding is all I've ever wanted to do since I started out with the former trainer Thomas O'Leary in Clonakilty.

I finished school and did a degree in Construction Management at CIT while I rode as an amateur.

It was grand to see what life was like away from racing, but I've been with 'Shark' full-time for over a year now.

While all the mucking out might be tougher to endure if you weren't getting the chances that I am, 'Shark' is a great man to work for.

He isn't afraid to tell you when you've got it wrong on one, but he has really helped to sell me to owners and other trainers. After that, it's up to me to keep making the most of the opportunities that I get.

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

Irish Independent

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