Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 17 March 2018

Thrilling Cesarewitch triumph highlight of my career so far

In the Stables - Leigh Roche

Only a victory for my home club Tuam Stars in the Galway county football final could have made last Sunday any more memorable than it was.

Unfortunately, the lads lost out to Salthill Knocknacarra, but I still headed west after racing at the Curragh to be there for the debrief.

At least I had something to celebrate, Voleuse De Coeurs having easily carried me to a career-high win in the Hacketts Bookmakers Irish Cesarewitch in Lady O'Reilly's colours earlier in the day.

After a long season of riding much lower-profile winners, that was a nice reward. With Pat Smullen chasing the jockeys' title, opportunities for Mr Weld have been reduced, Voleuse being just my second winner for him this year.

In a situation like that, you have to bide your time and take what chances come your way. Pat was riding in Canada last Sunday, so I was glad of the big-race mount.

With my claim down to three pounds, fewer horses around because of the recession and Pat fighting for the title, life is a bit more difficult now. Still, 16 wins since the turf campaign got under way leaves me just three shy of last year's total.

I have had some great support from a wide variety of trainers like Darren Bunyan, Marcus Callaghan and Jarlath Fahey and I suppose I better give due credit to my agent Kevin O'Ryan, too. I would never hear the end of it if I didn't.

In fairness, with both Pat and the championship leader Joseph O'Brien on his books, Kevin is surely the best agent in the business -- and it's not easy keeping us all happy!

While outside rides have been vital this year, signing up to Mr Weld on completion of my course at the Racing Academy and Centre of Education (RACE) in 2008 was probably the making of me.

Every young apprentice needs the support of one of the top stables to get up and running and Mr Weld is a great man to have on your side.

To be honest, I am living the dream. This is something I always wanted, as my mother will attest to having spent two years driving me around the country to ride pony races.

I was a bit of a black sheep in that regard. My father Francis is a football man, having coached the Galway minor team a few years ago and been a selector with the seniors.

If I had to rely on football for a living, though, I'd be in trouble. I couldn't kick snow off a rope! Instead I left school after doing my Junior Cert and made for RACE at 15.

My mother wasn't mad about me abandoning the education, but her worries were alleviated by the fact that the RACE programme was such a reputable one. Even now, four years after graduating from there, they are like a family in terms of support.

I often contact the people at RACE for advice or whatever, and I know they also help out graduates that need help finding work abroad.

That is an important service.

I know how fortunate I am to be able to pursue the career I wanted. It's seven days a week and the days are long -- and wet this week -- but you do what you have to do.

On afternoons when I'm not racing, I am a general skivvy in the yard. That's no chore when the end result is winners on the track.

To that end, I am on duty in Dundalk tonight, when Jarlath's Surf's Up, which I was second on at Gowran Park last time, should have a big shout.

Tomorrow, Mr Weld has Rite Of Passage and Sapphire at Ascot. Rite Of Passage may need the run, but Sapphire is in mean shape and loves soft ground -- she'll take some beating under Pat in the mares' race.

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out

Irish Independent

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