With the flat season of 2011 only around the corner I cannot wait to get going and watch the season unfold. I will start this year in the junior ranks.
That is as an apprentice jockey. Last year at this time I was preparing for my final year of the pony racing which proved to be my most successful one. Injury free unlike the previous two and winning one of the Midlands Champion Jockey title. I may have to wait a bit longer before seeing one of those again!
After the season finising up in Dundalk last December I have been kept plenty busy. Between school and riding out there are not much hours left in the day but it is what I love doing so I will certainly not be complaining. Over the winter I have been getting two lots out in my master’s Denis Cullen before heading into school for second class. I then catch up on any notes I miss in after school study which goes for two hours. I am very fortunate that the Principal and teachers are very understanding. It has been quite a school for turning out jockeys with Eddie O’Connell, Shane B. Kelly, Ronan Whelan, Ciara Fahey and Brendan Fahey all having attended there.
As a first year apprentice I was also required to attend two, one week courses in the Racing Academy and Centre of Education (RACE). They were on Professional Jockey Development and a FETAC Qualification in Racehorse Care and Exercise. I found the Development course particuarly insightful with each of us being videoed riding work and a finish up Maddenstown Gallop in the Curragh. The technology used to slow down and zoom in on the video along with the knowledgeable instructors make it very beneficial as you can see exactly where improvement can be made.
I was also delighted to be given the opportunity to go to England a few times for rides on the All Weather. Dundalk is a little easier to get to but unfortunetely is shut down from December until March. In February I got my first winner in Wolverhampton for Emmet Butterly on a horse called Brabazon. When I was 13 I rode out for Michael Halford on the Curragh at weekends and Emmet was an apprentice there. I didn’t think I would be riding for him instead of against him back then. He has done really well as a trainer with 6 winners in his first year, a very high strike rate and definitely goin places. The feeling of the winner was everything and more of what I thought it would be and its for moments like those that jockeys live for. During my mid term break I spent a week with Pat Morris who trains in Cheshire. Pat was very good to me and he gave me 4 rides in the short space that I was there for which I was really appreciative of.
I would love to have a ride in the Curragh on the first day but the races are quiet select so we will have to wait and see. If not I will aim for the next meeting and see what happens. Thankfully, it is a long season ahead!