Ready For The National Hunt Season
With the National Hunt Season starting to get into full swing things are getting increasingly busy for me. This is always an exciting time of year as the three-year-olds are broken and riding out, and the older horses are back in from their summer break and ready for a new season. There is always a great air of anticipation and excitement in the National Hunt community as we wait to see what the year will bring and how the horses will develop! At the moment, I am primarily based with my father, Philip Dempsey, and also ride out for other trainers one or two mornings a week.
Dad has a full yard with a lovely mix of horses from three year olds right up to the experienced handicap chasers, which is always a great position to be in. We look to have a few nice three year olds this year so hopefully they will continue to improve and will run in four-year-old point-to-points next Spring. We are also looking forward to a couple of young horses, who made winning debuts in point-to-point’s last season, make the transition to the track this season. One of these being Stowaway Forever who is a full brother to Willie Mullins’ dual- Cheltenham winning horse Champagne Fever. He was successful in a four-year-old point-to-point in Loughbrickland in the Spring and will most likely run in a bumper later on in the year. The other is Derrinross, a five-year-old by Scorpion who won his only point-to-point impressively at Oldtown. We also plan to start him off in a bumper in a month or so.
Schooling & Training
Tuesdays and Fridays are generally our busiest mornings as they are our work mornings. Recently, we have extended our existing four furlongs round gallop with a four furlong uphill straight, we also have a mile and a half grass gallop so we can do a lot of our work at home. The straight is a great addition and as always we are delighted with the work that Tom Furlong done on it. We still need to bring the horses away from time to time, especially the younger horses, and when we do we use the training facilities at the Curragh.
This is also a busy time of year for schooling horses (schooling means teaching horses how to jump). The older horses don’t need as much schooling as they are more experienced. Things are a lot less straight forward when it comes to the younger horses however!! With the young horses we start them off over poles and small jumps in the ring before we venture out to the bigger obstacles on the schooling strip. Naturally enough they start off over hurdles and when we feel that they have the hang of it we move on to the fences. Every horse is different and some take to it more naturally than others so it is always an interesting time while they are learning.
After finishing work in the afternoons I like to keep busy with a few horses of my own. I have a nice three-year-old by Oscar out of a Presenting mare who is riding out and the plan is to run him in a point-to-point as a four-year-old early next year. I also have a lovely four-year-old by Yeats who will hopefully run in a point-to-point in November or December.
The point-to-point season kicks off on Sunday in Toomebridge and Castletown-Geoghegan. Point-to-points are great nursery for young horses with a future to selling as they learn how to jump and have to be able to stay (often in wet conditions.) Time and time when Cheltenham rolls around we see some of the top races won by former Irish point to pointers, more recently Faugheen, Champagne Fever and others.
The end of the summer racing also means less driving for me to places like Ballinrobe and Roscommon so it leaves me with extra time to do things like riding my hunter and jogging in order to stay fit and keep my weight right. I am lucky that as a jump jockey my weight is easy to keep and I can do 9 stone 12 comfortably enough. Like many others, I started out my career on the flat as an apprentice jockey but as I began to grow I struggled with my weight. Jumping was always my passion and first-love so turning my attentions to National Hunt came as a natural progression for me.
I had a few rides last weekend at Downpatrick and Navan. The closest I finished was third in Navan on Teacher’s Pet trained by Dad and owned by JP McManus. It was that horse that provided me with the first of four winners in the space of 12 days last month. After winning on Teachers Pet in Downpatrick, a day later I went on to ride another winner for Dad in the form of Persian Wind at Ballinrobe. Owned by the Around The Fire Syndicate it was only his third run for us having previously finished second at Bellewstown and third at Downpatrick. I was also successful in a beginner’s chase at Tramore on Tempo Mac for Gordon Elliot. I had previously won a big handicap hurdle on him at the Punchestown Festival so it was nice to have another winner on him. My fourth trip to the Winner’s Enclosure came on Stonehall Jack for David Fitzgerald in Kilbeggan the day before I flew to Australia for the Jockeys Challenge.
Irish Vs Australian Jumps Jockey Challenge
I was privileged to take part in the Irish Vs Australian Jumps Jockey Challenge. Having won the Martinstown Opportunity Series, I was asked to take part in the challenge and was more than happy to accept. Ian McCarthy, Katie Walsh, Shane Jackson, Tom Ryan and myself made up the team who was managed by Sean Lynch. It was a brilliant experience and the trip was worth-while as the Irish team came out on top. After an unsuccessful first leg of the challenge for the Irish team at Murray Bridge, we came back on the final leg at Morphetville with two winners, ridden by Ian and Katie. Unfortunately, the two horses I was due to ride on the final day of the competition did not run so I was supporting from the side lines.
It was very interesting to see the way in which racing is run in Australia and how horses are trained. While we were over there we visited the Apprentice School in Morphetville where we spoke to the apprentices about the differences between riding in the two countries. We also had time over there to take in the sights of Melbourne which completed what was a brilliant experience.