With over 50 rides already this season, Katie O’Farrell is enjoying her most active spell on the track in her career to date. In the second part of our feature, the Co. Kilkenny native sits down with us to answer some questions relating to her career so far, her transition from Amateur to Professional jockey and her goals and ambitions for the new year.
When was your first ride as a jockey?
Gordon Elliott gave me my first ride in a Point to Point in April 2012 on a horse called Nedzer’s Return. We finished second and it was just the ultimate buzz! Nedzer was a real gent and the type of horse that is every jockeys dream ride, especially as it was my first ride and over fences too. He jumped and travelled brilliantly for me and I didn’t have to do too much on him, he was a great horse to get a spin on.
When did you ride your first winner on the track?
My first winner was a really special one. It was in Clonmel in September 2012 on a horse called Strain Of Fame which was owned and trained by my parents. My mum used to ride out the horse every day and dad trained it so it was unbelievable to get my first winner on a horse that meant a lot to us as a family. It was a great day for all of us.
You turned professional in 2015, why did you make the transition?
Amateur jockeys have a restricted licence and can only have a total of 21 rides over jumps a season. The majority of my winners as an amateur came over jumps so I wanted to continue learning and riding as much as I could. Luckily for me, Dad was able to give me lots of opportunities to ride jumpers so I was eager to get my professional licence to continue to ride as many jumps races as possible. I couldn’t do this with an amateur license so I turned professional and thank god things are going well apart from the recent injury I picked up. I was stood down for a couple of weeks but I’m back fit now and ready to get back on the track.
You rode your first winner in March 2016, describe the feeling.
I didn’t realise it was my first winner as a professional until I was interviewed after the race and it was said to me, only then I realised! I was just so focused on doing my job properly that I didn’t even know the significance of the win. It was a student race day down in Cork and I rode a horse called Oscars Boss for Adrian Maguire, it returned at 33/1 and when I was returning to the ring after the race I got a great reception off of a few people who backed it. It was great craic and I got a great buzz off it. Riding winners is such a brilliant feeling and I would love to experience the buzz of riding a big winner at one of the big meetings or major festivals. I rode a winner for Shark Hanlon at the Listowel Festival in 2014, that was brilliant and I would love to repeat that feeling again. Riding horses is my job and when I have a winner it’s just a brilliant buzz and I hope I have many more in the future.
What is the biggest difference between being an amateur and a professional jockey?
Fitness! The fitness levels have to be a lot higher as a professional and it is the biggest difference that I’ve found. Also, the travelling is a lot more frequent. I’m freelance so I work for lots of different yards and trainers. I could be in several different counties in one day and I could be on the road for hours at a time. There’s a lot of driving and its tough going but it’s my job and I really do love every single day. Every day is different for me because I will be travelling to so many different yards, this is a good thing though because I learn something new every day and I’m constantly improving. Turning professional has offered me lots more opportunities and I’m fortunate enough to be working with some of the top trainers and yards in Ireland. I’m learning all the time and I’ve become more confident in myself and in my abilities since I turned professional. That being said, being a professional is a big challenge but its such a great feeling being able to do what I love on a full time basis.
If you could ride one horse in training at the moment, who would you choose?
Its hard to pick just one but I would have to say On The Fringe. I ride out at Enda Bolger’s and I see him every time I’m at the yard. He’s just a tank of a horse and I would have loved to ride him in the Foxhunter’s at Aintree but as that race is for amateurs only, I can only dream of what it would be like to ride him! I was lucky enough to ride in the Foxhunter’s at Aintree on a horse of my mum’s, Boxer George, but I would have loved a spin on On The Fringe over the big fences on National weekend.
With 2017 fast approaching, what are your goals for the coming year?
I would love to ride out my 7lb claim and get down to 5lb. I want to do this by the Punchestown festival and I need 11 winners to achieve this. I would really love to ride at Cheltenham and Aintree and a winner at the Galway Festival would be a real ambition of mine. I’m not asking for much am I! Losing my 7lb claim is the big goal and it would be great to get it done sooner rather than later. I work for some great people and I’m sure I’ll get on the right horses to get the winners. I’m looking forward to 2017, I’m ready to take my career to the next level.
Katie is just returning from an injury which has kept her off the track for the entire month of November. We wish her every success on her comeback ride at Limerick today (Friday 2nd December) where she partners Sense Of Urgency in the final race on the card.