Ronan Whelan – The Flat Season is Back

Killarney July meeting day 2

I’m looking forward to getting the new season started and I have a few nice rides to kick things off on Sunday at Naas. At the moment I have no confirmed rides for my boss Mr. Bolger but that could change if he were to enter two in the Group 3 or the Lincolnshire – I might be lucky to pick up a ride on the second string. I’m based with Mr. Bolger and I’m down in the yard in Kilkenny most days and then I’m in Patrick Prendergast’s yard every week too. Thankfully things are going well for me at Mr. Bolger’s and if I keep working hard then I will improve. I’m still learning and although I was the Champion Apprentice jockey in 2012 I didn’t take it easy when I turned professional just because I won the Apprentice title. That was in the past and I was more focused on the future.

Although I’m based with Mr. Bolger, I’m in Mr. Prendergast’s yard every week as well. It’s nice to have his confidence behind me and I hope to ride a lot of the stable’s horses this season. Mr. Prendergast has lots of nice 2yo horses that are ready to rock and hopefully they’ll be out early in the season. We all hope that a few of them can turn out to be nice and they can go and win their maidens. There’s also a couple of nice unraced 3yo that could be good over a bit of a trip. These could turn out to be Stakes performers so it’s exciting to have horses of that calibre that can compete in big races and they could be horses that can take my career to the next level. It’s early to be thinking like that, but it’s certainly exciting to have nice horses to looking forward to. For me, it’s coming at the right time to be getting on those types of horses so I can’t wait for things to get started.

Last Season

I had 25 winners last season, not including the All Weather action in Dundalk. I won the Apprentice title in a few years ago with 41 winners and although I haven’t beaten that number since I turned Professional, things are going well. I’ve been riding better horses in better races so the level of competition is now a lot higher for me. Each year the number of rides I’ve picked up has risen so that’s a good sign – I must be doing something right! My agent Dave Keena has been great; he’s got me good rides on a number of English horses that have come over to run. I was lucky enough to win a Group 3 on a horse for Mick Channon and those kind of opportunities are great to get as they help build my profile which in turn helps me get more rides. I even went across to England to spend a week with Mr. Channon after riding the winner for him. The Filly I won the Group 3 on at the Curragh, I was lucky enough to ride her again at York, where I finished fourth, so the week I spent in England definitely benefited me and it was a great experience to get. I rode a nice winner at Ascot as well in June of last year for Jarlath Fahey who is from Monasterevin, where I’m also from. While I don’t have something like that to look forward to at the moment, hopefully I can get a nice winner from the rides I pick up this season.

Royal Ascot day 1
After winning at Ascot on Jennies Jewel

Importance of Hard Work

On Sunday I ride a nice horse called Canary Row for Mr. Prendergast and he’s working well and he’ll love the ground so hopefully with some luck he could pick up a win in the Lincolnshire and get the season off to a flyer for both the yard and myself. It’s nice to have a good mix of horses to look forward to this season. I also ride out at Tracey Collins’ yard which is great as she has some nice horses that I get to pick up a few rides on when Pat Smullen is not available. Luckily I’ve ridden a few winners whenever I’ve gotten a chance to get up on her horses so it’s nice to have another yard that has confidence in me to do a job when called upon. Hopefully I can continue to pick up a few rides for the yard this year and continue to perform when I get the chances. As any jockey will say, you’re only as good as your last ride so when the chances come up – you have to take them. Being Champion Apprentice is well and good but that’s gone now and I have to show that wasn’t a one off and I have to keep improving and showing people that I’m good enough. Last year I rode a good few horses for Johnny Levins and he was really good to me, it would be nice to team up with his horses again at some stage but this year Patrick Prendergast will be my main source of rides.

Upcoming Season

In terms of the coming season, my main aim is to keep the people who support me as happy. That will come in the form of winners and riding to the best of my ability. If I continue to work hard and get the winners then it will help my career to evolve and progress and that’s something that’s hugely important to me. I wouldn’t go into a season with a target number of winners in mind. At the moment, I’m not in a position to do that as I’m still progressing and I don’t have the backing of a big yard by being the number one jockey in the yard. For me, it’s very much a case of taking things day by day and just keeping the head down, working as hard as I can and taking things as they come. I’ve ridden in a lot of big races for Mr. Bolger. I’ve been placed in a number of Group 1 races and I was 3rd in the Irish Derby on one of his horses. One of the many good things about working for Mr. Bolger is he will always put horses in the big races so there’s always a chance of a nice ride in a big one for me. Hopefully I can repay his faith in me with a big winner.

With Mr. Bolger when I received my Champion Apprentice trophy in 2012

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