Fresh from a win in last night’s finale at Leopardstown, on Denise Foster’s Miles To Memphis, we caught up with Lisa O’Neill – a jockey going from strength to strength – to get a flavour of how things are going.
You rode the winner of the last at Leopardstown yesterday evening and have started off the new season in flying form – you must be delighted?
It was great to ride a winner for Denise, who has been a very good family friend for many years, and I’ve been very lucky to get on some really nice horses that have helped to keep my run going. I’m just concentrating on working as hard as I can and hoping that the opportunities keep presenting themselves.
Speaking of nice horses – last year saw you get over 150 mounts, well in excess of your previous numbers – that must be a big vote of confidence?
It’s brilliant to be part of the yard here in Cullentra House and Gordon is not afraid to give opportunities. I’m working really hard, as is everybody here, to make the most of the opportunities when they arise. I suppose it all really took off for me with Wrath Of Titans’ victory in the Kerry National last year and then Tiger Roll gave me a Cheltenham winner earlier this year as well.
What was that Cheltenham victory aboard Tiger Roll like?
It was amazing!! Absolutely incredible!! It’s so hard to describe, something you never think will happen for you. That feeling that I had when I was coming down to the last, when he popped over it and galloped up that hill – I can’t even put it into words, I’ll never forget it. He had worked so well at home over the weekend before the Festival but you just don’t want to dream that it might happen.
Where did your interest in racing begin?
My Dad (Tommy) is a former jockey, and also trains horses, so it has been in my blood from a very early age. I’ve always had a huge interest in racing and my Mam (Margaret) has also worked for Tattersalls for over 20 years.
How old were you when you first started riding?
I took out my licence as soon as I could, I think I was about sixteen years old at the time and I was still at school. I just couldn’t wait to get started.
You have a couple of different roles in Gordon’s yard – you’re best known as a jockey but what does the working week consist of?
It really consists of riding out each morning and then mucking out the horses, feeding them etc.. I also give Zoe (Racing Secretary) a hand here in the office most days and I would also help Dad out at his stables. It’s really varied but I love it all.
Have you ever considered turning professional?
I did think about it, to be honest, but there’s such great opportunities here as an amateur and I’m so happy with where I am. That’s not to say it’ll never happen in the future but, for the minute, I’m very content.