From my point of view, the decision to turn professional and become the first ever female jockey in Ireland to do so, was a no brainer, but I really never dreamed it would go this well and riding out my claim at Wexford last Wednesday capped off an incredible few months.
When I was riding as an amateur I was riding in point-to-points and bumpers but I just wasn’t really getting going so I had nothing to lose to turn conditional when I had a yard behind me like Shark Hanlon’s that said they were going to support me. It was just great that it completely went the other way and changed my career. I did say to Shark that I never thought I would ride out my claim so it was a big deal to do that and nice to have a winner for Shark on Wednesday as well.
Riding out my claim was just something I never thought I’d be able to achieve so I was just delighted and I had a massive support from a variety of different trainers and that is a big help. When people other than Shark started to use me last season and continued to book me to ride their horses it just gives you a massive boost to your confidence. Ellmarie Holden and Denise O’Shea were very good to me amongst others and it’s vital to have that support.
Winning the conditional title last season was a massive feat and it was something I never thought I’d be in the running for.
Going in to the Punchestown Festival I did have a bit of a lead in the conditional championship but at the same time it really didn’t sink in until the Saturday and final day of the season when I was called up to collect my award. Walking up to pick up the trophy, I actually never realised how much that moment would actually mean to me and it as a very, very special moment. When I picked up the trophy it actually sunk in and that was a massive feeling… One that I didn’t have time to enjoy for long though!
My Mum and Dad came up to Punchestown that day, they’d go racing a bit locally to Thurles or Clonmel and they’d go to the bigger days if I was riding and this was obviously a big day for us all but it was a bit rushed so after I got the trophy I was riding in the following race and said I’d get all the pictures taken when I came back in after that race… unfortunately though I didn’t come back in on a horse after that race and ended up being taken to Naas hospital so we had to get a picture taken outside of the hospital instead! Thankfully, I was fine though.
Being a jockey wasn’t always the plan. Growing up I always wanted to be a vet but then I realised that I wasn’t nearly academic enough to do that and I always wanted to take out my licence and ride as an amateur but I never saw it being a career, ever, but it was only when I finished doing an Equine Science course in Limerick that I had to decide whether to go and find a real job or not and it was then Shark suggested that I should turn professional and that was the first I ever thought about making a career out of being a jockey.
I think most people were a bit surprised by my decision because there was no other professional lady rider in Ireland but Lucy Alexander is doing a real good job in England and two of the best amateurs in Ireland are ladies, Katie Walsh and Nina Carberry, and they’d have rides in all the big handicaps so it wasn’t really a big deal for me when I started to think about it.
A couple of people might have said it wasn’t the thing to do or what not but it’s really not a big deal and the biggest thing for me now is to try and keep the ball rolling. There’s plenty of jump racing to look forward to in the summer and I’ve ridden a few times on the flat and I’d be more than happy to do more of that if the opportunities came about. Things will be much harder now without a claim but I just want to try and keep going as I have been going and try to keep the winners coming.