Winning the big amateur race at the Galway Festival is certainly a feeling I haven’t had too often. When I crossed the line on Whiskey Sour, Patrick Mullins and Katie Walsh were roaring at me saying well done and I just said “I can’t believe it’s after happening”, it was a feeling I can’t really describe.
I rode my first winner in Listowel and it was very much surreal but this was a different type of feeling. I knew going out how big a race it was and I was just going to enjoy the spin and ride the race as it happened but I couldn’t believe how well everything went through the race. From the minute we jumped out of the stalls it was just a dream run really. The horse fell asleep with me during the race which just allowed me to keep him on the rail and when we were going into the dip I saw Derek O’Connor on my outside and I was just able to wheel out and follow Derek into the straight. From there when I saw Patrick in front of me and the feel the horse was giving me, I just knew I was going to do it from then. That was a great feeling.
When I rode my first winner it was just a brilliant day and I remember saying to myself then to enjoy it because there are plenty of bad days in racing that you need to learn how to deal with so you need to enjoy the good ones and soak it up. I was just trying to soak it in as much as I could because I might not ever win the biggest race at Galway again. It’s hard to believe it is a week ago now.
I’m in Willie’s (Mullins) a couple of mornings a week and Gordon Elliott’s is just up the road from me so I’m there a couple of mornings as well and you couldn’t be in two better yards. You are riding for two great trainers and riding top class horses every morning.
My father, Luke, was a bookmaker when I was growing up and I never had much interest in what he was doing, just from the time I was five or six and started riding ponies I got the bug for racing and the dream of being a jockey. From the age of nine or 10 I started riding out in Ted Walsh’s on Saturday’s and on school holidays.
There was a time when I thought days like last Monday would never happen. Being a jockey was always something that I said if I didn’t give it a go that I’d look back on it and regret it for the rest of my life and hopefully last Monday’s winner will be a springboard for more winners and opportunities.
I gave race riding a break for a little while. I had ridden two winners from about 10 or 12 rides and I was only 17 at the time and hard enough on myself but as hard as I was on myself, it was hard when I was looking at social media and people were saying some horrible stuff. When you are that young you probably take things more to heart and my head was just frying from it. I couldn’t take any more of it. I wasn’t enjoying riding then and didn’t have much interest in it anymore.
I gave it up then for a year or so but went back at it last year, knowing that if I didn’t I’d not only regret but that I’d be letting those bullies win.
I had got myself an office job and it was great but I just kept saying ‘I’m leaving this (racing) behind’ and I didn’t want to do that so I said I was going back to do it for myself and not for anybody else and be happy that I did it because if I ever walk away from it again, I’ll have done it and be happy I gave it my best. The day you start worrying about the keyboard warriors you need to have a chat with yourself because they don’t matter.
I didn’t think in my wildest dreams that I’d end up winning the biggest handicap in Galway but I’ve been doing plenty of work in the gym and working hard on my fitness levels and things like that so now I’ve to work harder again if I want to move on and start getting a few more rides.
I’ve been working hard at this but I’m determined to work even harder now and use this success on Monday to get me more chances and make the best of them if I do get them.