Jessie Always Showed Great Loyalty Towards Me

Last year at Cheltenham all my dreams came true at once.

We had a very strong team going over and if we had gotten one winner we would have been delighted. It started on the Wednesday when Supasundae won the Coral Cup. I fancied him for the race. He’d been running well all year and it was the first time he got a bit of nice ground.

He’d been working very well up to it so I knew going out it would be difficult to find a bit of room in a thirty runner field so I thought if I could find a bit of space for him I could get him confident and he could run a big race which he certainly did.

Going For Gold
Then Friday was just an unbelievable day. Supasundae winning was great confidence for me. It was the first time I had ridden a winner at Cheltenham in six years so it took the pressure off a bit.

I don’t think I would have done anything different on either Sizing John or Rock The World. It was just a great relief to have got a winner already that week.

I was very confident about Sizing John going into the Gold Cup.

I had no doubts about his stamina and his work at home had got better and better. He went to Thurles and won and then won the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown. I think confidence is as big a thing for a horse as it is the jockey. The horse’s confidence from getting his head in front those couple of times does him the world of good.

His work had been improving the whole time and his work from Leopardstown to Cheltenham was just unbelievable. Anyone would think I had a small doubt in him going into the Gold Cup as he hadn’t ran that distance before, but I didn’t. I was so confident about him.

Everything in the race just went perfectly well. He got a dream run around the whole way. He travelled strongly down the hill, jumped the third last very well. The horse to beat Djakadam was directly in front of me. I had him in my sights and followed him down to the second last.

I gave Sizing John a squeeze and picked up immediately and I knew he had plenty left in him. He went down and in over the second last, Djakadam missed it. I found myself in front sooner than I probably wanted to be but to be fair to the horse he went down and up over the last so then it was just a case of getting up the hill.

He then proved to everyone that stamina was no issue whatsoever. When you’re leading going up the hill all you can think of is to keep going forward.

It’s a long way up that hill when you’re in front in the Gold Cup.

You put the head down and just try to keep the horse in a straight line and get up that hill as quick as possible. After the last jump I never felt he was going to put a foot wrong or that someone would pass me.

When you actually get there, all that’s going through your head is, “Where’s the line, where’s the line?” Then when you cross the line it all sinks in.

I suppose going over if someone had asked me what my best chance of a winner was at Cheltenham I would have said Rock The World. He was third in the Grand Annual the year before and he felt unbelievable in schooling in the weeks before. He felt so much stronger than he was the year before.

It has been a great week riding the few winners but to then go on and ride a third winner was amazing.

Turning Points
One of the biggest turning points in my career has been teaming up with Ann and Alan Potts. Even going to Aintree and riding four winners there was great and to link up with Colin Tizzard also was fantastic.

Hopefully again this year I’ll be in England again riding plenty for Colin too. I’ve been based in Ireland my whole career apart from the big festivals in England so it’s great to go across the water too.

As they say a shut mouth catches no flies. All those years with Jessie, obviously Barry had number one choice on most of the horses. When he’d be in England on a Saturday I’d then get my opportunity. I’d keep the head down and work hard and try and make the best of it.

Luckily for me I got to ride some amazing horses through Barry being in England and to be fair to Jessie and a lot of her owners, whenever I won on a horse they always left me on that horse.

They always showed great loyalty towards me.

Injury Worries
My injuries over the past few years have been well documented. It’s tough getting injuries this stage in my career that are life-changing. The older you get the harder it is to recover. When I injured my eye I was put in touch with the best people.

Last year I got seen to by some very good eye specialists and they got me back to where I am. Again when I ruptured a disc in my back I went to a brilliant doctor so I worked hard with him and did all the exercises I was told to do. If you were told to do an exercise twice a day you probably did it four times a day to get that bit more out of it.

The physical pain is grand but the mental pain of sitting home watching horses win that you should be riding, that’s devastating and causes much more pain than the physical side of it.

The Future
I haven’t made any plans for the future yet. I can ride for a lot longer yet and I haven’t thought about what I want to do after that and I don’t want to think about it either!

It would be fantastic if Sizing John goes down the million bonus route, Haydock, Kempton and the Gold Cup. The only horse to ever do that was Kauto Star so it would be fantastic so if he could do that it would be unbelievable. He looks fantastic and is doing great. I don’t get near him too often, she won’t let me sit on him!

Our Duke has done really well over the summer also.

For me, winning the BoyleSports Irish Grand National meant as much to me as winning the Gold Cup.

It’s my local racecourse and a race I’ve always wanted to win it. I was there as a kid when Desert Orchid won it. I got as big a kick out of that as I did winning the Gold Cup. Our Duke still has to make the step from being a very good novice to being a Gold Cup horse.

He’s looked very well over the summer and possibly Down Royal will be his first port of call. The ground is safe up there. It’s a long way away but hopefully I do have a tough decision to make next March in whether I’ll ride Sizing John or Our Duke in the Gold Cup!