Today’s post is an interview with Niall Houlihan who is currently a conditional jockey based with Gary Moore and interestingly, he is also the groom who looks after the very talented Goshen! I hope you enjoy!
Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?
Niall: My favourite career race to date would probably be my last winner on Twenty Twenty for the boss at Fontwell last Saturday (14th March). He’s been a very unlucky horse for us this season, coming second three times in a row so to get his head in front was quite rewarding, especially after the events of the Friday in Cheltenham. Also was my first winner at Fontwell, our local track, which had been harder to get than expected.
Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose?
Niall: For me, it would be Denman. He, for me, is just the perfect stamp of a National Hunt horse and is definitely a hero of mine.
Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?
Niall: I believe the current whip rules that the BHA enforce are correct and should be continued.
Me: As a jockey, weight is obviously a huge thing for you guys so what would you eat on a regular day? Are there any periods across the year where you can actually just eat everything and anything or is it a strict kind of diet all year round?
Niall: I’m lucky in the aspect that being 5ft 11 my weight will always have to be managed. I have a general diet plan that I got from a PJA dietitian but it will change if I’ve got light weights the following days. I never really take time off my diet as I actually quite enjoy my regime that I have and I am trying to be in the best physical state to try and improve my riding, so staying in that diet helps me keep focused.
Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?
Niall: Like anything, everyone’s entitled to their opinion. Above all else, I’m an animal lover and I’ve been brought up with horses in my life and for me, racing isn’t a cruel sport. Horses are given top class care all year round in our industry. I’d love to show those people who believe that the sport is cruel the lifestyle that the horses have and show them how much the horses are loved by the people involved in the sport.
Me: Racing is an all year round sport,so when you do get some down time, what do you like to do?
Niall: Jumps jockeys get a week off racing both in April and August and for them weeks I’ll usually visit home to meet up with family and friends. I’ll probably be quiet throughout the summer as most of the trainers I ride for turn their horses out. Last year I used the downtime to travel to France where I rode out for French trainer Emmanuel Clayeax. Other than that I play a small bit of golf in the evenings, but I wouldn’t call it relaxing.
Me: Who do you look up to in the weighing room?
Niall: I always look up to the lads, Josh and Jamie Moore. They are very good to me and will always help me if they can. They are two of the most professional jockeys in the weighing room and I believe great role models to look up to. I go through any of my rides with both of them afterwards, seeing what they thought and what they would do differently.
Me: What is one race you would love to win?
Niall: Grand National. Every jockey’s dream.
Me: What’s your overall goal in racing over the upcoming years?
Niall: To ride as many winners as I can and to be in the top tier in National Hunt racing for as many seasons as possible.
Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ for the next season or two?
Niall: Goshen. Being his groom, I know I’m biased, but for me he’s a monster who only knows how to win.
Me: What is your favourite race course to ride at and why?
Niall: Sandown. I had my first winner there for Gary and it’s a major track that the boss aims a lot of good horses, so I know if I’m going to ride one for him, it will probably have a chance at winning.
Me: What is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether it be racing or something else?
The best advice I was ever told was that you’ve got two ears and one mouth for a reason. If you have a passion for anything, you’ve got to follow it, but if you want to succeed at it, you’ve got to take all the advice you’re given.
Firstly, a massive thank you to Niall for answering some questions for me. He has great potential to become a brilliant jockey and I cannot wait to follow his progress over the next few years.
I hope you enjoy reading as much as I have writing.