An Interview with Phillip Dennis

Phillip Dennis

Hiya guys!

Today I am bringing you an interview with Phillip Dennis, I hope you enjoy!

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Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Phillip: My favourite race that I have won so far would have to be the Epsom Dash on Ornate. To win a big handicap just 40 minutes before the Derby was great and a real buzz, he also gave me my first Group One ride in the Nunthorpe this year, which would be up there for a favourite ride that didn’t win. Hopefully he can be seriously competitive in listed or group company this season.

Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose?

Phillip: If I could have ridden any horse past or present, I’d have to say Frankel as an obvious one. He was just a freak of a race horse and his Guineas win and York win stand out for me. A less obvious one would be Sole Power, he looked a real character to ride.

Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?

Phillip: I think the whip issue could go on and on but it really is an important piece of equipment that the wider public don’t really understand. I’m not sure what the best way to go is, whether it’s tighten up penalties or reduce hits, but in my opinion, banning it would be crazy.

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?

Phillip: I’m fairly lucky with my weight that it stays quite level and I can eat relatively well, depending on what weights I have in the coming days. 48 hour declarations are definitely a help to get the weight sorted for a lighter ride. In the summer I’d watch it a bit more than in the winter. When it’s quieter you can use it as a bit of a break for the body.

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?

Phillip: If I was to talk to someone who thought racing was cruel, I’d have to explain to them how well the horses are looked after, morning and night. People think they are forced to run, but the majority are only happy when they are out with a saddle on them. Stable staff do an unbelievable job and treat them like they are their own.

Me: Racing is an all year round sport, so when you do get some down time, what do you like to do?

Phillip: During the odd days I get off I try to play golf… very averagely. But I’d be a fair weather player. So other than that I like to spend time with friends and family. During the lockdown I tried my hand at the odd bit of DIY and gardening.

Me: Who do you look up to in the dressing room?

Phillip: In the North, it’s a great bunch of jockeys, as people and riders, so it would be hard to single one person out that I look up to, but any advice I can get off the more senior riders is a massive help and I like to get as much as possible.

Me:What is one race you’d love to win?

Phillip: The obvious races I’d love to win would be the classics, like any jockey. But on a more personal level, I’d love to win the Nunthorpe, being my local track and I love sprinters. Another one would be the Ayr Gold Cup. My dad used to take me and my mate up every year to watch it with him, so that one would be up there. When I was young it was always the Grand National, but not sure I’d be brave enough now, unless it was an old school master.

Me: What’s your overall goal in racing over the upcoming few years?

Phillip: In the coming season or two I’d like to keep building on numbers and also the quality of horses. Last year I got to 47 with a few nicer ones in there, so to keep riding in them sort of races would be great and to get above 50 would be nice.

Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ for the next season or two?

Phillip: A horse to watch would be Que Amoro, a filly I won on for Michael Dods in the apprentice race at the Ebor Festival. She’s a seriously fast filly that stays the 5 furlongs strongly and on fast ground I think she’d be able to go up a level into a listed / group 3 company for them.

Me: What is your favourite race course to ride at and why?

Phillip: York would have to be my favourite track, it’s my local, has the best racing in the North and arguably, the country. Always has a great crowd and the atmosphere is unbelievable.

Me: What is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether that be racing or something else?

Phillip: My advice to any young person would be hard work can always beat talent, so as long as you want something, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t or aren’t good enough. Just make sure you work as hard as you can and harder than anyone else and you’ll get to where you want to be.

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Firstly a massive thank you to Phillip for taking the time out to speak with me. From speaking to him I think he is someone who wants to learn and continuously improve in the sport and that is a great attitude to have and he will definitely be successful with that thought process. 

I hope you enjoyed and I will see you all next Saturday for An Interview with Tom Garner.

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An Interview with Danny Mcmenamin

Danny Mcmenamin

Hiya guys!

Today I am bringing to you an interview with conditional jockey Danny Mcmenamin, he is a jockey that is coming through the ranks and is definitely one to watch out for in the future. I hope you enjoy!

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Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Danny: Winning the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham is surely a day I will never forget. The amount of times I have dreamt of that in my head and for it to happen was the best day in my life. Cheltenham is a special place, festival or not it is the home of racing.

Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past of present, what horse would you choose?

Danny: Kauto Star, he’s a horse which I fell in love with when I was growing up. His ability was freak like, the whole racing community loved him. He was a proper horse.

Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?

Danny: My opinion on the whip is that it needs to stay for jockeys and other horses safety. There has been a massive improvement over the years with new rules and newly designed whips and I am sure things will improve further.

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?

Danny: To be honest I’m very lucky with my weight as I’m small, so I get to eat pretty much what I wish to eat. Obviously I just don’t eat junk food, all my meals are homemade and healthy, thanks to my girlfriend.

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?

Danny: Everyone has their right to an opinion, but horses aren’t forced to race, they do it because they enjoy it. It’s in their nature to compete. The horses in racing get extremely looked after.

Me: Racing is an all year round sport, so when you do get some down time, what do you like to do?

Danny: When I get some time to myself, which isn’t often, I like to play football and taking the dogs on a walk, which both are a good way to maintain fitness. I’m pretty much into anything outdoors.

Me: Who do you look up to in the weighing room?

Danny: The person I look up to would be Brian Hughes. The way he rides is admirable, everything just looks smooth. He’s always in the right place at the right time in races. He has helped me a lot since I started out and I have a huge amount of respect for him.

Me: What is one race you’d love to win?

Danny: The one race I would love to win would be the Grand National. It has always been a dream of mine. Toby Dobbin, who’s from the same town in Northern Ireland as me and is a family friend, won it, so it would be great to win it.

Me: What’s your overall goal in racing over the upcoming years?

Danny: My overall goal would be just to try and ride as many winners as I can and to keep improving and learning over the years.

Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ for the next season or two?

Danny: My horse to watch over the next year or two would be Marown trained by my boss Nicky Richards. He is currently unbeaten in 3 starts, one in a bumper and two over hurdles. He’s a big, strong type, proper chasing type. In time he can only improve from what he has done now. Will be exciting to see what the future holds for him.

Me: What is your favourite race course to ride at and why?

Danny: My favourite course, I have to be honest, but one would be Carlisle because, one, it’s only 20 minutes away which helps, but also it takes getting used to, you have to be in the right place at the right time around there. You need a horse which can travel and if you go too soon, you’ll never get home, but if you leave it too late, it’s hard to make ground up that hill. Timing and jumping is everything around there.

Me: What is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether that be racing or something else?

Danny: My advice to anyone who has a passion for something, whether it’s sport or other things, is to never stop chasing that passion, no matter if people put you down, people will always doubt you, but when you prove them wrong it will all be worth it. If you believe in it, you will achieve it, it’s just some hard work, dedication and self belief, that’s all that’s needed.

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Firstly I want to say a massive thank you to Danny for taking the time to talk to me. I think he is definitely someone to keep an eye on, he is very knowledgeable in the sport and always open to learn more, which is always a good thing. I, for one, can’t wait to watch his progress!

Thank you for reading. I will see you all next Saturday at 11am for An Interview with Phillip Dennis.

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An Interview with Amy Murphy

Amy Murphy

Hiya guys!

Today I am bringing to you an interview with the brilliant, quickly up and coming trainer Amy Murphy. I hope you enjoy!

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Me: What’s your favourite day of the racing calendar?

Amy: On the flat, my favourite day would be the Tuesday of Royal Ascot and National Hunt, it would be the Tuesday of the Cheltenham Festival.

Me: What’s the goal for you and the team? Grand National, Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, what’s the dream?

Amy: My goal as a trainer would be to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. For the team, more realistically, my goal would be to constantly hit and better the targets we set at the beginning of each season. In doing so, I would hope that we can then improve the quality of horses in training.

Me: If you could train one horse that is currently in training elsewhere, what horse would you choose and why?

Amy: Enable, for obvious reasons. She is everything that you would look for in a racehorse.

Me: Do you ever get any down time? What’s your favourite thing to do when you do get some spare time?

Amy: The best down time for me is having a relaxing day with my family and friends with a glass or two of champagne. 

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?

Amy: I would ask them to take the time to visit my yard and see first hand the five star care and attention the horses get and then tell me whether they still think the horses are suffering from cruelty.

Me: Kalashnikov is one of the most loved horses over the past few years, how is he? Where do you hope he goes next season?

Amy: This National Hunt season did not go to plan for Kalashnikov. However, he has had a period of rehab and will now have a long summer break out in the field with the other National Hunt horses. I would expect him to be back in the early part of the Autumn 2020/2021 season.

Me: What’s your favourite race course to visit?

Amy: My favourite flat track would be Chester and my favourite National Hunt track would be Fakenham for the friendly country feel you get.

Me: What is your ‘horse to watch’ that you train?

Amy: A horse to watch for the future would be Rudaina over middle distances on a flat galloping track.

Me: What’s your favourite race to look back on as an owner, rider or trainer?

Amy: My favourite race to look back on would be the Betfair Hurdle, again for obvious reasons.

Me: What are your opinions surrounding discussions of banning the whip?

Amy: With regards to the whip debate, I can see both sides of the argument. Personally, I feel the whip should not disappear as, if nothing else, it is an aid for correct measures in a race.

Me: What is your best piece of advice for a young person following their passion, whether that be in racing or something else?

Amy: My advice would be to follow your dreams and make sure you get plenty of hands on experience in order to make sure your dreams become a reality. Also, never be afraid to ask for other people’s opinions and advice.

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Firstly, as always, I want to say a massive thank you to Amy for taking the time out to speak to me. Personally I think Amy is a trainer to watch, she is a brilliant trainer, a lovely person and overall just a great female ambassador for our sport.

I really hope you all enjoyed this interview and I shall see you all next Saturday at 11am for An Interview with Danny Mcmenamin.

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An Interview with Max Kendrick

Max Kendrick

Hey guys!

Today’s post is an interview with conditional jockey Max Kendrick, he gave some really interesting answers so I really hope you enjoy!

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Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Max: My favourite race would have to be on Graceful Legend at Ascot, it was my first Saturday winner as a conditional. It was very memorable to enter the winners enclosure where so many great horses and jockeys had been before. Another race that springs to mind is The Aintree Foxhunters in 2014, I had my first ride round the national fences on Court Red Handed. The adrenaline rush was unbelievable and it certainly wet my appetite to ride in the main event.

Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose?

Max: I would have to choose the mighty Kauto Star. I grew up watching the Kauto – Denman battle, it fuelled my passion for racing. I always wanted Kauto to win as he was extremely versatile with speed and stamina on his side and was champion over 2, 2.5 & 3+ miles. I also wonder what it would be like to ride something like Frankel, I rode a few winners on the flat as an amateur on horses rated around 70 and I thought I was going fast so I can’t even begin to imagine the speed that something rated 130 must go!

Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?

Max: I understand it is a very sensitive subject, I think for the good of the sport we have to be seen to continually evolve, improve and educate people about horse welfare and the sport as a whole. Changes have been made with regards to the whip, the national and everyday practices both on the racecourse and at yards. Personally, I think the whip rules are in a good, manageable place at the moment. It allows jockeys to ride a race and correct horses without any risk to the horse. It is heavily monitored by stewards and cameras every day across all meetings, big or small. I worry that if we bow to the people who want to ban the use of the whip completely they will not be satisfied until racing is no longer an industry or sport. I believe the key is education and the recent BHA videos featuring Tom Scudamore are a good start to empowering passionate racegoers, jockeys or trainers with information they can readily share with people who may not fully understand the whip. Perhaps changing the name from ‘whip’ to another name would also help remove some of the negative or aggressive connotations with the word. We are all part of this industry because we have a love and passion for horses and ultimately we all want what is best for the horse.

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?

Max: I am very lucky that weight isn’t an issue for me personally. I am passionate about health and fitness so I do remain on a balanced diet all year:

Breakfast: All Bran Cereal with skimmed milk, protein pancakes or Boiled Eggs.

Snack: Fruit e.g. Apple or Banana

Lunch: Whole wheat pasta with meat and vegetables

Snack: Fruit

Dinner: Meat and vegetables

I tend to let myself have one day a week of eating as I want, this helps me maintain this balance all year round. I don’t really drink unless it is during the jump racing break in August, aside from that I keep eating well all year round.

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?

Max: I would ask them to look at both sides, to visit a yard and witness first-hand how well horses are treated on a daily basis and also to go to a racecourse and see the specialist vets, care and legislation in place to protect all parties involved, including the horses. The racing industry gives the thoroughbred horse a purpose, like dairy cows for example they are bred with a purpose in mind. Do you think farmers would keep dairy cows if there was no longer a need for milk production?

Me: Racing is an all year round sport, so when you do get some down time, what do you like to do?

Max: I love all sport and am a lifelong Arsenal supporter for my sins. I love watching them whenever I can and am lucky enough to visit the Emirates a couple of times a year, whenever racing permits! I also have a Labrador called Ned who is great to have as I get the same greeting from him whether I have won, lost or fallen – he never fails to cheer me up after a bad day. I have an amazing circle of friends outside of racing, it’s good to spend time with them and my girlfriend to have a break from it all!

Me: Who do you look up to in the weighing room?

Max: People that have been very influential to me in the weighing room are; Kielan Woods and Paddy Brennan. They have ridden plenty of winners between them and are fantastic mentors, they have never hesitated to point something out if it needs improving. When I was younger, before I was in the weighing room watching Ruby Walsh and Sir AP McCoy battle it out was always a highlight for me.

Me: What is one race you’d love to win?

Max: It has to be The Gold Cup for me on the biggest stage for jump racing at The Festival, that’s the dream. If you win the Gold Cup you can without doubt say that you have won on the best staying chaser that year. I, of course, grew up watching Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander fight out some of the best Gold Cups in history.

Me: What’s your overall goal in racing over the upcoming few years?

Max: I am down to my 3lb now so firstly, it is to ride out my claim. Looking past that, I would like to keep consolidating the relationships I have built over the years. I want to continually improve the quality of races I am winning.

Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ for the next season or two?

Max: My horse to watch is a very nice store by Kayf Tara that my Mother owns called Ted Da Titan, he was supposed to run this spring but the Coronavirus has put pay to that, he has been going very well at home. He will now spend the summer out and will hopefully run well in a bumper in the Autumn.

Me: What is your favourite racecourse to ride at and why?

Max: I love riding at Exeter, I have had some luck round there and it is a very fair, big, galloping track. You don’t often find too many hard luck stories there.

Me: What is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether that be racing or something else?

Max: Follow your passion, don’t be afraid to ask advice from people already in the industry but above all work hard and don’t give up on your dream. 

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Firstly, a massive thank you to Max for taking time out to answer some questions. He is an incredible jockey and he will definitely go onto big things, I can’t wait to follow his career and see where it takes him. He gave some in-depth answers which are always interesting to hear from people in the industry, so I really hope you enjoyed!

I will see you all next Saturday at 11am with An Interview with Amy Murphy!

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An Interview with Ben Curtis

Ben Curtis

Hey guys!

Today I am bringing you an interview with flat jockey Ben Curtis. I really hope you enjoy!

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Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Ben: I think my favourite win so far was an early one. The Irish Lincoln on Drombeg Dawn at the Curragh. It was a race that helped kick start my career on a bigger scale.

Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose?

Ben: A horse I was close to working for John Oxx at the time, Sea The Stars was a horse I would have loved to have ridden in a race. He oozed class in all aspects.

Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?

Ben: I believe as a sport we have bent over backwards to co-operate with all of the bad publicity this subject receives. There is no whips in racing as it is! We are using pillows on sticks. They do not cause any pain only persuade horses through sound. Either way they are always going to be needed for safety purposes and I believe that as long as we, as jockeys, stay within the rules and guidelines that are currently set, the current situation should not be looked at again to appease anyone and we now need to stand our ground on this matter.

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?

Ben: As a jockey I believe it’s hard for anyone to stick to a routine diet with the amount of travelling involved, logistically it is near impossible to plan. Personally I don’t eat breakfast and would often miss lunch. But I love an evening meal and I live by the philosophy once you burn more than you put in then you won’t put on weight. It’s very simple.

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?

Ben: Anyone who considers horse racing as cruel are misinformed and uneducated on the matter. These horses receive five star treatment. They are bred to do a job and love what they do. And a visit to any racing stables will highlight the regard and love these horses receive.

Me: Racing is an all year round sport, so when you do get some down time, what do you like to do?

Ben: It all depends on what you plan for the year. Whether it is to take some downtime in the winter, attack the all weather or focus on jobs abroad. Downtime for me is rare as I like to keep busy and competitive throughout the year. But when I do, I like to spend time with my family and love a day out with a few beers and music with friends and depending on the amount of beers a possible dance.

Me: Who do you look up to in the weighing room?

Ben: Mick Kinane was always my idol, but presently looking up to Ryan Moore and Frankie (Dettori) two completely different characters but both masters of their trade.

Me: What is one race you’d love to win?

Ben: I’m not pinpointing one but there are a few, the Nunthope as I love York, the Derby or any race at Royal Ascot. 

Me: What’s your overall goal in racing over the upcoming few years?

Ben: My main goal first and foremost is riding winners but a group one is my ultimate and what I put all the work in with a view of achieving.

Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ for the next season or two?

Ben: I think Lord Of The Lodge is a classy animal and when the ground is soft a horse called Ainsdale could turn into a high class sprinter.

Me: What is your favourite racecourse to ride at and why?

Ben: York and Ascot are both exceptional tracks to ride and both get large crowds and have an atmosphere to boot. 

Me: What is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether that be racing or something else?

Ben: If you are lucky enough to pursue a job or career that you love, put in the hours, do the work and don’t give up. There are a lot of downs in any career choice but once the highs outweigh them you are on the right track. Always look at where your going, not where you’ve been!

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Firstly, I want to say a massive thank you to Ben for taking some time out to speak with me. He gave some brilliant answers and I really enjoyed this one, I hope you guys enjoyed it too!

I will see you all next Saturday at 11am for An Interview with Max Kendrick!

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An Interview with Cian MacRedmond

Cian MacRedmond

Hiya!

Today’s post is an interview with Cian MacRedmond who is an apprentice jockey to Declan Carroll. He gave me a brilliant interview with some in-depth answers, so I really hope you all enjoy.

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Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Cian: My favourite race that I have won was just a handicap at York on Music Seeker. To win it on such a big weekend on John Smith’s weekend it was brilliant. The place was packed and I would absolutely love to have that feeling to come into a packed parade ring again.

Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose?

Cian: Sea the stars is a horse I would love to have ridden. He was absolutely amazing and to see what he achieved in his three-year-old career it’s just outstanding.

Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?

Cian: Like other fellow jockeys I do think that the that the discussion around banning the whip is outrageous. I do think that people are not completely educated surrounding the whip and its uses. No matter how hard you hit a horse with the whips it does not hurt them. They are completely padded and it’s only the noise of the whip that makes the horses go forward. It also helps with horses that hang and every jockey out there can tell you if they did not have a whip when a horse hung with them they would’ve been in serious trouble and could of got themselves, the horse or someone else hurt. I do believe that the whip rules should remain as they are.

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 anything and everything or is it a strict kind of diet all year round?

Cian: Like most jockeys I do struggle with my weight. Being 5 foot 10 and trying to constantly keep my weight around 8 stone 6 lb is very hard. I do eat a lot of fruit and drink a lot of tea, coffee and water and try and keep my weight stable. During the winter when there is not much racing it’s very hard, I could be anywhere between eight stone six and nine stone purely because I’m not as active as I would be throughout the season. During the season when I’m very busy and I could be riding out horses in the morning, for racing because I am so active I tend to eat whatever I want so I am very lucky in that regard. I try my best to stay out of the sauna because when I come out of that my weight seems to go up and down like a yo-yo.

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?

Cian: To anyone that thinks racing is cruel I do think they should go into a yard in the morning and they can see how horses are treated. There are treated like royalty.

Me: Racing is an all year round sport, so when you do get some down time, what do you like to do?

Cian: Racing is all year round but I don’t tend to ride during the winter purely to try and save my claim being an apprentice. I’m still busy breaking in yearlings but when I’m off work I usually play golf or go back home to Ireland to visit my family and friends. I also find myself binge watching a series on Netflix too.

Me: Who do you look up to in the weighing room?

Cian: I do look up to many of the lads in the weighing room but one person that stands out to me is Danny Tudhope. He’s very hard working and also struggles with his weight. He’s an outstanding rider and he’s a great role model for any young jockey out there.

Me: What is one race you’d love to win?

Cian: One race Id love to win is the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. It’s definitely my favourite race to watch and people from all over the world watch it. The best horses all around the world run in it and would be a childhood dream if I was ever to have a ride in it.

Me: What’s your overall goal in racing over the upcoming few years?

Cian: I don’t really set myself goals because I know things don’t always go your way but hopefully in the next few years I’ll just keep improving and start to ride in better races on better horses.

Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ for the next season or two?

Cian: My horse to follow for the next season is a horse I won on twice last year called Music Seeker. He seems to always be improving and at the moment he’s in the form of his life. He has given myself and the Bryan family some great days and I’m sure there’s a nice valuable handicap in him next season if he gets his ground.

Me: What is your favourite racecourse to ride at and why?

Cian: My favourite racecourses is the Curragh. I grew up two minutes down the road from it and I rode my first winner there on a horse called Sweetest Taboo. It’s a very fair track and the best horse in the race usually wins there.

Me: What is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether that be racing or something else?

Cian: The best advice I can give anyone is keep your eyes open, your ears open, and your mouth shut. If you live by that you’ll get to where you want to get to in life.

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Once again, as always, first things first I want to thank Cian for his time. Cian is a brilliant lad and has a bright future ahead of him. I can’t wait to follow his journey!

I hope you enjoyed!

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An Interview with John McConnell

John McConnell

Hey guys!

Today’s interview is with Irish flat and national hunt trainer John McConnell, I hope you enjoy!

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Me: What’s your favourite day of the racing calendar?

John: Grand National Day.

Me: What’s the goal for you and the team? Grand National, Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle. What’s the dream?

John: The Grand National. I grew up watching both the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals every year but the Grand National continues to captivate me to this day. Just to have a runner would be so fulfilling and is a childhood dream of mine. 

Me: If you could train one horse that is currently in training elsewhere, what horse would you choose and why?

Me: Pinatubo. He looks like a superstar in the making and I quite fancy winning a Classic or two. 

Me: How supportive are other trainers with any help and advice?

John: It does vary but generally everyone is fairly supportive within the industry. 

Me: Who do you look up to in the racing game?

John: Gordon Elliot because he hasn’t come from a privileged background. He had a great Cheltenham festival and I have the height of respect for him. 

Me: Do you ever get any down time? What’s your favourite thing to do when you do get some spare time?

John: Very rarely but I like comedy gigs such as David O’Doherty, Micky Flanagan, etc. 

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?

John: Don’t get me started on those people or I’d be here for a day. It’s not cruelty, here end’th the lesson.

Me: What is your ‘horse to watch’ that you train? 

John: Happaugue he’s won twice this year in Dundalk and is constantly improving. 

Me: What’s your favourite racecourse to visit?

John: Punchestown. It’s my home track and hosts the best festival of the year. 

Me: What’s your favourite race to watch back over the years?

John: Dúl Ar An Ól winning for us in Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday 2010. We landed a nice gamble that day. 

Me: What are your opinions surrounding discussions of banning the whip?

John: It’s pandering to the anti’s and the whips these days are so cushioned that they are pain free for the animal. 

Me: What is your best piece of advice for a young person following their passion, whether that be in racing or something else?

John: It’s better to live one day as a lion than one hundred years as a lamb. I gave up veterinary to follow my dream and I would have greatly regretted it if I hadn’t. 

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Firstly, as always, I want to say a massive thank you to John for giving me his time. I think John has a bright future ahead, he has goals for him and his team and such a smart business brain, I can see brilliant things coming from his yard.

I really hope you enjoyed this interview!

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An Interview with Paddy Aspell

Paddy Aspell

Heya guys!

Today I am bringing to you an interview with the brilliant Paddy Aspell. Another very interesting one that I thoroughly enjoyed conducting, I hope you enjoy reading!

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Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Paddy: Well I was lucky enough, back in my jumping days, to ride a winner at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010. I rode a winner on the Tuesday, the William Hill Chase on Chief Dan George. We didn’t really fancy him, he was a 33/1 shot and I was actually driving down to Cheltenham that day when Sedgefield was always on the first day of the Festival and I could have had plenty of rides there, but I was going down to ride this 33/1 shot in the William Hill Chase but anyway, it turns out he won. It was an incredible day, very enjoyable. You know, he was a good horse to me, because I finished 5th in a Scottish National on him when I didn’t particularly give him a good ride the year before and then the year after the Cheltenham win, I had a spin round in the National on him and got round as well. Both me and my brother rode in the same National together, the year Ballabriggs won in 2011, so yeah, that was probably my favourite.

On the flat, maybe, I won the Brocklesby at Doncaster for Mick Easterby. I’d been working there all winter and actually sort of prepped him and done everything with him so when he came out and won that on debut it was quite a satisfying win so that was probably the best one for me on the level.

Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose?

Paddy: For me I’d probably go jumping and probably go back a few years as well and say One Man of Nicky Richards. I just thought he was an incredible horse. It was heartbreaking at times to see the amount of times he folded up the hill at Cheltenham, it looked like it was a track he was never going to conquer but it was such a brave move and an incredible bit of training by Nicky, or Sir Gordon Richards at the time, I should say. To drop him back to two miles and erm, you know it was incredible. Bryan Harding came in for the ride late on as Toby Dobbin had been injured. It was just a great story all round, he’s the one that sticks out in my mind.

Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?

Paddy: Well I think it’s never going to be an open and shut case, there’s a lot of grey areas. I do think it’s needed and necessary but yeah, there can certainly be improvements to be made but that’s down to the jockey’s, it’s entirely in our hands basically. But no, I could never see it being banned, because at times, it’s there for safety so it can’t be banned really. 

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 around?

Paddy: I think I’ve gotten into… I’ve been the same for years now, certainly since I’ve switched to the flat, it wasn’t too bad when I was riding over jumps because I was a very light jump jockey, but as it turns out when I made the switch I was a heavy jump jockey so I have had to get into a routine. I generally eat once a day and it would generally be towards the end of the day, especially if you’ve been working. You get to know what you can and can’t eat and you get to know your body so so well. Some mornings I wake up and I don’t even need to get on the scales because I know down to .1 or .2 what weight I am, that’s how well you get to know your body. It’s all about routine. For me, I don’t like to get very heavy, I know it’s enjoyable at the time, you can eat loads and what you want but really you’re just making the hill steeper in the long run. There’s always times when you have to drop weight but every day when you need to drop two or three pound in the bath and you know exercise, I love exercising, that becomes the norm. But if you have to lose four to five pounds that’s really tough on your body and you do feel it so I like to try and keep it pretty consistent across the board and yeah you treat yourself here or there, but look you only make it harder for yourself in the long run if you go crazy on stuff like that.

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?

Paddy: I would say it’s another one like the whip debate, there are grey areas and people who maybe aren’t educated as much as we are on the sport. Visually it can look quite tough at times but luckily it doesn’t happen that often, but accidents are accidents and they can happen in all walks of life and I can see people’s perceptions if that’s what they think. It’s an opinion and it’s not totally unfounded. As a sport and as far as horse racing goes, the horses are cared for and looked after.

Me: Racing is an all year round sport, so when you do get some down time, what do you like to do?

Paddy: Well it’s mad I suppose, when you do actually get some down time it’s trying to do as little as possible really. Recharge the battery. You know, I have a daughter, she doesn’t live with me now, but when I’m not busy I try and get to see her as much as I can. You know, it’s exactly as the question said, it’s down time, relax and recharge the batteries. I’m currently injured and have been for a while so I’ve got other stuff on, but it’s all about recharging the batteries enough to do your job well but at the same time you have to have an escape and refresh really.

Me: Who do you look up to in the weighing room?

Paddy: I suppose when I was riding over the jumps there was quite a few guys really. I thought Bryan Harding was an incredible guy, very hard working, dedicated. Erm, on the flat, there was quite a few, I think some of the older guys you’re going to look up to, very grounded and have a real good work ethic. I think, I suppose even the way Graham Lee does it now on the flat, he’s very dedicating, he’s a teetotaller and has to work hard on his weight like all of us, he’s very driven. But yeah just a real good guy… he’s a winner.  

Me: What is one race you’d love to win?

Paddy: I’m not really sure I have any one race. It all depends who you ride the winner for and the connections. For me, my roots are jumping and I’d have loved to win the good rides over jumps. I think… my brother Leighton has been lucky enough to win two Nationals and I think that’s a well known race. I think if the question was would I rather be Champion Jockey or win the National, I think I’d say that. It’s a race for the nation and I think that’s what I’d go with.

Me: What’s your overall goal in racing over the upcoming years?

Paddy: I suppose giving my current state, to try and stay injury free. But I don’t really set goals to be honest, I just want to be as successful as possible and earn a living from the game. I just enjoy it and keep enjoying it, it’s a short career so make hay whilst the sun shines but try and enjoy it along the way and make the best of what you can.

Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ for the next season or two?

Paddy: Well there’s a horse of Kevin Ryan’s that I was really really impressed with last year and he might not be that familiar to a lot of people but a horse called Juan Elcano. He runs in the yellow and black. I was really taken by this horse last year, I thought he was a long year off the finished article but still put in some real good performances last year and it’ll be interesting to see how he shapes up if he stays sound.

Me: What is your favourite race course to ride at and why?

Paddy: Well over jumps, my favourite course always because it’s my local track and I got so many rides there was Sedgefield believe it or not, Kelso was a close second, I really did like Kelso. But Sedgefield because it’s my local and I had plenty of success there. On the level, when I lived in New Market, I really really enjoyed riding at Great Yarmouth, lovely track and I found the best horse always won and just a real nice track. Properly up north it would be Hamilton on the flat, a very very well run track and I just got loads of rides there and was lucky enough to ride a treble there so I have so many good memories there.

Me: What is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow whether that be racing or something else?

Paddy: Well probably, the best advice I can give is you’ve got to have a real drive for what you do, you don’t want to just settle for something or choose something because you think oh well it’s the best option. You’ve got to have a real push and desire to do it. Listen to people and take your time because you know, if you listen to people and get as much help as you can, you’ve got to want to do it and for the right reasons, because if you do you’ve got more chance of succeeding and doing the best you can.

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I want to thank Paddy for taking time out to allow me to interview him. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, a genuine person who has some incredible stories in the sport. 

I hope you all enjoyed!

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An Interview with Theo Gillard

Theo Gillard

Hey guys!

Today’s post is an interview with Theo Gillard, who is currently a conditional jockey based with Donald McCain. Let’s get straight into it!

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Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Theo: Riding a winner at Aintree has to be the standout one, but having a ride over the National fences was some buzz too.

Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose?

Theo: Master Minded in his prime looked electric. There are plenty of others, but he stands out the most to me.

Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?

Theo: Same opinion as any of the other lads in the weighing room. It’s there for safety and encouragement so if you stick to the rules, which are spot on as they are now, I think they should stay the same.

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 eat anything and everything or is it a strict kind of diet all year round?

Theo: I tend not to eat breakfast, usually because I don’t get up in time for it! As for lunch, I tend to have mugshots or noodles, which work well for me with a but of fruit or something. For tea I try to stick to lean meats, but you’ve got to get takeout now and then to keep yourself sane. In the current situation I’m sure plenty of the lads will make use of the few weeks off we have, as I will too, to enjoy food a bit more than we normally would.

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?

Theo: To anyone that thinks racing is cruel, I’d love to show any one of them around any racing yard in the country to prove how well they are looked after and loved by all stable staff in the industry. I’m sure it would widen plenty of peoples eyes to racing if they did a bit of proper research on it.

Me: Racing is an all year round sport, so when you do get some down time, what do you like to do?

Theo: We get a few weeks here and there in the summer, so it’s always nice to get away on a holiday or away with the Mrs to have some down time away from racing and feel like a ‘normal person’ for a few days.

Me: Who do you look up to in the weighing room?

Theo: There are a lot of good lads in the weighing room, but Dicky (Richard Johnson) is a proper role model. It doesn’t matter if you’ve ridden one winner or a thousand, he always has time for anyone and everyone and is an all round top man.

Me: What is one race you’d love to win?

Theo: At this point in my career, winning any race is a great day for me. But the Gold Cup, as for many other lads is iconic, as well as the Grand National, but I wouldn’t be picky mind.

Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ for the next season or two?

Navajo Pass ran a great race to be the 4th in the Triumph at this years Festival and could be a real nice stayer in the future. But the unfortunate Goshen looked extremely impressive too an could turn out to be anything.

Me: What is your favourite course to ride at and why?

Theo: Ironically, I love riding at Bangor. Donald’s horses tend to run well there and I think front runners are hard to peg back round there, so that’s what makes it my favourite course. As well as it’s only 10 minutes from home, so it makes it ideal for me.

Me: What is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether it be in racing or something else?

Theo: Racing or not, starting off your career in anything, keep your head down and work hard but enjoy yourself. Take it seriously, but not too seriously, because your head can play some serious mind games with you if you get too worked up about everything. As long as you can look back at it and be proud of what you have you’re career, what you’ve achieved and be happy with it, then you’re grand.

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Firstly, as always, I want to thank Theo for taking time out to answer some questions. It is appreciated. Theo works for a top trainer with some brilliant horses and with the passion he has for the sport, you can see he will go on to do great things and I, for one, cannot wait to follow his career over the next few years!

I really hope you enjoyed this post! See you all in my next.

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An Interview with Jamie Spencer

Jamie Spencer

Hey guys!

Today I am bringing you an interview with Jamie Spencer who has achieved brilliant things within the sport. I hope you enjoy this little insight to him!

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Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Jamie: Riding a winner at Cheltenham on Pizarro, lots of other more important flat races but jump racing I was born into as my father won the Champion Hurdle.

Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose?

Jamie: Boring selection, but obviously Frankel. He’s been the best horse of my lifetime.

Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?

Jamie: If it’s not broken, then don’t fix it. Horses are herd animals and generally run together as a pack to see who’s the best, then they need a form of encouragement.

Me: You have won multiple classics in your career as well as being Champion Jockey both in Ireland and Britain, what do you class as your biggest achievement? What are you most proud of this far in your career?

Jamie: Winning the St Leger on Brian Boru in 2003, it was a month after one of my best friends and housemate Kieran Kelly had died from a fall at Kilbeggan.

Me: As a jockey, weight is obviously a huge thing for you guys, is this ever a worry for you?

Jamie: My weight isn’t a major issue so I’m fortunate.

Me: You rode for Aidan O’Brien for a short while as his stable jockey at Ballydoyle, since then he has gone on to break all sorts of records, as have you. How was it working for him?

Jamie: He’s clearly broken all the records, been a genius in the sport. We are all older and wiser now and thankfully he’s supported me to win many Grade 1’s since then.

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?

Jamie: We all start in racing because we love the horses, that sentiment never leaves, from a personal point of view.

Me: Racing is an all year round sport, so when you do get some down time, what do you like to do?

Jamie: It’s an all year round sport, but as I have gotten older I do more for myself so I take plenty of time off. I can’t complain.

Me: Who do you look up to in the weighing room?

Jamie: I admire lots of people for varying reasons. For example, Luke Morris is a tremendous advocate of how there is no substitute for hard work. Then you get Andrea Atzeni who’s naturally a gifted horseman. And then there’s plenty who do very well but if I was an owner I wouldn’t use them, so who’s right and who’s wrong? Racing is all about opinions.

Me: What is one race you’d love to win?

Jamie: The Derby.

Me: What’s your overall goal in racing over the upcoming few years?

Jamie: I’m on the back nine regards being a jockey, I’ve concentrated on other areas of the sport for many years and hopefully will utilise these efforts in the future. The beauty of racing is nothing is a given.

Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ for the next season or two?

Jamie: I’m particularly hopeful Mohican Heights can progress, but like everything at this time of year, it’s a guessing game.

Me: What is your favourite race course to ride at and why?

Jamie: Ascot. It’s been good to me and I love going there more than any other track.

Me: What is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether that be racing or something else?

Jamie: If you want to be involved in racing, there are no short cuts. I believe the jockeys adapt so well as they’re not educated enough to realise it’s madness the hours they put in and living the dream of finding the good horse. Outside of racing, well I know nothing else than this game, but I’m guessing if you follow people like Bill Gates or John Magnier’s advice, you won’t go far wrong.

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As always, firstly I want to thank Jamie for taking the time to speak with me, he is a ridiculously talented jockey who has achieved some incredible things so it was an honour to get the chance to ask him some questions.

I hope you enjoyed!

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