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 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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An Interview with Niall Houlihan

Niall Houlihan

Hey guys!

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!

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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.

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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.

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A Stable Visit to Fergal O’Brien’s Ravenswell Farm + A Full Interview

Fergal O'Brien

Hi guys!

Welcome to a brand new post, this weekend I was lucky enough to be able to visit Fergal O’Brien at his brand new facilities at Ravenswell Farm very near to Cheltenham, so today’s post is going to be all about the morning we spent with Fergal and his team and a full interview with the man himself!

When we arrived we met with Simon, who we then stayed with for the rest of the morning, we then watched Ask A Honey Bee being washed down and put into the horsebox ready to go racing at Wetherby (where he later won). He was a really cool and calm character and it was lovely to see the team preparing a horse for the race, which is something behind the scenes that you never really get to see.

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Simon then took us over to Fergal’s control tower to meet Fergal who explained a little bit about his new facilities to us. He currently has 70 acres of land, with a 4 furlong hill gallop and a plot where they are hoping to build a 3 furlong circle sand gallop once the ground isn’t as wet and they can actually dig it out. In August 2019 Fergal moved 10 horses to the new facilities and from then on, every time a horse raced they were moved back to the new place rather than going back to the old yard. Fergal only moved in fully in October 2019, which I found phenomenal. It was an incredible set up and the fact he had only been fully moved in for 3 months blew my mind. He currently has enough space for 70 horses with a further 10 still being built, plus living accommodation for the staff, Fergal’s office and an Owners room, which are being built above the 10 stables still being built.

Fergal took us out onto the gallops to watch the first lot of horses. Sal, Fergal’s partner, was with us and named all of the horses as they cantered past. (Fergal wasn’t so good at the naming of the horses). Fergal has some really great prospects. The last horse in the photos below is an unraced 4 year old by Kayf Tara nicknamed ‘Betty’ who looks like she’s going to be some horse. Great stamina, great speed and Sal said she is really impressed by what she has seen so far.

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After watching the first lot we went back down to the stables to have a warm drink and meet some of the stable stars. Similar to other visits I have been on, the horses were all so calm and loving. There were a few grumpy horses who liked to have a bit of a bite, but the majority were so calm and happy for people to fuss them and cuddle them. You can really tell how well looked after these animals are.

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We then went back up to the gallops to watch the second lot before returning back to the stables where we got to enjoy some cake. Is it really a visit to Fergal O’Brien’s yard without eating cake?

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I was then lucky enough to have 10 minutes with Fergal to interview him before he shot off to Sandown where he had two runners. I asked him a bunch of questions, some from myself and some from my followers who had sent them in.

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Me: With Cheltenham less than 6 weeks away what is your best chance? And what is your bet of the Festival? Any trainer, any horse.

Fergal: Envoi Allen would be my bet of the Festival, he looks very impressive, he’s unbeaten and has won at the Festival already so he’s got that experience. And our best chance… crickey that’s a difficult one. I suppose, you know, maybe Champagne Well. Erm, if he goes in one of the handicaps, I think he would struggle to win one of the novices so, I suppose Champagne Well.

Me: If you could train one horse from another stable at present, what horse would you choose?

Fergal: Ooo, a very difficult one again. Erm, crickey. I think Henderson’s horse that won last week… Was it Santini? You know, I think he… I love the way he travelled through the race, erm Twiston-Davies’ horse is a real good yard second, you know he kept coming back at it and he put it to bed very easily and it never looked in doubt to be fair.

Me: How supportive are other trainers with their experiences and advice?

Fergal: Oh, they’re pretty supportive. You know, you find these things out really when you’re going through a bad time, but they are, they’re pretty good. All trainers, you know this is a sport, it’s like football, you go up and down a little bit, so yeah, there are people you get on better with than others but yeah, on the whole we all want to see each other getting on okay, as long as they’re not doing too well.

Me: Why do you always seem to excel when you go to Cheltenham?

Fergal: Erm, I don’t know really. I think the track suits our horses, erm you know, some people put it down to the lack distance we have to travel, it’s literally down the road, it’s 7 miles from the yard here. The horses do run well here, it’s a good up hill finish and as you can see we train on a hill, so I think there isn’t one factor, there’s probably a number of little factors. Yeah, we just love going to Cheltenham.

Me: What is the end goal? Cheltenham Gold up, Grand National, Champion hurdle. What is the dream for you and the team?

Fergal: The dream is to stay solvent to be honest and not go bust. It’s a very difficult game this is, they’re all lovely dreams to have, a Grand National, you know, we’ve had a fourth in the Grand National with Alvarado, I haven’t had a Gold Cup runner yet or a Champion Hurdle runner yet, so I haven’t had them. But erm… It’s never really the dream, it’s what you hope they come along one day, but the dream is, you know, that I’ve got something to hand over to my children really, you know. That’s the main thing, is that there’s something here in twenty years time and if one of my girls want to do really. And just to make them proud of me and to have a business that’s viable and that people get a lot of fun. You can see this morning we’ve had plenty of owners here and that’s what I love, I love people coming and enjoying it and getting the most out of it. It’s an expensive hobby, whatever way you try and dress it up. You go on about prize money or whatever, it’s an expensive hobby. It is, for jumps racing especially, it’s people’s hobbies and it’s important you give people a nice time. You see this morning, there’s lots of nice ordinary people here, who have just got ordinary jobs, not all millionaires, but they own bits of horses and they get a lot of fun out of it and that’s what I enjoy. So, yeah, the end goal… It would be lovely to win any of those races, so I couldn’t pick one of those. But the end goal, the dream is that we are successful and we can keep going.

Me: Now it’s time for the nitty gritty, the serious stuff people really want to know the answers to. Lemon Drizzle or Carrot Cake?

Fergal: Definitely not carrot cake. You shouldn’t even put carrot and cake in the same sentence, it’s wrong in itself. I love lemon drizzle, one of my old owners, Jim Collett used to bring one from the WI every week when I was training the pointers, so yeah, lemon drizzle. Victoria sponge is my favourite, but definitely lemon drizzle over carrot cake, for sure.

Me: Who is the real brains behind the Twitter account?

Fergal: Oh, Doctor Simon Gilson who you met this morning. I would love to take the credit for it but he’s just so sharp. The picture of the couple proposing on Cleeve Hill last week just sums our sense of humour up, I thought it was hilarious but I wouldn’t be quick enough to think of it. Erm, it was obviously a person proposing to his girlfriend to get married and he turned that into it was some bloke trying to be for four days at the festival. So, you know, we got such great feedback from that, it was fantastic, but that’s because he’s just such a sharp man.

Me: Are you going to do another pub crawl?

Fergal: Again, that’s down to… I’m actually a teetotaler so I’ve never drank. I’ve probably been drunk four times in my life, I’ve never drank. So, again that was another great success, I think on the Friday they had about 22-25 people in the end and did about 7 or 8 pubs, so that was brilliant. 

Me: Do you prefer a button up or a zip up cardigan?

Fergal: Oo, definitely a button. It’s not a cardigan, it’s a jumper if there’s a zip. I don’t know what it is but it’s definitely not a cardigan.

Me: Is a Jaffa Cake a cake or a biscuit?

Fergal: I’m very lucky, in one of my owners was involved in this when it went to Parliament for VAT or whatever and it is a cake. 100%.

Me: You’ve got two at Sandown today, one at Wetherby, what’s your best chance?

Fergal: I think Ask Dillon has a good chance, especially each way at an each way price. I also like Ask A Honey Bee, he’s going for a third bumper which is a hard thing to do. There isn’t many horses can win three bumpers. He’s got a double penalty, but he’s got a very good lad on there Liam Harrison who takes 7 off who won on him last time, so he knows the horse, so fingers crossed.

I can now clarify, Fergal was correct with his predictions, Ask Dillon came second at 7/1 and Ask A Honey Bee won at 11/10F, so he definitely knows his horses! 

I think overall, we had an amazing morning with Fergal and his team. I want to thank Simon in particular who was lovely, very knowledgeable and made us feel super welcome the whole time. Fergal is such a down to earth, honest person who was open to speak to anyone and answer any questions, so for that I want to say thank you to Fergal and the whole team. I also think it was lovely to hear Fergal say his only goal is to make his children proud and to leave them something in 20 years if they want to go into it. Most trainers want the fame and glory, but Fergal wants to enjoy what he’s doing and leave something for his children and if the success comes then that is just a bonus and I personally loved that about him.

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I really hope you enjoyed this post and I will see you all soon for my next!

Thank you for reading.

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