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 Donnacha O’Brien

Donnacha (1)

Heya guys!

Today’s post is another ridiculously exciting one, an interview with Donnacha O’Brien. Donnacha has only recently retired from the saddle at 21 years old as the Irish Champion Jockey and now he has followed in his father and brother’s footsteps and taken up training. I was lucky enough to grab a few precious moments during Donnach’s very busy morning to interview him, I really hope you enjoy!

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Me: You obviously won some incredible races as a young jockey, what is the big goal now as a trainer? What is one race that you would love to win?

Donnacha: The Epsom Derby is the pinnacle of flat racing, so long term that would be a goal. I don’t want to set any short term goals really as I’m still just figuring things out.

Me: You were riding, arguably, the best you ever had when you decided to retire from the saddle, how hard of a decision was that? What pushed you to finally decide now was the time?

Donnacha: It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but there was never going to be a good time to make that call. I am happy with the decision I made and I am looking forward to next season as a trainer.

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

Donnacha: The whip is a very well designed device that helps get the most out of the horses without hurting them. I know myself from getting hit by other riders in the heat of a finish that it doesn’t hurt. I understand the argument that it’s the perception of it that hurts racing, but I feel we should be concentrating on education people about it, instead of banning it.

Me: Is it difficult to come from such a massive racing family, with the pressure of constantly being compared to your dad or your brother?

Donnacha: Not really. I’m used to it as this stage. I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

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

Donnacha: I got a real buzz out of Kew Gardens at Ascot. I always thought he could beat Stradivarius and to do it the way he did was very exciting.

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

Stop reading things from people that don’t know what they are talking about. Go to a yard during an open day and meet the horses and people that look after them in person and then decide for yourself.

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

Donnacha: It would have to be Frankel. He was the best I’ve seen and possibly the best ever.

Me: You bowed out at the top as the Irish Champion Jockey for two consecutive seasons – Do you have any regrets in your riding career? Or any races you wish you could have won?

Donnacha: Of course there’s plenty I didn’t achieve, but you can’t achieve everything. I was very lucky in my career and I don’t have any regrets.

Me: Your dad and brother are obviously incredible trainers – How much advice have you taken from them? What’s the best advice you have been given?

Donnacha: I have learned everything I know from my family. Dad always says “you can only do your best, so if things don’t go right you have to accept it and move on.”

Me: What is one of your horses that you think we should look out for this season?

Donnacha: Fancy Blue is probably the highest profile horse I have. She is two from two and will hopefully contest some classic trials next year.

Me: What is your favourite day of the racing calendar?

Donnacha: Royal Ascot is a very exciting week for everyone in flat racing. That along with both the Irish and English Derby days.

Me: You’re only 21 and already achieved some incredible things, what is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether that be racing or something else?

Donnacha: Try and always be pleasant to people. It’s never an advantage to make someone dislike you regardless of whether you agree with them or not. After that, all you can do is your best.

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I want to firstly say a massive thank you to Donnacha for taking some time out to answer some questions, he truly is a gentleman. Donnacha has some very exciting prospects in his yard and I am sure he will be adding to his yard more and more as he progresses. I really hope you enjoyed this interview and I will see you all in my next post!

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