An Interview with Jonjo O’Neill Jr

JonJo

Hi guys!

Today I am very excited to bring to you an interview with a brilliant up and coming young jockey, Jonjo O’Neill Jr. Jonjo has rode some incredible horses in some incredible races and he is only just getting started, I was lucky enough to interview Jonjo and really get an insight into to him and his career.

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

Jonjo: Favourite race, I would say has to be the Martin Pipe Conditional Race at Cheltenham last year. It was my first festival winner and you know, you never forget your first.

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

Jonjo: I suppose Kauto Star probably in his prime, he is the best horse in the modern era.

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

Jonjo: Regarding the whip, erm it’s an absolute necessity for a jockey to have a whip. For safety and for encouragement. The whips nowadays are so well padded, they don’t hurt whatsoever, they just make a sound. So yeah, it’s vital for a jockey to carry a whip with them.

Me: JP McManus is obviously a huge name in racing, what is it like riding for him as an owner?

Jonjo: Yes, I feel very lucky to ride for JP, on a relatively regular basis. I have had quite a bit of luck for them in the past couple of seasons and hopefully that can continue. Obviously it’s the most recognised colours in England, Ireland and France probably. He’s great for the sport and got loads of nice horses and it’s great when we have winners for them as they’ve been great supporters of ours and he’s a gentleman.

Me: No pressure, but when I asked Richard Johnson his bet of the season, he said Lostintranslation to win the Betfair Chase, which of course he did, so what is your bet of the season?

Jonjo: Tiger Roll to win the Cross Country Chase would be my bet of the season.

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

Jonjo: Racing is not cruel, you know, it’s been a sport in this country for centuries. The Queen is involved and has loads of horses. So many influential people. It is not a cruel sport. These horses have been bred for hundreds of years to do this sport. You know, you got horses like Tiger Roll winning two Grand Nationals and going for his third Grand National, you can’t say he doesn’t like racing.

Me: Obviously AP McCoy has regularly played a huge part in the Jackdaws team – How important has it been to your career having someone as good as him to idolise and look up to?

Jonjo: Yeah AP is definitely someone I have looked up to when I was a kid watching racing and he was riding for Dad and JP. We are very lucky to be able to ask advice from him and you know, he is very good like that and he is obviously a top class sportsman and you can only learn from him.

Me: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given by your dad?

Jonjo: Best advice would probably be, be good to everyone you meet on the way up because you’ll meet them all again on the way down.

Me: You have rode Native River to win the Denman Chase, my all time favourite horse, how was that for you? How special of a horse is he? What do you think his chances are in the Gold Cup this year? And with a lot of people speculating, do you ever, personally, see him being a National horse?

Jonjo: Yeah, Native River, he was absolutely deadly last weekend. It doesn’t look like he’s lost any sparkle, he won nicely and jumped great. If the ground came up soft in the Gold Cup, he isn’t without a shout, it’s a very open Gold Cup. Whether I think he’d suit a National? He’d definitely suit the National. Whether he goes for it this year or maybe more next year, he looks to be well weighted this year. He got compressed two pounds. You know, it looks like it would suit him down to the ground, but when it’s an open Gold Cup you’d have to chance your arm in the Gold Cup as well.

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

Jonjo: It would be between the National and the Gold Cup. But I would love to win the Gold Cup. The Gold Cup is usually the best horse in the season, it’s the most prestigious race of the season.

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

Jonjo: Erm, Soaring Glory, he’s won two bumpers and will probably go to Aintree. He’s a very nice horse and hopefully he’ll have more of a future over hurdles next season.

Me: You’re still so young and have 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?

Jonjo: Just take every little bit of advice and help from everyone that has experienced the game. You can never stop learning in racing and you know, it’s full of ups and downs. And you just have to stay grounded, because there are some serious highs and some serious lows as well, so I think just literally take every bit of advice from everyone as it can help all the way down the line.

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Firstly I want to say a massive thank you to Jonjo for taking time out of his day to allow me to interview him. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to interview Jonjo and I hope you have all enjoyed reading it!

See you all very soon for my next post!

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Visiting Jackdaws Castle – Home of Jonjo O’Neill Racing

Jackdaws Castle

Hi Guys!

Welcome back to my page, as you can see from the title today’s post is all about our incredible trip to Jackdaws Castle.

Today my family and I were lucky enough to be invited down to Jackdaws Castle, the home of Jonjo O’Neill Racing and I honestly was just in awe the whole time. 

If you know me, you know how obsessed with horse racing I am, I have loved the sport from a very young age so being able to visit one of the, arguably, most state of the art facilities within racing was just an incredible experience.

Firstly I would like to thank the whole team at Jackdaws for making us feel so welcome, feeding us, giving us lots of tea and champagne. It was incredible from the moment we turned up at the gate and got buzzed in. Everybody we met was lovely and welcoming and literally everybody spoke to us whether they were busy or not.

When we went into Jackdaws we had a good look around their stables, 120 of them to be precise. We got to meet some of their incredible stable stars and some of their staff who were getting some of the horses ready to get to work.

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We were also taken into their schooling area, their walkers and their pool and spa area, which was all just something I had never seen before. These animals are literally treated like royalty, everything they could ever wish for is right there next to their stables. I couldn’t fault any member of staff I came across, they all had their horses as their top priority. Once a horse was out of the pool you could see the staff rushing around to make sure the horse was washed with warm water, dried off and settled with a blanket on before they took them back to their stables, they honestly couldn’t do enough for the horse and it was incredible to watch them at work. 

A fact I found rather interesting whilst in this area, is a horse is weighed before leaving for a race and then again after and if he/she has only lost 1kg then they know it didn’t try in the race as they should at least lose a couple KG.

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We also had the honour of watching the 2nd out of 4 lots go out onto the gallops, seeing Jonjo at work with his team was truly spectacular, he knows so much about his horses and his style of training is something I have never seen before. It is very bespoke and each horse is trained in a way to suit them. For instance some horses who don’t settle well in a group were out on their own on a separate gallop to the group. It was something very different to what I had seen in other yards. Some of the guys also had walkie talkies so Jonjo could always communicate with them if he wanted certain things to happen.

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We had a lovely tour from Edward Gillespie, who now works closely with Jonjo, who used to be the Managing Director of Cheltenham Racecourse, so as you can imagine he had some very very interesting stories to tell us about his 30+ years managing one of, if not the biggest racecourse in the UK. It was incredible to get such an insight from somebody who has seen almost everything that can happen in horse racing and had the job of organising, in my opinion, the biggest racing festival in the world. It was also incredible to hear how he witnessed the sport and that course in particular grow. He said there were only 14 people in the office when he started, but when he retired in 2012 there were over 40. Which to me still is quite a small number. So after speaking with him, I have the upmost respect for the workers who do an incredible job of running the racecourses around the world. To us we just see the race days and how incredible it is, but behind the scenes it takes a lot of hard work to organise everything and everyone in the right place at the right time.

We also had an incredible talk with Jacqui O’Neill, Jonjo’s wife who is honestly an incredible woman. She was busy continuously, rushing around making sure everything was okay and we had drinks and food and had seen everything. She is also an extremely knowledgeable woman when it comes to horses, racing and training.

We of course, had the opportunity to talk to Jonjo who filled us in on his plans for a couple of the stable stars. He was lovely and had all the time in the world to talk to us, no question was too far, nothing was too much for him. He is an incredible trainer and a lovely bloke who has deserved all of the success he has had and I am sure will continue to have. Below are some of the successes Jonjo has had as a trainer, which is just incredible.

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  Also a massive thank you to Joe O’Neill, Jonjo’s nephew, who was lovely and welcoming and always on hand for any questions or help.

Overall, we had a fantastic day, from start to finish I cannot fault any of it. What I can say is if you get the opportunity to visit a stable facility like Jackdaws Castle then 100% take it, it is just an incredible experience. We love horse racing, but a race day is only a very small part of the life of a race horse and being able to go and see a day in the life of these horses, trainers, jockeys and stable staff is something I recommend any horse racing fan sees.

What I also want to touch on is the people who say that horse racing is ‘animal cruelty’ as I hear it day in, day out as a racing fan. It 100% is definitely not. These horses are treated like royalty, they are looked after so well it is honestly ridiculous. They love their job, as soon as their stable girl/lad goes to them to get them ready to go out they are up and ready to go and some that we seen today love it so much they don’t like going back towards their stable as they know their work is done. These horses are 3/4/5 times the size of the people riding them, if they didn’t want to run, jump, swim or do anything like that then they definitely wouldn’t let a 10 stone woman/man force them to.

Thank you for reading today’s post. I have a few more VIP stable tours coming up very soon so I will be posting more about the behind the scenes of horse racing very very soon!

I will see you all in my next post. Don’t forget to subscribe so you get an email when I post!

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