Jockey Killoran waiting for the big oneJuly 27, 2012 - 7:00am
NATIONAL Hunt jockey Richie Killoran may not enjoy the same level of adoration as Tony McCoy or Ruby Walsh among racing enthusiast, but the 26-year-old from College Road in Galway City has still cut out a nice niche for himself in the sport in the UK.
As Killoran admits himself, he is still waiting for that ‘big, big’ win, but in saying that he has had some good successes on the tracks. Indeed, he was the first jockey to guide Bobs Worth to victory, a horse which has won all four starts at Cheltenham, including the 2011 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle and the RSA Chase, both under Barry Geraghty, last March.
While, somewhat understandably, it is the classy Geraghty and Andrew Tinkler who receive the majority of premier rides at Nicky Henderson’s yard, which Killoran has been attached to for the last four years, he says he has loved every minute of it and, under Henderson and others, has had plenty of experience riding out on the big days at the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals.
No doubt, it’s a far cry from his days riding ponies in Claregalway but Killoran, who grew up on a stable diet of the Galway Races, always had it in his head to try his hand at horse-racing. So, at the age of 15, he left school, packed his bags, and began a year-long course at the Racing School on the Curragh.
As part of the process, he was initially based with Kildare trainer Patrick Prendergast but after serving his time there, he headed over as a flat jockey to England to join Andrew Balding’s yard at Kingsclere. He just felt the UK offered “so many more opportunities.”
Within a few weeks, Balding had Killoran out competing on the racecourses. “I ended up winning an apprentice series for less than 10 winners. So, that sent me to Dubai for a winter, for about two months. In Dubai, it was just work rides. I rode out at 4:30am in the morning until 8:30am and I was then finished for the day. It was a lovely job.”
At this time, though, a new problem arose for the then 18-year-old. “After that, I went back to Andrew, but my weight had gone and I was getting too big. So, he said to me why don’t I go jumping, which I always had at the back of my mind. I had never really jumped anything until I got my jump licence. Alright, I jumped on ponies, but it is a bit different,” he laughs.
It was still a big decision for Killoran, who had some notable wins on the flat. The highlight was a win at Newmarket on Conjuror while others included victories on Frank’s Quest and Richie Boy, which came home in Nottingham at a tasty 50/1.
In any event, Killoran decided to join National Hunt trainer Brendan Powell at his stables in Winchester in 2006. “It was very slow to begin with because I had never done any jumping, so I had to learn it all from scratch.”
“My first ride was the day Newmill won the Champion Chase (March 2006). I was at Huntington and I finished seventh on Poggenip. I felt very comfortable going around, I enjoyed it, and I pulled up smiling. I thought I was brilliant. Then the next five rides they all fell or I was unseated and I felt like giving up. I really wanted to give up after the last one, but Brendan wouldn’t let me.”
What was happening was that Killoran couldn’t slip his reins on the jumps and, consequently, the strength of the horse would pull him head over heels. Once this issue was addressed though, he began to land winners.
“Mick Fitzgerald came down, riding out with us when he was a jockey, and I got on really well with him. Anyway, Nicky Henderson actually had a horse (Slick) running in a conditional race and he had no one to ride it. Mick Fitz put me forward and I won on him [at Wincanton in November 2006]. That was my first winner over hurdles.
For more, read this week's Galway CityTribune.