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Double agent O'Connor swaps the saddle for a suit following Foxhunters' success

The leading amateur jockey steered Balnaslow to victory at Aintree

Derek O'Connor: Jimmy Mangan is delighted to have the leading amateur aboard Cowboy Des Long
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He may be an amateur, but few, if any, of the jockeys on duty at Aintree on Thursday can claim to have been as busy as Derek O'Connor.

Not only did O'Connor produce a perfectly timed ride aboard his old ally Balnaslow to land the Randox Health Foxhunters' Chase, but shortly after weighing in he was back on duty at his day job as a Goffs UK agent at the company's boutique Aintree Sale.

"Balnaslow is a fabulous horse - he's a brilliant jumper, he tries his heart out and I couldn't have asked for the race to go any better," said an elated O'Connor. "I love that horse. I'd say if I could have an affair with a racehorse I'd go off with him!

"This is a massive thrill for me. Riding winners around the country is lovely but there is something about the challenge, the trials and tribulations of the Aintree fences. The late Mrs Hogan [Balnaslow's owner] was a lovely and wonderful woman and it's great that her family are all here to enjoy this."

After the jubilation of lifting his first Foxhunters' trophy, however, O'Connor had the rather more serious matter of a boutique sale to see to.

He is responsible for attracting the cream of the Irish point-to-point crop to Goffs' auctions, and has been instrumental in bringing the likes of Samcro - who sold for £335,000 in 2016 – to previous editions of the Aintree Sale.

"It's been six weeks of sourcing the best possible Irish point-to-point horses we can get our hands on and I think we've done that. It's a very good catalogue and there's some very nice horses in there," he said, before shedding some light on the kind of work that goes into putting a boutique sale together.

"I have to keep an eye on all the results no matter whether I'm riding or not, but Ireland isn't a big country which works in my favour as I can ring trainers and ask them about a horse. If it suits the sale, I try and organise to get them over here."

O'Connor has also played a hand in the early career of one of this year's leading Randox Health Grand National contenders, having ridden Total Recall to victory in a Rathmorrisey maiden point back in 2014.

The nine-year-old has been revitalised since joining Willie Mullins' Closutton yard, and having landed the Ladbrokes Trophy in December and a competitive Leopardstown handicap hurdle in February, O'Connor was sweet on the horse's chances in the Aintree showpiece.

"He's a beautiful horse to ride, he's a fabulous jumper although he's still a little bit quirky - he has his own style of racing at times," he said. "He had three point-to-point runs before I won on him but he was always an exciting horse.

"It's a great honour to be associated with such a good horse and he could definitely win the National."

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It's been six weeks of work in progress of sourcing the best possible Irish point-to-point horses
E.W. Terms
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