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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

A fan of social media? That depends on what sort of day I've had at the races

The leading conditional jockey, 23, takes our weekly grilling

Ciaran Gethings: second in the conditional jockeys' championship
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What advice would you give your ten-year-old self?
Stay in school. Only joking, I was never there anyway to know what it was like – I was riding out.

When did you first know you’d become a jockey and why?
I used to canter Two Cute up Philip Rothwell’s gallop when I was ten years old and I thought I was a jockey there and then.

What is your earliest racing memory?
Black Apalachi winning the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in December 2005.

You have ridden out your claim after an excellent season. How are you preparing for the next stage of your career?
I’m working hard and trying to keep this momentum going. I’ve completed my claim and it can be very challenging as a newly turned professional, but I’m excited about it and have some very loyal people prepared to continue supporting me.

You are second in the conditional jockeys’ championship and enjoying your best season. Is it frustrating to run into someone like James Bowen, who is the runaway title leader?
It’s not frustrating at all because I only had a 3lb claim to start the season with, while James started the season as a 7lb claimer, which obviously made him more desirable. I’m very happy with how this season has gone and the number of winners I’ve ridden.

Maria’s Benefit looks the leading British contender for the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. What have you made of her progress this season?
Maria has been unbelievable. She’s always had the talent and she’s turned into even more of a star now the penny’s dropped with her and she’s learned to settle more. She’s got better with every run, with her last win showing she’s not just a one-trick pony and can also battle. That'll be a key string to her bow in even better races in the spring.

Maria’s Benefit has been boldly ridden in her last two starts. Do you think tactics might be rethought for Cheltenham or does she have to race that way?
She doesn’t have to race that way. She just has such a high cruising speed that nothing can lay up to give her a lead. At Cheltenham there's usually a strong pace, which she'll be able to sit off, but it won’t be the end of the world if she has to lead. Tactics will play themselves out on the day.

Maria's Benefit: leading contender for the Cheltenham Festival

If you could participate in any other sport professionally, which would it be and why?
I love the idea of being a Formula One driver because of the glamorous lifestyle that goes with it.

What do you think racing does best?
As a jockey, racing gives you a great opportunity to make a good living at a young age. This can set you up for the rest of your life, so you have to make the most of it every day.

Other than better prize-money, what is the one thing you would change about racing?
I think racing could move with the times a bit more. Some aspects of the sport are quite old-fashioned and would benefit from being modernised. That would help engage a lot more people.

Would you rather win the Cheltenham Gold Cup or be champion jockey?
The Gold Cup. I love the big races.

Which country would you most like to race in that you haven’t yet?
France because I love the style of racing there.

Kauto Star or Denman?

What do you make of the announcement that Irish racing will be moving to Racing UK from At The Races next year?
It’s a bit of a shock and it'll be very interesting to see how they deal with so many meetings on one station. They’ve said there won’t be another station but I’m not really sure how that’s going to work.

What’s your biggest ambition in racing?
To keep riding the nice type of horses I’m currently getting the chance to ride. It would be fantastic if one day I could get a nice job with an owner or trainer.

And outside of racing?
To compete at a decent level in showjumping when the time comes and I’m finished racing.

What is your worst habit?
If there wasn’t a last minute I wouldn’t get anything done.

Conor McGregor: welcome for dinner with Ciaran Gethings

If you could meet one person, past or present, who would it be?
Conor McGregor.

What has been your most embarrassing moment?
Falling off the 14-year-old ‘schoolmaster’ on my first ride for my boss at the time, Philip Hobbs. That wasn’t my finest moment.

What is your most treasured possession?
My pillow.

How do you relax away from racing?
Spending time with friends, which is mainly watching Jamie Bargary play the Xbox.

What did you make of the Dublin Racing Festival and do you think racing should be more proactive in creating events such as this?
It was great. I haven’t enjoyed watching racing like that for a long time because of the quality of the races, the horses and the riders. It’s a great initiative and racing should always be thinking of clever ways to show off its best assets like that.

Who has been the greatest influence on your career?
All of the lads at Philip Rothwell’s. I couldn’t pick one out in particular because they were all amazing in helping me when I was really young and just getting started.

What is the strangest/funniest thing you have seen on a racecourse?
Out Now virtually pulling himself up under David Maxwell on the run-in at Ludlow. I was a fence behind and I managed to chin him on the line to win.

What’s your biggest fear?
The sound of cutlery scraping and squeaking on plates when people are eating.

Social media – friend or foe?
It all depends on what sort of a day I’ve had at the races.

Who would be your four ideal dinner party guests?
Conor McGregor, Davy Russell, Lester Piggott and my mother Mary (to cook her cottage pie).

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If there wasn’t a last minute I wouldn’t get anything done
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