'I don't think I would have to improve much to get into the Liverpool defence'
The top jump jockey, 36, takes part in our weekly grilling
What advice would you give your ten-year-old self?
Don't start smoking. I still smoke now, but will quit when I stop riding.
What is your earliest racing memory?
When I was kid I had 50p each-way on West Tip when he won the Grand National in 1986. The local bookie paid me out in 50p pieces and I thought I'd won the lotto; I probably spent the winnings on sweets.
What do you think racing does best?
Racecourses in Ireland do a fantastic job of providing fresh ground for horses to race on 99 per cent of the time. I've only really ridden at the big meetings so far in Britain, so they'd always have fresh ground, but even the smaller meetings in Ireland would have fresh ground.
Other than better prize-money, what is the one thing you would change about racing?
From a National Hunt point of view I think there should be a break in the summer; a full month with no National Hunt racing. It would let everyone freshen up properly and I'd have it for the month of June. You could go away now for a fortnight or so and miss a couple of rides and winners.
Would you rather win the Cheltenham Gold Cup again or be champion jockey?
I'd like to win another Gold Cup. It's exceptionally hard to win back-to-back Gold Cups, so I'd love to win it again.
What are you reflections of last season?
It was a fantastic season – my best campaign by far as a jockey – and there were a couple of months, March and April, which I'll never ever forget in my career. At Jessie Harrington's last year we had a fantastic bunch of horses who were healthy and well all year, which made a big difference. But we're in the start of a new season now so hopefully it's onwards and upwards.
Sizing John and Our Duke appear two lovely horses you have to ride this term – how have they done over the summer and what hopes do you have for them?
They've both done really well over the summer and they're both only seven, so I think they've matured physically and they look fantastic after their break. Hopefully Sizing John, who could start at Haydock in the Betfair Chase, can go back to defend his crown in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and hopefully Our Duke can rise up to that level and turn into a genuine Gold Cup contender as well. Depending on how he comes along and what the ground is like, the James Nicholson Champion Chase at Down Royal could be his first port of call.
Is there a horse a little under the radar we could be hearing more about?
We've got some lovely horses at Jessie's this season and hopefully Lesley Dawn is a filly to follow, while Gemmattymoll is unraced, but could be quite nice.
Kauto Star or Arkle?
Arkle. I think he achieved things that no racehorse in the modern era would be asked to do again.
What's your biggest ambition in racing?
To stay injury free and ride as many good winners as I can.
And outside of racing?
To keep enjoying life and stay healthy.
What is your worst habit?
Smoking, which doesn't help with the previous answer!
If you could play any other sport professionally, which would it be and why?
I'd love to be a soccer player. The wages are quite tasty and I don't think I'd have to improve a hell of a lot to get into the Liverpool defence at the moment.
If you could meet one person, past or present, who would it be?
Usain Bolt. I like my athletics and it would be a pleasure to meet the fastest man who's ever lived.
What has been your most embarrassing moment?
I finished fourth in a three-year-old hurdle at Roscommon one day and I forgot to weigh in. Jessie came into the weighing room after and said she wanted to check what prize-money for fourth placed was for her owner, who was Ronnie Wood from The Rolling Stones – I did win on the horse next time though.
What are your most treasured possessions?
My two dogs. I've an Alsatian called Hooch and a terrier called Patch.
How do you relax away from racing?
I go walking with the dogs, but I also play a lot of golf and have just joined Kileen Castle Golf Club, which I think is one of the best courses in Ireland. I play as much as I can and play off 18, so onwards and upwards.
Who has been the greatest influence on your career?
I suppose when I was young my parents gave me the grounding and education I needed. Later on Jessica Harrington, who has been a huge influence on my career and has stood by me through the good times and the bad times.
What is the strangest/funniest thing you have seen on a racecourse?
It was at Bellewstown one day when Danny Mullins was in a rush to get back to the weighing room after a fall, but the ambulance crew were treating another jockey, so he took the ambulance and drove it back to the weighing room – he got into a little bit of trouble for it!
Who do you most admire from Flat racing?
When I was 15 I started riding out for Ger Lyons. He was a small yard then, but he's developed into one of the biggest and most powerful Flat yards in Ireland. Ger was a jumps trainer at the time and I rode five or six winners from him at the very start of my career when I was a 7lb claimer. He's gone from strength to strength and has a brilliant approach to racing – no bullshit.
When did you first know you’d become a jockey?
I always wanted to be a jockey when I was young, but always thought I'd be too heavy, so I suppose it was after I rode my first winner at the age of 20, Younevertoldme, in a maiden hurdle at Punchestown.
What's your biggest fear?
Not having good having good horses to ride.
Do you have a nickname?
When I started racing Paul Carberry nicknamed me Puppy after Puppy Power from the Scooby-Doo cartoon and it's stuck. Do I like it? I've no choice – I have to put up with it!
Social media – friend or foe?
It's taken me a long time, but I suppose it's a friend now.
Who would be your four ideal dinner party guests?
James Corden, Usain Bolt, Jurgen Klopp and James Nolan, Paul Nolan's brother who'd tell Jurgen Klopp what he's doing wrong with Liverpool.
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