I have always wanted to retire at the top and I couldn’t think of a better place to sign off than at Goodwood — it’s a special racecourse to me. I’ve been lucky there in the past and I like it because you don’t always need to be on the best horse to win, due to the nature of the track and the way it rides.
I was pleased to score a win on the opening day on Gibeon. To get another on the Friday with Belvoir Bay was a bonus, especially as both horses are trained by my brother-in-law, Richard Hannon Jr.
Even though I didn’t ride a winner on the final Saturday it was still a great day.
Training is in my blood, having grown up watching my father [the late Dessie Hughes] train. Even when I started out as a jockey it was always going to be my next venture after riding — I never thought of anything else.
I know communication as a trainer is important and something I will have to think about more. As a jockey, communication only really comes into play three minutes before a race when you’re talking to the trainer and owners.
However, I think my biggest challenge will be going out there and buying quality horses from the sale ring and trusting my instinct. Then, of course, finding owners to buy them.
I’ve been lucky to have always enjoyed my job as a jockey. Not just riding in a race and having winners but the riding-out part and the preparing of horses beforehand has always interested me. There is satisfaction in finding a nice two-year-old and watching it grow into a decent racehorse. For me riding winners was the bonus that came with the job.
There have been so many trainers — too many to list here — that I’ve enjoyed riding for over my 27-year career but Mick Channon was vital in getting my career going. I was his first jockey when I initially came over from Ireland. As a trainer, I will be looking to give good young apprentices the opportunities to start riding and finding them from scratch. Getting going is a challenge for any young jockey but they need to believe in themselves.
‘I will probably put on a couple of stone’
I never moaned about my weight but it was always there in my subconscious — knowing when I woke up I’d be heavy, I’d even have dreams about it. I will probably put on a couple of stone and fill my frame out a bit. I’ll still be riding out every day so that should keep me fit and make sure I don’t get obese.
My first ride was in 1988 and the sport has changed a fair amount since. The lads in the weighing room are more professional these days. I remember a time when you’d go into the sauna at a racecourse and there would be empty champagne bottles and cider cans in there — we’d crack open a bottle of champagne after the third race. That just would not happen any more, not only because of the alcohol-testing that came into play, but jockeys are looking after themselves better than ever before. They are becoming more educated thanks to improved nutrition and fitness advice on offer.
The camaraderie in the weighing room is something I definitely will miss, there’s nothing like it, but I will also miss being in demand. I’m lucky to have reached the top of what I do, but now that I will be training, I’ll be down at the bottom of the ladder and working my way back up again. It will keep me on the ball for sure and I’m looking forward to the challenge.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 6 August 2015