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Saturday, 17 March 2018

Dane O'Neill

One of the sports top Jockeys has been kind enough to answer a few questions we were keen to ask. Here's what Dane had to say.

What was your earliest childhood ambition?

I’d say I was 7 or 8 and after sitting on ponies realising I wanted a career working with horses. Doing what I hadn’t figured out yet.

What inspired you to get into racing and when did you realise you wanted to become a jockey?

Most summers were spent show jumping and the winters were either going point to points or drag racing, I think the speed of racing grabbed me more the first time I sat on a racehorse then show jumping did. I’d say I was about 14 then and I’d caught the bug.

Who was or still is your mentor?

My parent's support was always enormous and there was no pressure when I left Ireland to join Richard Hannon in England, I’ve had great help all the way from a lot of people, too many to mention. But my parents by far the most.

Ambition or talent? Which matters more to succeed?

Talent will only get you so far, without ambition or drive you’ll come up short, in any sport you’ll see talented athletes who don’t fulfill their potential.

If you could ride any horse currently in training, who would it be and why?

I find the mare Winx in Australia fascinating, I love her relaxed professional attitude

What is your training routine like? And to what extent are you and the horse training together as one?

I ride out most mornings in Uk, not always the horses I ride through the week but generally a lot of them. It’s always nice to get a feel of them and understand them, after all their all individuals.

Of all the horses you've ridden, which is your favourite horse and why?

So many that have had an impact on my career at different stages of my career. Early horses like Bold Edge and Lots Of Magic gave me my first winners at Ascot, most recently Muhaarar winning at Ascot just after. I’d joined Sheik Hamdan and it was a great day to show you were up to the task

Cast your mind back to 1993.. How did it feel riding your first winner?

Things had been slow up to then, there were a lot of apprentices at Hannon's, and I wasn’t setting the world alight, but I didn’t feel any pressure and it was a great relief to have that winner, I still remember it like yesterday.

How did it feel winning your first domestic group 1?

It was such a great feeling, to ride it on a horse who I got on so well with and to do it for Mr. Hannon who’d got me going. It was fairytale stuff.( Bold edge )

In 1996 when you won the apprentice jockeys championship. How did you find it in those 3 years between your first winner and then?

To be honest, the great thing about Hannon's was you learned and appreciated everything you got because you worked for it. I didn’t fly through my apprenticeship like many nowadays. But I still ride for most of those people now, that I did back then. I wouldn’t change any of that.

As we only see what goes on once the gates spring open, can you try and describe for our readers what's involved day to day as a top jockey?

Early mornings and a lot of time on the road traveling, racing is the easy part, the travel and sweating to lose weight the hardest. But you wouldn’t swap it for anything and when you ride a winner or sit on a nice horse nothing else compares to that.

When you get some down time, what do you enjoy doing?

I generally just relax, I take an interest in any sport and after spending up to 8 hours some days in a car, I don’t want to go too far from the house on a day off.

Winning the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot must have been a great experience? Muhaarar won it nicely, tell us about the plans for the race and did it unfold as you thought it would?

He was reverting back to sprinting that day and the plan was to just relax him early and creep into the Race because Ascot is a stiff track we knew he’d finish once switched off, but he was phenomenal that day, picking them off like they were stood still. It was a great training performance not just that day but throughout that season by Charlie and his staff.

Bold edge was a horse you got on well with, picking up some big sprint races. What made the partnership with the colt tick?

Some horses you just click with, and I guess he didn’t like to be organised or bullied so I kinda left him alone. He’d always give 100% if you stayed on the right side of him. He was an important horse at that stage of my career, having confidence in him probably helped the bond

Out of all your big race wins, which one means the most to you?

3-way split I’m afraid, Muhaarar in the Golden Jubilee, Manark winning World Cup night in Dubai and wiggy smith for Henry Candy in just a small handicap at Leicester at the ripe age of 12 for a lovely owner Mrs Trix, those days are also special.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into racing?

Be willing to work hard and listen, every day you’ll learn something new, if you don’t you're not going to get on. But if you enjoy it like me, after 20 + years even on a bad day you wouldn’t swap it.