As jockey Sean Flanagan prepares to let fly on Snow Falcon at Galway Races next week, the Wexford native took flight with a Tom Cruise lookalike to relive scenes from Top Gun… sort of.
Flanagan got his pilot licence in 2020 and famously flew himself to Cheltenham and Aintree earlier this year.
Paddy took to the skies with the father of two, to film a chat about living the high life since winning at Cheltenham, how you go to the toilet in the air and if they’ll get shot down for disobeying Air Traffic Control.
Find out whether they pair made it up and down successfully here on Paddy’s YouTube or below.
Jumping a fence and landing a plane is pretty similar – when you’re going down, it’s either going to work or it isn’t!
“Flying started out as an adrenaline buzz,” Flanagan grins, “But then I got to really like it. When I started flying I said I’d love to fly myself to Cheltenham and Aintree so they were both pinnacle moments for me.”
The Noel Meade stable jockey tasted his first success at the Cheltenham Festival this year, riding 80/1 shot Jeff Kidder to win the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle on the opening day.
“I genuinely couldn’t believe it. I was stuck in a pocket coming down the hill and I had nowhere to go. I just sat there while it all unfolded in front of me and he stayed really well.”
“I’d got such a good run from the bend down to the last and I’ve gone and jumped the last well enough. I’ve landed running, but it was probably only twenty yards from the line I started to think I’d win the race. It was a fantastic feeling. I gave a big punch in the air and then Paul Townend came over and gave me a belt with his stick.”
But with Galway looming on the horizon next week, he says there is one horse he can’t wait to get onboard and that’s Snow Falcon, a 25/1 shot in the Galway Plate on Wednesday.
“He ran the other day at Tramore finishing second and he’s a horse who has experience at the highest level. He’s won a few Grade 2s and the better the ground, the better he will be so the weather suits us.”
“I haven’t had a Galway winner yet and missed one last year through injury. I had a fall in Cork off a horse of Colin McBratney which put me on the shelf. It stumbled on the bend so it was just a simple little thing, but I’ve gone over, head-butted the ground with the back of my head and my chin broke my sternum.”
“I found out a couple of weeks later I broke my T5 or 6 between my shoulder blades as well but I didn’t know at the time. I was only out for three-and-a-half weeks so it luckily wasn’t that bad.”
Galway had originally hoped to have 5,000 fans a day at the course, but that has now been capped at 1,000 due to COVID. Having not had any spectators in Ballybrit 12 months ago, Sean is delighted to see the general public coming through the turnstiles again, even if the numbers are limited.
“Having crowds back makes a huge difference. Even in the past couple of weeks we’ve had owners back and that’s fantastic because you get to enjoy that atmosphere with them again. The buzz that we’ve obviously not had over the whole 18 months has been sorely missed.”
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