In 2002 I got a spare ride on the Tuesday or Wednesday morning at declaration time. AP McCoy went for Lady Cricket and I got a spare on Blowing Wind. I managed to get up to beat Lady Cricket halfway up the run-in. I got a real taste for ‘chinning’ him on the run-in that day, and I really enjoyed it – On Final Approach, on Champagne Fever, on Noland – just chinning him was exciting.
It could have all been different though, as there was a lot of pressure in my younger days. I remember going in 1999 to ride Alexander Banquet and I thought he’d win the Ballymore but didn’t and I remember leaving gutted that day.
Then in 2000, I was coming back off a broken leg and Alexander Banquet was third. Things weren’t going great. I’d been out for three or four months. 2001 no-one rode a winner due to foot-and-mouth disease! But that just extended my wait to really make an impact. Then I finally got the ball rolling with that 2002 ride.
When I won the Bumper on Alexander Banquet I wasn’t even certain I was going to turn professional. I was just an amateur then. I could have never dreamt I would have the success or career I did have. But my dad won four winners at Cheltenham and I thought if I could manage three that would be a good return.
Timing is everything in life.
Myself and Barry Geraghty just came along at the right time. Davy Russell was the same age as us but was just an amateur. For myself and Barry there was just an opening, an opportunity. I’m often asked who I think could be the next to break through and reach the top. I think the best candidate, if he gets any sort of run at it at all – and I think he’s been very unlucky – is Jack Kennedy.
I think he’s an exceptional rider who is capable of anything. He’s hard, tight and very, very good.