After two months in Dubai, Kildare jockey GARY CARROLL was back at the Curragh for the start of the Irish flat season on Sunday.
“The season ended after Leopardstown’s final flat meeting of the year in November but that didn’t mean the end of work for us jockeys. We had Dundalk every Friday night to keep us ticking over the winter and the work in yards doesn’t stop either. I kept riding out in the mornings for various different trainers who I ride for during the season including Ger Lyons and Brian Givens.
One thing I love about the winter and not having racing every day is that it allows me to indulge my passion for hunting. I really enjoy the sport and try to get out as much as I possibly can. The hunting season coincides with the few months when my schedule isn’t as hectic as it would be at the height of the flat calendar. I have my own hunter so I joined the hunt most weekends over the winter.
I really enjoy hunting but I’d prefer to stay a flat jockey than go jumping for a living. It’s a less dangerous life as the chances of picking up an injury from a fall are much reduced but I’ve been hunting all my life and I love it. Hunting is one part of the winter that I do enjoy.
I stayed at that till Christmas and then in the New Year I headed off to Dubai for two months for the International Carnival. Dubai is out of this world – good weather, brilliant facilities, the best racetrack in the world, the world’s best horses, competitive racing and great prize money. It’s a fantastic experience and the only way you will improve as a jockey is if you are riding against the best in your field as much as possible and racing in Dubai gives me that opportunity.
Ger Lyons sent two horses out, Lily’s Angel and The Reaper, so I rode then out while in Dubai and worked horses for Jessica Harrington and Eddie Lynam as well. There were a good few Irish horses over there so I was kept busy. I also rode a winner and had a couple of placed horses while I was in Dubai so it was a very informative couple of months. Lily’s Angel won on the first night of the Carnival, that was a fantastic experience and probably the highlight of my time out there. I also got to ride for a few English trainers and some local ones too which is important and helps to make contacts.
I returned home at the start of this month and rode at Dundalk the last two Friday nights that racing was on there. It was lovely to get away from all the bad weather for a while too but now I’m back I can’t wait for the flat season to really get going. I don’t think I’ve ever seen snow on Paddy’s weekend and the weather is about two months behind which is reflected in the state of the ground.
I’m looking forward to the turf season. It’s great to have Dundalk as it keeps everyone going during the winter but it’s good to get back on grass and kick on from there. Ger Lyons is my number one trainer and after that I freelance so I ride for a few different trainers. It’s very competitive in Ireland at the moment and I’m lucky enough that there are a good few trainers that use me and have been very loyal to me.
My ambition for this season is to ride as many winners as I possibly can and I hope to ride a couple of nice winners. There are a few big handicaps that I would like to win and I’d love to ride the winner of a black type race, that would be fantastic.”