MY post-race celebrations after Noble Yeats won Saturday’s Grand National went viral in the days that followed.
I unwittingly became a social media star, with videos of my “dance” attracting large audiences across various platforms. For someone who has been involved in horse racing for close on four decades, to play a small part in the iconic race was a career highlight.
I feel privileged to be associated with Emmet Mullins, Paul Byrne, the Waley-Cohen family and the fantastic stable staff who do such sterling work at home.
I was born in Arklow, Co Wicklow, a town that has very little connections with racing. Aside from the late Alan Merrigan, who died so tragically in a car accident, no-one else from here has made their career in the sport.
It was not until I was 10 or 11, that I started riding ponies at my uncles’ farm down in Gorey. From there, I went on to RACE at 15, where I spent time with Willie Treacy and later, Dermot Weld. He advised me to take my time and learn the trade, as I was going to be too big to make it as an apprentice.
I spent two and a half years at Rosewell House before returning home. I actually made my first visit to Cheltenham in 1989; the year Desert Orchid won the Gold Cup. Having won the Irish Stable Staff Cross County Race at Punchestown, I was due to compete against our UK counterparts that morning.
However, heavy snows forced the abandonment of our race, although “Dessie” went on to win the feature later that same afternoon.
Back home in Wicklow, I rode as a conditional jockey for Fran Lennon who was based near Enniskerry. In all, I rode 11 winners under rules; the highlight being the 1992 Paddy Power Chase aboard Fraber Glen.
The following year, I moved over to Britain to ride for Howard Johnson in Co Durham. Those were the days before Graham Wylie came on board, so the stable was still relatively small.
Adrian Maguire, who rode the majority of the runners, partnered a treble at Wetherby on the day I arrived. I secured the job through Ted Walsh who kindly spoke to Howard(Johnson) after I approached him at the races.
I spent three years in the UK, moving down to Lambourn for the latter part of my stay. I rode for Charlie Brooks and Bryan Smart, who was predominately a jumps trainer at that time.
Although I rode 17 seconds on the track over there, sadly, I never managed a winner.
After a bad fall at Exeter in 1995, I threw my helmet on the turf and decided that was that - I retired there and then.
I came home, got married and started raising a young family. With little money in racing, I switched jobs and drove an oil tanker for 10 years.
However, I did keep my foot in the door by riding out for Colm Murphy every Sunday morning. Those were the years of Brave Inca, Big Zeb and Voler La Vedette, so it was an exciting time to be involved.
About 10 years ago, I got back into racing full-time purely by chance. Neil Mulholland, who is a good friend of Colm Murphy, had horses over at Punchestown. When his lorry wouldn’t start to bring the runners home, Colm suggested that I could accompany them instead.
It was my first time travelling horses on a ferry but I found that I really enjoyed it.
On returning to Ireland, I gave George Mullins a call and he took me on as a driver. His son, Emmet, was just starting out training at the time, so I rode out for him whenever I wasn’t required by George.
So far, aside from last week, the highlights have been travelling The Shunter to Cheltenham and Princess Zoe to France for the Prix du Cadran.
That remains the case right up to present day; I also established by own company, Molloy Horse Transport, which does a lot of stud work both here and in Britain.
Although I don’t ride out Noble Yeats at home, I have gone racing with him from day one. He has always been a very good horse, winning his bumper and maiden hurdle impressively, before being unlucky a few times over fences.
I recall chatting to Emmet at Aintree last year after The Shunter ran at that meeting. I said that we would be back next year with a runner in the Grand National (obviously meaning The Shunter). He turned to me and said “we will win the Grand National next year with a horse that hasn’t even run over fences yet!”
That just shows you the way his mind works; always planning ahead and ignoring the stats that might frighten less trainers away. Emmet and Paul Byrne are geniuses at what they do, finding races and spotting loopholes that few others manage.
For example, few others targeted the Moorebattle Hurdle at Kelso last season, despite the fact it offered a 100k bonus for any horse that went on to win at Cheltenham.
Last week, Noble Yeats was stabled up at Haydock, far away from all the fuss at Aintree. He only arrived at the racecourse on Saturday morning, thus ensuring he was nice and relaxed, having drank and ate up the previous two days.
I have great faith in Emmet and Paul, so much so, that I backed Noble Yeats ante-post for the Grand National - so there was added reason for those post-race celebrations!
I was lucky enough to be at Aintree on Saturday but it’s not about me, or Emmet , Paul or Sam. There is a fantastic staff at home who deserve great credit for everything the yard has achieved over the last few years.
Everyone knows their own individual role and performs it to the highest level, thus ensuring that with a huge team effort we get results. Head man, Barry Potts keeps the show on the road when Emmet is away racing or at the sales.
Without the support of such loyal and dedicated staff, it would be impossible for a racing yard to operate to its full potential. I, like everyone else, am just one small cog in the wheel.
Mick Molloy was in conversation with John O’Riordan