VICTORY in Sunday’s (December 10th) HK$18 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) would be especially sweet for Irishman David Casey who’s entrusted with looking after Max Dynamite, in Hong Kong, for trainer Willie Mullins.
Casey has spent most of his working life with the Co Carlow trainer, first as a highly accomplished jumps jockey and more recently as an assistant to the trainer which has seen him travel Max Dynamite not only to Hong Kong but also to two Melbourne Cups in Australia.
Indeed, he progressed from his race riding role to the latter with seemingly remarkable haste. Casey retired from jumps riding in September, 2015 and just a week later was accompanying Max Dynamite to Melbourne where he was to finish an unlucky second, beaten a half-length, in Australia’s most famous race.
“It was all very quick. I literally headed to Melbourne a week after my last ride but I’d known about it for some time. Willie had told me there was a job for me, given I knew his system, whenever I chose to retire,” Casey said.
Casey managed to ride a winner at his final meeting. That was aboard the Rich Ricci owned Long Dog who romped home by almost 10 lengths in a Novice Hurdle at Listowel and the connection continues this week as Max Dynamite is owned by Ricci’s wife Susannah.
“I think that was a little present, for me, from Willie. The horse was long odds-on and Willie put me on even though Ruby (Walsh) had been riding him,” Casey said. Long Dog, in fact, won six consecutive races - including two Group 1 jumps feature races - that year, with Walsh aboard each time other than at Listowel.
Casey, described by Mullins as an outstanding judge of a horse and an asset to the stable, had great success as a jockey winning several feature races in England, Ireland and France including Cheltenham festival victories and two French Champion Hurdles.
“Ruby, of course, was number one at the stable but I was always happy with the opportunities which came my way and several of those were in France where I managed to win three grade ones and a grade three,” he said.
Casey also rode in America, Japan and Australia; competing in International Jockeys Series in the last two named countries and rode winners at Morphettville and Sandown in Australia.
“I think I rode 40 or 50 winners on the flat and about 800 over the jumps and I did win a Listed race on the flat,” he said.
That win was in the 2001 Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown. Casey won on Rostropovich I, trained by Michael ‘Mouse’ Morris, and he beat none other than the following year’s Melbourne Cup winner Media Puzzle.
“I had a stint with Mouse (Morris) and with Charlie Swan but all the while I’d ride three days a week for Willie so we’ve been together a long time,” he said.
Casey’s life in racing he confirmed, appropriately enough you could say, began with a bet. “That’s true,” he said when asked whether he joined the Irish apprentices’ school only after a friend had bet him that he wouldn’t.
“I think we bet 50 pounds, not that either of us was ever going to pay up but I wasn’t going to back down so I became an apprentice jockey. If not for that, I was probably going to be an accountant,” he said. And he did so despite the fact that his experience was no more than riding ponies for a couple of months when still in primary school.
He’s well experienced now and looking forward to Sunday’s challenge. “The horse is fit and well. It’s no easy task on Sunday but he’s done well and if he could pick up some prize money, that would be grand,” Casey said of Max Dynamite who was third in the year’s Melbourne Cup, a month ago on November 7th.