RIDING a winner at last weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival was undoubtedly the highlight of my career to date.

As a native of the capital, it doesn’t get much better than to taste success at such a prestigious Grade 1 meeting on what is effectively my home track.

The fact that many of my family and close friends were in attendance at Leopardstown on the afternoon, made it all the more special.

Although I grew up in Blanchardstown, an area of the city that wouldn’t traditionally be associated with horse racing, I had an interest from as early as I can remember.

I would have always watched the racing when it was on the television, while I was buying my own ponies at a young age. With little or no equine facilities local to me, I taught myself how to ride bareback. It was not until I went out on work experience during secondary school, that I learned how to ride properly with a saddle and bridle.

That education came via Pat Smith, who ran a breaking and buying/selling yard in Summerhill, Co Meath. There was a mixture of everything from ponies, hunters and thoroughbreds in the stables, so I had plenty opportunities to learn.

Even after finishing my initial period, I continued to go in every Wednesday after half-day in school, as well as spending the full weekend down with Pat.


By the time I finished in secondary school, Pat felt that he had taught me all that he could, given the quality of horse at his disposal. With that in mind, he very kindly arranged for me to go and work full-time for a good friend of his, Gordon Elliott.

I can’t thank Pat enough for his help and encouragement in those early years, as without his guidance, I almost certainly wouldn’t have become a jockey.

When I first started with Gordon Elliott, it was just as a work rider; I didn’t even have a licence. However, both Gordon, and Nigel Slevin, for whom I rode out in the afternoons, encouraged me to join the amateur ranks.

Having promised to help as much as they could, Gordon and Nigel were true to their word, putting me up on plenty of nice horses. I rode my first winner in a point-to-point on a horse for Gordon: Out Sam at Castletown-Geoghegan in October 2021.

My initial winner on the racecourse came at Down Royal the following May, on Single Edition for Nigel.


Gordon has been a huge influence on my career since I first came to work for him. Aside from giving me plenty opportunities, he always tries to help and guide me, in order to make me a better rider.

Having enjoyed some success in the amateur ranks, Gordon subsequently advised me to turn conditional, as he believed he could offer me more rides in that role.

This season things have really taken off for me, with all the staff and fellow jockeys being a great support. The latter are some of the most experienced, highly accomplished men in racing, so I am fortunate to be able to avail of their knowledge.

Prior to last weekend, I had ridden seven winners, including two at listed level. The first of those, Magic Tricks, won at Down Royal on a Grade 1 weekend for owner J.P. McManus. Just to have the opportunity to wear those famous colours was a privilege in itself but to carry them to success was beyond my wildest expectations.

A month later, I added a second listed win, this time at Navan aboard Embittered for another high profile owner, Michael O’Leary. The ride on Maxxum last Saturday came about thanks to Gordon and my agent, Gary Cribbin. Both men put my name forward and owner Patrick Rabbitt very kindly agreed to allow me ride his horse.

On the afternoon, everything just went according to plan and I was thrilled to be able to repay their faith in me.

I certainly couldn’t be in a better yard than where I find myself right now. Gordon has been instrumental in bringing me this far in my career; allowing me to school horses and ride plenty work as well as on the track.

Trainer Cian Collins has also been a big supporter this year and I would like to acknowledge that. As a young man just starting out, he has been brave enough to put me, a 7lb claimer, up on some nice horses and we have enjoyed success together.

Without the support of trainers and owners, I wouldn’t be doing a job I love and riding winners.

Carl Millar was in conversation with John O’Riordan