I WENT over to the US on a three-month holiday visa at the end of last month.

I’m here less than a fortnight but have been lucky enough to already ride two winners, both on the same horse Auction Kingdom.

I had never even ridden in a competitive race back home in Ireland, so it’s been brilliant to not only change that but to get my first winner as well.

My family have always been very sporty and athletic but I was the first to get into racing. My uncle Shane (Reddy) was definitely the fella that got me into it. He probably had more of an interest in the flat, but I would have gone to the races with him or watched them on television.

I had never even been to pony club or sat on a horse when Shane got me a summer job with Declan Queally. He lives just two minutes up the road from the yard and knew Dec’s brother through the GAA.

I would only have been mucking out, cleaning the water pots, haying and watering the horses and things like that. I really enjoyed it though, so I kept going in on weekends after going back to school.

After I got my own jobs done, I would go out on the gallops to watch the horses riding out. I asked Dec, if I went away and got lessons, could I ride out as well. He said 100%.

So, I went and got lessons, then Dec taught me from there. I can’t thank him enough as only for him, I’d never be where I am today.

His father, Declan Snr, also helped me a lot and was very good to me. I was in TY during Covid but had a good bit of time off school. I would have gone into the yard every chance I got.

After nearly a year and a half, my riding had come on enough that I felt confident on a horse. After my Leaving Certificate, I took a year out as I wanted a break before starting in college. I went to work for Dec full-time.

The plan had been to ride in a few point-to-points but for one reason or another that just never happened. One time, the horse I was supposed to ride was all tacked up to go out when rain forced the abandonment of the meeting just before my race!

I was full-time with Dec for about nine months but struggled to get any spins at home. Dec’s best friend, Barry John Foley, lives over here in America, so it was through that contact that I got the chance to come out for the three months.

First winner

I came over on March 27th and rode out with Barry John at Zoe Valvo’s yard for the first four days I was here. Then on the weekend, I rode my first winner on Auction Kingdom at Blue Ridge point-to-point.

The ride on that horse, who was trained by Neil Morris, came about through Barry John. I have been staying with him and his family since I arrived, so they have been great to me.

After the win, trainer, Pat Cooney came up to me and asked would I come in and ride out for him. Another Irish man, from Westmeath I think, Pat has 40 horses.

I had ridden in loads of schooling races at places such as Thurles, Boulta and Glencairn but Auction Kingdom was the first of any description in a competitive one. Neil (Morris, trainer) gave me very specific instructions before the race and I was able to carry them out. The tracks are a lot bigger over here and the ground is much harder.

Timber fences

Also, you are jumping over timber so there isn’t any give in the fences. The jockeys tend to go a bit quicker from the start as well, compared to back at home.

I got so many calls and texts from family and friends after the win. Dec and all the lads in the yard were on to me the following morning as well.

Since the win, I’ve ridden in a few more point-to-points and won for a second time on Auction Kingdom on Sunday. Trainer Neil Morris allowed me keep the ride on the horse, so I want to thank him for that.

I hope to pick up as much experience as I can over the next couple of months and maybe add a few more winners if possible.

I’m really enjoying it over here but it was only ever going to be short term.

Once the point-to-point season finishes and my holiday visa expires, I will come back to Ireland. I’ll ride away over the winter and see how it goes. It would be great if I could get to make a career at home but if not, at least I know I have the option of going back to America.

Conor was in conversation with John O’Riordan