“Robert Tyner pulled off a remarkable long-term coup as Spring The Que caused a 16/1 upset in the Pierse Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The West Cork trainer had been beset by problems with his eight-year-old, who only returned to racing after a long absence when second over a longer trip at Punchestown last month.

Given a ride completely belying his inexperience by 7lb claimer Phillip Enright, Spring The Que hit the front. Although Enright’s mount was being reeled in on the run-in when the damaged final flight was bypassed, he had two and a half lengths in hand from joint top-weight Mister Hight.”

Irish Examiner, January 2007

ASK Phillip Enright for a career highlight and he’ll tell you straight away. Spring The Que in the Pierse Hurdle. Every jockey remembers the one that got them going. The door-opener.

After 100 winners in pony racing, the Kerry native spent the first part of his track career in the wilderness. After his first ride in a bumper in December, 2003, it took him nearly two years to ride his first winner, I Will Now for Gerry Cully in Downpatrick.

It took him another 447 days to ride his second winner, Askthemaster in a Cork maiden hurdle, and he wasn’t even supposed to ride that horse. Ruby Walsh was booked by Robert Tyner but he got injured the day before riding in Britain, and the Cork trainer decided to take a chance.

Five more winners followed in the preceding two months before he got his biggest chance of all on Spring The Que in the Pierse Hurdle, which then had its own feature day on the calendar.

It was such a big moment for so many reasons. It was a big way of saying thank you for the faith placed in him by Tyner. It was a big way to get his name into the paper and to get noticed. But perhaps most of all, it was a big way to gain confidence. One winner in over 1,000 days would have any rider questioning themsevles.

Leading home a 30-runner field in a €125,000 handicap on a 16/1 shot who had been aimed at the race for over two years goes some way to getting that confidence back.


This time next year Phillip Enright will be 20 years riding horses on the track. The kid from Tralee has gone from one of the quietest jockeys in Irish jumps racing to one of the busiest, as he edges closer to 2,000 rides since the beginning of the 2018-19 season.

He was as busy before that, going just one season since 2011 without reaching 300 rides. And all without the support of a mega stable, without one constant source of winners, which is testament to him; the hard work he puts in, the mileage he does to go riding out, schooling and racing.

While his strike-rate has never got to 10%, his career is still littered with significant wins. Two Thyestes on Thomas O’Leary’s Priests Leap. A Hilly Way Chase on Henry de Bromhead’s Days Hotel. Two Tim Duggans on Eoghan O’Grady’s Westerner Point and 11 wins in all on that gelding. A Galmoy Hurdle on Mouse Morris’s Sams Profile.

Of course you’d love to be regularly riding horses from a big yard, but Enright has developed his own niche role as a go-to man that smaller trainers can depend on. That collective force has receded year on year in an era of the mega stables, but the 35-year-old’s success has risen and stayed constant, which says everything for his willingness to make it work.

“I suppose it never really changed for me because I was never really attached to one of the bigger stables,” he reflects, driving home from Punchestown on Tuesday evening. “Maybe it even worked in my favour in a way because I was always able to ride for smaller trainers on the big days, that I wasn’t attached to a big stable and had to let them down.

“Sometimes, I have good associations with trainers because they know they’ll have me on the big day. I don’t know really, it’s a system that works for me and hopefully it continues to.

“Every season I love riding as many horses as I can, and hopefully I ride as many winners as I can. Do you know, you have to be loyal to the people who are loyal to you, and try and keep everyone happy.”

The journey home isn’t as long as it used to be, when he lived in Dunmanway, Co Cork. He and his wife Emma, and their baby girl Gracie moved to Tipperary in March and that has made things easier in lots of ways. He’s closer to most places he needs to be now.

“It was a big move but we’re happy,” he says. “Tipperary is home for Emma, and she has family there. Since we’ve had our little daughter, it makes things a lot easier because we had no family in Cork.

“When we were living there, there was plenty of mornings I left and Gracie was in bed and when I got home, she had already gone to bed that evening. Now most times I’ll be home before she goes to bed. It’s definitely helped with that family-work balance.

“Emma has been with me since I started racing. She has been brilliant. At the start when you had a bad day, maybe you weren’t the easiest person to deal with but as you get older, you’re getting better. It’s great to have someone you can go home to and when you’re in bad form over a race, she’d tell you to cop on, it’s only a race. It took me a couple of years to listen to her but she got through to me anyway.”

You’d imagine that’s huge for a jockey to have that support. Even the best in the business lose much more than they win but the nature of Enright’s positioning means the ratio of good days to bad days bends further to the latter.

“I suppose as you get older you definitely get better to deal with it,” he says. “Obviously it’s disappointing when you get a fall or if you get beat on one you should have won on but at the end of the day all you can do when you make a mistake is try not to make it again. When I pull up and I’ve made a mistake I’d like to think I’d be the first one to admit it.

“Sometimes you have to come in and hold your hands up and say that you did the wrong thing and that’s just it, it’s part of life and you learn and you have to move on.

“There’s not a jockey out there that doesn’t make a mistake every now and then. All you can do is move on and hope not to make that mistake again. I don’t think you ever stop learning when you’re riding horses. The day you think you’ve stopped learning is the day you’re not wanting it as much.”

Enright has always wanted it. He had no real racing background but after to learning to ride horses at the Kennedy Equine Centre in Tralee, he wanted nothing else. He spent time with Tom Cooper, Pat Doyle, Michael Hourigan and Gerry Cully at the beginning but opportunities were sparse.

Important win. Spring The Que and Phillip Enright lead him the 2006 Pierse Hurdle at Leopardstown \ Healy Racing

Looking back, that spell was a fair indication of the mindset he has today and his drive to make it happen.

“Do you know, I rode point-to-pointing as well and I couldn’t ride a winner,” he recalls. “I went into Robert (Tyner) for a job riding out and, in fairness to him, he never promised me anything. I often wondered would I ever get any rides. Never did I expect things would pick up like they did.

“And even though I’d ridden a few winners for him at the start, he could have easily got someone else for Spring The Que in the Pierse Hurdle. They could easily have looked for someone with a bit more experience, but they stood by me and he won.

“Thankfully after that we built up a good partnership. He seemed to like the way I rode his horses. I seemed to understand the way he wanted them ridden. Things wouldn’t always work out but there was never a cross word between us. I’ll forever be grateful to Robert and Mary for that. “I just love working with horses, even bringing the young horses along and seeing them develop. The hunger for winners was always there, like it is for any jockey.

“I suppose I get a lot of satisfaction from the winners I ride because a lot of the horses I might have schooled a good few times before they ran. Or I could have ridden them work at home. I could have seen them come through the ranks and then you get a win on them. That’s a huge satisfaction.

“I see the hard work smaller yards put in, and the satisfaction they get from it too. It’s just nice when you see it all comes together.”

It was a blow to Enright when Tyner announced he would be giving up training in May but he recently turned back on that decision and will continue to train horses from his Cork base. Still, his initial feeling that continuing training was unsustainable was yet another reminder of the difficulties facing smaller yards these days.


Last season, only 14 trainers in the country bettered Tyner’s 17 winners which is a fair indication of how hard it is to survive.

“It’s great that Robert and Mary are going to keep going,” Enright says. “They have shown when they have the materials, they can do the business.

“There are some unbelievable trainers in Ireland. It’s very hard to get into the elite side of it but there are a lot of trainers who, if they had the money behind them, they’d be training a lot of big winners too.

“It’s the way it is. They’re all looking for a good horse but it’s hard when you don’t have that financial backing behind you but the work they put in is second to none. They’re all very hard-working people. You get as much kick out of it for them as you do for yourself.

“Staff is a big problem in Irish racing. Trying to get staff and retain staff is so much harder now. And in general, the expense of everything is going up. When the costs go up for the trainer, they go up for the owner.

“When you’re training for the very wealthy it’s not so much an issue but when you’re training for a smaller syndicate and the costs are going up, sometimes when that horse goes out of training, they’re reluctant to buy back in.”

Enright rode a nice winner on Saturday, Kalanisi Star, at Gowran Park. And another, No Looking Back, at Thurles on Thursday. Both in hot maiden hurdles for trainer Oliver McKiernan. Enright has ridden three winners for McKiernan this term but shortly Barry Browne, who rides as first jockey for that yard, will be back from injury.

“Hopefully Barry will be back soon but it was great to link up with Oliver and ‘Kalanisi’ is a nice horse with lots of nice form,” he says. “I’d say he’ll come on plenty and he could be very nice. You’d be very hopeful for Oliver and the team.

“I think when Barry was out, he wanted someone who would be there, a bit of consistency, so it worked out grand. One door closes and another opens. I’m still riding away for as many people as I can. I try to go to as many places as I can to help out. My agent Ken Whelan does a great job – I leave most of it to him.

“Look, I love doing this. The weighing room has a great atmosphere. You’d have friends out of racing for life.

“I’ve ridden Grade 2 winners, but of course you’d love to ride a Grade 1 winner. You live in hope. I just want to stay sound and keep riding as many horses as I can. If it happens, it happens.

“We keep pushing forward.”