DENIS O’Regan has dispelled rumours that he is going to follow Frankie Dettori into reality television or attempt a comeback in California, following the jump jockey’s decision to retire at Navan last Saturday.

The 41-year-old says he has been swamped with congratulatory messages this week as he takes time to consider his future.

“I must have had 300 messages and my hand is sore from replying to them all,” he told The Irish Field. “There were texts from old school friends in Youghal (Co Cork), America, Australia, people I didn’t know were still alive! I had been saying to my wife Louise that I would go out quietly and nobody would remember me, but the reaction has been unbelievable.”

Although his retirement surprised many, O’Regan received a presentation from the racecourse and his weighroom colleagues on Saturday.

“It was lovely to have Louise and our two boys, Thomas and Charles, there,” he said. “I didn’t get a chance to properly thank my family and my parents for all their support. There are so many people who helped me over the years, especially Peter and Mary Kavanagh and Paul McLernon. They played huge parts in my career.

“I must also thank my physiotherapist Pauline Byrne, who has kept me going for the past few years, Dr Adrian McGoldrick, Dr Jennifer Pugh, and all the Order of Malta team, who have seen plenty of me.”

A multiple Grade 1-winning jockey and one of the most stylish riders of his generation, O’Regan memorably partnered Inglis Drever (World Hurdle) and Tidal Bay (Arkle) to success at the 2008 Cheltenham Festival, and was still riding top-level winners as recently as November 2021 when capturing the Drinmore Novice Chase on Beacon Edge.

Earlier this month, O’Regan became the first jockey in history to ride a winner at all active British and Irish jumps tracks when partnering Fiveonefive to victory at Hereford – fulfilling a long-held ambition for the talented horseman.

He called time on his career after trailing the field in the Kilberry Pub & Kitchen Maiden Hurdle on 150/1 outsider Solly Attwell, trained by Cian Collins.

Huge effort

Speaking outside the Navan weighing room after receiving a guard of honour from his riding peers, O’Regan said: “I’m delighted with this decision. It was a huge effort to get back for Hereford after such a long stint off, I’m 41 and have had a fair few falls.

“It wasn’t simple to come to the decision but I went to Gowran last Saturday and I knew then after that. I knew going home that was it – I knew I had to stop now. I’ve had a lot of back trouble for the past three months and I don’t even ride out any more. I may need an operation at some stage.”

“You need goals and when Hereford was done, it was hard to find another one unless you’ve got a good horse, and I don’t have six or seven Grade 1 horses. I thought now was a good time.

“Navan is a local track for me, I’ve been very lucky here, my wife and my kids are here, there’s a lot of support and I wanted to go out on one of Cian’s. It didn’t have to be a winner and I’m delighted with today.

“Racing has been my morning, noon and night for 25 years so I’m going to take a breath and have a think. That’s the plan for now.”

On some of the highlights in his career, O’Regan added: “There have been a good few. Inglis Drever creating history at the time with his third World Hurdle was phenomenal. I think Cape Tribulation beating Imperial Commander at Cheltenham in the 2013 Cotswold Chase was a huge one for me. All those winners came at times when I really needed one.

“Tidal Bay winning an Arkle was great but backing it up at Aintree in the Maghull Novices’ Chase was a tough thing to do. Killyglen winning the Mildmay Novices’ Chase a year later was fantastic too, and I really enjoyed winning that year’s Becher Chase on Black Apalachi. Of course, Ansar back in the 2005 Galway Plate was very special and more recently Beacon Edge at Fairyhouse.

“Cape Tribulation might be the pick of them for me, though. It kind of mirrored how I felt I rode, and the horse suited me. We were good friends, Cape Tribulation and I.”

British success

O’Regan, whose first winner came aboard the Francis Flood-trained All Honey at Listowel in 2001, enjoyed considerable success in Britain, particularly when riding as first jockey to Howard Johnson.

Upon returning to Ireland, he rode as retained rider to Barry Connell for just over five years and partnered the owner-turned-trainer’s Tully East to Cheltenham Festival success in the 2017 Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Since then, he rode graded winners for Cian Collins, Gordon Elliott, Pat Foley, Peter Fahey, Ted Walsh, Ronan McNally, Liam Cusack, Noel Meade and Terence O’Brien.

O’Regan believes his time spent in Britain enhanced the longevity of his time in the saddle.

“My career was very split and I think in a way that stood to me,” he explained.

“I spent a lot of time in Ireland to get to England, and I spent a lot of time in England to get back to Ireland. Overall, it led to a lot of winners in both countries. I have enjoyed my time as a jockey.

“When I started, I loved it and it was fun. When I went to England, I had to become an athlete then and needed to leave the way we were in Ireland, becoming a better jockey physically, mentally and everything.

“When I came back to Ireland, I was able to prolong my career here due to what I learned in England in terms of fitness. I brought it back with me. That’s how I was able to last here, and there wasn’t the same volume of racing here.

“There have been many people who have played big parts in helping me in my career. It’s been a great sport to be involved in over time, I met some wonderful friends and the weighing room has been good to me.”