We recently caught up with Warrenpoint native jockey Mark O’Hare who has been a complete revolution in the point to point circuit over the past two decades since his first winner in April 1999 at Comber track for Newry trainer Liam Lennon on ‘Cinders Slipper’. From then onwards he has really established himself as one of the most respected and reputable point to point riders in Ireland, with over 200 victorious to his and name and still as focused now for winners as he was at the beginning of his career, he also holds the significant record of being one of only five jockeys in Irish horse racing history to ever ride six winners in one meeting. To strengthen his already outstanding CV he has also rode the 40/1 ‘Another Rum’ horse to victory at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival back in 2014 and is currently the reigning Ulster point to point champion rider and will not give that title away anytime soon if he has his determined way.
Mark started riding horses in his very early teens at the USPCA centre in his hometown of Warrenpoint., he adds into the conversation “I got bitten by the horse racing bug” which just started his appetite for the game and since then there was never going to be any other job or career path that would interest him in the slightest, it was all horse racing or nothing.
This season so far O’Hare has had twenty winners and a few near misses and is anticipating plenty more victories, he has the support of most of the local trainers in this area particularly Banbridge handler Jerry Cosgrave, they have become a formidable sight in the winner’s enclosure leaving many bookmakers nursing their satchels and the locals cheering for glory, their success is becoming a regular occurrence when they team up together.
When asked about the best way for young jockeys to get a good start in racing he replied “It’s getting extremely hard for young lads and girls coming up to go through the point to point scene as there’s a lot of money involved now and when you’re racing or selling the young horses owners are wanting to use older more experienced riders and the younger jockeys don’t be given a second chance. But anyone wanting to get involved in racing should firstly start with a visit to their local trainer and see if the bug bites them then keep their head down and work and listen to advice from people who know the game and hopefully they will get their opportunity to shine, but hard work is the only way forward in this highly competitive sport that everyone involved is in it to win it”.
We asked Mark how he feels about getting a winner at the local racecourses close to his hometown and he replied with a grin “I love riding local winners at racetracks close to home like Down royal and Downpatrick they always get a great local crowd and there is always such a great buzz, though to get a winner anywhere is fantastic but winning at the local track makes it even more special”.
As well as being an established jockey Mark has found time to start up a successful farrier business and his skills in shoeing horses have not gone unnoticed, a lot of horse owners avail of his service and Mark’s general day to day work consists of riding out in the morning and being a farrier in the afternoons. Mark tells us “I have a very flexible job that mixes great with the horse racing side of things which allows me to make the best out of both worlds”.
Without a doubt the most important thing in Mark’s life is his 15-month-old daughter called Penny, anyone who knows Mark knows she is his pride and joy and he tries to make as much time as possible to see her and he is extra appreciative his wife Sara enjoys horse racing as well so going to the races is a real family outing rather than an inconvenience.
Other than horse racing and his family life Mark adds he hasn’t much time for hobbies or pastimes but does enjoy a sporadic visit down to his local pub ‘The Angler’s Rest’ in Katesbridge for a few beers and a catch up with his friends.
On a concluding note, we asked Mark what are his ambitions and aims for the future and he replied, “I would love to sell some young point to point horses that could perhaps become top racehorses that would be a big aim for the future and most importantly in this dangerous sport, to stay fit and healthy and to retire on my own terms would be a massive aim”.
We could not let Mark go without asking him to give our readers a horse to watch out for next time out and he informed us ‘Clondaw Frisby’ goes to Down Royal racecourse on May 1st for a chase and he should run a big race, he has the form in the book to go very close and hopefully Mark will be on-board the horse having won on him before.
The future looks bright for this gifted jockey and we are very lucky to call him one of our own, we hope he can have many more happy days in and out of the saddle and wish him all the very best.