How did you get into horse racing?
I began hunting with the Sligo Harriers and Galway Blazers. From there I began to ride in Point to Points aged 16 and enjoyed it until my weight forced me out of riding aged 19. I was fortunate enough to ride a winner over the banks course in the Ladies Cup at the Punchestown Festival and rode a double at Sligo the day I gave up which was a special day. I then took up writing and commentating and continued my involvement with the sport. In 2002 I started p2p.ie and this further drew me into the sport. In 2012 I joined the Board of Tattersalls Ireland.
Can you give us any Point to Point Horses to follow for the season ahead?
I was a big fan of Finians Oscar when he won and he has done the sport proud since. Slate House made a massive impression when winning at Tattersalls last December and is now two from two this season. I’m waiting to see Battleoverdoyen run for Gordon Elliott as he looked impressive in winning at Loughanmore and a horse called Mr Lingo was impressive at Dromahane. Both will be in the Gigginstown silks and look above average.
Is there a former Point to Point Horse to follow this season?
Honestly, at the moment, there are too many to mention. Finians Oscar, Rapid Escape, Slate House, Posh Trish, Palmers Hill, Felix Desjy, Samcro and many others look so exciting. Of the older brigade, Faugheen and Special Tiara are heading for the Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase while Minella Rocco, Native River, and others could go the Gold Cup route. Yorkhill, Road To Respect, Death Duty, Outlander and others are also high class.
What do you make of the courses in Northern Ireland?
I absolutely love coming racing in Northern Ireland – either track or point to point. On the track Down Royal and Downpatrick do an exceptional job engaging with locals and filling the venues for all sorts of cards. Their attention to detail and professionalism along with their ability to create a great atmosphere is something special. The Northern point to point scene is very enjoyable and I’ve been covering it for almost 20 years now. It brings such a mix of southerners along with the core Northern group which really adds to the competitiveness and atmosphere.
How did you come to be a commentator?
When I gave up riding aged 19 I wanted to stay involved with the sport. As I was involved in the running of Sligo Point to Point I decided to try it in 1997 and from there I was asked to do a few more. I’ve covered many Irish racecourses and do almost all Down Royal meetings. I have covered many UK courses including Royal Ascot for William Hill and have more recently been working with RTE on Radio and TV which is a great opportunity to call the best races run in Ireland each year. I thoroughly enjoy commentating on races at every level flat and NH.
If there was one change you could make in racing what would it be?
I would increase prize money for Graded races and reduce it for Handicaps. When prize money gets too high for our handicaps we encourage top owners to target them and force the ratings bands higher out of reach for the smaller owner. Grade 1 is the elite of the sport whether it be hurdles or fences and should attract the highest purse for the best horses. Every other sport rewards their elite winners the most and I think racing would have a better balance if it did the same. Ironically I think less money for handicaps would reward the smaller man more.
Any personal favourite horses?
I was always a fan of Best Mate as I called his maiden point to point in 1999 and watched him go on to win three Gold Cups. Denman was the one horse I never got to call that I would have loved to – at his best he was awesome.