We recently had the privilege of an exclusive interview with talented Irish flat jockey Ross Coakley, who is based with trainer Johnny Murtagh
How did you get into horse racing?
Even though I lived in Dublin until I was 14, I can never remember not having horses in my life! My interest in racing really sparked when I started to accompany my Father into Pat Martin’s yard in Garlow Cross on Saturdays and during school holidays.
I was only 9 at the time and it was a gradual progression from tagging along with Pat as he harrowed the gallop, to attempting to follow the string on my borrowed trekking pony and then finally getting to ride the racehorses! Pony racing soon followed, and it was from then on that I knew I wanted to try and become a jockey.
What is your best memory in racing?
My early memories of racing always seem to be of National Hunt races rather than flat. I suppose that’s because you are watching the same horses coming back year after year and you get your favourites. I used to love watching the likes of Kauto Star, Denman and Master Minded. Kauto regaining the Gold Cup in 2009 was pretty special!
Ambitions for the future
I’m 18 winners away from riding out my claim so that would be my short-term goal. No jockey ever sets out without the ambition of winning Group 1’s and competing on the global stage but so much of it is about coming across the right horses at the right point in your career.
I recently spent a month riding trackwork for Gai Waterhouse in Sydney and I would love to get the opportunity to return there next winter with the idea of getting race riding. It’s a young person’s sport out there right now and is in a very healthy state.
Dark horse to follow?
A 3yo colt of Michael Halford’s called Cockalorum. He ran second on his first start back in February and is a lovely straightforward type who should keep progressing.
Trainer to watch out for?
My boss Johnny Murtagh looks to have a nice bunch of 2yo’s and has a great team of staff behind him. Hopefully there’ll be plenty of winners to be had for us all this season!
Advice for up and coming jockeys?
Enjoy it! We are all guilty of getting caught up in results and chasing winners so much that we forget why we got into racing in the first place. Even the top jockeys work at about a 15% strike rate which means we are all losing more than we are winning! The most important thing is to stay positive and when the opportunity presents itself, you will be ready to take it. You never stop learning in this game and its every bit as important to keep the head right as the body.
Naas deserves a lot of credit. They are continually improving their facilities and their Wednesday evening barbeque meetings always draws a good vibrant crowd. It is much more enjoyable riding in front of a crowd and you can’t beat a bit of atmosphere at the races.
Most memorable winner
Winning the Cambridgeshire last year on Elusive Time meant a lot for many reasons. It was my win in a premier handicap, I was only just back after a month on the side-lines through injury and to win it for Takashi was the icing on the cake! Takashi has supported me since I started riding and to reward him with a winner like that was fantastic. We were all a bit shocked to be honest. Even though Johnny Wixted, who rides him every day said he was flying, you couldn’t think a 9-year-old drawn 29 could win one of the most competitive handicaps of the season. It was a great day!
How do you unwind away from racing?
I enjoy playing a bit of golf in the summer although the jury is still out as to whether its relaxing or not! All depends on how well you’re playing as any limited golfer would tell you. In the colder months, a trip to the cinema is a nice way of switching off for an evening.