14-year-old Mick McGuinness from Belfast is just like any other teenager, he enjoys going to the cinema and playing his computer games.
However, on the other hand McGuinness is immensely privileged to represent leading national hunt owner Rich Ricci when he is unable to attend a race-meetings in Ireland.
McGuinness has been considered as Mr Ricci’s right-hand man, they have become great friends and seeing this young man with his pink and green scarf at the presentations has become a something of a common sight. We exclusively got the low-down on this young man with one of the most sought after postions in horse racing.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Mick McGuinness. I live in Belfast, I’m 14 years old and I’m very passionate about horse racing.
How did you get interested in racing?
My grandparents live very close to Leopardstown and they would take me and my family to the Christmas festival. I really enjoyed going and I went to some other meetings with my Dad. We loved Hurricane Fly, and went to see him win his 5th Irish Champion Hurdle in 2015. I then watched Faugheen win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham the same year and I was hooked.
How did you get involved with Rich Ricci?
When I was 11 our class was given a school project to write to someone we admire. I wrote to Rich. He took the time to write back a really long letter answering all my questions. We met him at Cheltenham later that year and went over to say hello. We saw him again at Punchestown a month after that and he invited me into the saddling enclosure to meet Douvan. We have been friends since and he is always very kind to me.
What is your normal day at-the-races consist of doing?
We like to arrive quite early to have a cup of tea and work out the selections for our placepot, which I enjoy doing.After that I go to the pre-parade ring to see the horses and then follow them into the parade ring to see who looks well and who doesn’t. During the race I watch from the stands, or sometimes go down to the final fence which I really enjoy.I like to buy chips for my lunch, and I try to get my race-card signed by some jockeys and trainers. I have a pretty big collection now.
It must be a special feeling being in the parade ring after one of Ricci’s win?
I am very lucky to be able to represent Rich and Susannah when they can’t attend. Watching a winner from the parade ring is incredibly special no matter how many times I do it and I hope it always will be. When a horse is a short-priced favourite the feeling is sometimes more of relief than anything else, but if one of their horses wins unexpectedly it’s very exciting. I’ve been fortunate enough to stand in for the owner at the presentation ceremony lots of times. The biggest race I’ve represented Rich and Susannah at was the Galway Hurdle. The trophy was really heavy!
What are you favourite horses?
Faugheen and Douvan. Outside of Rich’s horses, Hurricane Fly was the horse that really got me into racing, and I went to visit him at the Irish National Stud a couple of years ago. I also liked Sire de Grugy and At Fishers Cross.
What are your favourite racecourses?
I love Punchestown and Leopardstown. I also really like Navan. I’ve only been to Cheltenham once, but it was special.
Favourite race meetings?
The Cheltenham festival. I also really like the Dublin Racing Festival, the concentration of quality into the two days is amazing. It’s also on at the weekend, so I don’t have school.
Favourite trainers and jockeys?
All the trainers and jockeys I’ve met are always very nice to me, but my favourite trainer is, of course, Willie Mullins. He has lots of great jockeys in his yard, but my favourite is Patrick Mullins. I always stay for the bumper if Patrick is riding.
Favourite race you’ve seen?
I was at Cheltenham for the first two days of the festival in 2016 and the two Championship races I got to see were amazing. Annie Power won the Champion Hurdle after falling the previous year and Sprinter Sacre regained his title in the Champion Chase after suffering a serious heart condition. It was great to be there for both, if I had to pick, I’d choose Annie Power.
Favourite race you wished you’d been on course for?
I really wish I’d been there to see Faugheen win the Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown last season after a difficult couple of years. My Dad was there, but I had to watch on TV because I had school.
What horse of Ricci’s has most impressed you this term?
Sharjah. He’s been on the go since July 2018 and since then has won the Galway Hurdle, Morgiana Hurdle and Ryanair Hurdle at Christmas. I was lucky enough to stand in and receive all three of those trophies. He likes good ground and has obviously been kept on the go because the weather has been so dry and the ground has stayed so quick for the time of year and he’s really made the most of it. I hope he can go on and win the Champion Hurdle, he’ll need to improve a little more, but he’s done that all season.
Have you noted any dark horses that could go well at Cheltenham?
I’ll stick to Rich’s horses because I know them best. I think Ballycasey has a great chance in the Cross Country. I’ve been saying for ages he should go for a cross country race and now he is – I doubt the decision had much to do with my opinion though! I think Faugheen should be a much shorter price for the Stayers Hurdle, he’s about 9-1 at the moment. 3 miles is clearly now his distance. He beat Penhill by 13 lengths at Punchestown over that distance, we will never know what would have happened at Leopardstown at Christmas, but he looked to be cruising to me and Ruby hadn’t moved on him when he fell. If he recovers from that very nasty fall ok, he’ll go very close. He’s still the highest rated hurdler in training. Don’t write off Annamix just yet either.