CILLIN LEONARD: MY AIM IS TO BE CHAMPION CONDITIONAL caught up with young Irish jockey Cillín Leonard, who is based in Britain with leading trainer Olly Murphy.

The 15th March 2019 was when trainer Olly Murphy gave me my first British winner on Swaffham Bulbeck, It was definitely a Great start to my career over here. Yes, it was a long dry summer when I started in Olly’s up-and-coming yard and then the restrictions around the equine flu didn’t help me either. But it was great to get off the mark.

Yes, I’m ambitious, focused, hard-working and I absolutely love the adrenaline of the win. To be great at this job you have to be focused but you also have to be patient. It’s difficult at times to keep your eye on the prize when the rides aren’t coming but I am totally driven!

I was delighted to join Olly Murphy’s yard as a conditional jockey last summer. Initially it took a little while to get my British licence organised and then it was a case of putting the head down, working really hard, which I’m no stranger to, and eventually being rewarded with the winning ride on Swaffham Bulbeck in Fakenham. I am grateful to Olly, the owners the GEEGEE club group and to all in the yard who continually support me.

As I said, I don’t mind hard work, in fact it suits me and I was so lucky to have worked with Trainer Ken Condon, based on the Curragh. I certainly learnt my work ethics from Ken in those early days. I was really fortunate to follow this with a year in Willie Mullins yard in Co. Carlow. It was a privilege to work and ride along-side Champion Jockeys such as Ruby Walsh, Paul Townsend, Patrick, David, Danny and Emmet Mullins. They are a class act and I am very thankful for all the support and advice given to me there. After this I took out my conditional licence and was offered the opportunity to join Pat Fahy’s yard, a stone’s throw from Willie’s, where I was lucky enough to have my first Irish win on Supreme Steel, followed by wins on No Pressure Pat. My wins were certainly helped by brilliant mentoring from Warren O Connor my Irish jockey coach. Things slowed up a little and I saw the opportunity to join Olly Murphy’s team and make the change to Britain. It’s been a tough, long wait to my first winner here but I’ve been lucky enough to get there in the end.

Following my win on Swaffham Bulbeck, it’s now about building on this and continuing to work hard and to get my name out there. As Davey Russell recently said in an interview, ‘you can be a great athlete, but you can’t show off your skill unless you get a ride first and follow this with a win’. You can’t show how great a jockey you are unless you get the opportunities to ride in races and hopefully ride really great horses that give you wins along the journey.

When I came over to Olly’s last summer, one of my first trip’s was to Cheltenham race course. I walked the course visualising the day when I would ride my first winner up the hill on this fantastic course.

The journey has begun in Fakenham and it was great to share my first win on the same day as the Gold Cup winner Paul Townsend whom I learnt so much from on the racetracks in Ireland.

Where am I headed now? To get as many rides as I can in the coming season and what’s my goal? There’s only one goal! Get as many wins as I can to ensure I become champion conditional jockey. It may sound selfish as I’m so focused on myself but as Sir AP McCoy, Ruby Walsh and many other champions would tell you, to make it to the top you must be selfish as there’s only one goal and one prize! When you’re aiming for something big, you might as well aim as high as you can possibly go!

I’m grateful for all the support, opportunities and belief trainers, particularly Olly Murphy and owners have in me, hopefully onwards and upwards from here.

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