“There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work, there are no limits.”
We recently caught up with Apprentice jockey Danny Sheehy. This young rider has missed plenty of last term with injuries; now fully fit, he is ready to make up for all the lost time.
Tell us about yourself? I’m 20 years of age from Graignamanagh, County Kilkenny. I Went to school in Good counsel college New Ross Wexford, where a good few people involved in racing have come through such as Shane Foley, Aidan O’Brien, Donagh o Connor, Sean Flanagan, Johnathan Moore and more. The deputy principal there also called (Aidan O’Brien) He is a huge fan of racing himself and he was always very good to me, I’d lost count of the amount of days and half days he let me take off to go racing. I would still keep in touch with him today.
How did you get into horse racing? Obviously being from Kilkenny Hurling is a big thing and I played a good bit of it with my younger brother Mikey. We played for the club in Graignamanagh but as we got older horses Started to take over and the hurling had to stop as we were committed to going down the route of a being a jockey.I couldn’t really escape getting involved with horses as both sides of family are into horses. My father (Dusty Sheehy) is a trainer who had the likes of rathgar beau, justified and traffords lad. I’m also cousins with Tommy Treacy who was a top jump jockey. With horses just on the doorstep of home I was bound to catch onto it. I was on a horses back from a very young age riding ponies around the fields and doing bits of show jumping and hunting. Then when I was 10 years old, I really wanted to get into the pony racing. I had my first ride on a 12’2 pony called Arjan. I instantly caught onto it and continued to do the pony racing for a further 5 years and went on to have 170 winners until I got up to the age where I could take out my apprentice license to go racing under rules.
The pony racing was great grounding for me and it’s a big help for young people to gain experience race riding before heading to the track. A lot of great riders have started from the pony racing such as my good friends in the weight room today. Every weekend my mam ( Roisin ) would drive me and my brother Mikey very long journeys all around the country to go to these pony racing meetings and I couldn’t thank her enough for the effort she put into us. She also gets a good kick out of myself and Mikey riding winners so it’s nice to do her proud.
If being a jockey didn’t go to plan what job interested, you? To be honest if things weren’t working out as a jockey, I couldn’t really see a future outside of horses because it’s all I know, and I wouldn’t really have an interest in anything else. So, if I wasn’t a jockey it would definitely be something got to do with horses.
Away from racing how do you unwind? When I’m not racing, I still try and keep active and keep my fitness level up. Obviously ride out in the mornings and if I have the afternoon free, I’d go to the gym or a run after mornings work is done. Luckily, I’m blessed with my weight and that I don’t have to waste or skip meals to do weights. The majority of mornings i wake up and I’m 7:12 on the scales so I can claim off bottom weight very easy, which is a huge help especially when the big handicaps come around throughout the year.
You had a horrible injury last year, explain what happened and how you recovered? This year has been a very frustrating one for me as I was out for most of the season with a shoulder injury. In February I got a fall riding out on the gallops and dislocated my left shoulder. All that had to be done was get strapped up in a sling and get back to normal in six weeks. After 6 weeks I got myself back again and got back riding and had a few winners and then a few months later I was riding in Fairyhouse and I had 6 rides that day and it was my last ride of the day when I was riding the finish of the race and I pulled my stick through into my left hand and as I used it my shoulder popped back out again and I knew straight away I was in bother. There was not much I could have done only steer the horse with one hand and thankfully I managed to pull the horse up with the help of Gary Carroll who was also in the race. I was brought to Connolly hospital by ambulance and got my shoulder put back in place, was strapped up once again but this time I had to get surgery. I finally got the surgery in the hermitage, I got a plate and two screws into my shoulder and I have to say a huge thanks to Jennifer Pugh , my surgeon Olivia Flannery and the Irish injured jockeys association for all there help along the way. So 3 months later since my surgery I’ve had hard physio and torture strengthening my arm I’m finally back into the swing of things and I’m in great shape at the moment, my shoulder feels great and on my second day returning to racing I got back in the winners enclosure in Navan.
How do you deal with social media trolls? After the incident in Fairyhouse I got a fair bit of abuse on Twitter. Basically, i was accused of stopping the horse in the race where my shoulder popped out. All I could really do is laugh at it to be honest, I thought it was hilarious I just went through all the bad comments and liked them all. I think that was the best way to deal with them. People like that who tried to slate me were very quick to write bad comments online before there was an explanation. But I have to thank Kevin Blake and Jennifer Pugh again for being very quick to clarify on social media that i had dislocated my shoulder and was taken to hospital by ambulance. But obviously I’m not the only jockey who has received abuse from people online, it’s being happening to a lot of jockeys for a long time. It’s just sad really on the trollers behalf.
What is the aim for next season? My aim for next season is to keep the ball rolling and keep riding winners. Since I was absent for a good bit of this season it has made me hungrier. I’m hungry for success and I’m willing to work as hard as I can to get winners. It’s a tough game and is fierce competitive as there is a lot of good apprentices with the exact same ambitions as me. But I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make it to the top. My agent Rory Tierney is very good to me. and I look forward to working with him again next season.