It wouldn’t even dawn on me that Christmas is ‘holiday’ time. I’ve been around horses all my life and even as a kid on Christmas day I’d be out feeding them or exercising them with my dad Ted (amateur jockey, turned trainer and RTE racing pundit) before getting ready for the racing festivals.
My ideal Christmas present is three Grade One winners over the next few days but I’ve missed festivals before due to injuries so to stay in one piece for the week and the rest of the year would be just as good.
I’ll probably get a night out on December 29, but that’s the way it is – jockeys are in the entertainment industry. When people are off that’s when we’ve got to work.
For the past few days my wife Gillian and I have been watching the ‘Home Alone’ movies with the kids – they’re great craic. Comical. And I’ll probably sit down and catch up with Love Actually again at some stage. I’ve seen it loads but it makes me laugh. I don’t mind Hugh Grant’s movies – although I know I might be in the minority here.
The one thing I am looking forward to doing is going to the cinema early in the New Year to see Unbroken (above), the film about Olympian Louis Zamperini. At least I can switch the phone off, sneak into Eddie Rocket’s for some fast food and ice cream and not have to worry about my weight for a day or two.
For those wondering, I’ll eat Christmas dinner alright but it’s not like I’ll have breakfast, then dinner and 27 turkey sandwiches in front of the TV later. Dinner will be about 2pm and then that’s it. The next thing I’ll have is a coffee at Dublin airport on St Stephens’ Day morning (Boxing Day for those in the UK) as I’m flying to Kempton to ride Champagne Fever in the King George VI Chase and Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle.
The King George is one of my favourite races of the festive period and I’ve won it five times on Kauto Star. The other big race I look forward to most is the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28. Boston Bob has a good chance this year stepping back up to three miles – he got no luck at Punchestown the last time he ran. If either win they’ll be in the mix for the Cheltenham Gold Cup next March.
After Kempton, I’ll be at Leopardstown on December 27 for Paddy Power Chase Day. Here I’m hopeful Dogora can improve on his last run at Navan to run into the places in the big handicap the company sponsors.
I cannot wait for the rematch between Hurricane Fly and reigning Champion Hurdler Jezki in the Ryanair Hurdle on Monday, December 29 at Leopardstown. We’re 3-2 up on him at the minute after winning the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last month. I hope it’s 4-2 come next Monday night.
It’s a funny thing about the Irish psyche. When a 20-time Grade One winning champion suddenly becomes the underdog and wins again – he’s hailed as a legend. There’s been plenty of knockers over the years but I’ll argue with anyone about how good Hurricane Fly has been.
He turns 11 on New Year’s Day and to still be competing at the top level is phenomenal after all he’s achieved. Every day is a bonus with champions. That’s why ‘The Fly’ and Kauto Star will always have a special place in your heart because of what you’ve achieved together.
Right call on Davy Russell
Davy Russell and Philip Enright getting their bans overturned was the right decision. I could see both sides to the argument but their punishment didn’t fit the crime. A fine, rather than a ban over a busy period like Christmas is enough.
No room for sentiment at Manchester United
I’m a Manchester United fan and was supposed to go to Old Trafford for the 2-1 win over Stoke earlier in December. I actually haven’t been since Alex Ferguson was the manager so hopefully get something organised for April as the season comes to an end. I wouldn’t say United are playing brilliantly but Louis van Gaal is getting the results and that’s what he’ll be judged on. To be fair to David Moyes (above) he was on a hiding to nothing when he took over from Fergie after all the success the Scot brought to the club.
He would have had to win the treble in the first year to even start to match Ferguson’s success and that was never going to happen. Did Moyes get enough time? Probably not. But professional sports is a results-based business. There’s no room for sentiment.
My favourite Christmas song
It’s great to see The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl back in the charts with Fairytale of New York – 25 years after it was first released and it’s by far my favourite Christmas song. I once sat opposite Shane MacGown on a flight from Heathrow. There was no one in the seats between us but I didn’t have the balls to go and say hello to him. And people think jockeys are fearless!