MICHAEL O’Sullivan is hoping to continue his rapid rise through the point-to-point ranks, this season.
With a new campaign now underway, and with strong backing from local trainers, the Cork jockey is keen to make the most of his opportunities.
The former champion novice rider is already off the mark on the racecourse, for the current National Hunt season. O’Sullivan guided Paul Cashman’s Sheer Liss to victory, in a Down Royal mares’ bumper, at the end of August.
The Galway festival-winning pilot was in action at Ballingarry and Oldcastle, for the start of the new point-to-point season, last weekend.
He placed third aboard the Cashman’s mare, Call Me Merry, in an Oldcastle maiden, on Sunday. He’s aiming to get back among the winners, on the point-to-point scene, in the weeks ahead.
‘‘It’s brilliant to be back point-to-pointing. It’s a bit strange, a bit surreal now. It was grand at the weekend, everything worked well.
“The racing seemed to be very competitive and there was a good atmosphere in Ballingarry, I thought. People were glad to be back at it. We are just looking for a bit of rain now to get the ground nice and to get all the nice horses out again.
“Hopefully, it all works out. It should do.
‘‘It’s brilliant (to get the recent racecourse winner) as well. It keeps you going. It was a good time to get it as well, coming towards the end of the summer, and coming into the start of the point-to-point season. It was important. It keeps connections happy as well,’’ O’Sullivan said.
Along with riding out at the Cashman’s yard, in Fermoy, and the yard of Innishannon-based handler, Michael Kennedy, the Lombardstown native also has the backing of his uncle’s (Eugene O’Sullivan’s) leading point-to-point stable. The Cheltenham Festival-winning facility looks to be well-stocked, with lots of quality horses to work with again this season.
‘‘It’s extremely busy now. We were getting busy anyway. But on the back of the win (of It Came To Pass, in the Foxhunters’) at Cheltenham, it attracted a lot of new horses and owners.
“There are about 60 horses there in training. It’s a good thing.
“He’s going building more stables. But it’s very hard to get staff.
“There are a lot of nice, young horses there. It’s great to be getting those types of horses. Hopefully, we will have a good season,’’ he said.
O’Sullivan is balancing life as an amateur jockey with his academic studies. He’s currently studying Animal Science with Equine Science, at UCD. The current climate means that his learning is mainly done remotely. He’s determined to make the best of the situation.
‘‘I’m in third year now. With the way Dublin is at the minute, that’s all online. So, I’m still able to ride out in the morning. I can do course work then in the evening. It will be hard to keep on top of it. But I’ll manage it.
“It’s turned out to be a good thing. Getting a degree is something you just need to do now, as a backup plan, and it’s something to fall back on. It’s good to have it and there’s a farm at home as well. You can’t stay riding horses forever, so it’s important to have some backup.’’
The young jockey already has 23 career point winners to his name. What are his aims for the season ahead?
‘‘Just to keep improving, keep learning. Try and ride as many winners as I can and stay injury-free,’’ O’Sullivan said.
Meanwhile, Denise O’Shea’s veteran, Supreme Vinnie, rolled back the years in style, last week. The son of Vinnie Roe has been a mighty servant for his Cork handler and he landed career win number eight, at Tramore.
The 11-year-old gelding stayed on strongly under Rachel Blackmore, to take the two-mile, five handicap hurdle, at odds of 10/1. O’Shea’s flagbearer was winning his first race in over two years. Interestingly, O’Shea trains out of Liam Burke’s yard, in Curraglass.
Supreme Vinnie finished a place in front of the Burke-trained Yaiza, in Tramore, denying the favourite by a neck, when coming out on top in a close battle the line.