Monkstown's Dane O'Neill has quietly become one of the UK's top jockeys

Monkstown's Dane O'Neill has quietly become one of the UK's top jockeys
Sugauli ridden by Dane O'Neill (right) wins the Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 Novice Auction Stakes at Great Yarmouth Racecourse, Great Yarmouth last month. Picture: Steven Cargill/PA Wire.

DANE O’NEILL continues to enjoy a fruitful career as one of the UK’s top and most consistent flat jockeys.

The Monkstown native is plying his trade across the channel for over 25 years, but since taking over as leading owner Hamdan Al Maktoum’s second jockey it has continued on an upwards spiral.

The veteran jockey was born into a family that has a strong relationship with horses. 

“My dad owned and bred a few point to pointers and jumpers. We always had horses at home when I was growing up in Cork.

“I went to Monkstown primary school and Rochestown secondary school. While at school I started competing in pony racing and fell in love with race riding, I soon moved on to ride out for national hunt trainer Gerry Cullough, I landed the job thanks to a family friend ex-professional jockey Trevor Horgan."

Unusually enough the classy rider never rode on the track here at home, instead, he headed across the Irish sea to take up employment at leading flat trainer Richard Hannon’s yard.

“I never rode for anyone back home in Ireland, I left Cork and went straight to Richard Hannon sr. as apprentice. Mr Hannon had just won the Guineas for the Horgan family who I knew very well through my showjumping days and English vet Mick O’Gorman and between them they thankfully put me in contact with Richard. I thought I was going on a month’s trial, well as you know I never came back."

Dane has been really lucky since he moved across channel all those years ago, he has ridden plenty of winners for the leading trainers in England; “I have ridden for Richard Hannon, Henry Candy, Sir Michael Stoute, and David Elsworth just to name a few. I have been really lucky to ride for many trainers her."

John Gosden with Dane O'Neill after winning The #betyourway at Betway Novices Stakes (div II) with Haqeeqy. Picture: Healy Racing.
John Gosden with Dane O'Neill after winning The #betyourway at Betway Novices Stakes (div II) with Haqeeqy. Picture: Healy Racing.

O’Neill won the 1996 apprentice title; he had ridden more than 1,700 winners in Britain by 2017 when he became the seventh most prolific winner among the current jockeys following the retirement of Jimmy Fortune.

He landed his only Group 1 victory for his former boss Hannon when Bold Edge won the 2000 Prix Maurice de Gheest. Other big-race victories on his C.V are Cork and Orrery Stakes with Bold Edge in 1999, the Diadem Stakes (now the British Champion Sprint) -again when he teamed up with Bold Edge (1999). 

The Maktoum partnership led him to his first big prize of his career when he bagged the first Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot in 2015 on Muhaarar trained by Charlie Hills. On Mukhadram he finished third in the 2014 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. The Cork man has also steered plenty of winner’s home for Henry Candy

The self-confessed GAA fan has enjoyed many great days at the office, winning races at almost every course in the UK. Other highlights in his successful career include riding a double at Royal Ascot on Bold Edge and Lots Of Magic, his group 2 win on Amour Prope at the Curragh.

2003 was his most successful year to date with 110 winners. These included Airwave in the Group 2 Temple Stakes for Henry Candy, and another Royal Ascot winner, Macadamia in the Royal Hunt Cup for James Fanshawe. In total, he won over £1.3 million in prize money during that season.

Dunelight with jockey Dane O’Neill after winning The Empire Property Group on the House Stakes at Goodwood racecourse, in West Sussex back in 2007. 	Picture: Clara Molden/PA Wire
Dunelight with jockey Dane O’Neill after winning The Empire Property Group on the House Stakes at Goodwood racecourse, in West Sussex back in 2007. Picture: Clara Molden/PA Wire

That remarkable tally he almost matched in 2008 when the year closed with him on the 108-winner mark.

O’Neill freely admits that some of his happiest days during his career was riding at Henry Candy’s training establishment. Candy speaks frequently about his respect and admiration for the former Rochestown College student. “Dane O’Neill is an outstanding jockey, in fact he’s like an assistance trainer, he gives you marvellous feedback on the gallops and he knows the game inside out, I am very sorry that I don’t see more of him.”

Henry Candy commenced training in 1973 near the village of Kingston Lisle. The popular trainer has had success at the highest level with a host of Group victories.

Dane O’Neill has been at the top of the flat racing game for the past number of years, he has bags of experience, an ultra-professional who keeps adding to his already impressive profile.

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