IN THE final part of our HRI series with Cork racing personalities, leading Lisgoold jockey Paul Townend offers an insight into his career and preparation.
What was your childhood ambition?
“I always wanted to become a jockey.”
Growing up, who was your sporting hero?
“All jockeys were heroes to me. I always looked up to my cousin Davy Condon.”
Do you have a mentor?
“Ruby Walsh has always taken time to advise me.”
What or where is your happy place?
“Either at home in Cork or playing farmer at my own new place.”
What sparked your love of racing?
“I have always had a love of racing. I especially remember watching racing on a Saturday at my grandparents’ house in Midleton.”
What horse put you on the map?
“Indian Pace got me first noticed when we won the 2008 Guinness Galway Hurdle for John Kiely. I was an apprentice at the time.”
“Hurricane Fly was also great for my career — he took me to Grade 1 level.”
Who is your favourite horse?
“Hurricane Fly will always be close to my heart, closely followed by Al Boum Photo now!”
What was it like to ride in your first race?
“My childhood dream became a reality.”
How long does it take to learn race- riding tactics?
“A lifetime — you learn something new every day.”
Describe the feeling of riding your first winner?
“I thought I was a jockey! My first winner was The Chip Chopman for trainer Seamus O’Donnell at Limerick on June 22, 2007.”
What is your most memorable racing moment?
“The two Cheltenham Gold cups were obviously very special days but riding Kala Brandy to for my dad in Clonmel in May 2015 was great, especially in my mother’s colours.”
What is your favourite Irish racecourse?
“I have had some brilliant days in Cork Racecourse riding a few four-timers. It is nice to have success in front of familiar faces!”
If you weren’t a jockey what would you be?
“Not a lot probably! I would love to be a Formula 1 driver though.”
If you could ride one horse, what would it be?
“Envoi Allen looks special.”
How do you cope with pressure?
“I think I cope pretty well, although I am probably not the best company and I like to shut myself off from all the distractions.”
What mental preparation do you do for the big days?
“Do your homework, make a plan and be confident in your decisions.”
How do you stay motivated?
“Riding the horses I’m privileged to be riding would keep anyone motivated!”
How do you deal with dips in form?
“Try not to change what you do and do the basics correctly.”
Outside of racing, what is your favourite sporting moment?
“Tiger Woods winning the 2019 Masters. The comeback from his personal and professional problems was incredible.”
Can you give readers a Netflix/film recommendation?
“Formula 1: Drive to Survive is excellent.”
What is your guilty pleasure?
Desert island discs — name your favourite three songs?
“Anything by Garth Brooks will do me.”
What person do you admire the most and why?
“My father. For keeping the peace between my sisters Caroline, Jody, and me!”
“A steak in Butcher Restaurant in Kilkenny.”
Where is your favourite place to go on holidays?
“I like to see new places. Italy is lovely and I enjoy visiting my girlfriend Anna’s home near Turin.”
What ambitions do you still have?
“I want to be as successful as possible.”
What is the hidden gem of Cork?
“Smart’s Bar in Ballincurrig.”
When you think of your home what immediately springs to mind?
“Family and stress-free time!”
How are you occupying your time during the Covid-19 restrictions?
“Golfing and playing farmer!”
If you had one piece of advice for everyone during Covid-19, what would it be?
“Keep active. An idle mind is dangerous.”