Q and A: Top Cork jockey Denis O'Regan on the rush he gets from racing

Q and A: Top Cork jockey Denis O'Regan on the rush he gets from racing
Jockey Denis O'Regan is a big fan of Roy Keane. Picture: Healy Racing

What was your childhood ambition?

"To stay alive! I was notorious for getting injured as a child – perhaps I didn’t help myself pushing the boundaries with my brothers, I remember having a mother and father of a fall off my bike while sticking my fingers up at the next-door neighbour and ending up in casualty, not ideal."

Growing up, who was your sporting hero?

"Roy Keane, a great footballer."

Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Do you have a mentor?

"My father who supported me throughout my childhood and Peter Kavanagh who taught me so much in Noel Meade’s and is still a very close friend now."

What or where is your happy place?

"The Beach – whether it be Youghal, my hometown or Embelton in Northumberland where my wife Louise grew up."

What sparked your love of racing?

"My dad taking me to point-to-points every Sunday."

What horse put you on the map?

"It is a dead heat between Ansar winning Galway Plate in 2005 in Ireland and Inglis Drever and Tidal Bay wining at the 2008 Cheltenham Festival in the UK."

Who is your favourite horse?

"My favourite horse I have ridden is Tidal Bay. My favourite horses that I would like to ride is Frankel. I was lucky enough to see him win The Juddmonte International at York, a terrific performance and the atmosphere at York was amazing. I have never experienced anything like it."

What was it like to ride in your first race?

"My first ride was on Marians Own who was owned by my father, she ran in a bumper in Tralee and finished sixth. When I look back at it now, she was a great introduction as I had no clue, but I knew I wanted to ride in races again and again."

How long does it take to learn race-riding tactics?

"To be fair, you are always learning but when you are riding against Ruby Walsh, Paul Carberry, and AP McCoy it doesn’t take very long!"

Describe the feeling of riding your first winner?

"My first winner was All Honey, at Listowel for my first boss, the late Francis Flood at Listowel on April 20th, 2001. She was only the second horse I had ever ridden at the track – after Marians Own. Everything went well throughout the race, until the closing stages, when both horse and rider were very green! However, she stuck her neck out and won by two lengths. More luck than judgement on the rider’s behalf, but a great day."

Arcadian Surprise and Denis O'Regan win the Connolly's Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Novice Hurdle. Picture: Healy Racing
Arcadian Surprise and Denis O'Regan win the Connolly's Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Novice Hurdle. Picture: Healy Racing

What is your most memorable racing moment?

"Winning the Arkle on Tidal Bay in 2008. It was my first winner at the Cheltenham Festival and my first Grade 1 in the UK. Inglis Drever won the Stayers Hurdle later in the week so it was a pretty memorable Festival."

What is your favourite racecourse in Ireland?

"Leopardstown and Navan – although it is very hard to ride winners at either!"

If you weren’t a jockey what would you be?

"Generally, I am very competitive so I would love to say I would have been a hurler, but after Covid-19 I would say I am well on my way to becoming a master in IKEA flat-pack furniture."

If you could ride one horse, what would it be?

"Best Mate."

How do you cope with pressure?

"I haven’t been under any major pressure for a while! I just stick to a routine and keep things simple."

What mental preparation do you do for the big days?

"Sleep well and do my homework."

How do you stay motivated?

"My wife has aspirations for a really big house."

How do you deal with dips in form?

"Keep going, don’t stop, keep riding."

Outside of racing, what is your favourite sporting moment?

"The Wimbledon men’s final between Federer and Nadal in 2008 was brilliant; France winning the World Cup 2018 was another great sporting moment."

Can you give us a Netflix/film recommendation?

"Rush is a brilliant film. My wife Louise and I are currently watching The Last Dance on Netflix about the Chicago Bulls and Gangs of London on Sky Atlantic and really enjoying them."

What is your guilty pleasure?

"A cup of Barry’s tea and chocolate."

Desert island discs – name your favourite three songs?

"Past The Point Of Rescue, Mick Hanly.

"Sing, Ed Sheeran.

"Someone Told Me, Jake Bugg."

What person do you admire the most and why?

"Sir Henry Cecil and Niki Lauda. I can’t pick."

Favourite dinner?

"Anything with potatoes."

Where is your favourite place to go on holidays?

"Anywhere close to the sea – I go from white to red, so sunshine is not essential for me."

What ambitions do you still have?

"I would love to ride 800 winners and win ANY National!"

What is the hidden gem of Cork?

"Lombard’s pub in Youghal."

When you think of home, what immediately springs to mind?


How are you occupying your time during the Covid-19 restrictions?

"I am a wizard at IKEA flat packs and cutting the lawn."

If you had one piece of advice for everyone during these worrying times of Covid-19, what would it be?

"Speak to your family and friends as often as possible."

If you were to go back to when you were 20 years old and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

"Listen more and say less – But tell my mum to have €1000 on Mon Mome in the 2009 Grand National."

Favourite saying?

"What is for you, won’t pass you."

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