YOUGHAL native Killian Hennessy is enjoying racing more than ever.
The 27-year-old is based with champion trainer Aidan O’Brien at his world-renowned training facility at Ballydoyle in the rolling hills of Co Tipperary.
Having spent time racing in America and the UK he returned home to take up a role as an apprentice with Fozzy Stack three years ago before moving on to the all-conquering yard of O’Brien.
“I decided to pack my bags and begin a new chapter in my career in 2015.
“I was born in America so I hold a dual passport, I headed out to Brendan Walsh in Kentucky and I spent six enjoyable months there.
“While I was in Kentucky, I met John Haran who had 70 horses at his stables in Chicago, he asked me if I would join him and I did.
“While I was in the states, I rode 10 winners and had 200 rides which I was delighted with.”
A lot of the world’s top jockeys believe riding against the clock in America improves your race riding and makes you a better jockey, Hennessy found that to be true.
“Riding work and race riding against the clock is invaluable if you want to develop into a top-class rider.
“Brendan Walsh taught me the skills which have stood to me, it helped me in landing a job at Ballydoyle.
“I would encourage any young lad that wants to make a go of being a flat jockey to try it,” he says.
Hennessy began riding at 10 years of age, primarily on showjumpers and hunters that his parents kept at home.
He didn’t sit on a thoroughbred until he was 16.
“I began riding out point to pointers for my neighbour Ian Hannon, that was the first time I got the leg up on a racehorse, the moment I started riding them I was instantly bitten by the bug.
“Around that time, I contacted Jim Bolger and he asked me if I would spend a summer working for him at Coolcullen. When the summer was over, he asked me if I would come back again next year.”
The promising rider returned home to sit his Leaving Cert; education was something that he considered to be important just in case riding didn’t work out.
“I did my Leaving which I wanted to sit; I believe it’s crucial to have an education just in case I wasn’t successful as a rider.
“I still feel the same, I went back last year to UL to study engineering.
“It’s very competitive in Ireland for young lads, owners want the top jockeys in the sport to ride their horses.
“I am very lucky to have a dream job at Ballydoyle, to be riding work on the best horses in the sport is unbelievable.
“I’m also in a privileged position that when the senior jockeys in the yard are away around the world riding, I fall in for some cracking rides at home.”
Before returning to Ireland in early 2017 the east Cork man spent some time based with Mick Channon in England, while there he had plenty of success but never really settled in.
“I rode a few winners while I was based with Mick, having been away from home for a few years I began to get homesick, to tell you the truth. I didn’t enjoy the endless hours of driving to a meeting and back again in the evening, I found it all a bit much and it was taking the enjoyment out of it for me.
“Fozzy Stack asked me if I would consider signing on with him as an apprentice and I jumped at the opportunity. I returned home in 2017 and haven’t looked back since,” he says.
Killian made the move recently to Ballydoyle where he quickly fitted in.
His experience of riding against the clock in America is something that Aidan O’Brien is a fan of.
The talented rider has a bright future ahead of him, he is getting his fair share of outside rides and with the backing of the most powerful yard in Europe he is sure to continue to develop into one of the leading riders in Ireland.
“My aim for the season is to keep my head down, work as hard as I can and ride plenty of winners.”