CORK-Waterford point-to-point jockey, James Hannon, was building momentum, with eight winners on the board, before racing was brought to a halt because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The century mark for career point winners was also in his sights, but that’s all on hold, for the foreseeable future.
Currently, he’s focusing on the day-to-day running of his family-owned breeding and pre-training yards, along the Cork-Waterford border. Something of a veteran of the local scene, the 36-year-old has enjoyed some of his best-ever seasons, in recent years.
With over 20 years of race-riding experience, and 95 career winners between the flags, he has become one of the most-established names on the circuit.
The season had been going well, and Hannon was motoring.
But, as is every other sport, point-to-point racing is off, for the next few weeks at least.
“I’d eight winners, so it was going well. From now on, usually, that’s when you start getting into your busiest time of the year,” Hannon says.
“I was in line with having as good a year as I’ve had in the last two years (12 and 14 winners). I had plenty of horses left to ride for the rest of the year, that I was looking forward to.
“Harry Kelly had a blast of them to come out again, shortly. They (the team there) are very good to me and I ride all of those horses now.
“So, it was a shame (to have point-to-points cancelled). Part of the point-to-pointing is, you go off and you’d have the craic on a Sunday.
“There’s camaraderie. You’d miss that of a Sunday. But public health is a lot more important than anything else,’’ Hannon said.
The local jockey is determined to take the positives out of what is an extremely difficult situation for everybody.
Less racing means that, as well as continuing on with the routine at his own yard, and that of his parents’ stud farm, he also gets to spend a lot more time with his children.
‘‘I was up the other morning, early. I came down to the yard; I had the horses fed, left out, and I did whatever I had to do.
“I looked at the clock: it said, 25 to 11 I thought, ‘what am I going to do for the rest of the day?’
“I have two young kids: James Jr is three in May and Tom is only seven months old. It’s a little bit of time which I’ll get to spend with them that I wouldn’t normally get. Every cloud has a silver lining,” Hannon says.
“The kids are enjoying having me around, so far anyway. James Jr was looking to go racing the other morning, but I had to tell him it was cancelled! Annie, my wife, enjoys watching me racing.
“She’s not big into racing, but she’s interested in our own horses. She helps out in the yard and cleans out the stables with me,” Hannon said.
His parents, James and Marian, with help from Hannon and his brother, Ian, run a very successful breeding operation, at the Old Road Stud, in Glenaglough, Tallow.
The Old Road Stud is home to Aintree Grand National-winning sire, Cloudings, and former St Leger winner, Arctic Cosmos.
Between Hannon’s workload there and the growing numbers at his own breeding and pre-training yard, in nearby Curraheen, he’s seldom idle.
“We’ll always have plenty to do, with the stud farm at home, and in my place I’ve mares and young horses.
“I’d have about 18 here, at the moment. It’s growing all the time. So, I’ve plenty to be at. There are 25 mares to foal between the two places for the year,” Hannon said.
“We are only after starting off foaling now; three colts and a filly, so far. It’ll be busy. The point-to-points often work in well with our business, because when the season starts quietening down, the stud always runs into that.
“Then, you’re into sales again in November, and you are prepping those horses from September on,’’ Hannon said.
The horses to follow, from Hannon’s mounts across the 2019-20 campaign, are Boher Cailin and Maccloud.
He steered them to their respective victories and believes the pair could both make an impact on the racecourse.
Of the rest of his winners, this term, Tallow For Coal also stood out.
“I won on a five-year-old horse (Maccloud), and a four-year-old mare (Boher Cailin), on the same day, at Turtulla.
“The four-year-old mare, trained by Ian Power, is a Mahler mare. She won very, very well. She won with plenty up her sleeve that day,” Hannon said.
“She could be a proper-good little mare over hurdles. I won on the five-year-old horse for Paddy Neville, a Cloudings horse.
“He looks like (Aintree Grand National winner) Many Clouds, he’s the same size as Many Clouds, and he’s going to be a proper staying chaser, down the line,” Hannon said.
“He jumps unreal and he gallops all day. He is 17 hands. I think he has the makings of a very good horse.
“My mother and father bred the horse I won on for Pat Collins, at Knockanard this year. He’s a four-year-old Arctic Cosmos horse (called Tallow For Coal).
“Every winner is nice, but that (family connection) always makes it better,” Hannon said.