'I always wanted to be a jockey, Nina Carberry inspired my confirmation name'

'I always wanted to be a jockey, Nina Carberry inspired my confirmation name'
Great White Shark and Jody Townend win for trainer Willie Mullins last year in Galway. Picture: Healy Racing.

IN the latest in our series from Horse Racing Ireland, Barbara White chats to East Cork jockey Jody Townend.

What was your childhood ambition?

“I always wanted to be a jockey, once I was with the horses I was happy I was never big into the books.”

Growing up, who was your sporting hero?

“Nina Carberry, I even took Nina as my confirmation name!”

Do you have a mentor?

“My father would be my biggest mentor, he’d be the person I’d go to for most advice. Paul is also very good for race riding advice, usually good constructive criticism!”

What or where is your happy place?

“Chilled hacks around the forest with my friends on my show jumper Jimmy.”

What sparked your love of racing?

“We’ve always had racehorses at home. My father Tim trains point-to-pointers and a few for the track so I’ve been going racing before I could walk. I caught the bug very early and have loved it ever since.”

What horse put you on the map?

“Definitely ‘Great White Shark’ in the Connacht Hotel (QR) Handicap on the opening night of the Galway Festival last summer. The highlight of the racing calendar for amateur jockeys and we all want to win it.”

Who is your favourite horse?

“N’golo, a lovely young horse in training in Willie Mullins - he loves a cuddle!”

What was it like to ride in your first race?

“It’s a bit of a blur to be honest but I’ll never forget the adrenaline rush and thinking I can’t wait to do it again.”

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

“You’re always learning.”

Describe the feeling of riding your first winner?

“An unbelievable buzz. It was my first ride in a point-to-point and all the family were there.”

What is your most memorable racing moment?

“Most definitely winning the Connacht Hotel (QR) Handicap in Galway on Great White Shark for Willie Mullins. That was a magical day, a day I’ll never forget.”

What is your favourite racecourse in Ireland?

“I’ve had a lot of luck around Tramore.”

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

“Probably a show jumper. I do a little bit of jumping every summer. I really enjoy producing the young horses and watching them progress before selling them on.”

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

“Chacun Pour Soi, he looks a joy to ride, uncomplicated, balanced and very scopey over a fence.”

What mental preparation do you do for the big days?

“As I said above I try not to overthink it and treat it as much like an ordinary day at the races as possible.”

How do you stay motivated?

“Being involved with good horses is very motivating.”

How do you deal with dips in form?

“Keep looking forward, there’s no future in the past.”

Outside of racing, what is your favourite sporting moment?

“Katie Taylor winning her gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012.”

Can you give us a Netflix/film recommendation?

“Money Heist.”

What is your guilty pleasure?

“Love Island!”

Desert island discs – name your favourite three songs?

Johnny Run Away- Tones and I; Bright Blue Rose - Mary Black; Travelin’ Soldier - Dixie Chicks.”

What person do you admire the most and why?

“My brother Paul, his success speaks for itself. He’s remained so level-headed whilst achieving so much. He also hasn’t forgotten how to enjoy himself!”

Paul and Jody Townend share a love of racing. Picture: Caroline Norris
Paul and Jody Townend share a love of racing. Picture: Caroline Norris

Favourite dinner?

“Roast beef, spuds and gravy.”

Where is your favourite place to go on holidays?

“Albufeira, Portugal.”

What ambitions do you have?

“Just keep riding winners.”

What is the hidden gem of Cork?

“Smart’s Bar in Ballincurrig, a lovely little Irish country pub with a good racing interest.”

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

“My family, along with the quiet countryside and my dogs!”

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

“Dad’s keeping me busy breaking a few horses, my sister Caroline also got me baking and I am trying my hand at being a beautician. Social distancing might want to continue a bit longer; nobody would want to be looking at us too closely!”

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

“Don’t forget to have a laugh and a joke, if we don’t laugh we’ll cry.”

Favourite saying/quote?

“She believed she could so she did.”

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