THE international racing scene moves to Hong Kong this weekend with jockey Wayne Lordan travelling with the Aidan O’Brien contingent.
Following his Breeders Cup victory aboard Iridessa, the Upton rider has been looking back on another magnificent season.
When Lordan decided to go full-time in 2017 with O’Brien, many people felt it would affect his chances of big race success. But the very opposite has been the case with the Cork man adding two significant Group 1 victories to his CV this season.
“Winning in America aboard Iridessa was certainly very special and up there with everything I’ve achieved. The Breeders Cup brings horses from all over the world and it is so difficult to win there,” said Lordan.
“But everything went right and to come out on top was so special. Joseph O’Brien has broken all the records in the book now as a jockey and trainer and to be part of a team effort like this was very satisfying. It was a huge success that we’ll cherish for a long time to come.
“The year started off in such brilliant fashion with a Classic victory aboard Hermosa in the 1000 Guineas in May. She did it the hard way and is such a very tough filly. Winning a big Group 1 at Newmarket so early in the season just gives you real confidence.
“Iridessa then won the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh and the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown. Winning at these big meetings keeps your name in the news and gives you opportunities to get on good horses.
“Thankfully, I heard Joseph (O’Brien) say in one of the interviews afterwards that Iridessa will be kept in training next season which was certainly great news.”
For most jockeys getting on these Group 1 horses is almost impossible. When Lordan split from Tommy Stack and moved to O’Brien it was a brave move.
There is a pecking order in Ballydoyle with Ryan Moore having first choice at all the big meetings.
Seamus Heffernan has been with the team for almost two decades while Donncha O’Brien is currently the Champion Jockey. But Lordan was wisely looking at the bigger picture and knew the calibre and pedigree of horse that Aidan O’Brien was training.
“I ride out at Ballydoyle six mornings a week with Aidan. Sometimes Joseph might work horses before or after racing. Maybe some lunchtimes in the springtime.
He’s after a magnificent season on the flat and he had three winners over jumps at Cork last Sunday. The fact he is doing it in both codes tells you how good he is.”
Following his brilliant success on Iridessa, there was little time for celebration as Wayne Lordan jumped on a plane and travelled to the Melbourne Cup in Australia. The lengthy journey almost proved worthwhile as the Upton rider was eventually placed third.
“There wasn’t much time for hanging around as we had a flight to Australia which we’ve done regularly enough from the Breeders Cup in California.
“Il Paradiso was my ride and normally is a front runner.
“But when the stalls opened he just sat back on me. At that stage, I was last of the 24 runners and thought my race was over. But we found a few gaps and finished really strongly.
“We finished fourth and got promoted to third after a stewards enquiry. In this game, there is no point in looking back.
“Riding in races like the Melbourne Cup is amazing and it is certainly the race that stops a nation. Hopefully, we’ll get back there for another go next year
“As a jockey, we get used to adapting to the different styles and tracks. The tracks in America all go left-handed which just doesn’t suit some horses. Plenty of our two-year-olds don’t race on tracks with a bend. For example, a lot of them might just race on the Curragh or Ascot.
“Some of these American tracks might only be seven furlongs or a mile in circumference. The tracks are very tight and a lot of horses in America are actually trained on the track.
“Our horses are trained totally differently and are taught to relax when they jump from the stalls. So there are a lot of differences with the racing over there and that’s why the European horses find it so tough to win over there.
“When the American horses come over to Royal Ascot they bomb out from the stalls, but in the final furlong they start to fade.”
Lordan is living the dream right now and is so appreciative of his role. His ability to ride winners on the world stage has made him a world-class rider. But racing is a great leveller as he explains.
“When you start out the first winner is the biggest thing in the world, then it’s a listed winner and on to a Group winner. My first Group 1 winner, on Sole Power, was unbelievable so we constantly reassess our goals I suppose. Going to America and winning over there is very special as the odds are probably stacked against you.
“But I’m very lucky to be riding for Ballydoyle and they travel the world with high-class horses. The all-weather in Dundalk keeps us going in the winter until the new crop of two-year-olds appear in the spring again. ”