West Cork jockey Brian Hayes on the thrill of the Grand National

'It is a very physically demanding sport; you have to love it...'
West Cork jockey Brian Hayes on the thrill of the Grand National

Sweet Sixteen and Brian Hayes won the Copper Coast Handicap Hurdle from Match My Fire. Picture: Healy Racing

CORK jockey Brian Hayes has enjoyed a very successful season.

The Rosscarbery man recently completed his first Grand National and he enjoyed a strong debut as he finished in 15th place.

“It was a great experience. I was pleased with my performance.

“It was nice to get around and finish the race as it is such a famous event. It is a very tough event,” he said. “The lack of a crowd did take away from the atmosphere, but it was still very enjoyable.”

The 32-year-old was a late developer as a jockey. He doesn’t hail from a horse racing family and it was only when he was in his fourth year in school that he got a yearning for it.

“I went to work under Thomas O’Leary in Clonakilty when I was in Transition Year. I got the bug really.

“I rode my first point-to-point winner when I was 17. I did two years in college and I continued to ride away as an amateur.

“After college, I decided to turn professional. I was fortunate to learn under great trainers. I am learning and improving every year. This season is going very well so far.”

He has been very fortunate to have avoided serious injuries throughout his sporting career.

“It is a very physically demanding sport. It is tough but very enjoyable. You have to love it. I have been lucky with injuries. I have had small injuries with my shoulder and collar bones, but nothing major thankfully.”

Brian enjoyed a successful Cheltenham Festival this year. He rode a number of horses, mainly for renowned trainer Willie Mullins. His best finish was fourth. 

There is a great buzz. It is like the Olympics of horse racing. It is where every jockey wants to be.”

This week the Punchestown Festival is taking place.

“We are in the middle of a busy schedule which is great. This tests you both mentally and physically.

“I have recently competed in the three big events in Cheltenham, Fairyhouse, and Aintree."

His partner Rachael Blackmore has enjoyed a dream season.

She became the first female jockey to win the Ruby Walsh Trophy for leading Cheltenham jockey and she became the first female jockey to win the Grand National.

“She is absolutely flying it. She is on the crest of a wave.”

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