Cork jockey Jerry McGrath shares his tips ahead of Cheltenham

Ballinora native is revelling in new role as a bloodstock agent and can't wait for the Festival
Cork jockey Jerry McGrath shares his tips ahead of Cheltenham

Beware The Bear winning jockey Jerry McGrath with his mother, Maureen and father, Pat, after the win. Picture: Healy Racing

FORMER Jockey Jerry McGrath is revelling in his new role as a bloodstock agent.

Following the announcement of his retirement just over a month ago the Ballinora native is getting familiar with his new role as a bloodstock agent with Goffs which will take him to all the major race meetings.

“I’ve just spent 10 days back in Ireland looking at horses so I’m very busy already,” McGrath said.

“Everyone is looking for the next Honeysuckle and there is a tremendous market. Retiring was probably taken out of my hands as the shoulder injury was very bad.

“After a second opinion and several operations, it was time to call it a day. When all the messages of support started coming in it sunk in that my life as a jockey was finished.

“It was a great 12 years and having worked in a place like Nicky Henderson’s was the stuff of dreams. Riding a couple of winners at Cheltenham was very special and having winners at places like Aintree will never be forgotten.

“Winning on Beware The Bear at Cheltenham with my parents on track was undoubtedly a great highlight.

“Working with horses like Simonsig, Sprinter Sacre and Shiskin was amazing, so we had great times but it’s time to take up a new challenge. My new role will bring me to all the big festivals. Finding the next superstar is the dream for every bloodstock agent so it’s been busy already. 

Beware the Bear ridden by jockey Jerry McGrath (left) and Santini ridden by Nico de Boinville in action. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Beware the Bear ridden by jockey Jerry McGrath (left) and Santini ridden by Nico de Boinville in action. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

“The timing of the new job offer was great, and I’ll be covering the south of England and the headquarters is in Scotland.

“Sourcing horses from the point-to-point fields or from the track will be a big part of this role.

“Already I’ve been covering a lot of sales and the market is strong.”

BATTLE

The Cheltenham Festival is now over two weeks away and excitement is building on both sides of the Irish Sea. The festival gets underway with the Supreme Novice Hurdle which is shaping up to be a real Anglo-Irish battle.

The Nicky Henderson duo of Constitution Hill and Jonbon disputing favouritism with the Willie Mullins duo Sir Gerhard and Dysart Dynamo.

All four horses have impressed at various stages and Mullins is likely to split his pair between this race and Ballymore.

While the Irish will be hoping to get off to a flyer there is plenty of confidence in the Henderson camp.

“Hopefully, they all get there is the first thing. It’s going to some start to the week with plenty of people making it the race of the festival.

“Both our horses worked during the week and the boss was happy with them. Constitution Hill is a very good horse having come over from Ireland through Barry Geraghty. Jonbon can be a bit buzzy but is very talented. Hopefully the occasion won’t get to him.

“But it’s Constitution Hill for me to get the meeting underway.

“Dusart will run in the three-mile novice chase and will be suited by Cheltenham. He’s a bit under the radar and will run well at a price. Walking On Air will run in the Ballymore and is very talented.”

Looking ahead to the big championship races the Henderson team will be represented in all the feature races.

Pride of place goes to the magnificent Shishkin who beat Energume in a titanic clash in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

CORKER

The stable star is owned by Cork man Joe Donnelly who was a well-known bookmaker here in Cork.

Shiskin is great and worked nicely during the week. Obviously, he won a classic the last day against the Mullins horse, but everyone is delighted the way Shiskin has come out of the race.

“Winning a Champion Chase is never easy and the likes of Energume and Chaqun Pour Soi will be tough to beat.

“But our horse is unbeaten in his 11 completed races. The Champion Hurdle is all about Honeysuckle and she looks unbeatable.

“But as we all know there is no such thing in horse racing. Epatante is a dual champion and if she finished in the first three we would be thrilled.

“The Stayers Hurdle has an open look to it and our horse Chantry House must have a massive chance.

“I know he won the RSA already at the festival meeting, but he deserves to win one of the big four championship races.

“We are delighted with him, so fingers crossed we get him there in one piece.“

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is always the ultimate test of horse and rider and like the Stayers race this year’s big one has an open feel to it.

A Plus Tard and Rachael Blackmore are likely to go off favourites. They finished runners-up last season and failed narrowly to reel in her stablemate Minello Indo.

Davy Russell and Galvin will be a massive player and would be a hugely popular winner on Leeside.

“The Gold Cup is always the highlight of the meeting, and we are represented by Chantry House who won the Jewson Novice Chase last year. Now he has disappointed this season and ran poorly in the King George at Kempton.

“But Nicky Henderson is a genius for getting horses right for the big day.

“I’m a massive fan of Galvin as well and he should be bang there. He won the National Hunt Chase last year so we know he will stay the trip and its that final couple of furlongs up that famous hill that makes great champions.

“Quite honestly, I can’t wait.”

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