AFTER the heady highs of Cheltenham, thoughts now turn to the end-of-season spring Festivals at Aintree, Fairyhouse and Punchestown.
Paul Townend, fresh from a magnificent Cheltenham, will look to close out another Irish National Hunt Jockeys title. Townend has won the last four Irish Jockeys Championships and five in total, his first victory coming in the 2010-‘11 season.
Townend is in the drivng seat ahead of Jack Kennedy, who broke his leg following a fall at Naas in January. Townend has been operating at a remarkable 38% strike rate which is impressive when you compare it to Colin Keane’s 12% strike rate as Flat champion jockey.
This weekend sees the start of the Irish Flat season at headquarters The Curragh on Saturday, with Naas providing quality Flat fare on Sunday.
Crossbarry native Wayne Lordan had an excellent second half of last season finishing joint fourth in the Irish Flat Jockey’s title race behind Colin Keane on 52 winners.
Aidan O’Brien provided Wayne with 28 of those victories last season.
Lordan joined the Ballydoyle operation at the start of 2017 and he landed his first classic success aboard Winter in the English 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket in his first season at Ballydoyle. He replicated that English 1,000 Guineas success aboard Hermosa in the 2019 equivalent giving the Ballydoyle filly a masterclass ride from the front to repel Lady Kaya.
Lordan has enjoyed great success on fillies, undoubtedly his career highlight was victory on Joseph O’Brien’s Iridessa in the Breeders Cup at Santa Anita in 2019 in the Filly and Mare Turf. She won by a neck and Wayne was complimentary afterward of trainer Joseph O’Brien for not tying him to instructions. Iridessa gave Wayne two other huge Group One victories that season in the Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh and in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown.
Undoubtedly the highlight from last season was his virtuoso ride from off the pace on Waterville in the €600k Irish Cesarewitch at The Curragh which earned Wayne the HRI Ride Of The Year award.
Lordan was quick to praise the master of Ballydoyle Aidan O’Brien for his instructions,telling him to be patient,that the horse would come back on the bridle and to ride him with lots of confidence. He carried out those instructions to perfection and came fast and late to collar Echoes Of Rain by a neck.
Lordan remarked after that incredible ride: “I enjoyed it, well when I got to the line in front I enjoyed it.”
He’s come a long way since his debut success for Gerry Cully on Ethbaat in a 0-65 handicap Killarney in July 1998 under 7.12 under a strong Lordan drive.