New Zealand de­but mid­week maiden for Ir­ish come­back jockey

The New Zealand Herald - - Sport -

It may only be a maiden race at a mi­nor mid­week meet­ing, but it’s a big deal for Paul Gal­lagher mak­ing his come­back to race-rid­ing at Ro­torua to­mor­row.

Gal­lagher has been booked to ride the promis­ing Tough Kid for Cam­bridge trainer Shaune Ritchie in the Mills Reef Win­ery 1100 and, though he’s a new name for New Zealand rac­ing fans, the 32-year-old has in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence on his side, al­beit best known for his deeds as a jumps jockey.

The Ir­ish­man has had big­ger as­sign­ments as a rider, hav­ing en­joyed suc­cess in Eng­land, Ire­land and Aus­tralia and he has also rid­den in the fa­mous Grand Na­tional Steeplechase at Ain­tree. But he has been out of the race day sad­dle for 21⁄2 years since com­pet­ing in Vic­to­ria and South Aus­tralia.

“I don’t think I’ve been as ex­cited to be rid­ing in a race,” Gal­lagher said.

“It’ll be great to be back rid­ing and I’ve got a good chance. Tough Kid has good form and he’ll have blink­ers on for the first time at Ro­torua. Hope­fully I can kick off with a win­ner over here.”

Gal­lagher was en­ticed to come to New Zealand by his brother, Fer­gus, who has been work­ing for Cam­bridge trainer Tony Pike for 21⁄2 years.

“Tony gave me a job, too, and I’ve been here since the end of Sep­tem­ber. He told me that if I got my weight down he’d give me op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“I’ve been rid­ing work and at the tri­als for him and also had tri­als rides for Shaune Ritchie, Bren­don Hawtin and Stephen Marsh.

“I’ve had about 25 tri­als rides and, though rid­ing over jumps has been my bread and but­ter and that’s what I love most, I’ll be con­cen­trat­ing on get­ting as many flat rides as I can be­fore win­ter.”

Those tri­als rides in­clude a win at Waipa on the Pike-trained Rippa Ea­gle, who has gone on to win his last two starts in­clud­ing his pro­mo­tion from sec­ond at Eller­slie on Sun­day.

Gal­lagher comes from a rac­ing back­ground with his brother Mark be­ing a flat jockey in Ire­land with in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence and his other two brothers also rid­ers, while his fa­ther has been a fore­man for a top Ir­ish stable for many years.

Gal­lagher be­gan his ca­reer as a jockey in Ire­land with the leg­endary Dessie Hughes then shifted to Eng­land and teamed up suc­cess­fully with Howard John­son.

He won on his first ride at Ain­tree for John­son and his CV in­cludes two Ain­tree Fes­ti­val win­ners and a Chel­tenham win­ner. His most suc­cess­ful sea­son was 2010-11 sea­son with 26 win­ners when at­tached to the John­son stable.

“I rode over 120 win­ners in Eng­land and three or four in Ire­land,” he said.

Photo / Sup­plied

Jockey Paul Gal­lagher won more than 120 races in Eng­land.

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