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Ticking Over in Winter

Goals for the year are usually set in January and Kevin Ryan’s young apprentice, Oisin McSweeney is no exception.

After spending Christmas at home in Ireland with the family, Oisin is rested and ready to hit the turf running.

Having ridden 23 winners last season, his debut season in the UK, the 20-year-old has had a quieter winter, in order to preserve his claim for the busy turf season.  However, his agent, Niall Hannity and the boss have allowed him to take a select few rides on horses he has previously won on, as well as for trainers that supported him last summer.

“My first goal is to beat last year’s score,” enthuses Oisin.

For some it would be frustrating to hold a license and not being able to race ride everyday, but Oisin can see the bigger picture.  He’s looking to the future and at this early stage in his career he knows that to make an impression on the big stage he needs to make use of every advantage he has got.  He is excellent value for his 5lb claim and needs to be able to show this in the Summer months, for his own stable, as well as picking up outside rides and building connections with other yards.

“I trust Kevin when he tells me not to ride and I know he will support me when the turf season starts,” reflected Oisin.

So what has Oisin been doing to keep busy?  He reports that the yard is back in full swing as most of the older horses have returned to work and he’s enjoying riding the two-year-olds.

“I love riding them all as it gives you a chance to work out how good you think they are going to be and I’ll get to see once they make the track.  At this stage they could be anything and that’s really exciting”

I wondered if a quieter winter meant that Oisin had been able to spend some time working on his golf handicap, but he admits to being a fair-weather golfer after a recent visit to the driving range in “Baltic” conditions.  The clubs have been put away until the sun comes out!

He has been making regular visits to Jack Berry House for jockey coaching sessions with Kim Tinkler and gym sessions, as well as circuit classes.

“There’s nothing like race riding to keep you race fit, but this is the next best thing and I’m doing as much as I can to stay fit and get stronger.  I want to give myself the upper hand when I’m back riding full time.”

The one thing that is really making Oisin dream big and inspiring him for the turf season ahead is the Christmas present he received from his mother, Pat Smullen’s memoir, Champion.

Oisin admits, “I’m not much of a reader but I can’t put this book down.  I read a couple of chapters before I go to bed every night.  I’m really enjoying it and also learning from it.”

“When I’ve finished this I’d like to read some more jockeys’ autobiographies so if anyone can recommend something I’d love to hear their suggestions.”