Denis Hogan bowed out as a jockey in style and says a desire to focus on his training commitments was what motivated his retirement from the saddle, writes Will Jennings.
The dual rider and handler piloted Bua Boy to one final crowning glory in the Galway sunshine on Thursday evening before drawing the curtain on his glittering career as a jockey at the age of 33.
Hogan, who trains Ireland’s superstar sprinters Sceptical and Make A Challenge, banged in his maiden winner on the Flat at Killarney in 2003 before going on to enjoy a successful National Hunt career in tandem with top trainer Charlie Swan.
Hogan has dovetailed his exploits in the saddle with becoming one of Ireland’s most exciting young trainers and after hanging up his riding boots at Ballybrit, says maintaining a focus on his handling was at the heart of his decision.
“It’s been in my head a while - I love doing it and I don’t really want to give it up, but at the same time I’ve got bigger commitments now,” he said.
“It’s important to my owners and my staff, as I have a duty to them - it’s hard to do both, but I’ve really enjoyed it and I will miss it.
“Even now, I’m still enjoying it, I love riding and I’d love to go out on the next but I have bigger commitments now.
“It’s a great buzz riding winners for yourself - you know going out what to expect, and when it comes off it’s good, just like today.
“To keep an eye on everything is hard - we’re flat out but I love it, and the busier the better for me!”
Hogan has managed his training and riding exploits with great dexterity since turning his hand to becoming a dual discipline master in 2009.
He enjoyed a prolific partnership with fellow jockey-turned-trainer Swan after switching to National Hunt racing at the beginning of his career, notching no fewer than seven winners in his maiden season in the saddle.
And it was Swan who first ignited Hogan’s passion for racing after he built a riding school, as the seeds for Hogan’s career were sewn before he then went on to ride for fellow top trainer Mick Halford.
He later returned to Swan and enjoyed a thrilling five years alongside the 17-time Cheltenham Festival winner, before taking out his own trainer’s license in 2009 as he embarked on his versatile journey.
He partnered his first winner as a trainer himself when Kylebeg Krystle reigned supreme at Thurles back in 2010, before also going on to ride the likes of Kalellshan, Youcantcallherthat and Moyhenna to memorable victories.
His two Grade Two successes came aboard Youcantcallherthat and Moyhenna in the Charleville EBF Novice Steeplechase in both 2018 and 2019, as he marked himself out as a joint trainer-rider to watch from his County Tipperary base.
Hogan has more recently gone on to train Irish speedsters Sceptical and Make A Challenge, with Sceptical being narrowly beaten in this year’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and Newmarket’s Darley July Cup.
Hogan’s final ride as a jockey came on Bua Boy in Galway’s Arthur Guinness Handicap Hurdle, as stalemate Alabaster chased him home with Rachael Blackmore on board.
The talented Hogan retires with a reputation as a successful National Hunt jockey and was thrilled to bow out with a brilliant one-two finish on his own terms.
“My other lad [Alabaster] was chasing me home, so it was a good result all round!” he added.
“Charlie [Swan] started me off and I probably wouldn’t have got into racing if it wasn’t for Charlie - he built a riding school back in my youth and me, my sister and a few other locals lived there at the weekends.
“I drifted from there into the yard, then from there to Mick Halford, to being an apprentice on the Curragh and then back to Charlie before I started my doing my dual role.
“Up until last year I used to ride the full five lots every day - it wasn't ideal, but it worked for years and this year I’ve only been able to ride two lots on some days.
“My staff are all hard goers, my family are behind me and I’ve got a great team of owners, so I’m really looking forward to the future.”