McDermott living life in the fast lane on transatlantic travels

Veteran jockey races in America during the summer and Ireland in the winter

Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Sean McDermott 220120

Emily Square and Sean McDermott before running in the TRI Handicap Hurdle at Leopardstown in 2019

It is often said that variety is the spice of life, something which Tralee jockey Sean McDermott certainly subscribes to, writes Bradley West

This is because, since first riding over in America in 2013, McDermott has ever since balanced his time between racing stateside from March to November every year with returning home to ride in Ireland during the winter months.

And, having experienced the travails of the predominantly east coast racing across the pond, the veteran rider who had his first winner 20 years ago feels he has become much more well-rounded as a result of his travels.

“The opportunity of winning races and riding good horses, consistently, is what brought me to America – and the prize money is so lucrative,” McDermott said.

“It’s the timing that works well. In November I think it’s a good opportunity to return home every time and ride over the winter, keep up my contacts and source some horses that I can maybe take back over there.

“It’s just very different to Ireland, France or Britain, the size of the country is hard to get your head around. You have to travel a horse for ten hours.

“If you can imagine today’s racing being in France and the north of England and every trainer in Ireland had to do that, with numbers and staff and logistics it’s the reason they don’t have midweek racing generally.

“I’ve learnt a lot about riding and more about horses in general from going to America.

“The training side of it especially because I’ve worked and ridden for a lot of the best trainers over here in Ireland and over there now, and even through the summer months on the flat I’ve worked for some of the top trainers.

“They’re quite eager to get a European rider on their good flat horses, if you’re Irish or French or from Great Britain you’re pretty valuable to them.

“Even seeing the way they do flat racing over there compared to Ireland, you can learn a lot about the medication and travelling horses.”

Unfortunately for him, it has certainly not been a great winter this time round with McDermott dogged by injury following a heavy fall stateside in October where he sustained five fractured ribs and a punctured lung.

After returning home in December and recuperating in time to race once again on St Stephen’s Day, things got worse when he cracked his T1 vertebrae in a fall just days later – a injury which has put the brakes on his schedule at a crucial time.

He added: “This winter back home has gone quite badly.

“The first injury itself was sore but not as bad as I thought. But it kept me from doing anything really, I couldn’t even fly for a certain period.

“I eased back into racing but had a heavy fall again on New Year’s Day at Fairyhouse on Howaya Aoife which had a good chance of winning.

“That was a quick five-day return which was very frustrating. If I didn’t crack my T1 vertebrae, I would have probably kicked on but I had to have x-rays and the hope now is it’ll be healed in four weeks.

“The risk is it’s sitting on a large ligament through my spine so I don’t want to take another fall on it.

“I’m eager to get back quick but I guess my time will be cut short in having to return to America again.

“You’d love to have a nice ride at Cheltenham but it’s probably not a possibility for me this year, you never say never though.

“It’s frustrating watching races from over Christmas time and January but sitting on the sidelines has given me a great desire to return to full fitness.

“I’ve been lucky with trainers before and snuck a few winners every winter in Ireland, and I was hoping for the same or a little more this time to put my name in the hat for a few more spares going for some races than in years past due to jockeys retiring but this little injury has kept me out of that sadly.”

They’re quite eager to get a European rider on their good flat horses, if you’re Irish or French or from Great Britain you’re pretty valuable to them.

- Sean McDermott

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