Jody Townend has one clear goal in mind for the upcoming season - to ride at the Cheltenham Festival, writes Tom Masters.
The reigning Champion Female Amateur Jockey, whose brother Paul is a four-time Irish National Hunt Champion Jockey, recovered from a broken back, and subsequent infection of the two rods placed there to help her heal, to become back-to-back winner.
She won nine races en route to her first title but she significantly beat that second time around, taking a whopping 26 from just 83 rides, and victory aboard Whiskey Lullaby at Fairyhouse on Saturday took her tally to 11 so far this time around.
“Well, I only get what Paddy (Mullins) leaves behind him, which isn’t too much!" Townend said.
“But I try to take every opportunity I get and make the most of it, so hopefully I can get in a few nice ones.
“I got to ride Redemption Day last year in the Champion Bumper at Punchestown which was nice, unfortunately she got injured so will miss this year but it is nice to be getting spins on grade one horses.
“I’d like to keep a hold of the Championship, there is a long way to go, but I just want to keep riding winners. Last year it went really well, so I just want to do the same as that really.
“I had a mighty year last year, I had 26 winners, I only had nine the year before, so to have 26 winners was unbelievable, I could not have imagined doing that, so that is a target, to try and beat that again.”
When asked about the big festivals, there was one that sprung to mind straight away - Cheltenham, where her brother has ridden 23 winners, including two Gold Cup wins on Al Boum Photo.
“I actually haven’t ridden at Cheltenham yet, so if I could ride there this year that would really be a dream come true,” said Townend.
“We take every race as it comes, and even to be riding in the big races at Leopardstown and Punchestown, they are graded, so I will take whatever I can get anyway.
“I am very lucky where I am, Willie (Mullins) will have two horses for those races, so it is nice to get the leg up in those races.”
Townend has taken the amateur scene by storm but riding for the great Willie Mullins comes with significant pressure.
Luckily, Paul is Mullins’ stable jockey and he was there every step of the way, something Townend will always appreciate.
She added: “It was massive, I think the biggest thing for me was the weighing room is a daunting place and I was very lucky to have him there, minding me and things and just something that small can mean so much.
“His friends as well, they were always there if I needed help, to have that as an amateur is incredible, if I needed anything or if there was anything I needed to know, it was massive to have them all there and I’m very lucky.”