An Interview with Jockey Richie McLernon
Richard ‘Richie’ McLernon, 35, is from Mallow in County Cork and has many family connections to racing. ‘I was born into a racing family from both sides,’ he explains. ‘My uncle was Tommy Carmody and Granduncle was Bill McLernon. Mum and Dad both rode winners.’ It was only natural to follow in their footsteps and become a jockey.
Richie rode his first ever winner in a point-to-point on Killultagh Thunder on the Feburary 2005 at Punchestown ‘Point. His first winner under Rules came on Teo Perugo on the June 2006 at Tralee for his early supporter, the trainer Eugene O’Sullivan.
To continue to further his career, Richie moved and joined Jonjo O’Neill, where he’s been part of the furniture ever since. He rode his first winner for O’Neill – the first in the UK – at the end of October 2007 on Castlecrossings at Towcester.
Richie has now had over 350 winners (and counting), riding most regularly for Jonjo O’Neill and Ben Haslam. He’s ridden three Festival winners for long time boss O’Neill – a JLT on Alfie Sherrin in 2012 and back-to-back wins on stalwart Holywell. He won a Classic Chase on Kimberlite Candy in 2012 for Tom Lacey, a horse on which he also came second in two Becher Chases. He won a Paddy Power Gold Cup in ’14 on Johns Spirit for O’Neill, a 2015 Rendlesham Hurdle on Closing Ceremony for Emma Lavelle and a Swinton Hurdle on Gwafa for Paul Webber in 2016. These all add up to numerous big prizes on the ever-green Regal Encore for Anthony Honeyball, including a Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot.
Richie lives in the Gloucestershire village of Shipton Oliffe, near Cheltenham, and has a partner, Brooke Young.
Did you have a horsey childhood?
Yes, I was very lucky that we always had ponies outside the door. Judy was our childhood pony that my sisters and I all shared and on which we learned to ride. We all hunted with the Duhallows and it gave us a great grounding.
What’s your first racing memory?
Going to Dromahane point-to-point. I used to love going there as a child and was lucky enough to ride a treble there on New Year’s Day 2007 for Eugene O’Sullivan.
How did you get into racing?
My family would go to point-to-points every weekend and I would be landed on John Joe Walsh’s horse lorry to help out and lead up. I would ride out there every summer and at weekends. I rode five ‘point winners for Adrian Maguire in my last year in school. After I had finished my exams, I worked for Eugene O’Sullivan for two years, where we enjoyed great success together.
Is it true you lead up Denman for his point-to-point victory?
I did, in Liscarroll, which is only about half a mile from my parents’ farm. He was a big boisterous horse. He was like a teenager but history showed he channelled that energy to go on to great things.
When did you come over to the UK and for which trainer?
I came to work for Jonjo in July 2007 for a two-week trial and I’ve been with him ever since. It was through Jerome Casey that Jonjo came to know about me. The O’Neills have treated me like family since day one and I’m very lucky to be associated with them.
How different was it working over here compared to at home?
There was a big difference. Working at somewhere like Jackdaws Castle was unreal, with the great facilities and horses available there. Working for Eugene always taught me to work hard and you’ll get rewarded and I brought that ethic over with me and it paid off.
Cheltenham, for the atmosphere. It is the be-all and end-all of racing.
The Cheltenham Festival. It’s what you dream of as a jockey/owner/trainer/breeder/stable hand.
Holywell. He gave me my best days in racing winning twice at the Cheltenham Festival. He’s now retired at home in Ireland with my parents. He was always a pleasure to do anything with.
What have been your best days in racing so far?
I’ve been lucky enough to ride three Cheltenham Festival winners. I’d love to ride another before I finish riding.
Which race would you most like to ride the winner of?
Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Who is your racing hero?
Anyone who works in racing. I admire your desire and passion to do what you do.
Is social media positive or negative?
Both positive and negative. All social media can be used in a good way to promote the positives of racing. If all accounts were monitored and verified then maybe it wouldn’t be so easy for abuse and it used to be negatively targeted at people.
What are the best aspects of being a jockey?
You get to spend your days with friends doing what you enjoy.
And the worst?!
Not being able to have a life outside of racing. The calendar is a joke.
If you weren’t a jockey, then what would you be?
Not a clue. I do love horses, so some aspect of equine discipline. I’m not sure what I’d do if I had to get a real job.
What’s the best advice you can give?
Get an education. Horses will always be there and you’ll have something to fall back on. Work hard and do it properly.
I love going for meals with friends. It’s hard to try to organise anything though with the way racing is scheduled. I had a great Sunday roast last weekend with friends. No Sunday racing is great.
Being brought up hunting with the Duhallow Hunt, I’m lucky enough to get the odd day out over here. Kielan Woods and Sam Twiston-Davies are normally my partners on a day out. It’s a great way to enjoy the beautiful countryside. Hunting is the backbone of our great sport.
Anything Brooke cooks. It’s always delicious.
Classic oatmeal porridge from Starbucks’.
Favourite holiday destination:
Photo Credit: The Sun