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  • Writer's pictureJo O'Neill

An Interview with Jody Townend, Irish Champion Lady Amateur Jockey

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

Despite her focus initially being on showjumping, Jody Townend had such a terrific racing family pedigree, so perhaps it was inevitable that she’d, one day, be riding in races. Her older brother Paul is Irish Champion and dual Gold Cup-winning jockey. Her cousin is former top jockey Davy Condon and her dad, Tim, is a trainer. There’s more too: ‘On my Dad’s side, he and his brother Bob were both jockeys,’ says Jody, ‘and my Grandad Kevin, on my Mam’s side, also used to train.’ Keeping it in the family, Jody’s dad provided her, aged seventeen, with a winner on her first ever ride in a point-to-point.

Photo Credit: Punchestown Racecourse

Yet, Jody’s talent and success goes beyond being in her blood. She can hold her head high, riding with talent and determination to secure, so far, many big successes. She overcame a serious injury to her T12 vertebrae, complicated by infection, resulting in three operations and nine months off… She won on Willie Mullins-trained Great White Shark at the 2019 Galway Festival on her fourth ride back. There has been a Grade 2 bumper at Leopardstown on Grangee at the 2021 Dublin Racing Festival for Mullins and, in April, at Punchestown Festival, she won a bumper on Adamantly Chosen. Days later, she collected the Irish Champion Lady Rider, as Paul collected his fourth Champion Jump Jockey title.

Jody celebrates after winning on Great White Shark at Galway in 2019

Photo credit: Horse Racing Ireland

Originally from Walshtown, Midleton, Co. Cork, Jody, 23, now lives from Monday to Thursday in Maddockstown, Co. Kilkenny, near Mullins’, and then goes home for the rest of the week. ‘I also ride bits of work for local trainers down home whenever I can,” says Jody, who has a little Jack Russell, Beanie and her own horse Jimmy, who is also a bit of a pet!

Did you have a horsey childhood?

Yeah, I was born into horses and they are in the blood from both my parents! I was on a pony before I could walk! I started off showing and doing a bit of jumping and hunting on a little white welsh section A called Homer who was handed down to me from my brother Paul. He was a real favourite at home as he had been around for so long!

How did you follow your brother Paul into racing?

I was actually more into showjumping and did a bit of eventing growing up and really enjoyed bringing on and selling young horses. I still keep two or three showjumpers but I haven’t as much time to put into them anymore. I always helped give Dad a hand riding out the racehorses at home in the mornings. Of course, following Paul day-in day-out kept me interested in racing. I’d always be either rushing home from school to watch him or checking the results!

I decided to get my license at 17 and had my first ride in a point-to-point for Dad not long after. I was lucky enough to win that day and I think, from then on, I was bitten by the racing bug!

Photo Credit: Horse Racing Ireland

What have been your best moments in racing so far?

I have been very lucky to have had some great successes so far. I suppose Great White Shark winning the big amateur handicap in Galway in 2019 was a massive one for me as it was my first big win and first success on the big stage. The crowd and the atmosphere walking back in afterwards are something I’ll never forget.

I have also enjoyed other fantastic days including being part of the Princess Zoe story by winning the Ladies Derby on her before she went on to Group 1 success for Tony Mullins. I won a Grade 2 in Leopardstown at the Dublin Racing Festival on Grangee for Willie Mullins in what was my first ever ride in a graded race. I then finished off last season with another big win in the Land Rover bumper on Adamantly Chosen again for my boss Willie Mullins!

Where is your favourite racecourse?

I really like riding around Leopardstown as it’s such a big galloping track, but I also have to say Tramore as it has been a very lucky track for me!

Which is your favourite meeting?

I love Galway. When the crowds are there, the atmosphere when you’re riding is unreal and the social aspect of it isn’t bad either!!!

Which have been your favourite racehorses?

For me, Hurricane Fly has been one of my favourites, as I watched him all through his unbelievable career and he was such a big part of starting Paul’s. I’ve been lucky enough to meet him plenty of times and he’s got such a cheeky character, you have to love him! Also, watching Sprinter Sacre on his day used to give me goosebumps!

Who was your racing hero growing up?

Nina Carberry was my racing hero. I even took Nina as my confirmation name!

What are your hopes for the future?

I just hope to keep riding winners and hopefully ride out my claim someday would be great.

Two Champions: Jody alongside Brother Paul

Photo Credit: Punchestown Racecourse

Are you and Paul competitive against each other?!

We are but in a good way! We both like to see each other doing well and would be the first to congratulate each other after a winner.

What are your hobbies?

I like to do a bit of showjumping if I have a Sunday off and I like eating!

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

Albufeira, Portugal.

What is your favourite drink?

Coors light.

What is your favourite meal?

Steak and Spuds!

What’s your ideal day off?

What’s a day off?!!!

Jody on Great White Shark after the mare's Cesarewitch

success - note the shark fin hat silk!

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