www.indiarace.com: I want to keep my links to India strong

"I want to keep my links to India strong"

Niall McCullagh is an accomplished jockey. He is equally proficient when it comes to understanding and maintaining relationships. The affable McCullagh took a few minutes to talk to our International Editor, Tom Krish, before getting ready to ride Pepe Junior in Sunday’s sixth race at Mahalaxmi.  

“I have been in India for about three weeks,” Niall McCullagh began.

“I rode in my first race on Thursday. I finished second, I was pleased. Since my arrival, I have been working horses. I have also been renewing friendships. My riding in the coming meetings will be better. I will be better focused and mentally better prepared.”

I asked Niall if he did any riding in Ireland before leaving for India. “I am not 100% yet. I believe I am about 80% but I feel great and my riding is close to my best level.  No, I did not do any riding home. I am getting back into the groove only in India.”

I wanted to know if he missed any winners by not getting to India in November. “Sure, I missed a lot of them. There’s nothing I can do. All the good horses are taken with so many of them (from abroad) here.”

The articulate Niall continued, “The season in Ireland starts on February 29. I want to be there for the opening. I do not think I will be here for the Invitation (Cup) weekend. There are no possible mounts at this time.”

You may be wondering why Niall would make the trip to India for a handful of rides. He had the perfect rationale. “You have to keep the contacts going. My injury stopped me from many good partnerships. I want to keep the friendships going. When I come back in November 2008, trainers and owners will be more inclined to let me ride for them. That is why I felt it was necessary to come here. Missing an entire season would have been a much tougher climb for me.”

We joked about Ireland having the lion’s share of foreign jockeys in India. I pointed out that fans in India have missed him and he is being used as the yardstick by which others are judged. “I am flattered. You are right about Ireland and that makes my job harder.”

“Take a minute to say hello to me when you are at the Curragh,” said Niall. The Curragh in Dublin is one of the stops in my racing itinerary. I attend the Irish Derby festival. This year, the festival runs from June 27 thru June 29.


Date: Feb 19, 2008