Loving life in racing’s fast lane

What you see is very much what you get with Darren Egan.

What you see is very much what you get with Darren Egan.

At just 7st 3lbs and having barely turned 20, the Ballymahon jockey is enjoying arbuably his most successful spell as one of the Britain’s most talented apprentice jockeys.

With 24 winners to his name so far, 21 of which have come in the last three months alone, it’s hardly surprising that Egan’s name sits proudly at the top of the jockey’s championship.

For some, titles and accolades mean everything. For Egan, they are nothing more than mere asides.

“Some people say that I have a good chance of winning it (apprentice championship). I don’t know, we’ll see. I’m just happy doing what I’m doing and making sure not to ride out my claim too quick,” he candidly explained this week.

The ‘claim’ Egan almost flippantly alluded to relates to a weight allowance aspiring jockeys can call upon until they reach the 90 winner mark before turning professional.

Now based with Chepstow trainer Ron Harris, the former Ballymahon Vocational school student revealed he even contemplated giving up the sport after completing a brief spell with Kildare flat trainer, Kevin Prendergast.

“I went off it (racing) for a year and I kind of lost interest in it to be honest,” he frankly added. It was only when Egan talked things through with Colehill dual trainer, Paul Flynn that his appetite for the game suddenly returned.

“He (Flynn) just said ‘come and work for me’ and it really took off from there,” Egan recalled.

Riding out at the south Longford handler’s yard was one thing. What Egan desperately yearned for was the chance to pit his wits against the very best, the Johnny Murtaghs and Pat Smullens of this world.

That pair, along with Jim Bolger’s stable jockey, Kevin Manning have made the domestic flat season their own in recent years, so much so that race day riding opportunties have proved limited for aspiring young jockeys like Egan.

The only avenue left open was a shot at the UK riding scene, a move which the south Longford native has taken to with consummate ease.

“There wasn’t the same chances back home (in Ireland) so I said to myself that I would give it a go.”

Not long after his arrival, an opportunity arose at his present employer Ron Harris’ yard at Ridge House Stables, in the heart of the Welsh countryside.

Handed an initial three-month trial, Egan’s talent quickly shone through, forcing Harris’ hand to support his young protege’s application for a jockey’s licence after only eight weeks.

Since February, Egan has amassed no fewer than 200 rides, saddling over 20 winners in the process. The highlight, as he proudly stated upon his return to his home town this week, came just last month aboard ‘Judge ‘N Jury’ at the prestigious Dante meeting in York.

“It was only half a length (winning distance), but it was a great thrill,” Egan added. “Hopefully there will be a few more of them.”

That win came largely on foot of a strong drive in the final half furlong, a tenacity and never say die attitude which belies his delicate 7st frame.

In making reference to his own dietary regime, Egan says, “I am kind of lucky in that I don’t have any problem with my weight. I might have a cup of tea and slice of toast in the morning and then I’m gone for the day. It’s almost got to the stage where I am too busy to eat.” However, his main fitness concern centres not on what should or shouldn’t he have for dinner, but rather on his ability to ride injury free following a crashing fall at the Epsom Derby meeting two weeks ago.

“The medics thought I had broken my pelvis at first and I was brought to hospital for x-rays and scans. Nothing was broken, but I am still very stiff and get sharp pains up my back,” he said.

Despite that fall, Egan has been keeping a close eye on results overseas as the flat season gears up for next week’s five day Royal Ascot festival.

“Italian Tom in the 6:50pm at Sandown (last Thursday) has a good chance,” he replied when asked by the Leader for any worthwhile punting tips.

As it turned out Italian Tom didn’t even make the first three, leaving the majority of this publication’s newsroom nursing a collective financial headache come Friday morning.

And while that faux pas will do little to enhance Egan’s tipping prowess, there’s little disputing his talent and overriding ambition in becoming not just Longford’s but one of Ireland’s leading sport stars.