Donn's Articles » Wayne Lordan

Wayne Lordan

Wayne Lordan always knew that Myboycharlie was good. How good he wasn’t exactly sure initially, but he knew that he was a racehorse. Even before the colt won on his debut at The Curragh on Derby weekend, the judges at Tommy Stack’s yard felt that this fellow could be a little bit special.

It wasn’t really a huge surprise when the son of Danetime was bought by Coolmore. Any juvenile who wins a Group 3 contest as easily as Myboycharlie won the Anglesey Stakes is always likely to be the object of interest from the big players. It probably wasn’t great news for Lordan, but that’s life, that’s racing. The jockey has ridden Myboycharlie in both of his races to date, both victories, but Kieren Fallon is Coolmore’s retained rider and he will almost certainly be on board when the colt takes up his next intended engagement, all things being equal, in the Prix Morny at Deauville next Sunday.

Lordan sits back in his chair now in the members’ bar at Tipperary racecourse and thinks about the situation, as if he is thinking about it for the first time. Of course he was a bit gutted when he heard that the colt was sold, it’s only natural that he would be. If you look back on the career of any one of the top jockeys riding at present, chances are you will be able to point to a horse that was instrumental in putting him there. Vinnie Roe was the catalyst for Pat Smullen’s rise to the top, for Johnny Murtagh it was Ridgewood Pearl, for Kevin Manning it was Noora Abu, for Michael Kinane it was Dara Monarch. Not that these jockeys would not have reached the pinnacle of their profession anyway, but it helped that they were able to get on a fast-track that went straight to the top.

For Wayne Lordan, it could have been Myboycharlie. That’s how highly he rates the colt. And it may still be, you never know. Lordan is circumspect.

“I’m delighted that the Stacks still have him to train,” he says. “And maybe if Kieren has to ride another horse for Aidan, or isn’t available, or if the horse was running in England, then hopefully I’d be asked to ride him. He’s a real good horse. They’ve bought a real good horse. He’s probably the best horse I’ve ever sat on. It would be nice to see him go on as we think he should now. You’d be disappointed when you wouldn’t get to ride him, but that’s the way it goes, that’s racing, and if things go my way you’d never know, I still might get to ride him again.”

It was this positive attitude, this single-mindedness, that Thomond O’Mara saw in Lordan when he was just a lad. O’Mara remembers seeing the youngster riding in a pony race when he was nine years old. It is difficult to tell when they are so young, but the trainer was always convinced that the youngster would make it as a jockey. You can see some young lads just sitting on their ponies and clinging on, just passengers, but this youngster was sitting up like a jockey and giving his pony a ride. O’Mara, a friend of Wayne’s father Pat, who used to ride as an amateur for John Oxx’s father, said that he would give him a start when he was old enough.

“When he came to me first,” says O’Mara, “he was so small that he used to have to stand up on a teapot so that he could put the bridle on a horse. If a horse raised its head, he wouldn’t have been able to reach from the ground, so he improvised. But he never asked for help, he was so dedicated. He was always a great grafter, always keen to learn.”

From Upton in County Cork, Lordan left school when he was 14. There’s the single-mindedness. He can’t remember a time in his life when he didn’t want to be a jockey. He never considered anything else. Eventually his mother relented – his father was already well on side – and he joined O’Mara in Bansha as an apprentice.

“Riding on the pony racing circuit was a huge help,” says Lordan now. “You’re going around tight tracks, you’re among horses, so when you get to the races you know what to expect, you’re aware of the other horses around you, you know when to back off heels, when to go for gaps. It’s a bit like America, you just jump off and go. The fastest for longest. No prisoners.”

Lordan weighed 6st 12lb when he started riding. He was able to claim 10lb off bottom weight of 7st 10lb, and if he wasn’t riding at or near bottom weight he would hardly be able to carry his saddle. Even now, at 8st in colours he can ride at bottom weight of 8st 2lb no problem. And he eats what he likes, as much as he likes.

The first four years of his career were spent with O’Mara. He struck up successful associations with O’Mara’s Sea Leopard and Kiptanui, and with Kanema, trained by Gerry Stack, and finished fourth behind Jamie Spencer in the apprentice table in 1999, just his second season riding. Thomond is a good friend of Fozzy Stack’s, Tommy’s son and assistant trainer, and Lordan started to ride out at Thomastown Castle. When first jockey Warren O’Connor got injured, Lordan was in prime position to grab the opportunity that that presented with both hands.

He rode out his claim in 2002 and struggled. It often happens with promising young apprentices. When you can take 5lb or 3lb off the back of a horse in a competitive handicap, it is easy for a trainer to put you up. When you ride out your claim, however, when you can’t reduce the burden, you don’t have a competitive advantage over the more established jockeys. You compete against Michael Kinane and Johnny Murtagh on a level playing field, no 10-yard start, and invariably you struggle. Gradually the winners dried up. From 22 winners in 2001, Lordan’s tally dipped to a worrying 11 in 2004, even though that was the year that he won the Irish Lincoln on Tolpuddle on the first day of the season.

“I started riding for David Wachman that winter,” recalls Wayne. “Actually, I had gone down to him for a couple of weeks one summer when I was about 13 or 14, before I had even gone to Thomond’s, so I knew David from then, and I rode one or two for him when I was with Thomond. Then Fozzy Stack put in a word for me with David, and I started riding for him. It was a good hand to be dealt.”

Lordan is now in the enviable position where he effectively has the pick of the Stack and Wachman yards. Some 37 winners already this season to date – fourth in the jockeys’ table and only four behind last year’s best ever 41 – suggests that the arrangement is working well. While Stack would have first call on him in theory, the trainer is lenient if Wachman has a better-fancied horse in a race that Wayne wants to ride. It works out well. Of course, it helps that the two trainers get on so well.

This afternoon at The Curragh, Lordan rides for both of his bosses. The Loan Express takes her chance in the feature, the Waterford Wedgewood Phoenix Stakes. Henrythenavigator will be tough to beat, thinks Lordan, but Tommy Stack’s filly is well worth her place in the line-up.

“She’s after improving again since she finished third in the Queen Mary,” he says. “It’s just a pity she has to take on the colts. If the Queen Mary was on Sunday, I’d fancy her chances, but she should run well, she could run into a place.”

The Loan Express apart, Lordan has a strong book of rides this afternoon. Alexander Tango in the Royal Whip (“She’d have a right chance”), Triskel in the Debutante Stakes (“She just might like the ground better than Ariege would”), Golden Tokyo in the two-year-old maiden (“He’s a nice colt, by Danetime, he could be another Myboycharlie, although I’d hardly be that lucky!”), Dafaroun in the seven-furlong handicap (“He ran a blinder at Galway, another stride and he’d have got up, he’ll love the soft ground.”)

It could be a good day for Wayne Lordan. Still only 25, but on a fast-track to the top.
© Sunday Times, 12th August 2007