Donn's Articles » Andrew Lynch

Andrew Lynch

Andrew Lynch went out to ride Magic Minstrel in the first race at Navan last Saturday. Tom McCourt’s gelding had never run over hurdles before, he was a 50/1 shot to win the race, there wasn’t a huge potential upside for Lynch in riding the horse, but the trainer has asked him to ride, so the rider said that he would. That’s Andrew Lynch for you.

There is a strong argument for minding yourself in the lead up to Cheltenham. Ten days before Champion Hurdle day, you are well into the red zone. Bang your head, stub your toe, hurt your thumb, get thrown to the ground at the back of a hurdle or a fence and have a half a ton of thoroughbred run over you, and you may not have time to recover.

If you look down Cheltenham’s kaleidoscope and you see horses like Sizing Europe, Rubi Light, Voler La Vedette and Hisaabaat swirling around in glorious technicolour in front of you, then everybody would understand if you were to sit at home in a Styrofoam box with all the doors and windows locked for 10 days. But that wouldn’t be Andrew Lynch’s style.

Lynch set off on Magic Minstrel in that maiden hurdle at Navan on Saturday towards the inside. The horse was taking a nice grip, but nothing extraordinary. Then, as the first flight approached, inexplicably and without a hint of warning, Magic Mistrel dived to his right. When you are sitting on a conveyance that is travelling at 25 miles and hour, if that conveyance suddenly jinks to the right, 90 degrees, it will probably cease to be your conveyance. It’s basic physics.

Magic Minstrel went right over the obstacle, Lynch went straight on, hit the ground hard and got a kick on his arm from a following horse. He lay on the ground for a few seconds, arm sore, but not too bad. Then he got up and rode in the next five races.

It wasn’t until he got home from Navan that evening that he saw the bruising. He rolls up his sleeve to reveal a bicep that looks more like an aubergine than a bicep. Impressive.

“Thankfully nothing was broken,” he assures you. “I’d broken the other arm three or four times, and I knew it was nothing like that. I was fairly sure nothing was broken. The doctor told me to go to get it x-rayed, though, so I did, and it was fine. Just bruising.”

He went to Leopardstown the following day and rode Won In The Dark in the second race. As he eased down after crossing the winning line, his horse jinked a little and wrenched his arm. The pain went shooting from the tips of Lynch’s fingers to the top of his shoulder, and he thought, maybe best take a break. He may not have been able to ride to the best of his ability for the rest of the afternoon, and that wouldn’t have been fair on the horses he was set to ride. He gave up his remaining three rides and went home to rest.

“The way I look at it,” says the rider thoughtfully, “it was all these small trainers that got me going in the first place. I was delighted to ride for them when I was trying to get going, so now that I’m a bit more established, I don’t want to let them down.”

For Lynch to say that he’s a bit more established is like James McClean saying that there is a bit of interest in him these days. Again, it’s typical Lynch. Softly spoken and unassuming, Lynch is the dinner guest who takes his seat at the bottom of the table and gets moved to the top by the host.

But it isn’t your personality that gets you rides. You could be the nicest jockey in the weigh room, but you would spend most of your time sitting on a bench in it if you couldn’t operate on the racetrack. You know that Lynch can ride when you see men like Edward O’Grady and Jim Dreaper and Tom Taaffe and Henry de Bromhead and Dermot Weld putting him up. Weld was particularly complimentary of the ride that Lynch gave Hisaabaat to win the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown last month, and it looks like the ride on Dr Lambe’s horse in the Triumph Hurdle is his.

Put that talent and that demeanour with Lynch’s graft, and you have a recipe for Grade 1 success. Ask any jockey who is the hardest-working man in the weigh room, and the answer will probaby be Andrew Lynch. Last season Lynch had 589 rides, more than any other rider in the country. He rides out every day, seven days a week. If he is not riding work or schooling at Henry de Bromhead’s, he is riding out at Jim Dreaper’s or Michael O’Hare’s or Peter Casey’s or Colm Murphy’s.

It is hardly surprising, then, that Lynch’s book of rides at Cheltenham this week is comprised of almost as many different trainers as horses. Hisaabaat for Dermot Weld, Voler La Vedette for Colm Murphy, Rubi Light for Robbie Hennessy, Our Girl Salley for Prunella Dobbs, Argocat and Distant Memories for Tom Taaffe, China Rock for Mouse Morris. There is also the small matter of the Champion Chase favourite.

“It bothers me when I hear people saying that Sizing Europe had a hard race in the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown,” says the rider slowly. “He didn’t at all. He came home and ate up, and he was like a lunatic in the yard afterwards. Henry was worried that we weren’t doing enough with him. He had a hard race in Down Royal in November, and he bounced out of that. He came out and won the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown less than a month later. The Tied Cottage Chase was well over a month ago now, and he’s bouncing. He’s in savage order.”

Try to pin him down and, hard as he tries, he struggles to hide his confidence.

“He and Big Zeb have been beating each other,” he says. “But going back to Cheltenham last year, if our fellow turns up in the same form, he’ll take a lot of beating. He ran away with me up the Old Vic gallop on The Curragh the other day, which shows that he’s in great form. I’m happy with him. They’ll know that they have had a race if they get past him.”

With four Cheltenham Festival winners on his exponentially expanding cv, ask Lynch what he wants out of the week, and he tells you: one winner, just one, and to give everything else a ride. Sizing Europe, of course, is the highlight, but this is far from a one-bullet Festival for Lynch. Sizing Australia is bidding for back-to-back victories in the Cross-Country (“He’s in great order”), Rubi Light is joint-favourite for the Ryanair Chase (“You’d love to see a bit of rain for him”), while Voler La Vedette is an intriguing addition to the World Hurdle field (“I’ll ride her out the back and see how we go”).

The one thing you do know is that none of them will lack for assistance from the saddle. That’s Andrew Lynch for you.

© The Sunday Times, 11th March 2012