Donn's Articles » Wayne Lordan

Wayne Lordan

The 2013 season has been a good one so far for Wayne Lordan. Third in the Epsom Derby on Galileo Rock, second in the Irish Derby on Galileo Rock, second in the Haydock Sprint Cup on Slade Power, third in yesterday’s St Leger on Galileo Rock. These are the best races, the Group 1 races, the Classics. These are the season’s pinnacles. The rider shakes his head and smiles.

“Of all of them, I did think I was going to win the Irish Derby. We had gone so fast, so hard from early, I didn’t think the other horse would be able to pick up again. I moved up on Kevin Manning’s outside, and I thought, here we go. Then Kevin’s horse (Trading Leather) picked up again. I couldn’t believe it.”

Then he won the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes on Sudirman.

“That was a really good day,” he says. “It was only my second Group 1 win, and it was my first in Ireland. I was delighted to get it, especially in Ireland. Those Group 1 races are not easily got.”

Lordan had waited a while for his first Group 1 win – Sole Power in the 2010 Nunthorpe Stakes – although it is difficult to determine the exact point from which you should measure. You should probably start on the day on which he rode his first winner on the pony racing circuit at the age of nine.

“Shaky was that pony’s name,” he laughs. “My dad got him for me to ride him, and he won first time out for me. He basically ran away with me around the track, I was just a passenger.”

Lordan rode on the pony racing circuit until he was 14, when he joined Thomond O’Mara and took out an apprentice’s licence. He was 6st 11lb, and any aspirations that he had to be a National Hunt rider – and he had some tentative ones – could never gain any traction. Even now, he weighs 8st 2lb in colours. He can eat what he likes and ride at whatever weight he wants.

It was through O’Mara that the association with Tommy and Fozzy Stack began. Also, Lordan had ridden out for David Wachman for just a couple of weeks when he was 12, and he started riding out there as well.

He went to America during the winter of 2003/04 and rode under a claiming rider’s licence. From about 50 rides at Turfway Park, he had five winners, all for different trainers. The experience was good, it brought him on another step as a rider, but there was a sting in the tail.

“When I came home to Ireland to prepare for the 2004 flat season, the Turf Club refused to give me an apprentice’s licence, because I had ridden five winners under a claiming rider’s licence in America.”

He could ride, but it had to be under a full professional’s licence. No claim.

“I had 13 winners left claiming 3lb,” recalls Lordan, “so I missed out on them. I actually had 13 winners that season, but if I had had my claim at the start of the season, I might have got more rides, more winners. Lads would put you up at the start of the season because you can claim. If you lose your claim half-way through the season, it doesn’t have the same impact.”

Just 13 winners was a particularly precarious return, considering he had ridden 16 winners in Ireland the previous year. However, things picked up the following season, he effectively had the pick of two of the very good Irish yards, and he started to ride winners. Forty-one winners in 2005 was a much more reasonable return for the jockey’s talent and graft. He has ridden more than 50 winners every season since 2007, peaking at 75 last year.

“I’m very lucky to be riding the horses that I am riding, for the people I am riding for. Sometimes it’s a juggling act, but it works well, and it helps a lot that Fozzy and David are good friends.

“They leave it up to me most of the time, although sometimes David and Fozzy would have it sorted between them before they’d ever speak to me! I’m just lucky to have the pick of two good yards like that, and to have a good agent in Ryan McElligott. There are good opportunities for Billy Lee as well, who pretty much rides what I can’t ride. It’s a big team effort.”

This afternoon, the team will focus its efforts on Sudirman in the Group 1 Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at The Curragh.

“We have always thought a lot of Sudirman,” says Lordan, confidence high after winning the Group 2 Park Stakes on Viztoria at Doncaster yesterday. “I was disappointed when he ran first at Naas, he fell out the gate, I was about five lengths last. The second day at The Curragh, I jumped out and made the running and finished third. From that day, I think he copped himself on.”

A hat-trick of wins have followed: a maiden at Leopardstown, the Group 2 Railway Stakes at The Curragh on Derby weekend, and the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes back at The Curragh a month ago.

“He won well that day,” recalls his rider. “He likes that quick ground. Easy ground wouldn’t worry me, but he probably wouldn’t handle really soft ground. He always holds onto a little bit for himself. Through the middle of a race, you’d be pushing away, but you always know that he has plenty there. Then when he gets to the front, he just does enough to get there, which is exactly what you want. There is more improvement in him, and there is a good chance that he will improve again for step up to seven furlongs. He has a big chance.”

Today could be another one of those really good days.

© The Sunday Times, 15th September 2013