The ride to success

Archie McCauley, amateur jockey and 4th year Trinity student, lands his first race win in supreme fashion to the disbelief of the jockey himself


 “It’s just a sport or a hobby, that’s the way I see it. Once it becomes your job it takes a lot of the enjoyment out of it, not race riding just going out riding every morning.”

To play sport at the top level, whether as a professional or as an amateur requires sacrifice. Students across Trinity make sacrifices day in and day out in order to compete at the top level and achieve to the best of their ability. Trinity’s rowers and triathletes are famous for the sacrifices they make in their life to compete on behalf of their college. However little is known of other students who compete in less well known sports, evidence being Archie McCauley.

McCauley is a fourth year Geography and Sociology student who competes at the top level of horseracing. Gaining his amateur jockey licence after leaving secondary school, McCauley has gone from strength to strength in learning the difficult skills in order to be a competitive jockey. Coming from a horseriding background, McCauley was always interested in becoming a jockey with his family owning a number of racehorses over the years.

Like many jockeys McCauley began hunting at a young age with the Kildare Hunt and throughout his childhood it was always his dream to become a jockey. The step from hunting to horseracing is no easy task as racehorse thoroughbreds test your bravery and ability as a rider. However, McCauley credits getting his driving licence as the key to this step towards becoming a jockey. “When I got my driving licence straight after leaving school I was able to drive up to the Curragh in Kildare and to the big racing centre there,” said McCauley. “I started riding out for a trainer called Sabrina Harty and she got me going riding.”

Over a number of summers McCauley was able to ride horses for trainers in England, Australia and America. Rides in competitive races were given to him in Ireland at different racecourses up and down the country.  The accolade of riding a winner still eluded McCauley even after riding races stateside, however on the 31st of October all was about to change for him and his racing career.

Riding ‘Play the Part?’, a five-year-old bay gelding trained by Mark Roper, McCauley beat the favourite on the line to win the Garryrichard Stud INH Flat Race in Wexford. So how did the chance to ride a winner come about? McCauley had ridden the horse for the trainer but never in a race. “I didn’t think of ringing the trainer to ride the horse because I thought he would have someone to ride it but he rang me up on the Friday and asked me if I wanted to ride it. Obviously I said yes.” After receiving  the good news McCauley set his focus on the race he was going to ride in a few days time. “I hadn’t ridden out in a week and half and I thought to myself, ‘What am I going to do here, I’m getting pretty heavy and I’m not going to be that fit.’ So the first thing I did was put down the lunch I was about to tuck into,” says McCauley. “I weighed myself and I was eleven stone six, stripped, and this is bearing in mind I had to do eleven seven with the saddle and all my gear. So I went for a run and got the sweat suit on and had a couple of sweats. I pretty much didn’t eat anything all weekend and got my weight down pretty quick and it was grand”.

McCauley didn’t think much of his chances, but like every jockey he had to have the mindset of winning and went down to Wexford with a modest but optimistic mindset. “I didn’t really tell anybody I was riding and the horse was 66/1 the night before and I told my brother to back it but he backed it anyway.” Talking about the owner’s and training team’s belief in the horses McCauley knew they they half fancied him. “They knew the horse was pretty good as they were working it with other horses of Barry O’Connell who is a big owner and he worked very well.”

McCauley knew he had a chance going into the race but as he rounded the final bend still on the pace and the line beckoning, he put all his experience and ability together to push the horse along and edge the 8/11 favourite ‘Gleesons Tipp’ on the line.  After all the early mornings, long sweaty runs and college social nights he missed, Archie McCauley had finally landed his first race win in supreme fashion to the disbelief of the jockey himself: “I couldn’t believe it, it was the best day of my life.”

What now for the future? McCauley wants to keep going as per usual and train just as hard for the next chance he can take of riding a winner, “I would like to ride a couple of other winners and when I’m finished college I would like to go ride for a year or two just for fun.” In many ways winning his first race has just motivated him even more as McCauley says, “Riding a race is like the best rush you will ever get.”

Does Archie McCauley intend on making this a future career? A straight and definite “no” is the answer as McCauley believes that keeping his amateur status is the key to keep doing well in the highly competitive sport. “It’s just a sport or a hobby, that’s the way I see it, once it becomes your job it takes a lot of the enjoyment out of it, not race riding just going out riding every morning.”

So on Archie McCauley will go, making sacrifices each week in order to continue his love for horses and for riding them, keeping his dream alive of being the best jockey he can be.