I was born in Ireland and grew up in a small village called Lorrha.
What was it like growing up in your hometown?
It was peaceful. Everyone knew each other for bad or good and really it was a very
sheltered place to grow up. My sisters and me were never exposed to much outside our
own little place.
Your passion for horses is obvious. Where did it come from?
My parents gave me the chance to develop my love of horses. It is a love I still enjoy for
them today. Besides, I think that everyone in Ireland has horses in their blood.
What would you be doing today if you hadn’t become a jockey?
I would probably have gone on to be a teacher like my older sister; history was my other
You were a success as a steeplechase jockey and then decided to ride on flat
tracks. What led you to this decision and which did you enjoy most; being a jump,
or a flat jockey?
My divorce left me in a very confused place as to where to go next in life and how to
support my children. Riding on the flat seemed the more lucrative option and so I chose
that. I think jumping will always be my first love.
What do you consider to be your most significant victory as a jockey? Why?
Al Skywalker in the 2001 Carolina Cup, it was such a big race, and he was such a
longshot as was I at that stage of my career.
Over the course of your career as a jockey, which horse stands out in your mind?
Al once again, he just proves that even if we don’t fit in where everyone thinks we
should, when we do find our place or calling we can then excel.
What do you consider yourself today? A jockey? A trainer? An author? What?
I’m not sure what I consider myself today. Lucky, would be my real answer as I get to do a
bit of everything and it all involves horses so I’m happy.
Did you always have the same passion for writing as you do for horses?
I always loved writing but after leaving school so young I was so worried about my bad
spelling and grammar that I never put things out there for others to read, as I felt
embarrassed by it. However, as time went by and I felt like I had things I needed to say so
I got over it and gave it a shot. In the end, I get to write and the editor keeps busy
correcting my mistakes.
Did you always write on a regular basis? If not, when did you start writing on a
regular basis, and why?
I tried to keep a journal and wrote lots of thoughts down but nothing major. I started
writing regularly after I saw things on the track that bothered me. I think writing gave me
a voice to express my opinion and when I got positive feedback it gave me the will to do
What is at the heart of The Simple Game?
My life and how mistakes and choices led me to various stages of thought and growth; it’s
about trying to find the person you were before life and everything that goes with it got in
Do you think someone outside of the horse racing world would find your book
appealling? If so, why?
I do, as the message can apply to anything in life. Sure, you might love something in the
beginning, but if you lose that love then why keep going? It’s about trying to find the
passion that got you there in the first place, and once you reconnect to that passion it
opens your eyes to all the possibilities you once looked for and forgot along the way.
Is there a message in your memoir that you want readers to grasp?
Don’t forget who you are, and you can never go too far down a road to not turn back; it’s
about trying to simplify your life so you find more meaning in its lessons.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Dealing with the mistakes I’ve made and trying to make sense of them in order to see how
they led me to new ways of thinking. Looking back at your life is hard because you
wonder how you let yourself make such bad choices, but in the end, it’s good as I feel
that when you confront the demons they begin to go away.
Did you learn anything new about yourself from writing your book? If you did,
what was it?
It’s hard to answer this as we are always learning. I’ve learned how hard it is to kick
bulimia. I want to do my best to help others not go down that road. No matter what the
reason, be it image, or racing; whatever, its so damaging and I’m not afraid to tell others
the depths it drug me to in order to try and help them not go down that path.
You reveal an awful lot about your personal demons in the book, such as your
struggle with bulimia and abusing sleeping pills, was this difficult for you to do?
It was because even though I’m not over-educated, I consider myself pretty smart and this
was so stupid to fall into the grasp of both. It’s hard to write about your weaknesses, but
beating both made me feel human again and created in me the will to help others.
What advice would you give to a jockey who’s just coming into the game?
Think hard and look at all the options. Talk to older riders and take your time learning;
rushing into it unprepared can be deadly so just keep your eyes open and when you’re
ready, go for it with all you have and never be afraid to fall or lose. Getting back up and
trying again is what makes us winners.
Do you plan to advocate against bulimia, the slaughter of Thoroughbreds and even
Without a doubt, I’ve seen so much and abused myself so much that anything I can do to
help others and the horses will be worth it.
You recently played the role of Jimmy Gaffney in Walt Disney Studios' major
motion picture Secretariat, how did getting in the film come about?
Right place at the wrong time, I was lucky in a lot of ways, Shannon Cain a casting agent
set it up and after a few bad auditions, I guess they got desperate and gave me the role...
it was a lot of fun.
Did you ever think that you’d be cast in the film?
Definitely not a Disney one, just kidding…. Not at all, I’ve been so consumed by horses
and racing that it left little time to ever think about doing anything else.
Did you meet Diane Lane and John Malkovich? If so, what were they like?
I did get to meet them both. I found them to be very down to earth people. John was very
funny and willing to talk. He helped me along the way. He took the nerves away very
What was the experience of acting in a film like?
It was fun and very surreal. It still feels weird. Maybe when I see it on screen, I will
actually believe it was true. The best part of the whole experience was getting to talk a lot
with jimmy Gaffney the man I played in the movie. He was such a gent and was great to
talk to. He passed away not too long ago and I’m sad that he did not get to see himself on
the big screen.
Did you have scenes with Ms. Lane, or Mr. Malkovich? If so, what was that like?
I had scenes with John Malkovich, and they were very easy. I’d had lunch with him just
before we shot so I got to know him as a person first. He had a way of putting me at ease,
and like I said, he was willing to help whenever he could.
Did the film have a personal impact on you?
Absolutely, it changed everything for me. I write about it in the book; my experience with
the film’s director Randall Wallace and his love and respect for horses. Like I write in the
book, sometimes it takes a trip to fantasyland to open your eyes to your own reality.
Which would you say is most challenging, riding a horse in a race, acting in a film,
or writing a book?
Writing a book; my spelling is atrocious and my grammar nonexistent so when you read
the book remember it gave an editor headaches just trying to fix it all
If you had your life to live over, would you change anything?
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I just hope you will enjoy the book and take from it any lessons you feel will apply to your
life. I’ve made so many blunders that there should be enough lessons in there for
everyone. I would like to think that anyone reading it will take away hope; the hope that
no matter how bad things get or how low you fall, there will always be a light and a way
up, if you just take the chance to find it. Hope can do wonders for any of us.
The Simple Game:An Irish Jockey’s Memoir
and his role in Walt Disney’s Secretariat.
|"A cautionary tale to watch what you're willing to
sacrifice for success, The Simple Game is quite the
read, very highly recommended."