A Day in the Life: Conor Hoban

Features

BUSY MAN As well as being a professoinal jockey, Westport native Conor Hoban is now also a pre-trainer from his own stables in Co Laois. Pic: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Factfile

Name: Conor Hoban
Age: 30
Occupation: Jockey/Pre-trainer
From: Westport
Lives: Ballybrittas, Co Laois
Did you know? Conor broke-in Champers Elysees, who won a Group One for trainer Johnny Murtagh at Leopardstown last Saturday

I’d be up religiously at 6.15am, have a quick bowl of crunchy nut, before heading over to my own yard to check everything is all right with the horses. I have about 35 in at the moment.
I have three full-time staff working for me, and they arrive in around 7am, and we go through what’s in front of us for the day.
I leave them then to get on with their work and three of the mornings every week, I head over to Jessica Harrington’s yard in Moone, which is about 25 minutes away from me here. I ride out for Jessie and this week has been very busy ahead of Champions Weekend taking place at the Curragh and Leopardstown.
I’d usually spend three hours riding out, I’d ride out six or eight horses and be back on the road then at 11am. I’d usually ride out for another trainer in the Curragh, yesterday Pat Flynn had a few horses up from Waterford so I met up with him.
After that, I shoot over to collect Kate, my daughter from play-school and drop her off at the child-minders, grab a quick sandwich, and then head back for a bit of riding out in my own yard, before heading off to ride a few at a meeting somewhere around the country.
For example, yesterday I was supposed to have a couple of rides at Cork, but the first one was a non-runner so my only ride was in the 7.30pm, so I had a bit more time to spend in my own yard before hitting the road for Mallow.
On the way to Cork, I had a horse to drop over to Johnny Murtagh’s yard, I do all the pre-training for Johnny at the moment, then I headed for Cork, we have to be there at least an hour before the race we ride in. I had no luck in Cork, he was a 66-1 shot but he ran OK back in seventh. After the race then, it’s back in the car and I was back home around 9.30pm.
As I said, I have around 35 horses in my own yard now, I’d be breaking them in and pre-training them, mostly for Johnny Murtagh, a few for Eddie Lynam and then for some of the big horseracing groups like BBA Ireland and Yulong Investments. It’s hectic at the moment as we are coming into the busiest time of year with yearlings.

Starting out
When I started out and was thinking of buying a home, I never wanted to buy in a housing estate, I always had in the back of mind that I needed stables so I could go into the pre-training, while also trying to keep up the riding.
So when I bought the seven acres here in Ballybrittas, Co Laois, I put in the stables, the gallops and the walkers. Over the ten years I spent riding professionally, I built up some great contacts and they are after serving me very well since I set up the business. It’s strange, Johnny Murtagh would have been one of my heroes growing up, but he has become a massive support to me in this business.
A lot of people are now asking have I actually still got the time to keep riding at the meetings up and down the country, it is tough, but I want to keep it going for another while anyway. My agent Kevin O’Ryan knows I am busy, so he keeps that in mind when he is getting me rides.
I went along with my good friend, Shane ‘Dusty’ Foley, to Jessie’s yard last year and Shane is now going for the Champions Jockey’s title, so I’m not getting as many spares, but I really hope he wins it.
There is no doubt about it, it’s a tough game but I fell for it all when I first got involved back when I was 16 or 17 and I haven’t look back since. I haven’t had what you’d call a load of high profile winners, but I’ve made a good living out of something I love and now with the breaking-in and pre-training, it’s all go. For people who might not know what that is, I’m not a trainer. I get young horses that are not ‘broke-in’, I’d have them for a six-week turnaround, on average. These horses would never have had a bridle or a saddle on them before.
Then the pre-training is basically getting horses fit, again over a six-week period, where they are then able to slot into a proper training regime. Think of it this way, it’s like a GAA or soccer player’s ‘pre-season’.
Of course, a lot of the lads are always on to me asking am I going to go into training full-time. I’d never say never, but I’m happy out with my regime at the moment, I still want to keep riding while I can.
It’s an amazing industry to work in, I have travelled all over the world to places like Dubai, America, South Korea riding but I suppose the downside of it is the long hours. I am lucky I have a patient wife in Eimear who can look after Kate and Tom, who is two now. I’m not at home that often, I’m always on call, it’s hard to make plans but I would not swap it for anything.
Also, you have to be able to deal with the highs and the lows, for most of us there are more lows, but that’s the nature of the game, if a jockey is having a 20 percent strike rate, he’s on fire! And we know it’s a dangerous game, but that’s the thrill of it too.
It has been very tough on everyone during Covid. We were lucky, as an industry, we got back to work sooner than most, but there are still no owners at a lot of meeting, no crowds, so we are all looking forward to the day when we are back to normal.

in conversation with Michael Duffy

Quickfire questions

If money was no object, what would you do all day?
I would not change a whole lot, maybe buy a stud farm, with loads of horses and greyhounds, and maybe get someone to run it for me, so I could just stroll around!

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
I ate something in South Korea, thinking it was chicken, but it wasn’t! I’m still not too sure what it was.

Favourite place in the world?
Westport, I love going home. And I really enjoyed a holiday we had in Dubrovnik.

What makes you angry?
Laziness.

Name three things in your fridge?
Ketchup, black jam and chocolate.

What makes you nervous?
The kids growing up I suppose, and going to teenage discos!

Last book you read?
Don’t have time for books, I just read the papers.

Favourite TV show?
Prison Break.

Most famous person you’ve met?
Alex Ferguson or Frankie Dettori.

What do you miss most being a kid?
No bills.

What’s your most prized possession?
My tractor and my phone.

Best advice you ever got?
‘Don’t burn any bridges’ and ‘What you put in, you’ll get back out’.

Describe yourself in three words?
Determined, contrary and kind.