By Donn McClean
My Eyes Adore You jumped well out of the stalls and Andy Slattery just let her roll.
Just one win on her cv in 16 attempts before she went to Naas in the middle of October, but still, her rider had every confidence in her, he was sure that she was well up to winning a Listed race. “You should see her work at home,” he insisted.
Slattery swiftly found her rhythm in front and kept her towards the near side on the best of the ground. He sat still for as long as he could and, as they raced past the three-furlong marker, he couldn't see them but, one by one, his rivals started to come off the bridle in behind him.
They were well inside the two-furlong pole when he felt a horse loom up on his left and he could wait no longer. He got a little lower in the saddle, gave his filly a squeeze, and she willingly picked up. He switched his hands and waved his whip, and she picked up again. It is a tough old pull up the hill to the winning line at Naas on heavy ground, but My Eyes Adore You relished all of it. Fozzy Stack’s filly came away from her rivals inside the final 100m, just punched out by her rider all the way to the winning line, where she had four lengths in hand of her closest pursuer.
“I was delighted for the filly,” says Andy Slattery now. “She deserved her win in a Listed race, she is such a talented filly. I was delighted for Fozzy, and for the owners, Paul Shanahan and Craig Bernick, they have always been very good to me.” He thought that he had another few weeks left riding in Ireland, roll into the final embers of the Irish turf flat season and then set sail for Dubai, but things happen, and plans change. That’s a jockey’s life for you. A routine morning on the gallops, routine stalls work when a horse reared and he hit the top bar of the stalls, fracturing his vertebrae.
“I was a bit worried at the time that my plans for Dubai might be in trouble. You don’t know how your body is going to react to these things, but thankfully, I was quick to recover.”
The recovery wasn’t all plain sailing mind you. It is not easy to sleep with a fractured T6, and progress was slow for a little while. But Andy Slattery is young, and he’s fit and he’s healthy and, with fastidious exercising and physiotherapy, he’s back, one hundred per cent and ready to go again, excited about heading to Dubai again.
“I went to Dubai with our breeze-up horses in 2022,” he says, “and I loved the place. I was back there last year where I was with Charlie Appleby for six weeks and that was brilliant. Charlie Appleby is such a gentleman, he was so good to me, and I had a great experience. It’s brilliant to get the opportunity to go back to Dubai again now, to get the opportunity with Bhupat and Caroline.”
Bhupat is Bhupat Seemar, champion trainer in the UAE in his first year in 2021-22, and runner-up to Doug Watson last year. Caroline is Bhupat’s wife, née Joyce, a neighbour of Slattery’s when he was growing up. “Caroline asked me if I would be interested in going to Dubai after I won the apprentices’ championship in 2019,” says the rider. “But the timing just wasn’t right for me then. Now that I am more established, that I have more experience, I think that it is an ideal time for me to go. I’m looking forward to it, and I’m very grateful to Caroline and to Bhupat for giving me the opportunity.”
'NEIGH' INTEREST IN HORSES
Son of trainer Andy Sr. a Group 2-winning trainer, young Andy didn’t have much interest in horses growing up. From Killenaule in County Tipperary, it is perhaps not surprising that hurling was his first love. It wasn’t until he started to go pony racing with his cousin Ben Coen – who drove Sadeedd to victory in the final race at Meydan last Friday – that he was bitten by the racing bug.
He quickly made up for lost time. He rode his first winner on the track in December 2017 at Dundalk – the evergreen and appropriately- named Sharjah, trained by his dad – and he kicked on. He rode 15 winners in Ireland in 2018, six for his dad and the other nine for outside trainers, with more and more trainers cottoning on to his talents. Then in 2019, he cut loose, he partnered 43 winners. He combined his riding with his schooling. On Irish Guineas weekend 2019, he rode three winners at The Curragh. Then three days later, he sat his first exam in the 2019 Leaving Cert: English, Paper One.
He rode winners for some of the top trainers in Ireland, Dermot Weld and Fozzy Stack and Johnny Murtagh and Eddie Lynam and Ado McGuinness, and he shared the apprentices’ championship with Oisin Orr. He possesses the talent, and now he is set to expand his horizons further. “I’ll miss riding at Dundalk during the winter for sure,” he says thoughtfully. “Dundalk has always been good to me. But this is a great opportunity. The late Pat Smullen, who was a great mentor to me, always impressed upon me the importance of riding abroad, and he loved Dubai. It’s great, top-class racing and world class riders. I’m looking forward to it lots.”