by Gerard Mulvihill
Oisin Orr looks like a jockey on his way to the top. By that I’m not referring to a trip back to his native Rathmullen but rather in a racing sense. He has been riding winners for a few years now since riding his first winner on the Eddie Lynam-trained Balmont Blast at Dundalk in 2015; and posted his highest return to date last season when he managed 20 winners. That tally was enough to secure him the title of Champion Apprentice.
Having achieved a feat realised by few, Orr will now be looking to add a Galway winner to his growing list of honours over the festival’s seven-day duration. He has had 16 rides around the famous track, accumulating a sizeable sum of prizemoney in the process. His second place finish aboard Top Notch Tonto in 2016 immediately stands off the page. He secured €24,000 in prize money for connections in a race that saw 17 rivals follow him home. It showed that Orr could negotiate the big runner fields that are synonymous with the Galway Festival.
A winner on such a stage would make all the sacrifice worthwhile. A busy daily schedule revolving largely around horses means that trips home to Donegal can be something of a rarity.
“I was up there last weekend but I don’t get up very often as I’m always racing or working. Any spare time I have I tend to spend in the gym. The lightest I could do is about 8st 8lbs so I’d have to watch the weight a bit.”
The sauna is often used by riders to shed some excess poundage pre-race but Orr tells me he tries to avoid it as much as possible: It’s quite unforgiving on the body.
“I only get to the sauna if I really have to or if I haven’t had time to go for a run. For the most part however I try to have my weight right before I get to the track.”
Such energy is expended in the hope of big race success; success of the magnitude he enjoyed at the Longines Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown in September 2016 in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Petingo Handicap. Trainer Tony Martin gave him the leg up on Quick Jack on that occasion and the rider formerly known as OO7 shot down 15 rivals to take the €150,000 contest.
It’s clear that Orr is not willing to rest on his laurels as he strives to build on last year’s success. He relocated to America for the month of January and learnt plenty by doing so.
“I was going to go to Australia but didn’t get the visa in time so I ended up going to America instead, it was great. I was based with Brendan Walsh who is from Ireland and I learnt loads there. It’s a lot different and they’re a lot more bothered by times over there.”
While unsure as to the specifics of his Galway bookings Orr will be hoping that a month spent focusing on split times will allow him to deliver a mount with a perfectly timed run at Ballybrit.
His chances of being in a position to challenge at the business end of a race during the festival will largely depend on the draw – among other things of course.
“It’s quite a stiff track and you need a good draw. If you’re drawn wide your chances can be nearly gone before you even jump out. It’s hard to make up ground from the back there too.”
A champion in the early stages of a career that’s showing great promise; a Galway Festival success for O J Orr is surely not far away.
The Galway Races Summer Festival runs from Monday July 30 to Sunday August 5 with live TV coverage Monday to Thursday.
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