Next Gen | Paul Lake

 Image © Healy Racing

Name: Paul Lake

From: Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary

Earlier this month, Co. Tipperary native, Paul Lake, rode his first winner between the flags on He Might Be Lucky at Stowlin for handler Eamonn O'Donovan.

How did you get involved with horses?

The man I rode the winner for, Eamonn O‘Donovan, got me involved in horses. He was married to my mam back then. That’s a few years ago now, I was about ten or eleven. It was nice to get my first winner for him.

I’ve no real background in racing. I did a bit of hunting later on, but it was Eamonn who started me off. I learned a lot of the basics from him. He put me up on point-to-pointers then and I picked it up quite quickly.

I went to Lesley Young’s while I was at school on days off etc. I left school early, worked at Lesley's for a while, and then moved on to Philip Fenton’s after that. 

What was the first racehorse you ever sat on?

It would have been a point-to-pointer belonging to Eamonn, but I can't remember his name!

How did the ride on He Might Be Lucky come about?

Yeah, it was always the plan. I rode him the week before at Ballysteen where we fancied him to go well. He unseated me at the first fence, he just took off too far out. We were a bit disappointed.

Plans were up in the air as to whether we would run him or not the following week. Thankfully we did and it was great that it worked out! 

Eamonn has been very good to me. I've been in and out to Eamonn’s for as long as I’ve been riding. He’s given me a lot of rides, so it was nice to ride my first winner for him.

Do you know what the plan for He Might Be Lucky is now?

The originally was to go to the track but he’s actually sold now! So best of luck to his new owners hopefully he does well for them. 

Did you get some kick out riding your first point-to-point winner?

Yeah, it was great! My partner Nicollette was there along with my two kids Alexa-May and Paul. Eamonn was there, he’s part of the family as well and his brother was there. My sister was there also with her partner so there were a good few people around on the day.

It was an emotional day! It’s been a long coming and I got very emotional. 

How did it compare to riding a winner in the Up The Yard Challenge?

It was a few years ago now! That was brilliant, Punchestown, big crowds and big races. It was unreal to ride at that track as well. It was a great feeling. 

My partner is Jimmy Finn’s daughter, and I rode the winner of the charity race for him. That was a very good day!

Is there someone that you regularly seek advice from? 

Starting off, when I was at Philip Fenton’s I lived with Brian O’Connell for two or three years. He was stable-jockey there at the time. He gave me a lot of advice starting off.

I would have watched the re-runs of his races; he was having a lot of winners at the time. Philip was a very good rider and a very good teacher as well. He was hard but he was fair.

Back then I was riding a very good quality horse. I was seventeen or eighteen and getting to ride the likes of Dunguib and Pineau De Re. Going forward then I was able to compare other horses to them.

Dunguib won a champion bumper and Pineau De Re went on to win English Grand National. They were two very different horses but very very good horses.

Recently, I’m in a flat yard so it’s a bit different, there’s a lot of jockeys there to learn from.

I would be in different yards schooling and that. I do a lot of traveling around, schooling and galloping. 

Jimmy Finn would go through any races I've ridden in so far. He would break them down, tell me what I’m doing right and wrong. He’s very good to me. 

Have you done the progression schooling course?

I did a schooling course with Paddy Flood at RACE. I really enjoyed working with him. Everday is a learning day so I try to take everything on board to improve my riding. 

Did you walk the track with someone? 

I walked the track the day before because it was so wet and we were looking for a bit of nicer ground. I couldn’t believe the change in going the next day, so I walked it again. I usually walk the track on my own. 

What’s the best advice you have been given?

There’s a lot of advice whether its any good or not I don’t know!  I’d say it would have to be not to dwell on the past too much and keep things simple.

Was it always your plan to take out your license?

Yeah it was. When I was at Philip’s I couldn’t manage my weight back then. I went away from horses for about five years, I worked on the tunelling in London.

I started seeing my partner then and since her dad is a trainer, I rode out for him one Saturday and that was it.  I got the bug back again. I don’t know but we always seem to end up going back to horses! As I got older the weight started to fall off me. I was doing all the work at home so I thought I’d take out my license. 

What would a working week look like during the season?

I work for Donnchadh O’Brien in the mornings. I’ll stay there for some time, while the summer is quiet. We start off early and finish that bit earlier.

In the afternoon I would go schooling or riding work for a few trainers local to me. James Grace, Eamonn O'Donovan, Shane Broderick, Tom Hogan, Maike Magnusson, and Jimmy Finn, they would be the main ones really.  They’ve all been very good to me.

I’d go to schooling races as well.  

What are your ambitions for the remainder of the season?  

There’s only one more weekend left in the point-to-point season. I live only a few minutes from Ballingarry, I’ve had rides there the last few seasons, so I’d like to have a ride there again at the weekend.

I'm aiming to try get to a few more trainers to try increase the rides but hopefully I’ll have a few spins for the summer in bumpers and over hurdles. It would be great to get a winner on the track. 

Who has been the biggest influence in racing?

There’s two different parts of me I suppose. The younger version of me, would be thinking of an ex-jockey,  A.P. McCoy he would have been a jockey I looked up to when I was a young lad.

Now, I have a great relationship with Jimmy Finn, he keeps me going and is a big part of my life.

Is there anything that you would to add?

Just a huge thank you to all those who have supported me along the way, trainers and owners. 


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