Dream moment one never to be forgotten for Kirrane

If ever a horse was aptly named it is Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes winner Live In The Dream, who propelled trainer Adam West and jockey Sean Kirrane into the limelight at York.

West is far from one of the smallest trainers around with around 45 horses – but he is certainly not one of the biggest, either.

For Kirrane, though, based in the north of England and who principally rides for Tim Easterby, he will be hoping this is the success that takes his career to the next level.

Just like former champion Paul Hanagan, who retired on Friday, the 22-year-old is from a non-racing background. But he certainly had some connections as his uncle managed to get him his first job in racing with none other than the all-conquering Willie Mullins.

“I’ve got no background in racing. I lived about a 10-minute walk from Leopardstown where I’m from in Dublin. My parents took me there as a child and that is where my interest came from,” said Kirrane.

“I had lessons on ponies, but my first opportunity to ride out was at Willie Mullins’ when I was 15. I took an apprentice licence out with Johnny Levins on the Curragh when I was 17 or 18 and still at school and that was when I realised it was what I wanted to do after my first couple of winners.

“It was a chance contact through my uncle how I got to Willie’s, he knew someone there who got me the job and that was where I learned to ride a racehorse, that was the very start of it and it’s the old cliche, I got bitten by the bug there.”

As with so many young jockeys starting out in Ireland, they become attracted to the sheer volume of racing in the UK which opens up so many more opportunities.

He went on: “I had a conversation with my boss Johnny Levins as he had about 25 horses, but he had a stable jockey and I was a 10lb claimer at the time. He thought when I finished at school there’d be more opportunities for me in England with more racing.

“I came over and the rest is history.”

That only tells half the story of how he came to pick up the ride on what is now one of the fastest horses in Europe.

“My association with Adam is strange I suppose, a northern-based jockey riding for a trainer from Epsom,” said Kirrane.

“I was riding down south one day and stayed over as I had a ride at Goodwood the next day so I rang Adam on the off chance he needed someone to ride out.

“I went in and rode two lots and the first horse he put me on won three or four on the bounce and the association has grown from there.

“I rode this lad a couple of years ago, it went well and then I got back on him earlier this year. Let’s not beat around the bush, he probably had lots of opportunities to get a top jockey on but he stayed loyal to me, despite my inexperience, and I’ll be forever grateful.”

Quite often the Nunthorpe, more than any other top sprint, is simply won by the fastest horse.

While that may sound a quite simplistic thing to say, York’s flat five furlongs seems to lend itself to out-and-out speedsters. Think of Sharpo, Lochsong, Dayjur, Oasis Dream, Mecca’s Angel and Battaash.

Not many would have argued had you said Live In The Dream would be leading at halfway, as he showed great pace in the Palace House at Newmarket earlier this year, but his 28-1 starting price showed not many thought he would hang on.

“It’s a surreal feeling and it hasn’t really sunk in yet, it just feels like winning another race at the moment,” said Kirrane.

“The feeling in the last 60 yards when I could hear the cracks of the whips behind me but I knew I wasn’t going to get caught was like nothing I’ve ever felt before.

“A massive amount of credit goes to the horse, he’s really stepped up this year and it’s been an incredible journey for all of us.

“Adam has produced this horse brilliantly in top form today. He needed the run out in France last time in a Listed race as he’d had a month off. It brought him forward perfectly.

“Every time you go out on him you quietly fancy him as he is so effective over a fast five and York can play into the hands of front runners on this ground.

“It’s no secret how we ride him. We make lengths out of the gate and ride him aggressively, but he has a turn of foot as well. We try to take them off their feet in the closing stages, but today I was able to keep him on the bridle longer than I ever have as nothing ever came to me at the furlong pole. When I took him off it he found another gear again. What a performance.

“It’s lovely fast ground here today and he just skips across it, he’s amazing and is obviously a seriously talented animal.”

Victory in the Nunthorpe has earned Live In The Dream an automatic spot at the Breeders’ Cup – and Kirrane feels he will be perfectly suited to American sprinting.

“Adam is talking about America. I’d probably have to get in the sauna to lose a couple of pounds to ride him over there, but that would really suit him as he’s won around Chester and won at Lingfield. He was obviously good here today, but he’s better round a bend,” he said.

“If they go out there off the back of this he’d be seriously competitive.”

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