Aidan Coleman: ‘It’s fairly hectic but it’s all I’ve ever known and I’m really enjoying it’

Aidan Coleman has just made the hour-long round trip from his Cheltenham base to Worcester Racecourse where the Charlie Longsdon-trained Ortenzia was his sole mount of the afternoon.

Aidan Coleman: ‘It’s fairly hectic but it’s all I’ve ever known and I’m really enjoying it’

Aidan Coleman has just made the hour-long round trip from his Cheltenham base to Worcester Racecourse where the Charlie Longsdon-trained Ortenzia was his sole mount of the afternoon.

The post-race comments read: “In rear, well behind 8th, soon pulled up”, an outcome in keeping with the one-time-winner’s lofty odds of 33-1.

The trainer/jockey combination has however proven a successful one in the past, not least at Stratford in June where Coleman registered his 1,000th career winner aboard Western Miller.

With five of those victories coming on the Flat, further celebration ensued at Southwell later that month where he secured his 1,000th winner over jumps.

By coincidence, Twiston-Davies reached the same milestone that day.

“We have been very good friends for a very long time now and we do plenty social things together. It was weird we managed to do it on the same day. We’ve started planning the party, we go to Vegas every two years but the party will be somewhere (local) in September,” he says.

A quick crunch of the numbers prior to last season left the Home And Away fanatic in little doubt the 1,000 winner landmark could soon been reached.

“I usually ride in or around 100 winners a season and I remember going into last season thinking that a usual year should see my 1,000th (career) winner come up. I was just under 100 winners for the season but we got there in the end. It is something I am very proud of.”

Away from racing, Coleman’s academic ability was such he could well have followed the more conventional route of going to third level.

However, the quickest route to a career as a jockey was always his path of choice.

That decision has proved an inspired one.

Innishannon handler John Murphy was the first trainer to run the rule over a young Aidan Coleman during his pony racing days and he admits his talents were obvious from an early juncture.

“From the start he was a natural,” Murphy recalls. “He is from a nice family and was a very well brought up young man. He was very gentle with great hands and great balance, we’ve had a good few riders here and he is up there with the best of them. He is a very calm person, well spoken and well educated, that kind of guy goes a long way.”

Murphy is a first cousin of well-known bloodstock agent, Aiden Murphy, whose son Olly has utilised the services of Coleman on a regular basis since returning to Stratford-Upon-Avon following a stint in Ireland as assistant to Gordon Elliott.

Murphy’s assessment of Coleman is simple.

“He’s a naturally gifted rider and horses really travel and jump for him. He’s very good with owners and there are not too many better than him in the weighroom.”

That sentiment is shared by Armagh-based trainer Ronan McNally, for whom Coleman has ridden a number of winners.

“He settles horses well and is tactically astute,” he says, before adding, “he is able to change the plan as many times as he needs to during a race if necessary.”

Coleman has become somewhat of a fixture at Murphy’s Warren Chase Stables in recent times — an arrangement which is working well.

“I’m riding out at Olly’s a few days a week now. I spent a lot of time with John (Murphy), and remember meeting Olly many years ago.”

Since leaving his role as stable jockey at Jonjo O’Neill’s Jackdaw Castle, Coleman has led a more nomadic existence.

“I don’t have a base as such so it’s a case of just getting around (to different yards) — there is always schooling to be done.

“Thankfully Dave Roberts (Coleman’s agent) is doing a great job and I’m riding a lot of winners for a lot of different people. If things keep going the same way, hopefully, in a few years I’ll be riding plenty of winners for Olly but obviously, Richard Johnson is his main man at the minute.”

Having spent over a decade riding winners for some of England’s top trainers, to assume he has enjoyed a plethora of Grade One successes would be far from outlandish — yet, the reality is somewhat different.

Such success had in fact eluded Coleman prior to victory aboard Paisley Park in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot last December.

That win quelled the long-running narrative surrounding his failure to do so to that point and Coleman wasn’t complaining.

“It was nice to get it out of the way. You can ride as many winners as you want but the graded ones are the important ones, they get the headlines and rightly so. They are the races you need to be winning — simple,” admits the former champion conditional.

That Long Walk Hurdle success was one of five victories enjoyed by connections of Paisley Park prior to him being sent off 11-8 favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

“His form going into it was the best in race. I expected people to say I was very far back but I was never any further back than I wanted to be,” Coleman recalls.

“I was always confident I’d win, everything went to plan throughout the race. He jumped brilliantly bar the last and I know he hit that flat spot that people seem to worry about but that didn’t really bother me, he still had an awful lot of time to get up that hill and get to the front — he got there in plenty of time, arguably too soon.

“He’s a very easy horse to ride and doesn’t seem to get phased by the occasion.”

The Paisley Park story had truly grabbed the attention of the watching public over the course of the season, such was the heart-warming story behind the six-time winner and his owner, Andrew Gemmell.

A former trade union official, blind since birth, Gemmell was attempting to realise his dream of tasting Cheltenham Festival glory with a horse which overcame a life-threatening bout of colic just two years ago. That was enough to ensure the neutrals would be willing the Emma Lavelle-trained gelding up the famous Cheltenham hill.

I had heard whispers of a further Innishannon connection to the Festival winner.

Is it true Emma Lavelle’s husband is a nephew of your neighbour back home? I probe.

“Yeah, yeah. It’s funny you should mention that actually; we live in the countryside and literally next door to us is Michael Halpin’s. Michael is married to Mary who is Barry Fenton’s aunt”, he states, before adding: “Actually, Wayne Lordan’s house is only a couple of hundred yards down the road and Don Adkinson (a former point-to-point jockey) lives closer again to me which is very random. We have all scattered the nest now but it’s pretty mad that we were all there.”

Coleman’s brother Kevin also enjoyed a good deal of success in the saddle, the highlight of which came aboard the Liam Burke-trained Sir Frederick in the Galway Plate of 2007. A graduate of Sports and Exercise Science at the University of Limerick, he saddled his first winner as a trainer at Beverley in May and remains a solid sounding board to his younger brother.

“I speak to Kevin every day I have a ride which is most days. With his knowledge of racing he can tell me how it is. He rode himself and has watched me ride for years so he knows how I ride and what I’m doing. It’s great having him to speak to. I know he will tell me straight out how it is, he’s very important in that respect.”

Away from racing, Coleman is a staunch Tottenham supporter and is evidently buoyed by recent investment in club both on and off the pitch.

“We’ve done okay, haven’t we?, we’ve spent a bit which was needed having gone a couple of transfer windows there without signing anyone.”

Race riding remains his primary focus however and, despite the arduous nature of the schedule, his love for the game evidently endures.

“There is no time off unless you are injured or suspended bar the designated week in August. It’s fairly hectic but it’s all I’ve ever known and I’m really enjoying it.”

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