APART from those in flat racing’s insider circles the name Wayne Lordan doesn’t mean much to many people.
Over the last ten years he has steadily built up a reputation for himself as one of the most stylish and classy jockeys in the weighroom, but among the broader public his name would never be one of the first to come to mind.
The cognoscenti, however, recognise him as a leading practitioner of his trade and his situation as first jockey to both Tommy Stack and David Wachman is a recognition of the fact that the man from Upton in Co. Cork is right up there with the Berrys, the McDonoghs and the Smullens as being amongst the brightest of the newer generation of riding talents in the country.
But his has been a steady rather than stellar career and it was only last year, when riding Eddie Lynam’s 100/1 shot Sole Power, that he scored his first Group 1 success in the Nunthorpe at York. This year though that sole top flight victory could well be added to.
Something of a physiological oddity, even amongst flat jockeys, Wayne weighs just over seven stone and is a true lightweight in a sport full of them. Not that it bothers him much.
“I am a small guy,” he readily admits, “and I don’t have any trouble with my weight. I eat as much as I can and I would still only be 7st 2lbs most days going racing. I’ve never been in a sauna in my life and that’s a big advantage for me.
“I go racing with Billy Lee and Seamie Heffernan a lot and on a warm day I’d be eating an ice cream and the two of them would be giving me dagger looks – they’d want to eat the hand off me. It is very tough on them, wasting, going hungry and not being able to drink. I am very lucky. On my day off, it is just the couch and the telly – no working out or anything.”
He does his working out on the gallops and on the track and that gives him all the strength he needs, but he reckons that it was his earliest days in the sport which made him what he now is.
It all started for Wayne in pony racing and he’s not shy about the part it would play in his later successes. “Jesus, what experience I got doing that. My dad used to do it and my brother did it and I was at it from when I was nine and I can tell you it really stood to me and I did a bit of saddle trotting for a couple of years as well. If you can pick up something new from anything like that, it will always help you later,” he maintains.
It was his success in pony racing that attracted the attention of fellow West Cork man Thomond O’Mara who was by then training in Bansha in North Tipperary.
“Thomond came to the pony racing one day to meet me – along with the late Tom McSweeney, a family friend who brought the link together – and I ended up going up there and signing on with him. I was there six years and I still ride for him – work and racing. It was Thomond who originally got me a job riding out for the Stacks, Tommy and Fozzy, and he provided the stepping stone for me because I’m now their first jockey.”
In some respects Wayne Lordan’s development into a top jockey follows a familiar path. He left school at fourteen, his dad Pat and mother Marian eventually allowing that formal schooling had to be put aside to allow the boy follow his dream.
Even at that point he had spent summers working in various training establishments, some of which would prove pivotal in his future. “I went up to David Wachman when he was training outside Carrick-On-Suir – I was only about 12 – and I was so small I probably wasn’t up to much. Tom Busteed in Cork had organised it with my dad and I was there for just three weeks. I remember he had this huge wheelbarrow and it was so big I could have lived in it. He used to be laughing at me trying to push it.”
But the connections with O’Mara, the Stacks and Wachman which Wayne made in his very early days have formed into strong bonds which remain to this day and he rides out at all three yards every morning.
“David is now at Longfield, about ten minutes from Cashel on one side, while the Stacks are ten minutes from Cashel on the other side and Thomond is only a further fifteen minutes from Cashel on the Fethard side. I live in Cashel, so it is very handy for me and I can work my mornings with the three of them.”
Wayne’s breakout year as a claiming jockey was in 1999 when he recorded 17 winners, but the following year was a bit of an eye-opener for him as the winners were few and far between. “When you lose your claim it gets a bit tough for a while,” he explains, “For some lads it takes them a couple of years to get going after that, but I was lucky enough that I only had one flat year and, thank God, it has been good ever since – riding plenty of winners.”
And so it was that from 2001 onwards, the numbers started ratcheting up and in 2005 he recorded an excellent 41 winners and over €600,000 in accumulated prizemoney. That was his first year riding Wachman’s string and with horses such as Guineas third Damson, Bali Royal and Luas Line, he made an immediate impression.
He was now riding top class horses for two yards and making the most of every opportunity that came his way. He could justifiably say to himself: ‘I deserve to be here.’ And he did.
Wayne believes implicitly in the saying ‘what’s for you won’t pass you’ and he reckons that while it took him until last season to record that Group 1 win with Sole Power, he already had a string of Group 2 and Group 3 winners under his belt thanks to the likes of Bushranger, Myboycharlie, Tolpuddle, Walk On Bye, Latin Love and Pollen. His stock was rising fast.
“Of course you’re sick when a Group 1 doesn’t come along, but I knew I had done my best to make it happen and I felt I could not do any more. But when it did come, I also felt there would be more of those days.
“Up to last year all I wanted to do was win a Group 1 and now I want another one, but the most important thing for me is to ride plenty of winners every year. Sure I dream of winning the Derby and all that stuff, but my main aim is to work hard and keep my bosses happy. The winners will come from that.
“This year Lolly For Dolly has already won two Group 3s this season and was second last Sunday in a third and in fairness to the Stacks they’ve hit the iron hot this year as they did last year and have started the season with a bang and they’ll be consistent throughout the season too.
“But the thing with these horses is that you’re learning all the time with them. ‘Dolly’ had always given us the feeling that she’d act on good ground, but it didn’t turn out that way, so we let her off towards the end of last season and she’s rewarded us with two wins this year on the ground she likes. We might ease her off in the middle of the season and come back with her at the back end when she’s fresh and she might win a few more Group races, you never know. She’s also well-bred – out of Oratorio’s first crop – and she’s worth a lot of money now.”
Looking back over his career Wayne does admit that when he has hit a black spot, it does get frustrating. “Sometimes the horses don’t work out, but you can’t put them on your back and carry them. I have found that experience is the biggest factor in any jockey’s development. When you look at yourself riding and look at the people around you, you learn plenty.”
Lolly For Dolly’s second win at the Curragh this year being a case in point. “She won a short head having been held up,” he recalls, “but if she had been beaten a short head there might have been questions as to why I did I drop her out so far. But I knew I she was dropping back in trip and had won over a mile, so I knew she’d stay. You have to think things out and try and keep improving and try and keep your bosses happy. I am not full of myself and I am lucky I have the horses under me to allow me do the business.”
Wayne’s one to watch
“I HAVE high hopes for a horse called Parkers Mill who I gave a terrible ride on his debut.
I made a choice when I jumped out of the stalls and I dropped him in too far.
I was disgusted by that. It was a maiden race and when we jumped out he was a little keen and I put him in behind another horse, but then they bunched up and I was left too far out of my ground.
We practically walked around the Curragh and when we came into the straight, the leading horses were practically at the furlong pole.
It was a disaster, but luckily for me the Stacks are the sort of people that understand these things.
I came in and put my hands up and while they weren’t too impressed, they didn’t give out.
We made up for it at Tipperary last Thursday week when he won his maiden in good style.
I like him a lot.”