SIMON Torrens hopes to keep busy while horse racing in Ireland has been put on hold.
The Castlederg jockey won twice in the final week of action, riding JP McManus’s Golden Sunset to victory at Downpatrick during Ulster National day in the Tote Supporting Downpatrick Handicap Steeplechase on Ulster National Day and he followed that success with a win two days later on Ask Heather in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Steeplechase at Clonmel where he also picked up two second placed finishes.
While delighted to have claimed the two victories before the temporary end of racing in the country, Torrens admitted that it was strange to go from the packed grandstands of Cheltenham to ride in front of empty stands after a behind closed doors policy was introduced on March 13th.
“It makes a change all right! Cheltenham is the biggest stage in horse racing, so to go from their to Downpatrick, which is usually their biggest day of the year, with no-one there, it was definitely quiet to say the least!,” he observed.
“It made a big change, especially at Downpatrick. That was their big day of the year, Ulster National day, so usually the place would be packed. Downpatrick always gets a good crowd. There and Down Royal always attract a good crowd, racing in the North is always well supported.
“Usually there are queues of people to get into Downpatrick every year because I don’t know what it is about the place but the locals support it very well, so it was even strange driving in and seeing no cars in the car parks.”
Although the celebrations after that win were a little more subdued than normal, the 23-year-old Tyrone man certainly relished claiming another triumph for one of the biggest race horse owners in the world.
“The win on Golden Sunset was enjoyable, even with nobody being there to see it!,” he laughed.
“Every time you ride a winner, it’s definitely great and especially to ride a winner for the likes of JP McManus. In fairness he’s been very good to me and it’s great to think you’ve ridden a winner but to do it for one of the biggest owners in the world is pretty special.
“I sometimes have to pinch myself getting all these opportunities considering maybe a year or two years ago I was struggling to maybe get rides. You could get into your own head and you’d be asking yourself if it’s working out, if you’d be better off packing it in and doing something else.
“But racing goes around in circles, one minute you’re up, the next you’re down, that’s just the way it is.”
Before racing was stopped in Ireland, Torrens felt the behind closed doors approach was a good idea and was working well.
“No-one was permitted at the racecourse apart from the jockey, one trainer and one stable staff member per horse and [race] officials,” he explained.
“They were doing the best they could do in the circumstances that there was. It was great because it was keeping a lot of people in a job in the racing industry, me included. They were taking all the appropriate measures and were monitoring it and kept it like that for as long as they could.”