We are absolutely delighted to be able to bring you an interview with Ger Lyons, the former national hunt jockey, who is now a top trainer in Ireland. The Group 1 winning trainer calls a spade a spade and this interview is no different….
Having seen horses at close quarters since you were very young, did you always want to be involved in the industry or did you have another career plan?
Yes, from the moment I seen one at my next door stables I wanted to be a jockey.
As a NH jockey, did you have to go through the PTP route or as an Amateur before turning professional?
No, I was made a claiming pro (conditional) first which was a mistake as I would have had a better start if I was an amateur in this country. For that reason I decided eventually to head to England to race ride.
Can you remember your first winner under rules as a jockey?
Saizano at Perth.
Sadly your career was cut short, do you think that the work of the Irish Injured Jockeys fund is fundamental for helping jockeys in racing today?
The injured jockeys fund in UK were fantastic under Hillary Kerr (an angel) as also was Micheal Caulfield who was running the PJA at the time.
Did you always think about becoming a Trainer and how did you first start out?
No, all I ever wanted to do was become champion jockey, I idolised John Francome.
How many horses did you have at the start compared to now?
Started off with about 6/7 and now we have 91 in the main yard while we would have two other yards full with another 50 or so.
Is it easier to attract owners now than at the beginning?
The only thing that attracts new owners is success, as can be seen on many different occasions you are only as good as your last winner!
What was your first winner as a trainer?
Maelalong a 2yr old filly in a 5f maiden at Navan under JP Murtagh beating one owned by Jim Ryan and trained by Aidan whilst the great Christy Roche rode.
You have trained plenty of good horses, but what was the best to train ?
Probably Endless Drama 2nd in the 2000 gns to Gleneagles in 2015.
Out of all the winners, which has given you the most pleasure?
I’ve always enjoyed improving a pedigree and getting winning Blacktype with horses with little or no pedigree always satisfied me.
Lightening Pearl would be a case in point as in my opinion she was a GR3 filly on her best day yet we managed to win the Cheveley Park GR1 with her.
How has racing changed since you started training? And does racing have to change for the future?
Nowadays the sales ring is the priority whilst back in the day the winners enclosure was king. Sadly whilst our authorities continue to pat themselves on the back as having the best racing in the world we (UK & Ire) are being left behind on the world stage by the rest of the world.
Yes racing has to change. For instance we shouldn’t have local stewards anymore. All races should be monitored off course by 3 professionals and decisions made before the horse returns to the parade ring.
We would then have the opportunity to appeal and gone would be the days of delays!
There has been a lot of talk regarding the use & limits of the whip/persuader, what is your view on this?
It’s gone too far and I totally disagree with Francome on this issue.
There are times while watching a race I would think the jockey has been brilliant while the rules may have been broken and times I’ve been disgusted with the jockey while the rules haven’t been broken. So it’s all down to perception.
That said I would ban sticks being used behind the saddle in bumpers( NH flat races) as these races were designed to introduce & educate young horses yet time and time again we see these youngsters bet up to win these races that are notorious betting races.
It’s in this department that we lack leadership as I personally wouldn’t have given the lobbyists the benefit of a response. By doing so you become an apologist and by definition admit that we are wrong by using a whip.
Irish racing recently changed TV Channels in the UK, do you think it was a good deal for Irish racing?
I doubt it and I can guarantee you It will be a nightmare to deal with if they (RUK) continue to treat Ireland as an after thought during the coming flat season. Sadly we the players knew nothing about the deal until it was sealed.
I thought ATR sold Irish racing brilliantly over the years and the bit that I’ve seen so far by the current station leaves a lot to be desired. There’s no feel to it yet, like Irish racing is a stranger to them, a poor warm up act before the main act (UK racing) comes on stage.
What are your targets for the season ahead?
To train as many winners as possible with as many group winners as I can get out of the team.
And finally, could you give our readers a horse to follow for the flat season ahead?
California Daddy is a colt I like and should pay his way through the summer, hopefully.
We would like to thank Ger for his time and wish him & the team all the best for the season ahead and for the future, we are sure it will bring plenty of winners…
Interview by Rich Williams
Pictures – Endless Drama(Ger Lyons) others via search engine