Having ridden over 30 winners throughout his riding career, Con McSweeney has transferred that success to his new role as a handler, where he currently has a 100% strike rate for the season in the four-year-old division with a brace of winners.
The Balincollig native enjoyed a 12-year stint between the flags from his first ride in 2004 when he finished third aboard Tupgill Turbo in a six-year-old geldings’ maiden at Liscarroll for owner Ted Hurley.
Following close to 600 rides in the sphere since then, McSweeney decided to hang up his riding boots and close that chapter of his life on a high note, after steering the Mary Twohig-trained Bobby Cullen to victory in the five-year-old and upwards adjacent maiden at Dawstown in 2016.
McSweeney also held a handlers’ license when riding and in 2008 he enjoyed his one and only success as both a handler and rider, when Back The Bid landed her seven-and-eight-year-old maiden at Monksgrange for him, while carrying the colours of owner Neil Hurley.
Whilst he may not have saddled a runner in over seven years from 2011, the decision to take out a handler’s permit once again has been richly rewarded, with three of his four runners in the past 12 months finding themselves at the number one spot in the winner’s enclosure.
Railway Hurricane provided the Cork native with his first success of this season, when he stormed home an impressive three-length winner in his four-year-old maiden at Lisronagh.
The son of Perugino was a €6,000 store purchase and was brought to the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham November sales after his success, where he fetched a price of £58,000 to produce a smart profit for his connections.
“I was delighted with his sale. Gavin Cromwell bought him, so he is gone to a good yard and I will be looking forward to following him on the track,” said McSweeney.
“The horse that was going to be second to him, Across The Channel, won at the weekend for Colin Bowe, so I think it was a competitive enough four-year-old maiden.
“He’s a nice horse that always worked quite well at home and had also won a few schooling races.
“I was quite confident on the day that he was going to win, so much so, that I put a few pound on him. I got him at a good price, so the day worked out great.”
McSweeney didn’t have long to wait before he returned to the winner’s enclosure, as Russellsway (pictured below) scored in her four-year-old mares maiden just two weeks later at Boulta, vindicating the promise of her fifth-placed debut effort, by beating her rivals by two and a half lengths.
“It’s always brilliant to have a four-year-old winner. I always held her in high regard, she would have worked quite a bit with Railway Hurricane, so after he won I was very confident that she would run well.
“She’s a smart mare and is fine and big. She took a bit of time, but I think that she is a bumper type of horse.
“I ran her at Ballycahane last March and we rode her all wrong that day, she was too prominent and we made too much use of her, so I decided that for Boulta I needed to change tactics and thank god it worked out on the day.
“I think she has a bright future ahead of her.”
Following her success at Boulta, McSweeney will once again return to the Cheltenham sales ring, this time with the daughter of Kalanisi.
“She’s entered in the sales and she heads over on Tuesday, she’s stayed sound and is in good form. I had a few people interested in her after she won, but I thought the best option would be to go to the sales with her.”
Darragh Allen was the rider responsible for providing the Cork-based handler with his four-year-old winners this term, and he was impressed McSweeney with the supremely confident rides that his fellow Cork native gave both winners.
“Darragh rides out for Terence O’Brien, who is a highly regarded trainer here in Cork. He’s a rider I’ve been watching for a while now and has been improving in leaps and bounds each season that he has ridden.
“He is very obliging whenever I need him to go schooling, he will always come and meet me, which is great and the two winners that he rode for me were given very confident rides. He will be a name that we will be hearing a lot more of in the future.”
With five point-to-pointers in training at the moment, McSweeney hopes to have three of those ready to run for the spring season.
“My yard is just outside Ballincollig, onsite there is a four-furlong woodchip gallop, a mile-long grass gallop, schooling fences and hurdles, along with a 60-meter outdoor swimming pool which is a huge asset when it comes to training. I would try and get the horses into the swimming pool twice a week if I can, I think its great exercise for them, and it helps to keep their minds refreshed.
“I bring them away quite a bit to work them, I would use Colin Murphy’s gallop regularly along with going to Dromahane.
“I ride out for Michael Kennedy (Jack and Paddy Kennedy’s brother), who is based in Upton in Innishannon in the mornings, then in the afternoons I come back to my place and do my own horses.”