Aug 16, 2018

Meet 45-year-old Irish born-and-bred trackrider David McCabe, who moved to Sydney in March 2017 for a change in lifestyle. Little do many people know that David was once a racerider for the all-powerful Ballydoyle Stable, riding against legends Lester Piggott, Frankie Dettori and long-time mentor Pat Eddery.

We learn more about the County Meath maestro, pictured here aboard Pure Elation, who’s proud to now call Australia home.

How did you come to work at Snowden Racing? My wife Trish and I, along with our kids were looking for a lifestyle change first and foremost and Australia had always appealed. I was strongly advised that if I wanted to ride for the best trainer then we should contact Peter and Paul Snowden, so I reached out.

Who inspired you to become a jockey? Pat Eddery inspired me from a young age and helped me a lot through my apprenticeship. My uncle, Paddy Mooney was also jockey and went on to train. He taught me to ride from the age of 10 and was quite influential.

Best horse seen on a track and why? Zarkava. French filly who I was lucky enough to finish 3rd against in the French 1000 Guineas. She was a beautiful looking filly with a great turn of foot who was unbeaten during her racing career.

What were some of your biggest race wins (& best horse ridden)? I won the Group 3 Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket, a few Listed races and many big handicaps. The best horse I have race ridden was probably Halfway To Heaven who won three Group 1’s.

Who were some of the big names you were rode against? Lester Piggott, Pat Eddery, and Frankie Dettori. Pat was the toughest competitor.

What was it like riding for the all-powerful Ballydoyle under Aidan O’Brien? Aidan was very easy to ride for and a great educator who taught me so much. I was fortunate to ride in nearly every classic in Europe and felt honoured that Coolmore had the confidence in me to ride the great horses they did. It is a remarkable team under Aidan who are all dedicated to the job and I enjoyed being part of it

How long were you associated with Coolmore-Ballydoyle and did you take on any other roles? 11 years. I also travelled with the horses frequently to Dubai and USA to ride them trackwork.

Who are some other high-profile trainers that you’ve ridden for?

I race rode for Sir Michael Stoute, John Dunlop, Brian Meehan, Luca Cumani, and David Loder, amongst others. I have race ridden in Ireland, UK, France, Germany and Macau and track ridden in USA and Dubai

What are some of the main differences in work and culture, compared to Australia? The early time the alarm is set in Australia! The European trainers mainly work off hill gallops, and work the horses to rhythm, not time. Whilst USA, Maccau and Australia are quite similar in that they all train the horses to time and across flatter surfaces.

What are your strengths as a rider? I like to ride quirky horses, and get them happy and relaxed

What’s the key to getting the best out of a horse during trackwork? The set off in a gallop is very important to get them relaxed, keep them well balanced and most importantly, making sure get the instructed time right.

What Snowden horses have stood out that you’ve ridden so far? Redzel, Invader, Pure Elation, Jen Rules and Plot Twist to name a few!

Who makes up your family living in Sydney?

My wife Trish, who I have been with for over 20 years, and Conor (14) and Jack (8) our two sons. We have all settled in really well and are loving the outdoor lifestyle and the gorgeous beaches.

What does the future hold & will we be lucky enough to have you stay in Australia for a while yet? To continue riding top quality horses for Peter and Paul and hopefully get hold of the Melbourne Cup one day! Safe to stay you are stuck with the McCabe’s for a while!

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Words: David McCabe Interview: Sarah Peatling 

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