DUBAI // If Godolphin had not kept faith with him when he was a fledgling jockey who thought he knew everything, the Irish rider Daragh O'Donohoe would not be racing today. O'Donohoe, who has been associated with the racing operation for 13 years, credits Godolphin's support during a low period at the start of his career for his current position.
Back in Dubai after a summer in England, 38-year-old O'Donohoe has been riding out for the Al Quoz-based stable and will be seen in the Godolphin blue during the first Dubai International Racing Carnival at Meydan which gets underway tomorrow night. "I have been so lucky to work for Godolphin because I only freelance and they have treated me so well," he says. "They give 110 per cent to everything no matter what way people look at it, and I have been associated with them since I was a young guy starting out."
O'Donohoe, a Dublin boy who left school at 15, found success early. "To be fair I wasn't the easiest - I had my ups and downs and they stuck by me. I don't mind admitting that," he says. "I had a few issues when I was younger. I got success quite early and I'm not afraid to say it, it all happened too quick for me and I kind of, not exactly went off the rails, but had issues and I thought I'd arrived. That doesn't happen in racing."
The young O'Donohoe came to Godolphin as Ireland's joint champion apprentice with Seamus Heffernan, after serving his apprenticeship with trainer Dermot Weld and a first full season with England's Ed Dunlop. Riding good horses from successful yards gave him early success he says he was too immature to deal with. "You can have success but you can never think it's going to last forever. In racing you just don't know what's around the corner. And that goes for all of us. I had a couple of problems and let it go to my head and it went against me. "It's hard to come back from that. I've changed a lot of things in my life and career to get it back on track.
"I cannot thank Godolphin enough because if they hadn't of stuck by me I would probably not be in racing now." During the late 1990s O'Donohoe had great success on Central Park, with the pair claiming a number of Group One and Two races, and he won the Juddmonte Lockinge on Cape Cross - the champion sire of Sea the Stars - in 1998. But asked to choose a favourite, O'Donohoe is stumped. "It's impossible," he says. "I loved riding Central Park and kept the ride on him for a lot of good races and Cape Cross is a great horse - a champion on and off the track, but there were also the horses they trusted me to ride behind the scenes.
"Even from the start I was allowed to exercise Daylami [winner of seven Group Ones in England, France and the US] and Swain [winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Coronation Cup among other major races]." O'Donohoe also rode the World-Cup winning Dubai Millennium. "I was lucky enough to ride him at his first trial at Nad al Sheba before he hit the racetrack," says O'Donohoe.
"The one thing I was told by the boss and Simon Crisford [Godolphin racing manager] was that I was on him to look after him. "They obviously knew what they had." This season O'Donohoe's hopes are more modest - he says just one winner during the highly-regarded campaign would be cause for celebration. "I would be over the moon with a Carnival win," he says. "You could say I should set my goals higher, but when you are freelance you can't guarantee the horses, you just ride your heart out on everything you get and that's my philosophy."
But O'Donohoe tips Godolphin for big things. "Godolphin will have the premiership of horses here for Meydan. They will throw everything they have at it," he says. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org