Racing: New faces for 1999 - Forristal has the measure of old villains

Despite his tender years and amateur status a young jockey has proved too wily for a racing rogue

IT WAS in April 1996 that a horse called Fletcher made his first appearance on a racecourse. It was a successful debut, too, one which persuaded the Timeform race-readers at Newmarket that he was "sure to win again", but it soon became clear that the horse had other ideas. Over the next two-and-a-half years, 13 different jockeys tried their luck on his back, including Kieren Fallon, Pat Eddery and Michael Hills, in a total of 26 races. Though his ability was clearly intact, not one could persuade Fletcher to put it to good use. Timeform's commentators, their patience exhausted, allowed themselves a rare stab at humour. Fletcher was, they concluded, "a habitual criminal".

But then Richard Forristal climbed aboard for an amateurs' race at Ascot, and something astonishing happened - Fletcher won. Showing the steely nerve of a seasoned professional, Forristal delayed his run until the last possible second. By the time his mount realised that he was in front and tried to apply the brakes, the post was already receding.

Forristal, clearly, was not one of those amateur riders who thinks he is doing well if he simply points his horse in the right direction. Instead, while the race which first got him noticed was on the Flat, he is an amateur jump jockey from Ireland, which is often a different thing entirely. As it was for Adrian Maguire, who also arrived in Britain with a "Mr" in front of his name, amateur status is simply a useful starting point in Forristal's journey towards the senior ranks.

There are other similarities with Maguire too, such as his relatively slight build - Forristal weighs less than 9st. Then there is his pugnacious riding style, which developed first at a local riding school and racing yard in Co. Cork, and then during working holidays at Aidan O'Brien's stable.

The most telling entry on Forristal's cv, though, may be the 18-year- old's background in Irish pony racing, which is long on action and very short on rules. It is a tough school, which counts Maguire, Tony McCoy and Declan Murphy among its recent graduates.

"It's the best experience you can get, because you have to look after yourself," Forristal says. "You go as hard as you can from the start and there aren't many stewards' inquiries. It's everyone to their own, and more than anything, it teaches you to be a bit hard-edged."

So much so that at just 15, he was ready to leave home for Britain, and a job with Kim Bailey in Lambourn. It has been said that he simply walked up to Bailey's front door and asked for a job, though Forristal says that this is a misunderstanding - "they knew I might be coming, I just left home a month earlier than I thought." His natural horsemanship was quickly apparent, both to Bailey and Conor O'Dwyer, the stable jockey at the time.

Competitive outings were generally restricted to the point-to-point field, however, until this season, when Forristal started to ride regularly under Rules. There have been 20 winners this term, and the only minor irritation is that he is not the leading amateur (Alan Dempsey, who is riding almost as many of Mary Reveley's runners as her stable jockey, has four more).

This year will offer his only chance of the amateurs' title, though, since financial considerations will force him to ride professionally from next season. "I'm looking for a sponsor and turning professional is the next step. I couldn't afford to be an amateur for another season," he says. Unless Bailey's string hits peak form from now until May, he will do so as a conditional, although as ever, the transition which will matter is the one from conditional to senior.

"It would be a miracle if I lost all of my claim by the end of the season," he says, "but the hardest thing is definitely when you do lose your claim, or even when you go down to 3lb, whether people still want to use you. A lot of good jockeys are forgotten about when their claim is gone."

But at least one significant figure seems confident that he has the talent to move up and keep going. Dave Roberts, the agent to the stars with names like McCoy and Mick Fitzgerald on his books, agreed to represent Forristal at the end of last season. Roberts's famed ability to find spare winners could yet see Forristal pass Dempsey in the amateurs' title race, and should maintain the momentum as his allowance drops away.

At his current rate of progress, it seems inevitable that Forristal will begin the 2000-2001 season as a senior rider, and one to be reckoned with. Horses run and jump for him, and as his ride on Fletcher demonstrated, he knows to the inch where the winning post is. For the next few months, he will effectively be a full professional with a 5lb allowance, and punters who do not take advantage could spend the next 10 years regretting their mistake.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Subsea Cables Installation Project Manager

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Subsea Cables Installation Project Manager

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Head of Offshore Operations & Interfaces

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Offshore Engineering Design Manager

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices