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The Big Interview with jockey Sean Levey
Jockey Sean Levey is pictured, right, walking the Goodwood course with celebrated Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O’Brien, centre, and top jockey Johnny Murtagh, left
Jockey Sean Levey has arrived in North Yorkshire with a big reputation. The former Aidan O’Brien protégé talks to STEVE CARROLL about his riding ambitions.
FOR a jockey who has competed in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, all the Irish Classics and Group 1 races around Europe, the prospect of riding around Wolverhampton on a Friday night is bound to be a bit of a change.
Sean Levey freely admits that within the confines of Aidan O’Brien’s mighty Ballydoyle stable in Ireland he didn’t really sit on many handicappers.
That the 23-year-old apprentice left the County Tipperary conveyor belt at all is a measure of his determination to succeed as a jockey.
Having ridden 45 winners along with, more importantly, a Group victory and three Listed successes, Levey could have sat on his laurels in the Emerald Isle.
Instead he severed an eight year tie with O’Brien and has come to England, and Nawton trainer David O’Meara, in search of opportunity and winners.
“It’s a big change from Ballydoyle but I like it so far,” he said of his move to North Yorkshire.
“It was a very hard decision for me. A lot of the lads who have come over have arrived from smaller yards and haven’t had to leave something big behind them.
“My major motive was that it was all about opportunity. You have seen plenty of jockeys who have left Ireland and done really well for themselves.”
Levey was brought up at Ballydoyle, having been with O’Brien in one form or another since he was 13. He has worked with the best – Jamie Spencer, Kieren Fallon and Johnny Murtagh to name just three.
“Aidan has been very good to me – very good to me over the years,” Levey said.
“My second year riding for him, I got a chance to ride in a Classic.
“I have ridden in every Classic in Ireland, I have ridden in the Arc, Group 1 races in Germany. I have travelled with horses to America and Hong Kong.
“I have got a great deal of experience. My experience at Ballydoyle has been second to none. Kieren was there and there was Jamie and Murtagh. Not only that but there’s also Seamy (Seamus Heffernan) who is a great jockey and a great horseman.
“I have had the opportunity to work with the greatest around.”
Levey has ridden in the top races in England, Ireland, Germany and France and is still in receipt of a five pound claim.
It means he has a level of experience for an apprentice that will have many trainers drooling with anticipation.
He explained: “Aidan has always used me to make the running in Group 1 races. I have always ridden in big races and never got the chance to use my claim in handicaps.
“Maybe last year we had a few – a handful at most – but we have never really had handicappers. I know most of the young lads in Ireland will be riding 30 or 40 winners a year. I have always ridden into double figures but they have always been like 15 or 17.
“For an apprentice, I have ridden Listed winners and I have ridden a Group winner. I have ridden horses but you have to get up and get riding before you can stamp your name over here.
“Because I have been riding for so long, there might be a bit of surprise that I still have a 5lb claim but obviously I know how that has come about. It’s an opportunity – to get a chance to have the apprentice title this year would be an achievement for me.”
He has signed up with York jockeys’ agent Lorraine Ellison, who has sent an email to every trainer in the country to pitch her new high-profile client.
Levey says he plans to get out and about as soon as possible – riding for O’Meara, along with other trainers, and building his image in England. Having scouted out his new employer, he believes he has chosen a “great place to start”.
“I looked at his statistics last year,” he said. “He said he only had 15 horses and he had about 40 winners. Taking that, I thought he was clued up and knew what he was doing.
“He has got 60 horses in this year. They are all in good form. He’s on top of things, he is there every day. He works just as hard as any trainer I have ever worked for.
“I think it will be a great place for me to start.
“My target is to try to ride as many winners as I possibly can. I have been doing it for so long that I want to make sure this is going to be the right way forward for me.
“The best thing I can do this year is to go for the apprentice title and if I can get that I would be delighted. I will plan, move on, and see what I do next year.
“I am looking to get about as much as possible. I am going to spread out.
“I am going to try to get down to John Quinn’s once a week and whoever else will have me. Anytime they want me to get down there, I will try my best do it.
“I am very excited about it.”