Few outside the racing world will have heard of Danny McMenamin, but that could all soon change following his victory in the Conditional Jockeys Championship in a season he has described as “exceeding all expectations”.
Having made steady progression through the riding ranks since arriving from Northern Ireland in 2017, the 20 year old today joins a roll of honour which includes the likes of Sir AP McCoy and Richard Johnson after being crowned champion conditional jockey on bet365 Jump Finale Day at Sandown Park.
Though now able to bask in the glory it was not until deep into the second half of the season that McMenamin started to turn his attention towards the title.
McMenamin, who hails from Downpatrick – the same town where Grand National winning rider and family friend Tony Dobbin is from – said: “I don’t know where to start myself really as it has been an unbelievable season. I’ve had a lot of opportunities and everything has worked out well in the end.
“Towards the end of last season and coming into this season I was looking at the conditional jockeys and I thought I’d be happy enough if I finished second or third in the championship.
“It has totally exceeded all expectations. I didn’t expect the season to go this way when it first started. I still haven’t believed I’ve won it to be honest.
“I try not to think too much ahead. Even two or three weeks ago people were saying it is nearly done and dusted. I know how this game goes and you can never say it is over until it is over.
“At the start of the month I thought I had a good shout and just had to keep doing what I was doing as if starting thinking ahead you start riding in a different way.
“I wanted to try and ride out my claim this season and if I was lucky enough to go for the title I would and I have been lucky enough that it has all come together in the end.”
McMenamin will rightly receive all the plaudits for his achievements, but he is quick to praise a number of current and former jockeys who have helped him reach his latest milestone.
He said: “I’d like to say the majority of lads in the weighing room I’ve had a little bit of advice from. Brian Hughes has been very good and my good mate Ryan Day has been good when days haven’t gone so well. It is good to have lads like that you can talk to.
“My jockey coach Brian Harding has been very good and he has helped me a lot since I came over. I’m very lucky to have him as my jockey coach.”
Moving away from home to England as a teenager can be a daunting prospect, as McMenamin found out first hand, but in Grade One-winning trainer Nicky Richards he believes he has found the perfect yard to help him pursue his career as a jockey.
He added: “The first couple of months were difficult enough but it is just like when you move somewhere different. I was only 17 at the time and it was all a bit strange but Nicky and all the staff at Greystoke were very good to me and helped me settle in. I’m now fairly well settled and happy where I am.
“Nicky is a top boss and has been amazing to me and helped me a lot – not just about racing but about life. He has always had advice when I’ve asked and I’m glad I came to him.”
Winning the conditional jockeys’ championship is the undoubted highlight of McMenamin’s career to date, however he has selected three moments on route to his title success that he feels stand out above everything else.
He said: “Nuts Well at Aintree twice in winning the Grade Two (Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase) and finishing second in the Grade One (Marsh Chase) last time were big highlights. It is brilliant to be riding in those sorts of races.
“To win a Grade Two on him, then to finish second in a Grade One on him behind a very good horse from Ireland (Fakir D’Oudairies) was an amazing day.
“Losing the claim was another thing I hoped to do this season. It was a nice time to do it going into the back-end of the season as it helped me keep the momentum going afterwards so to me it happened at the right time.”
While not one to set targets, McMenamin will bid to secure a first Grade One success aboard Nuts Well in the bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown today (Saturday) and is already looking forward to next season and renewing partnerships with a number of exciting prospects he hopes will help take his career to the next level.
He added: “There is a young horse from Nicky Richards’ yard called Nells Son who I have won two bumpers on this season. I think he will be a nice horse going forward.
“There are also the likes of Tommy’s Oscar and Pay The Piper from Ann Hamilton’s – they will also be lovely ones to look forward to next season, alongside Nuts Well.
“I don’t really set targets and the only one I had this season was to ride out my claim. I will just try and keep things simple again next season and keep going forward hopefully.”
About the 2020/21 Jump Championships:
The 2020/21 Jump Jockeys’ Championship is awarded to the jockey that has ridden the most winners during the jumps season (1st July 2020 to 24th April 2021). The Jump Trainers’ and Owners’ Championships are determined by total prize money won throughout the same period.
The 2020/21 Conditional Jockeys’ Championship is decided on the number of winners from 20th July 2020 to 24th April 2021. A Conditional Jockey can claim a weight allowance of 7lbs until they have 20 wins, 5lbs until 40 wins and 3lbs until 75 wins.
To find out more visit: greatbritishracing.com/championships