2023 Riders

Eimear O’Gorman is from a farming family in Carlow and there were always horses at home. She grew up riding ponies and has been working in the racing industry for over seventeen years, as yard manager, work rider, veterinary and stud secretary and she also had a livery yard at home. Eimear flirted with the idea of taking out an apprentice flat jockeys licence many moons ago but an old rule of an age cut off at 25 years old to be a claimer put that idea to bed as she was just about to turn 25!! An injury put an end to her intention of riding in the 2014 Punchestown charity race so here she is after a nine year hiatus from riding race horses taking part in three races!! Eimear is riding out three mornings a week in her old boss’s yard Shark Hanlon’s who has kindly offered her a good horse for the races. In order to maintain her fitness to a decent race riding level she is training daily by running, cycling, lifting weights and hiking. Jockey Coach Paddy Flood is putting her through tough training on the simulator at RACE and has been invaluable in understanding how to ride a race at each course effectively.

Michael O’Neill hails from Kilkenny and is married to Aoife with whom they have two children Saoirse and Kieran. He is a competent showjumper and was national amateur champion in 2018. He is the Managing Director of Tranziberia a road haulage company so when he’s not in the saddle he’s traveling Europe meeting valued customers. Michael is currently riding out with Emmet Mullins and is also getting training from jockey coach Paddy Flood in RACE. “I think everyone in racing knows the excellent work done by the I.I.J. and to be able to contribute to this whilst also getting to enjoy the challenge of taking part in the series is fantastic”.

Martina Dempsey grew up in the Thoroughbred County near the Curragh in Kildare and was involved with horses from a young age. Her first job working in racing was with Trainer Frank Ennis and has gained experience with many other racehorse trainers on the Curragh and in Australia over the years. She is an education professional with a Master of Science (MSc) focused in Applied Equine Science from University College Dublin. Previously an Equine Lecturer at the College of Agriculture Food & Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) and Kildalton College. Martina joined the Godolphin Flying Start team in October 2021 as Ireland Coordinator. As well as this role she also teaches at Racing Academy and Centre of Education (RACE) and The Irish Farriery school along with riding a few lots at Rangers Lodge Pretraining. Although working for many years in the Thoroughbred Industry Martina has never rode on the track and is very honoured to get this opportunity to do so and to raise money for a worthy cause.

Niamh Ashe, an Equine Therapist originally from Dublin and now living in The Curragh. Niamh works with owners and trainers to assess and treat horses with complex injuries and behavioural issues. Working with clients within the racing industry she also rides out five mornings a week in a racing yard. Niamh has competed on her own sport horses for the last 16 years in a variety of disciplines and show jumping. In 2016 she participated in the Race Horse to Riding Horse class in the RDS Horse Show and was given the opportunity last year to be a ridden judge in numerous shows around the country. A huge advocate on the need for retraining racehorses she thoroughly enjoyed this as rehabilitation and re-schooling are passions of hers. ‘’Competing in the Corinthian Challenge is important to me because I have experienced the difficulty of physical and mental recovery following accidents and injuries for both myself and friends in the Racing Industry. Irish Injured Jockeys is an unwavering vital support to jockeys and their families and I am proud to be part of helping them continue to provide that support. I am hoping my natural determination to succeed and my competitive streak will serve me well during this challenge!’’

Vivienne Connolly is born and bred in Kildare. Vivienne’s family have a long association with racing. Five generations have been directly involved in racing since 1812 with her great great great grandad holding the first public trainers licence and he built Curragh View at the top of Walshe’s hill in 1836. Her grandfather Mick Connolly trained from Westenra for over 50 years and her Dad, Robbie Connolly rode 60 winners and ironically trained 60 winners during his short training career before he passed away from MND aged 31. Vivienne’s Mum, Jacinta, previously worked in the Turf Club. Her own personal racing experience is limited to the last few years when she started getting lessons and rode out during Covid lockdown. Vivienne is a primary school teacher in Rathangan and completed the Thoroughbred Exercise and Care course in RACE last summer. She rides out before school and has been riding out in Martin Brassil’s yard since October 2022. She never thought it would possible to even apply to take part in the Corinthian Challenge and it is a dream to now look ahead to riding in 3 races, particularly at The Curragh Racecourse having grown up opposite the 5f post!

Damien Moore is a Kildare man, living in Monasterevin whose dream is to ride a winner up the Curragh with his family watching. He is an ex-trainee jockey with over 8 year’s experience in the horse racing industry. He worked as a work rider in multiple yards across Ireland and stopped riding to start his own business as a professional horse racing tipster and also has eight racehorses in training in Ireland and the UK.

Darren Dunne, a Meath native hails from Dunboyne and works as a EMC Technician with Compliance Engineering who are his main sponsor for the Corinthian Challenge Series. The support from the company and friends is the reason why he is pushing himself to take on this challenge of a lifetime. He started riding horses in 2015 and rode in the Punchestown Charity race in 2019 for Kidney Research. Darren was lucky enough to own horses in syndicates on the track and successfully had 2 winners in his own name as an owner in Point to Points which brought on his love of horseracing. He is very much looking forward to riding around Naas, The Curragh and Leopardstown racetracks.

Aimee Murphy is from Newry in County Down and is currently residing in Kildare. She has competed in show jumping up to Grand Prix level and has also hunted for many seasons. Amy rides out full time for the past two years and has her own yard. She is currently riding out for Michael Halford, Tracey Collins and Sarah Tobin.

Abigail Reilly is from Ballymoney in Northern Ireland and has been riding from a very young age. She started out showjumping and then moved into a racing yard from 14 years of age which then progressed to breaking and training youngsters. Trained as a plumber she now rides at the weekends and keeps her fitness up with running and strength training throughout the week. She was encouraged to take part by Samuel Wilson for a bit of craic! She is however taking it seriously and revelling in the challenge, to win a race and to have her family there would be the ultimate dream.

Hazel Smith lives in Athboy, Co. Meath, her feet are firmly on the ground even though her profession with Aer Lingus has her clocking up the air miles! She led up one of our previous Corinthian Challenger’s in Leopardstown, Emer Lawlor last year and has already ridden a few amateur races. Encouraged by friends and family Hazel decided to take up the challenge herself. Riding out for Tom Gibney and Tony Martin she has plenty of experience behind her.

Anna Cropper has lived in Kildare for many years. As a child she competed in pony club events and had her own horses. Her love of horses brought her to work full time in racing as a stable hand & exercise rider in both flat and national hunt yards in the UK and Ireland. Anna attended the Northern Racing College in Doncaster, gaining NVQ Levels 1-3 & Modern Apprenticeship in Race Horse Care & Management. She has worked for many years with John Oxx and been involved with racing since 1997, she is currently riding out for Martin Brassil and John Hanlon at the weekends and in her spare time.

Katy Brown is originally from the UK but is living in Ireland for many years She has held a trainers licence the last few years and successfully trained winners both on the flat and national hunt in Ireland and the UK. Through the years of working in the industry Katy has seen first-hand the commitment and dedication that jockeys show on a daily basis. She is very excited and extremely grateful to be taking part in this challenge and having the opportunity to ride at some of the most prestigious racetracks in the country. ‘’ I can only imagine the buzz to be taking part in the sport as a jockey, a very different angle to what I’m normally used to and to be getting the leg up rather then giving the leg up ! ‘’