Trainer Ger Lyons targets 1,000th winner at Roscommon on Monday

Colin Keane will partner Tuwaiq and Offiah after he reached 100 winners for season in record time

Trainer Ger Lyons celebrates after winning the Juddmonte Irish Oaks with Even So in 2020. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Trainer Ger Lyons celebrates after winning the Juddmonte Irish Oaks with Even So in 2020. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Ger Lyons will have two opportunities at Monday’s Roscommon fixture to train his 1,000th winner.

The Co Meath based Classic-winning trainer runs the likely favourite Tuwaiq in the opening two-year-old race and Offiah in a later handicap.

Both will be ridden by champion jockey Colin Keane who reached 101 winners for the season at Navan on Saturday.

Keane recorded the fastest ever century of winners in Ireland on the Lyons-trained Barretta and is odds-on to eclipse the record 126 winners Joseph O’Brien partnered in 2013.

The jockey is already assured of a third riders’ title this year and Lyons believes a new record is “on the cards” for his stable jockey once he stays healthy and sound.

Lyons himself rode 50 winners during a relatively undistinguished career as a jump jockey.

However, he has become one of the top Flat trainers in the country in the years since saddling a first winner – Maelalong at Navan in October 1994.

The outspoken 56-year-old admitted on Sunday that reaching 1,000 will be a proud moment.

“My wife told me the other day that I had four to go to the 1,000. She’s been keeping count. I wouldn’t have a breeze about stuff like that. I had no clue. But it’s not so bad. It’s just a number but I’m not going to trivialise it. Yes, I am proud of it,” he said.

“They are running well so I wouldn’t be surprised [if it happened on Monday]. But the sooner it comes up the happier I’ll be. It’s like with Colin. I just wanted him to do it yesterday before it became a monkey [on his back].

“We’re consistently sending out winners. So if it’s not there, it will be at Gowran or whenever. It will be when it will be because we’re consistent. The one thing that gets me up in the morning is consistency of winners,” Lyons added.

Trainer Ger Lyons is in no doubt that Siskin’s win in the Phoenix Stakes under jockey Colin Keane in 2019 was the best of his 999 to date. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho
Trainer Ger Lyons is in no doubt that Siskin’s win in the Phoenix Stakes under jockey Colin Keane in 2019 was the best of his 999 to date. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho

Lightening Pearl supplied him with a first Group One in the Cheveley Park Stakes 10 years ago but other top-flight success remained elusive until Siskin landed the 2019 Phoenix Stakes.

The following year that colt was victorious in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, a first Classic win that was quickly followed a month later by Even So in the Curragh Oaks.

Siskin has been the star act to emerge from Lyons’s link to the hugely powerful Juddmonte team set up by the late Prince Khalid Abdullah.

“One of my proudest achievements is getting Juddmonte into the yard and training winners for them. You’re doing okay if you’re working for, and being successful, for clients who have been there and done that like they have. It makes you feel better about yourself,” Lyons commented.

Pressed about his favourite winner to date, he replied: “Siskin in the Guineas, without question or doubt. It’s about Classics. I absolutely loved Even So. But for the drama, and how he was favourite and delivered, it has to be Siskin.”

He insists he remains as ambitious as ever and pointed to his veteran colleague Kevin Prendergast, who is still training at 89.

“My ambition is to hit 2,000 winners and I’ve worked it out that by current standards I should get there before I’m Kevin’s age!” he joked.

“I used to think when I get to 50 I’ll be stopping and in Barbados smoking ganja and doing this and doing that. The I realised trainers don’t retire. They drop dead.

“I’m retired as it is. I get up at five in the morning, I feed the horses, I’m finished by 11 every day. I spend the afternoon watching racing. I can go cycling. What retirement is going to be better than that?” Lyons added.

The trainer has rarely been racing during the pandemic, preferring to leave racecourse duties to his brother, Shane.

However, ahead of Monday’s Cabinet Covid-19 committee meeting, Irish racing officials are keeping fingers crossed that the controversial limit of 500 spectators at racecourses will be lifted.

Horse Racing Ireland has given submissions to Government about increasing the limit to 1,000 for everyday fixtures and specifically to 5,000 each day for the upcoming Irish Champions Weekend and Listowel festival.

HRI’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh said on Sunday there has been “positive engagement” with Government on their submissions. He also stressed the importance of spectators being allowed indoors at race meetings now the seasons are changing.

“The indoor aspect is important because if the weather is not kind, 5,000 people outdoors, even at places like Leopardstown and the Curragh is challenging.

“There is plenty of space on all those racecourses, plenty of Tote halls that are roomy and airy and capable of ventilation. Those areas are no different from the underside of a stand at a football stadium. So I would be positive enough,” Kavanagh said.

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