By Dave Devereux
Nina Carberry entering the winners’ enclosure at Cheltenham with a beaming smile wider than the Cotswolds is something followers of the ‘Sport of Kings’ have become accustomed to since her first triumph at the famous festival, in the heart of Gloucestershire, more than a decade ago.
That win on the Paul Nolan-trained Dabiroun in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle in 2005 may have thrown a 20-year-old Nina firmly in the spotlight, as she left hardened professionals in her wake, but it was a victory waiting to happen as she always had a devotion to horse racing running through her veins.
Her father, Tommy, was a celebrated jockey, with Cheltenham Gold Cup wins and an Aintree Grand National triumph among his notable achievements, and he went on to become a successful trainer, saddling Bobbyjo to success in the 1999 Grand National with his son, Paul, on board.
The passion for all things equine comes from both sides of the family, as Nina’s mother, Pamela, is the daughter of legendary trainer, Dan Moore, twice a winner of the Irish Grand National, and sister of trainer, Arthur Moore, so the bloodline runs deep and it’s no great surprise that the couple produced four jockeys – Paul, Philip, Nina and Peter.
Another son, Thomas, is also involved in the horse racing game, while Mark is the only one of their offspring to make his living away from the sport.
Being born into such a huge sporting dynasty, a love of horse racing took hold of Nina from an early age and has always played a massive part in her life.
During an idyllic childhood, growing up on a farm in Ratoath, in County Meath, a young Nina was surrounded by horses, and it wasn’t long before she began to hone the talents that would see her go on to mix it with the best in the business.
“Dad was training horses at the time and I had five brothers so it was always entertaining. We were always up to something and we all rode ponies and had great craic growing up. My mother always made sure we had good ponies to ride,” she says.
It wasn’t long before the hobby of a wide-eyed and eager child turned into a real verve and passion and she embarked on the road that would lead her to famous successes across the water at Cheltenham and closer to home at the Irish Grand National in Fairyhouse.
“I had a lot of experience at a young age going hunting and pony riding and then I got my licence out when I was 16 and that was where it all started,” she continues.
The fledging jockey gave racing fans a taste of what was to come when she rode her first winner in 2001, landing the Ladies Derby at the Curragh on the Noel Meade-trained Sabrinsky, and although she may not have imagined how successful she would become in the game at that juncture, she clearly hasn’t looked back since.
“That was a great day and a great winner to get me going. I didn’t plan to be a jockey. I always wanted to ride horses but it just kind of happened that way. I never thought I was going to be successful enough. I just kind of went with it and it worked out. I had a couple of winners, got the job with Noel Meade as an amateur and it went from there really.”
Continue reading and see what Conor O’Dwyer has tipped to win at this year’s Cheltenham Festival in our St Patrick’s Day Annual