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January 12, 2012

Free Rein With: Paddy Young

Photo by Douglas Lees.

Paddy Young finished 2011 the same way he did the two previous years—as the National Steeplechase Association’s champion jockey. The Irish native rode 112 races in 2011 and finished with 27 wins, including the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, to claim the money-won and races-won titles.

Young grew up with horses in Ireland and moved to England to continue his jockey training before landing a job at Jack Fisher’s Maryland barn in 2003.

He rides regularly for Tom Voss, including the 2010 Eclipse award winner Slip Away. The pair won the 2010 Colonial Cup (S.C.), cruising to a 25-length lead over second-placed Preemptive Strike.

Name: Paddy Young
Age: 35
Home Base: Unionville, Pa.

What’s the best win of your career?
Slip Away in the Colonial Cup. It meant he was the Horse of the Year and won the Eclipse Award.

Who’s the genius mind behind your Facebook fan page, “paddy the young champ”?
[Fellow jockey] Willie Dowling started it. They thought it was funny, and I guess it is funny; mainly it was funny that people thought it was actually me. In April they were saying that I was going to be champion jockey, which I guess turned out all right since I did win it.

Has there ever been a horse with which you’ve had a special relationship off the track?
I always tend to like the timber horses. They’re a bit older, and they’ve been doing it so long. You ride them year after year, so you get attached to them. I have a special respect for the horse that’s at the top of his game for so long.

Which bones have you broken?
I’ve been pretty lucky—just both of my collarbones, both my wrists, my pelvis. I know it sounds like a lot, but it’s not that bad.

What’s one thing that the Irish do better than Americans?
A lot of people would say drinking.

You ride the horses that your wife, Leslie Young, trains. What’s it like when you don’t win?
Some days we laugh about it, and other days we don’t talk to each other. I try to tell her that when we’re involved in the horses we’re not married, but when I’m not riding her horses then we can be married.

What’s the longest you’ve gone without speaking after a race?
Probably just a day or two. Usually if I get a good night’s sleep I can get over it. I usually get over it before she gets over it.

Do you have a favorite kind of horse to ride?
I like a horse that tries, to be honest. It doesn’t matter if I’m riding a claimer or a stakes horse; I just want that horse to give as much as I’m giving.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
When I was working in England, Terry Biddlecombe told me to just let the fence come to me. This year, during a rough spot, Matt McCarron told me I just needed to be patient. Even though I’m on top of my game, I’m still taking advice, and I’m still trying to be better.

Have you ever thought of doing anything else?
Not really. I know one day that I’m not going to be a jockey, but I’d still like to be involved in horses in some way, either as a trainer or sales or what have you.

Ever tried any other disciplines?
I always thought I would like to be a show jumper. My dad did it in Ireland, and I did when I was a kid. I was always a little mesmerized by it, then

I got the feel of speed, and I wanted to be a jockey. I did cross-country one time, but I fell into a water jump, and I said, “Oh no, this is not for me.”

What’s the key to being a successful jockey?
Fast horses.

You’re 6'. What’s the strangest thing you’ve done to keep weight off?
I took Lasix once, and that wasn’t very smart. That was the worst thing I did, but now I just try to keep busy and eat right.

Which off-limits food do you miss?
I’m a bit of a choco-holic, so that’s hard because I can’t have it days before a race.

What’s the biggest “oh no” moment of your career?
I was supposed to ride this horse for Dougie Fout, What A Prize, but at the last minute I decided to ride another horse that was in the field that I had won with a couple times. I was at the second-to-last fence, and my horse was going nicely, and all of a sudden a horse passed me like I was sitting still. I looked up and recognized the silks, and I thought, “Oh no.” And thankfully he missed the last beacon at the last turn, because he would have won if he’d stayed on the course.

What’s the biggest misconception about the Irish?
I guess a lot of people would say that we’re full of hot air. And that they’re drinkers, but that’s just a misconception for me, because I don’t drink.

Do your three kids come to the track?
Thomas, 13, doesn’t want anything to do with them. He used to come to the track, and sometimes he’ll lead up the quieter ones. [My other kids], Rory, 3, and Faoirsa, 2, are just little wild ones, so they don’t come up too often.

What are you still hoping to accomplish?
I’d like to win a few more Grade 1 races. It would be nice to win another championship to have four in a row. The last guy I think had three, so it would be nice to be able to do. But I think the main thing is to win as many big races as I can and stay healthy.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, consider subscribing. The original version of "Free Rein With: Paddy Young" ran in the Jan. 2 & 9, 2012, Steeplechasing issue. Check out the table of contents to see what great stories are in the magazine this week.

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