28 year old TOM QUEALLY, regular pilot of the amazing FRANKEL, could be said to be riding on top of the world, or so it might seem, on the back of this incredible horse. Tom, himself, is an amazing man. As a young man he had thoughts of going into the Priesthood but, due to the insight of a Priest and sister, who reminded him of his love of horses and his riding ability, he became an apprentice. Many might say he was divinely guided by being able to ride for the training genius, Aidan O’ Brien, from practically the beginning and then becoming involved with such inspired trainers as Barney Curley and Sir Henry Cecil. Tom, to his great credit, has taken his opportunities with both hands and must be the envy of the jockey fraternity. This Saturday he rides Frankel in the Champion Stakes at Ascot (17:05 SA time) and the racing world will watch in anticipation to see if the son of Galileo can close off his magnificent career with a 14-0 record. We, along with all racegoers, will be wishing Tom all the best as he partners the great horse here.
What is your name and age? Tom Peter Queally and I am 28 years old.
What is your star sign and birthdate? Libra-8th October 1984.
Where were you born? Waterford, Ireland.
Where do you live? Newmarket, Suffolk, England.
Tell us about your family? I’m the eldest son of Bernie and Declan. I have 3 brothers, Dec jnr, Jack and Louis.
Favourite movie? Pulp Fiction.
Favourite food? Japanese.
Favourite drink? Red Bull and Lucozade. When I get back to Ireland I enjoy a quiet pint of Guinness.
Favourite music? Bruce Springsteen and Rod Stewart.
Favourite sport? Racing is my passion. I love what I do for a living and am very blessed to be able to do so.
Are you interested in soccer, if so, which is your favourite soccer team? Man United.
Favourite holiday destination? Mauritius.
What is the quality you like most about yourself? I’m easy going and have a cool head. I try to be thoughtful!
As a schoolboy you attended Dungarvan Christian Brothers School where you were very keen to discover more about your Christian beliefs. This led you to enrolling in Maynooth College for an education in the priesthood. Tell us about what led you to becoming a jockey as opposed to a priest? The CBS in Dungarvan gave me a great education and were very understanding when I needed time off to go racing at the beginning of my career. The career guidance classes opened up several options for my future, I’m happy with the choices I’ve made. I have no Regrets!
Your first win was on April 13 2000 at Ireland’s Clonmel Racecourse at the age of 15 for trainer John Roche. Describe your feelings at the time? Pure delight, you never forget your first! I took a half day from school. Clonmel is my local track and my family were there to share the moment with me!
That year you became Irish champion apprentice with 28 winners. What memories do you still hold of that season? The season really snowballed. I got many opportunities as I was riding many winners for a wide variety of trainers. I learnt a lot quickly but at 15 I was far from the finished article so my 7lb claim was a huge help.
Your parents then had the view that you should finish your schooling before turning into racing full-time. The Irish Turf Club terminated your apprenticeship early due to the dispute between your family and trainer Flynn about you continuing to ride without completing schooling. Tell us about this stage of your life? As a teenager I was very keen to ride as much as possible. However, education is very important, and, racing can be an incalculable game, so I always had an academic option if things went quiet on the racing front.
After finishing your education you joined the yard of the leading Irish trainer Aidan O’ Brien. How much did you learn from working with such a great trainer? I learnt a lot working for Aidan. I got to ride work on a lot of good horses. It’s great to know what a good one feels like when they come along!
In 2003 you won the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes on Balestrini for O’ Brien beating the supposed first stringer in Derby hopeful Alberto Giacometti. By rights this win should have been the springboard to success but by late 2003 you had ridden only 11 winners. This caused you to tell O’Brien that you would further your career abroad. How difficult was this decision for you to make? I loved working at Ballydoyle and had a lot of friends there. But I wanted to give it my best shot at being a jockey. I knew if I stayed in Ireland I would be fooling myself. There are far more opportunities in the UK.
You joined the legendary gambler and trainer Barney Curley. You took the apprentice title in 2004 with 59 winners. Tell us about the experience? Barney was very helpful and still is. He introduced me to trainers based in Newmarket and helped me get established in new surroundings. I worked very hard and it was rewarding to be top apprentice that year.
In 2008 you started your association with Sir Henry Cecil. You rode 18 winners for him despite the fact that Ted Durcan was first jockey to the stable. How did you become involved with Sir Henry? It was gradual progression really. I rode work and made the most of the chances I was given. It’s a relationship that has grown from day one, Henry is a great trainer and a lovely person. We get on well.
During 2009 you won 3 Group 1 races for Cecil plus the Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot on 20th June on Art Connoisseur for Michael Bell. You also won the Group 1 July Cup, at Ascot, on Fleeting Spirit. Describe your achievements during this year? I was delighted to be competing, and winning, on the big stage.
How many Group 1 races have you won? Soon after that you had success on Midday and Twice Over. After these wins you gave tribute to Henry Cecil saying that it was something special being part of his success and that you had learnt loads from him. Would you say that joining Sir Henry Cecil was the turning and defining point in your career? 20. Yes, for sure, everybody needs a chance and Sir Henry was the one to give me my big chance.
In 2010 you won 5 Group 1 races with Midday and Twice Over. That same year Frankel had burst onto the scene. He was made odds on favourite for the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket the following May. You labelled him “A superstar…very special.” At that stage could you ever have imagined just how good he would turn out to be and tell us about that win in the Guineas? He was impressive from day one. The Guineas was special and many people have said they had never seen anything like that on a racecourse before. It’s an immense privilege to be part of something like that.
Frankel’s latest two wins seem to have been achieved even more easily than his earlier wins. Would you say that this is a fact or has the opposition been weaker? There is no such thing as a weak Group 1.
Frankel’s an easy horse to train and what sort of work does he do between races? Henry and the team at Warren Place have done an amazing job with him. I don’t know how easy or difficult it is but top trainers certainly make it look easy.
What sort of nature does Frankel have and does he have any unusual quirks? He’s a very kind natured horse. He was more highly strung in his earlier days but has really relaxed now.
Do you ride work on Frankel every day or only when he is being sharpened up for a race? Shane Featherstonehaugh rides him in the vast majority of his work. Occasionally I ride him in work, usually just before a race.
His unbeaten record from thirteen starts comes under threat when he runs in the Champion Stakes at Ascot on 20 October. Sir Henry Cecil, Prince Khalid Abdullah and yourself have won this race twice before with Twice Over which is a great omen. How is he doing and how confident are you of winning? His preparation has gone smoothly and without interruption. We are just hoping for some luck. He should be very difficult to beat.
You have been first jockey to Sir Henry Cecil since 2009 and obviously developed a good relationship with his prominent owner, Prince Khalid Abdullah who owned greats such as Midday, Twice Over and now the legendary Frankel. Tell us about the Prince and his love of the game? He loves his racing and his horses. His horses give him great enjoyment and satisfaction.
How much use has his pacemaker Bullet Train been to Frankel? Bullet Train has been an integral part of Frankel settling and growing up. He leads most of his routine work.
This may seem a silly question but have we seen the best of Frankel or is there still more to come? He is winning his races and doing everything that’s been asked of him superbly.
You are obviously a very busy jockey but do you have time for any interests outside of racing? I enjoy hunting and shooting. The natural world intrigues me. I love to travel and compare cultures, and the architecture of different cities around the world.
You came to South Africa last year for the International Jockey’s Challenge. How much did you enjoy riding here and what were your impressions of the country? It was amazing riding in South Africa. The weather was beautiful, the racecourses were nice to ride on, and it was a most enjoyable experience. All of us had a whale of a time!
You will be coming back to South Africa in November to defend the title the International team won last year. How pumped up are the guys and are you’ll looking forward to returning to South Africa? We are all really up for it. We are very competitive and we are all eager to win it again. I think