AS the curtain comes down on this week’s Galway Races, a county Clare community will be honouring one of its own riding greats.
Last year was the 25th anniversary of Jason Titley’s career highlight, when he steered 40/1 chance Royal Athlete to victory in the Aintree Grand National.
The timing was not lost on Pat O’Brien from Quin who set about organising a tribute to the former jockey in his home village.
“We were hoping to do it last year for that anniversary, but Covid stopped us, so we’re getting around to it again now,” says Pat.
With society gradually reopening and the Galway Races under orders this week, and welcoming back spectators, the time felt right to revive the plan.
So, this Saturday a plaque honouring Jason will be unveiled opposite the family pub, The Monk’s Well in Quin, with one of Ireland’s great jockeys Paul Carberry doing the honours.
“Aidan O’Connell, who’d be well known from the Hunt and even rode in the National himself years ago, will be doing MC on the evening,” adds Pat.
Good timing is a prerequisite for any top jockey, of course, though Jason could be accused of breaking starter’s orders with his very first breaths in this world.
His parents were on holiday in Scotland in March 1971, when Jason was born prematurely – thankfully it all worked out ok and the young man brought up in Clare went on to enjoy a stellar career in the plate.
When it came to raising money for this tribute, Pat put his head together with Cyril McMahon and Cyril’s daughter Edel.
“Cyril told me it might be difficult to collect €1,000 these days, but I had 20 people in my own head and the 20 went to 25 and the 25 to 30 and then to 40. I had the whole thing well paid for fairly fast.”
This week in the racing calendar holds many happy memories for Jason who twice rode the winner of the Galway Hurdle.
A Grand National and two Irish Grand Nationals may have represented career highs, but there are few things that bring more pleasure in these parts than big race success in Ballybrit.
Jason guided Natalie’s Fancy to glory in the Hurdle in 1992 and No Tag in 1995, both for trainer Pat Kelly.
Jason can also boast a brace of Irish Grand Nationals guiding Vanton to victory in 1992 and following up on Mudahim in 1997.
Victory at the Cheltenham Festival in 1992 in the Coral Hurdle aboard My View, was another cherished success.
He’s 20 years retired from the saddle, this year; it appeared a snap decision at the time but like many jockeys, struggles with his weight and fatigue from the lifestyle took its toll. He’s still in the industry, however, running a pre-training yard from stables in Latoon and riding out at McDonaghs in Sixmilebridge.
Race riding may not be hard to quit, even for someone with Jason’s success in the saddle, but racing is a different story.
Now Jason’s story is set in stone in his home village, something that will perhaps inspire the next budding jockey to dream of soaring over the Aintree birch and surging past ‘The Elbow’ up the straight and into the history books.