Neil O’Dowd has had a tough time of it of late and a win by Aigne in the Bonny Glen Landfill – Midwest Disposals 1550 at Awapuni on Saturday would be a tonic for the Waikato horseman. O’Dowd is currently in his final year of training and earlier this year he made the call to send Aigne and Senassy south to join Kevin Myers’ Wanganui stable.
The 68-year-old had no intention of continuing to pursue training, however, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic he elected to start working the previously southern-bound Daad. It was a decision that would land O’Dowd in hospital. “Last year was to be my last winter of training, so I sent Aigne and Senassy down to Kevin Myers at the start of the year,” O’Dowd said. “My other little Istidaad, Daad, was going to go down south but then COVID-19 came along. “Seeing as he couldn’t go down I thought we would work him up and run him in the North Island.
“He decided to step sideways one day six weeks ago and I hit the ground hard. “I cracked four ribs, punctured a lung, and knocked myself out. I ended up in hospital and when I was lying there I decided I am not riding anymore. “I have come off heaps of times like it, but just hit the ground wrong this time, so I have pulled the pin.”
O’Dowd said it has been a long and painful recovery process and he still suffers vision issues. “I am getting better and starting to do a bit more, but I am still concussed,” he said. “I still have a little bit of blurred vision and I am not moving as quick as I could. “I was in hospital for three days and they put a drain in me and drained my lungs. “I went for a check-up last Friday with the blurred vision, so they referred me to concussion services and I am just waiting for an appointment with them. “It is going to be a long, slow process. You just don’t bounce back like you used to when you were younger.”
While O’Dowd has been a passionate rider for most of his life, he said the incident has been enough for him to call time on his days in the saddle. “It was a wakeup call,” he said. “I love riding my horses and working them all and if I can’t ride them then that’s it.”
O’Dowd is glad to have a couple of his horses in Myers’ barn and he said their association goes back a few years. “Kevin has been good to me with Nell’s Belle when she was down there and Lisa Kennedy is working for him and she has ridden for me for ages until she had a bad fall,” O’Dowd said. “We just attack it from a different way, that is all.”
Aigne will commence his winter preparation at Awapuni on Saturday and O’Dowd is hopeful the son of Sufficient can have another lucrative campaign. The seven-year-old gelding impressed with his two hurdles starts last year before going on to qualify and finish sixth in The Jericho Cup (4600m) at Warrnambool in December. “Aigne just had two starts over hurdles last year for a second and a first and that second to Trisha Lea was phenomenal at Te Aroha,” O’Dowd said. “He gave her 35 lengths and he caught her. It was unbelievable.”
O’Dowd said Aigne is forward enough for his first hit-out in six months, but expects him to improve a lot with the run. “Aigne wasn’t out that long after we came back from Australia,” he said. “Lisa said he looks ready to go. “They had a school the other morning and Shaun Fannin (jockey) was on Aigne and he was quite happy with him.”
A jumping future beckons Aigne, however, O’Dowd said they haven’t ruled out another tilt at The Jericho Cup this year. “He is seven, rising eight, and he is showing that he can jump and stay. I think he can do both and Kevin said to me that we will have another go at The Jericho.”