Feargal Lynch’s name may forever be tinged with controversy whenever it comes up in Britain, but the only debate about Irishman in the United States right now is about just how good a jockey he is.
Lynch has enjoyed a spectacular upsurge in fortune since settling in Maryland nearly two years ago, and that renaissance reached new heights at Laurel Park yesterday, when the former British champion apprentice rode four winners, three in stakes, two of them Graded, during the Class on the Grass program as part of Commonwealth Day there.
The 39-year-old is ranked 358 in the current world jockeys’ rankings, which is based solely on performances in Group and Graded races. Expect a significant upward move from Lynch in next week’s updated standings after he captured the $200,000 G3 Commonwealth Derby aboard Maryland-bred Just Howard ($16.80) and the $150,000 G3 Commonwealth Oaks with Rymska ($6.80).
It’s a far cry from the day in 2009 when he was banned by the British Horseracing Authority for stopping a horse five years earlier. After riding intermittently in Spain, France, Germany, Ireland and the U.S. he finally got his British licence back in 2014. A year later, he was featured in a BHA integrity video in which he talked about his experience.
He had some limited success after his British return, but he decided to try America again - his trainer brother, Cathal, is based at Laurel. And things have been getting better and better ever since.
Lynch’s two Graded victories yesterday came after he had already won the $60,000 Brookmeade aboard Queen Caroline ($5) and the fourth race, a seven-furlong maiden special weight for 3-year-olds and up, on second-time starter Sue Me ($4.40).
“It’s a great day,” he said. “Scott Silver, my agent, does a great job. Unfortunately, [leading Laurel rider] Trevor [McCarthy] is out at the moment but we’ve kept the show on the road. Scott does a great job for me. Graham Motion gives me a lot of opportunities to go to Fair Hill and help with the babies and I’ve been able to breeze [the Motion-trained Belmont Stakes runner-up] Irish War Cry and be a big part of him this year. It’s been a great year, and a great day.”
“It just all came together today,” he added. “I really liked my horse in the maiden. He stumbled first time so I knew he was live today, and in the stakes you’ve just got to get a good trip. When you’re riding for Chad Brown and Graham Motion, they put their horses in the right spots and make you look good.”
Lynch now leads the Laurel Park jockeys’ standings for the current meet (based on prize money). And he has ridden 101 winners (strike rate 18 percent) for prize money of more than $4 million in the U.S. so far during 2017.
Laurel’s 12-race Class on the Grass program yesterday comprised eight stakes, three Graded, worth $850,000 in purses.
Other stakes winners were Projected in the $200,000 G2 Baltimore-Washington International Turf Cup, Special Envoy in the $60,000 Bert Allen, Lawyer Dave in the $60,000 Punch Line, Exaggerated in the $60,000 Oakley and Yes To The Dress in the $60,000 Jamestown.
Lynch's first name is spelled ‘Fergal’, rather than ‘Feargal’, in the UK - supposedly because of a passport error.)