County Kilkenny-born James Anthony Heffernan, who is universally known as Seamie, has been based at Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle stable since 1996.
Like O’Brien, he gained his grounding at Jim Bolger’s stable and was jointly Ireland’s champion apprentice alongside Daragh O’Donoghue in 1994.
Despite being the perennial second jockey at Ballydoyle behind such as Michael Kinane, Kieren Fallon Johnny Murtagh and Ryan Moore , Heffernan has enjoyed numerous big-race victories for the operation and has won six Irish Classics, including three successes in the Irish Derby.
He enjoyed a very successful 2011 campaign, winning a pair of Group 1 races on Misty For Me in the Irish 1000 Guineas and the Pretty Polly Stakes, and he tasted success in the QIPCO British Champions Series courtesy of So You Think, who landed the 2011 Coral-Eclipse for him at Sandown Park in July – his first victory in the Series.
The rider gained a deserved first British Classic success at Epsom when partnering the O’Brien-trained Was to victory in the 2012 Investec Oaks.
For the next six years, Heffernan was quite often the bridesmaid picking up multiple places through the Series on some excellent O’Brien horses. However, in 2019 he got himself back in to the winners enclosure in the biggest race of them all – the Investec Derby.
In what was one of the most thrilling renewals from recent times, Heffernan galvanised his mount Anthony Van Dyke to get his nose in front in a five-way photo finish including three other O’Brien-trained horses.
With role as second choice for the ‘Master of Ballydoyle’ there is almost certainly more Series wins just around the corner.