Kevin Sexton thought he was a lost cause two years ago. Now, after a Cheltenham Festival winner, a first Grade One success and with a good ride in the Randox Grand National he is counting his blessings.
The 30-year-old has regained his love for racing and riding thanks to his family and friends that include trainer Peter Fahey.
So it is wholly appropriate the County Kildare-based handler and Sexton have enjoyed their finest hours thanks to Belfast Banter.
Just a few months ago, Belfast Banter was proving difficult to win with – but he too has been transformed by winning at the two biggest meetings in the jumps calendar.
The County Hurdle was a turning point and now Belfast Banter is the winner of the Grade One Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle.
“It’s my first Grade One, it’s Peter’s first Grade One, so it’s a dream come true for us all,” said Sexton.
“The stable has been so good to me. To repay him with these winners, it’s unbelievable. We’re doing it together and breaking these ducks together.
“I owe most of my career to him. He did his best to keep me going and then got me going again. He does so much for me. Him and his wife Ber have been amazing to me.
“What he’s done in the last few weeks has been amazing and he’s a horse we couldn’t win with.
“I almost gave up riding. I had pretty much given up, but those who helped me I hope they are enjoying it at the minute.
“It’s unbelievable. The last month, it’s hard to believe what has happened.
“It took me a while to digest the County Hurdle so I don’t know how long this is going to take.”
Sexton has forged a real bond with Belfast Banter and he even talked to the horse before the race.
“On the way to the start I was saying ‘if you pull this one off I’ll forgive you if you never win again’ and he’s done it now,” he said.
“He is a good traveller and everything has clicked in the last month. He’s found the will to win. He just wanted to get to the line. He got so much confidence out of winning the last day.
“He’s gone from being in the shadows to being the centre of attention, and he loves it. Ber rides him out most of the time at home. She got a fall last week and hurt herself, so I’ve been riding him out fort the last week. She hurt her shoulder blade, but she’s OK.
“It’s mind-blowing. It’s going to take while to sink in.”
Sexton also cannot believe his luck in getting the ride on Shattered Love for Denise Foster in the Grand National.
“This time last year I was watching myself in the Virtual Grand National, finishing sixth on Peregrine Run having never even rode in one. So much seems to be happening,” he said.
“I don’t think I’d get much sleep without the Grade One winner, so I don’t know how I’m suppose to sleep now.
“Jack Kennedy had a tough decision and chose Farclas. I’m just so lucky.
“It was such a shock to get the ride. I was told I was on the list, but never thought I’d actually get a ride in it.
“To have a ride in it this year is amazing. I said after Cheltenham, anything else that happens is a bonus, but I never expected bonuses like this. I hope it keeps going.
“The plan was to go for the National with Peregrine Run this year, but there was a change of plan. When he wasn’t going for it I never expected to get a run in it. I thought there’s no way, so to ride for Cullentra House is unbelievable, especially the horse it is.”