Keep an eye out for the name Shane Cotter in your racecards this summer.

The 17-year-old from Britland/Ballynoe in Co Cork only began race-riding last October and only had his first winner in December.

Last month he ended the point-to-point season with 15 winners, winning the under 21 riders’ title and he defeated the reigning champion Dara McGill in the process.

Unlike many point-to-point riders (all of whom are amateur) Cotter is light enough to turn professional and ride on the racetrack. Top amateurs like Derek O’Connor and Patrick Mullins tend to be ‘normal’ weights in that they hit the scales at around 11st, which greatly reduces their opportunities in ‘proper’ racing, so they mainly just ride in bumpers and hunter chases.

But Cotter – and McGill – are in a position to do a ‘Rachael Blackmore’ and turn professional, making the switch from points to the racecourse.

If they do so, the biggest challenge for them will be getting themselves attached to a powerful stable. Such is the lopsided nature of Irish jump racing, if you are not working for Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott, Henry de Bromhead or Gavin Cromwell, then you are likely to end up on outsiders in most races.


In 2019, Michael O’Sullivan was champion under-21 rider and looked to have the world at his feet. He went back to college to finish his Agricultural Science degree before turning professional in 2022.

Even though he is extremely talented and mature for his years, O’Sullivan had to scrimp for rides on the professional circuit. By luck, as much as anything else, he fell in with Co Kildare trainer Barry Connell who gave him a chance and put him on promising young horses such as Marine Nationale and Good Land.

Both horses went on to be stars that season and many observers hailed O’Sullivan as a future champion. But his career hit a bump in the latest season – the O’Connell horses were either injured or out of luck a lot of the time – and with the top riders such as Paul Townend, Jack Kennedy and Rachael Blackmore all staying injury-free, there simply was not many opportunities to get on the good horses.

In these instances, the next step for a young up-and-coming rider is to try their luck in England. Last season, 19 British-based trainers had 40 winners or more, so the chances are there.

It will be fascinating to see if Shane Cotter and Dara McGill turn professional this summer or if they decide to stick to point-to-points for the time being. Watch out for them.