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From a life of labour to a labour of love; After a promising early career, jockey Rodi Greene was toiling on a building site - but a job with the champion trainer has resurrected his career.

THERE is no safety net in this game. By mid-1998, the once-promising riding career of Rodi Greene looked to be fizzling towards unnoticed extinction. Now 29, Greene moved to Britain from Tipperary when he was 18 and threw himself into the same whirlpool that so many other young Irish lads jump into in order to find whether they will sink or swim.

Greene started with Lyndsay Bower, but was soon down in the West Country, working for the very successful David Barons operation.

Greene says: "David is one of the world's great talkers and communicators, which is one of the reasons he always had good owners and horses.

"I also had a season working for Oliver Carter and linked up with Kevin Bishop. Kevin's horses were flying at the time - before they got a herpes virus that proved hard to shake off - and I have maintained the link with Kevin ever since."

Greene steadily made an impact, lost his claim at 23 and, in 1994, was travelling well with 17 winners. If he wasn't setting the world on fire, he had built enough of a conflagration to keep his hands warm and had every prospect of things getting better yet.

He joined Jenny Renfree-Barons, who had decent horses, when she struck out on her own. But, after she was forced to quit through ill health, things began to get increasingly difficult.

Greene says: "I had to ride work for every Tom, Dick and Harry and I was grateful for anything. I panicked and took a job for a trainer down in Devon and that didn't work out.

"My girlfriend Alison and I were skint and had nowhere to live and, frankly, I didn't know what to do. A friend of mine in the building trade gave me work and I was labouring on a site for pounds 40 a day.

"Eventually we bought a little house at Holcombe Rogus, which is only about three miles from Martin Pipe's, though I didn't realise it at the time. I knew he was somewhere nearby but couldn't have told you exactly where."

Eventually Greene got an introduction to Pipe and was given a job - strictly on a 'no rides' basis.

He joined Pipe on August 17, 1998 and from that moment Greene's star, which had fallen to earth, began its long journey back into the ascendant.

The young jockey with whom racing looked to have finished has now ridden 15 winners this season and has found his place as a small but important cog in one of racing's biggest wheels.

Despite the 'no rides' clause, Greene must have caught the eye on the gallops. Pipe says: "He rides well and is undoubtedly a good jockey. From the start he proved very, very capable on the gallops and he works extremely hard. He is 100 per cent for us and has become an important member of the team."

Greene made his first impression on a horse who had buried AP McCoy and who, the Pipe team clearly thought, would be better employed killing someone like Rodi rather than the mighty AP.

Greene did well on the horse and more rides followed.

He says: "I had my first winner for Martin on Sprint Up on New Year's Day 1999 and it has been unbelievable ever since.

"I have gone from half-grovelling for rides in the recent past to doing things with complete confidence - to knowing I am doing things right again.

"The Pipe operation is utterly professional and had made me feel worthy again. During the bad times, I didn't let myself get depressed and always kept looking up and hoping and I have to say that Alison has always been the most tremendous help and strength. You cannot get despondent at this game - you have to keep going.

"Looking back, it's frightening how many young lads who started off well have disappeared completely - mind you, they would probably be amazed that I'm still going strong."

Greene's durability comes as no surprise to his long-term ally Kevin Bishop, one of those trainers whose results are a pale reflection of his ability, although a pair of winners over Christmas will have helped.

Bishop says: "He came to me from Oliver Carter's and has always been the best worker in the yard and very genuine.

"He's ridden everything for everyone including things that were just plain dangerous and it's worrying how close he came to being lost to racing when he was forced to go labouring.

"You meet the best and the worst people in this game and I'm delighted to see him doing well. He's very hard on himself and when he fell on one of ours when 30 lengths clear at the last he was almost suicidal, he was so upset."

BUT in fact it is shrugging off disaster that has seen Greene through to his new life at Pipe's.

And he has plenty of responsibilities - he and Alison have children aged three, one and seven weeks, which answers all questions about what goes on in the Greene household when there's nothing good on the telly.

A good communicator - articulate, not just a waffler - he has toughed it out and refused to fall by the wayside.

He says: "When I arrived at Mr Pipe's, I felt like a schoolkid suddenly sent to Oxford and thought, I can't do this.

"They say he is a workaholic nutter but, all bullshit aside, I don't have a bad word to say about him.

"It doesn't matter if you're royalty or from the gutter, he treats everyone just the same. If you work really hard for him he will do everything for you. It's great to be a part of it."

Attitude gets you a long way at M Pipe's and, in hauling his career off the oblivion list, Greene has shown he has the right one. A valley that is looking green indeed after some arid years.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Down, Alastair
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 6, 2000
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