Cathy Gannon is in good spirits as she circles round the paddock on Callisto Moon at Jo Hughes’s Upper Lambourn stables.

Paul Blockley, the trainer’s partner, jokes that the Wantage jockey should be smiling with a photographer present.

But Gannon has every reason to be cheerful because the winners have been flowing following her return to action after breaking a collar-bone in a nasty fall at Salisbury last October.

On the Kingsdown Polytrack gallop, Callisto Moon, who has contributed to the 31-year-old Irish rider’s 20 successes this term, powers up the sharp six-furlong incline at around 40mph.

After dismounting at the top of the hill and handing the reins over to a stable groom, Gannon gets into the back of Blockley’s 4x4.

“Things are going good. I am getting plenty of rides and riding lots of winners for Jo Hughes this year,” she says before hopping out at the foot of the gallop to partner Zafisio in a similar exercise.

Berkshire’s picturesque countryside is a far cry, though, from Gannon’s early years when her first experience of horses came as a wild child on the streets of Dublin.

“I used to ride my brother’s ponies bareback all the time, and I was not very good in school where I kept getting into trouble,” she says back in the office at the Old Manor Stables.

But one teacher, Deirdre Shiels, saw something in the 14-year-old teenage tearaway and got her a form for the Irish Apprentice Jockeys’ School in County Kildare.

Gannon was accepted, and after completing the course was sent to John Oxx’s stables at Curraghbeg. “He is a top trainer and an absolute gentleman,” says Gannon.

“I was riding ponies for two years to start me off, and I used to ask him ‘can I ride a racehorse’, and eventually he let me have a ride.”

Her first winner came on Quivelly at Tipperary in 1998, but she admits the moment rather passed her by.

“It went by the line and I thought there was further to go,” she says.

“They all said ‘well done’, but it was a non-event for me. I didn’t realise what had happened.” However, Gannon had got the taste for riding – and having winners.

So much so that in 2004 she became the first woman to be crowned Ireland’s apprentice champion jockey when she rode 33 winners to finish ahead of Rory Cleary.

Her success brought her sportswoman of the year awards. But the rides dried up and she took the tough decision to pack her bags and head for England. "It was a very hard thing to come over here and get on the boat and leave all my friends and family," says Gannon, who has six brothers and a sister.

"I didn’t know anyone over here." Her destination was Kevin Ryan’s Hambleton stables, near Thirsk in north Yorkshire. "He took me in and looked after me well," she says.

"I lived with them for a couple of years, but I was very homesick and wasn’t getting enough winners."

Gannon moved on to Bryn Palling’s Cowbridge yard in south Glamorgan, and a link up with Abergavenny trainer David Evans saw an upturn in her fortunes – highlighted by Dingle View’s 22-1 head success in the Group 3 Round Tower Stakes at the Curragh in 2010.

"That was something special because it was back home and all my family were there," recalls Gannon.

Her career continued to flourish after forging a link with Mick Channon’s yard at West Ilsley where she met her boyfriend, maintenance man Michael Cook, before moving to live at Wantage three years ago.

She enjoyed her best year in 2011 with 71 winners only for it to be cut short when she broke her right leg in a fall on the way to the start at Nottingham.

Twice honoured as lady jockey of the year at the prestigious Lesters awards, she has now ridden more than 270 winners in this country and shone on TV this season when extricating Van Percy from a pocket on the rails to get up on the line at Haydock.

“It was the best feeling ever because it was for Andrew Balding and on Channel 4,” she says.

And looking to the future, she adds: "I would love to just keep riding winners and keep injury free and get on a good horse one day – I just need to get lucky I suppose.”