Three decades of tending to the champions - Pat O'Donovan
Pat O'Donovan reflects on a career that has seen him work his way up from stable groom to assistant trainer with Jim Bolger
Grooms, stable hands and exercise riders are truly the backbone of the racing industry, but sometimes, unconsciously, they can be the forgotten heroes in a successful racing yard celebrating a major win.
At the recent Cheltenham Festival, however, many of our top trainers were quick to pay tribute to the dozens of men and women working behind the scenes in a week which saw 14 Irish-trained winners at Prestbury Park.
It was a momentous occasion for trainers, owners, jockeys and breeders, but an equally emotional few days for the people who spend most of their day with these champions of the turf.
Take the formidable team of women who led in the Gold Cup winner Don Cossack for Gordon Elliott. Their beaming smiles on the final day said it all.
Thanked personally by their employer for their contribution, it showed his appreciation for the hours of dedication shown and sacrifices made in order to have these horses in peak condition for the biggest National Hunt meeting of the year.
A highly experienced horseman, Pat O'Donovan has himself been in this position on numerous occasions as a long-time employee with Jim Bolger, and his efforts were richly rewarded last year when scooping the top accolades at the Goldolphin Irish Stud and Stable Staff Awards.
Assistant trainer to Jim Bolger at Glebe House near Carlow, the Cork native has been associated with such 'Champions of the Flat' as St Jovite, Teofilo and New Approach in a career with racehorses which has spanned some 30 years.
"I have lots of great memories over the years," Mr O'Donovan said, "but one special one has to be when St Jovite won the Irish Derby in 1992. I practically lived with that horse so it really meant a lot to me."