Back to the sheep after living dream at Ascot
Last Sunday was a very special day in my life. First and foremost I am a sheep farmer, but I also hold a restricted training licence and, at Ascot on Sunday, Fictional Account won a Listed race for me. That's a memory I will cherish forever.
I live in a cul-de-sac in Piercetown, Co Meath, and Frank Broad, who is assistant manager at Moyglare Stud, is a neighbour. He comes up every morning at 5.30 to ride out with me, so the training is a two-man show really.
Frank is like a father figure to me. He has a wealth of experience, and we chat among ourselves about what we will do with the horses and where we will run them.
He and his son Eric, who also helps out, often said that we should take something to England some time. When they were going through the programme one day, Frank noticed that there were only a few runners in this particular Listed race last year.
The Flat season is nearly over and Fictional Account had just won at Down Royal, so we thought we'd bring her over and have a cut off it. We had nothing to lose.
Frank and Eric got on the boat with the horses on Wednesday. We sent Striking Force with Fictional Account for company, and he ran really well himself to be fifth in an amateur riders' race at Ascot.
I flew over on Saturday with my brother James and Keith Clarke, who rides out with us. We went for a few drinks in Bracknell. Sure, by the end of the night, we had told anyone that would listen that Fictional Account would have a great chance on Sunday.
She didn't let us down. We were hoping she would finish in the first three or four and get a bit of black type, so to win was just fantastic.
It was an incredible experience. I had never been racing outside Ireland before, and Ascot was breathtaking. If I had a runner at Killarney or Bellewstown, I'd be a nervous wreck, but I was so distracted by everything going on around me on Sunday that I hadn't time to dwell on things.
One minute I was looking at the Queen's horse walking around the parade ring and then the Godolphin horse, and the next thing I knew I was looking over at them from the winner's enclosure. I was just mesmerised by it.
I've been into horses since I was 18 or 19, and you always dream of having a winner at Leopardstown at Christmas or at Punchestown, that some day it might be you in the limelight. So to have a winner at one of those elite venues was something special.
I'm 47 years of age and Frank is 60, but we get a great buzz out of riding out in the morning, putting our heads together to make plans for the horses. Lo and behold, my six-horse barn now has an Ascot Listed winner staring out at us.
I have thought about getting a full licence in the past, but I prefer to keep it small. It's better to do the few you have properly, I reckon, rather than half-doing too many.
As it is now, once we've got the horses ridden out, Frank can go off to do his job at Moyglare, and I go about doing whatever needs to be done with the sheep. I have over 500 sheep here altogether, including 300 breeding ewes.
I don't lamb the ewes until March or April when we have a bit more daylight, because we like to get the horses out early.
This weekend, I must dose 220 sheep, and I was able to get organised for that job with my brother's help during the week. I had a runner at Roscommon on Monday, which unfortunately came back lame, and Keith and myself took a couple to Dundalk for a schooling bumper on Tuesday.
So the schedule is always full, but I manage fine because I concentrate on quality rather than quantity. For example, one of the horses I galloped at Dundalk on Tuesday was entered in bumpers at Gowran Park today and tomorrow, but she just isn't up to the job so I'm sending her home. I don't want to waste owners' money or our time.
I'll keep on dreaming, though. What happened on Sunday was a pure fairytale, and it proved that dreams really do come true -- you just have to reach out and grab them.
For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie