Hurricane brewing up a storm after getting me back in the game
Published 12/10/2012 | 05:00
It was a long and winding road that led me into the winner's enclosure with Hurricane Twister at Tipperary last Sunday. Although I have been in and out of racing since I left school and went to work for Jim Bolger for three years up to 1999, it is only in the past few years that I have fully committed myself to a training career.
My brother Matthew was just 19 when we lost him to cancer eight years ago and his passing had a devastating effect on me.
When he died, I came home to Castlemartyr. I had a bit of luck with a few point-to-pointers and had a few horses placed on the track, but when they got injured I became completely disillusioned with life and the game. Dealing with that grief isn't easy.
I took a bit of time off and went travelling, played a bit of poker to get by. Before the economic crash, you could easily earn enough money from poker to pay the bills.
A good friend of mine, Jude Duffy, was one of the leading online players, so I got some coaching from him. I spent a summer in Atlantic City and really enjoyed it.
That was all I wanted from my 20s -- to try different things. As well as working in racing, I ran a landscaping company and studied jazz improvisation.
Then Matthew died, I came home and went away again, but I felt that experiencing life was essential.
When I returned at the end of 2008, I was at the sales in Goffs one day and saw Hurricane Twister, then just yearling by Captain Rio, going through the ring. I thought he was a cracking horse, one that might have fetched €20k the year before.
As it was, things had fallen apart and I got him for a grand. I thought it was a great opportunity to get back into the game and I knew this time it was for good.
He was the first yearling I bought and felt he'd take time but when he was ready, Jude and Mick Hannafin came on board as part-owners.
Although he showed a couple of bits of form at three, he was still babyish and it is only now that he has matured.
At Roscommon last Monday week, he made all under Gary Phillips for my first track win, and then followed up with a 10-length rout off a 12lb higher mark at Tipperary. Neither was a surprise. He has bundles of speed, and Gary clicked with him.
All being well, he will step up in grade for the Listed Testimonial Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday. He will be dropping to six furlongs, but I think he has the gears to be placed, and the handicapper has forced our hand by giving him another 17lb.
Still, there will be more fun to be had with him and, among other options, I am thinking of taking him to France for a Group Three in the coming weeks. Malicious Intent might also run in the Listed race on Sunday, and he'll justify his place too.
He was the second yearling that I bought when I paid €2,200 for him at Goffs in 2009, and he is now showing signs of improvement after finishing third at Navan on Wednesday.
Navan is a five-hour journey and between racing, buying at the sales and viewing yards in that neck of the woods over the past month, I have seen plenty of road.
The family farm in Castlemartyr is right on the edge of the town, which has prevented me from developing it as I'd like. When you factor in the time it takes to get to the Curragh, the logistics of training Flat horses from where I am makes no sense.
As a result, I am anxious to move up the country, because this is a job that I can do to a high standard. Finding the right place to do so from will take as long as it takes.
For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie