Farm Ireland

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Leaders of the pack

Irish graduates are to the fore in Darley's prestigious training programme

Students spend the final three months of the programme at Kildangan Stud in Kildare where a link-up has been established with UCD and other academic institutions.
Students spend the final three months of the programme at Kildangan Stud in Kildare where a link-up has been established with UCD and other academic institutions.
Arts graduate Cathal Beale is now an assistant manager at Forenaughts Stud in Kildare.
Barry Lynch

For the past 11 years the Darley Flying Start Programme has produced some of the finest men and women now working in existing and emerging thoroughbred markets worldwide.

From Dublin to Dubai, and Newmarket to Lexington, there are graduates from all walks of life living the dream within the world of the thoroughbred horse.

In 2003 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum of Dubai had a vision to develop the thoroughbred industry by nurturing potential leaders through a dedicated training programme.

Since the first graduates emerged from the Darley Flying Start in 2005, no fewer than 120 of them have remained within the industry either by direct employment, or by branching out on their own, and in turn creating further employment across the board.

Francis-Henri Graffard, who was among the first group of graduates in 2005, has already established himself as one of the most exciting trainers in his native France following the Group One success of Erupt last summer.

A graduate in 2012, Northern Ireland native Michael Hardy now manages Margaux Farm in Lexington, while 2007 graduate Gerry Duffy is general manager of Kildangan Stud.

"We also have graduates who have set up their own bloodstock agencies while Gina Harding is a well-known presenter on the At The Races and Channel 4 Racing," commented the programme's general manager Clodagh Kavanagh.

In her role, Ms Kavanagh manages the recruitment and marketing of the programme and guides a team of coordinators who implement the programme at its five training locations of Ireland, UK, Australia, Dubai and the USA.

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Each August a total of 12 trainees are chosen from on average 100 applicants from across the globe. While basic requirements include experience with horses and third-level education, most of all, each applicant must demonstrate 100pc commitment to the thoroughbred industry.

The programme is broken into several phases over two years, with trainees spending the first three months based at Kildangan Stud. From there they move to Newmarket for a further three months and then spend six months studying the industry in Kentucky.

Australia and Dubai

Another three months are spent in Australia and also in Dubai, where again trainees have the opportunity to gain work experience through the various placements available. The final three months of the programme are spent back at Kildangan Stud.

Modules include equine anatomy and physiology reproduction through UCD, in addition to equine nutrition at the University of Kentucky, and organisational behaviour and leadership at the University of Sydney.

"It really is an opportunity of a lifetime," Ms Kavanagh added. "It is a complete scholarship, in that all costs are covered, and our graduates are proving hugely beneficial to the industry worldwide."

The closing date for applications for the 2016 programme is next Friday, February 19. See

Course opens doors at  home and abroad

Graduate profiles

Caroline Walsh,

Winstar Farm, Kentucky

Many young people involved in the thoroughbred industry today dream of landing that plum job in the Bluegrass country. For Caroline Walsh, Kentucky is now her second home.

Since graduating from the Darley Flying Start Programme last summer", Caroline Walsh has been settling into her new role of selling stallion nominations at Winstar Farm.

She entered the industry in her teens and it wasn't long before she developed a love for horses through her association with Mark Molloy of Crossogue Stud.

"It was after that I decided to do equine science in UCD and some of my work placement took me to Kentucky in 2010," she said.

As part of her final year in UCD she studied light therapy and worked closely with Dr Barbara Murphy. Together they are credited with devising Equilume, now widely used as a method of providing artificial light to mares during the breeding season.

On graduating, Caroline applied for the Darley Flying Start Programme and was among the 12 new recruits in 2013.

"For me it was a good time to apply as I was just 25," she said.

Work placements took her to Winstar Farm and from there to Australia to spend time with trainer Gail Waterhouse. She also spent several weeks at the Tattersalls HQ in Newmarket.

"For someone like me who was lacking in experience it was really fantastic to get to these places."

At Winstar Farm, Caroline is involved in promoting some 22 stallions during the breeding season. "Some of these stallions also shuttle to Australia, so having been there too is hugely beneficial when it comes to being familiar with their stud season."

Cathal Beale,

Forenaughts Stud, Co Kildare

Arts graduate Cathal Beale is now an assistant manager at Forenaughts Stud in Kildare.

Cathal Beale did not take the conventional route to the bloodstock industry, but has nevertheless now landed on his feet as assistant manager at Forenaughts Stud.

Owned by Dermot Cantillon the stud is home to some 30 thoroughbred broodmares.

"Strangely enough I had no background in horses except for my grandfather Dan Beale who was a farrier," said Cathal.

After completing his Leaving Certificate he went to UCD to study English and History and graduated with an Arts degree in 2004.

From there he secured a job as a broadcaster with Paddy Power Bookmakers.

"Even then I was not directly involved with horses but it was through this job I became interested and spent some time with Ken Bolger and well as Michael Murphy to get experience."

The bug soon took hold and in 2007 Cathal applied for the course in the Irish National Stud.

"I really enjoyed my time there and it gave me a wonderful grounding for what was to come."

He successfully applied for the Darley Flying Start Programme that same year along with fellow Irishmen, bloodstock agent Michael Flanagan and Darren Fox who now works for Darley USA.


"The programme is unique in that it opens up so many doors. I was fortunate to have spent some of my placement with John Oxx during Sea The Stars' reign which was quite incredible.

"I would never have had the opportunity if it were not for the programme."

Married in Kildare to teacher Sarah and father to 10-month-old Charlie, it seems the 32-year-old has his feet firmly on the ground.

David Walsh,

Dalham Hall Stud, Newmarket

From the point-to-point and hunting fields of Ireland to the thoroughbred capital of Newmarket, David Walsh has come a long way in his 24 short years.

A graduate of the Darley Flying Start in 2015, the Co Waterford native is now looking forward to his first breeding season as nomination sales executive at the world-renowned Darley Stud.

David grew up surrounded by horses and was riding thoroughbreds by the age of 13.

He held an amateur licence for several years and had some of his most memorable wins on the point-to-point field and on the track with the family-owned Ballyhampshire Man.

In 2013 he graduated from UCC with a science degree, majoring in biochemistry.

However, deep down he felt he would always return to the bloodstock industry in some capacity.

"I remember I was working for Iverk House Stud while still in college and I met some graduates while at the sales. It was there and then I decided to go for it.

"I said to myself: 'if you are not in you can't win' but I put a lot of effort into my application, and this is something I strongly advise for any prospective applicants."

"For me the biggest highlight of the programme was the travelling and exposure to the international aspects of the industry."

During the course of the two years he did placements with US trainer Kieran McLaughlin, James Harron Bloodstock in Australia, Zabeel Racing Stables in Dubai and with Godolphin trainer, Saeed Bin Suroor.

He completed his European-based work placement with Goffs.

"Between the hands-on approach and the academic end of it through the Michael Smurfit School, it covered everything."

Globetrotting in search of the finest yearlings

Barry Lynch,

Lillingston Bloodstock, Co Limerick.

Barry Lynch

Barry Lynch graduated from the Darley Flying Start Programme in 2012 and immediately secured a post with Lillingston Bloodstock in Co Limerick.

Since then the Cork native has been involved in securing numerous top-class thoroughbreds for clients, the most recent being the Grade 1 winner Hillstar who has just joined the stallion roster at Garryrichard Stud.

2013 was also a landmark year for Kern Lillingston, as the organisation was involved in the sale of Immortal Verse, who topped the Tattersalls December Breedingstock Sale at 4,700,000 guineas.

Having been born into a family involved in horses, as his parents bred the champion filly Lilly Langtry, he had a good grounding from the outset and furthered his knowledge by spending summer months working at both Castlehyde and Grove studs.

Prior to attending the Darley Flying Start Programme he obtained a degree in Business and Law from UCD. "I had heard about the programme from several breeders and decided to apply at the age of 23," he said.

"At that stage I was focused and knew this is what I wanted to do. Prior to doing the programme I had done very little travelling and I remember being in awe the first time I went to Kentucky.

"The programme certainly gave me a wonderful foundation for the future as now I travel quite a lot.

"In a few weeks I will be heading to the Premier Yearling Sale in Melbourne to source yearlings for a client and from there I will travel on to the States," he added.

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