Farm Ireland

Monday 19 March 2018

Punching above his weight - Garrett Power aims for Galway Races glory

He's running a stable on a shoestring, but Garrett Power has a live chance of more glory at the Galway Races

Garrett Power pictured with Lilly The Lioness at his training base near Owning, Co Kilkenny.
Garrett Power pictured with Lilly The Lioness at his training base near Owning, Co Kilkenny.
Lilly The Lioness won the Mares Hurdle.
Mark Enright and Power celebrate success at last year's Galway Festival.

Siobhán English

Twelve months ago Garrett Power headed to Galway with high hopes for Lilly The Lioness.

A runner-up in Tipperary 10 days earlier, she was 8/1 before the off, but her connections were quietly confident, and the nine-year-old duly delivered in the EBF Mares' Handicap Hurdle to give the small-time trainer the biggest success of his career.

It was a day the Kilkenny trainer will never forget.

"I'd had plenty of winners before that but Lilly had finished second there the year before so we were optimistic," the 37-year-old said.

Not only did she like the ground, she ate it up and went on to beat 2/1 co-favourite Crystal Earth by a length under Mark Enright.

The race was worth €21,000, but to Garrett Power and his loyal supporters, it may as well have been the Lotto jackpot.

Every trainer aspires to having a winner at the Galway Festival, but few can boast at having done so from a string of just 10 horses.

From a small yard of 12 stables near Owning, Power impressively sent out seven winners last year, and already has three on the books this year thanks to Curragh Golan and Lilly The Lioness, whose recent wins in a chase at Wexford and on the flat at Tipperary have set her up nicely for another tilt in Ballybrit in three weeks' time. Less than 24 hours after Lilly's win at Tipperary Curragh Golan returned from a lengthy absence on the sidelines to score in Wexford under Paul Townend.

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After last week's win at Tipperary the trainer said: "I always thought she was well handicapped on the flat but I never got a chance to run her on it last year. She is stronger this year and loves it here - only for her (final fence) fall here she'd have a great record. I'm very lucky to have her and she might run in a Graded chase at Killarney next."

"I only have 10 horses in training at the moment, but I've always been very lucky with the few I have and Lilly has brought us a lot of success since I got her in 2013.

"She won her first chase with me in July 2014, three weeks after she won a 1m4f handicap on the flat.

"Both were at Tipperary. She won three times over hurdles after that before winning a two-mile handicap chase for us in Wexford last month in the lead-up to her win in Tipperary.

"With regards to Galway it's unlikely she will go back for the Mares' Hurdle, but because she's so versatile there will be plenty of races for her."

By his own admission, a small yard has its drawbacks, and when times were quiet Power often had to resort to other work to make ends' meet to support his wife Amy and two young children, Olivia (3) and eight-month-old Charlie.

However, he has come back fighting and his overheads are now kept to a minimum.

'One man' show

Apart from having some part-time staff in the mornings this is very much a 'one-man' operation - so much so that he is regularly seen leading up his horses at the track.

"When you only have a few horses it's not feasible to have full-time staff, but it's great to have some help in the mornings.

"James English works with Joseph O'Brien, who trains beside us, and rides one lot for me every morning before he goes across the road.

"He has done a lot of the work with Lilly in recent months. He also goes racing with me when he has time, so he has been a great asset to the yard.

"It's not ideal to be leading up your own horses on the days I have no help, but it's not by choice."

Getting to where he is now has not come easy for Garrett Power, but he has learnt from the best over the years and brings to the table years of experience in the industry.

Having first learned to 'sit' on a horse in the hunting field with the Kilmoganny Hunt, he got his taste for racing at the age of 12 with neighbour Joe Crowley.

He remembers well some of the first horses he got to ride, including Skough, named after the local townland.

During transition year he also gained work experience at Warrington Equestrian Centre, but he was soon drawn back to racing and, after finishing school, went working at Crowleys full-time.

That was in 1998 and he got his amateur licence that same year.

Within a few months he was making his way into the winner's enclosure and has great memories with horses trained by both Joe Crowley and his daughter Frances. Threeway, Nil Desperandum and Hairy Molly are but a few.

By the time he hung up his saddle a decade later he had racked up some 30 winners on the track and almost as many in the point-to-point field.

It was actually during the Galway Festival well over a decade ago that he got his first opportunity to train horses for clients after taking up an offer from a gentleman by the name of Jack Jiggens.

Up to that he had only trained a few for family and friends.

"I was also training a few for Joe during my lunch break and doing a bit of pre-training at home. I'd spent 17 years at Crowleys but when the chance came to finally branch out on my own I had to jump at it."

Among the first horses to give him his start was White Feathers, one of five sourced from the yard of Joanne Morgan in the early days.

The mare had failed to shine for her previous trainer but under Power's stewardship scored twice at Kilbeggan under Paul Townend.

When Joe Crowley retired from training in 2010, local farmer Tom O'Neill turned to Garrett Power to take his horses.

A home-bred by Brian Boru out of the owner's King's Ride mare Ochto Lass, Yes Sir Brian won first time out at Punchestown in February 2013.

He has been lightly raced since and came back to form with a comfortable win at Fairyhouse last January, but unseated his rider in Down Royal last month when hampered badly on the track.

Garri Rua, a half-brother by Milan, also runs under Tom O'Neill's colours, while other stable mates include Legal Proceedings, Easy Charm and Mr Antolini.

With such a small pool of horses, Power greatly appreciates the support shown by all his owners who have helped to keep the business afloat in recent years.

Another one of note is Corkman Pat McCarthy who was on hand last July to see his mare Lilly The Lioness romp home at Galway.

"Pat has been a brilliant owner over the years and has a few others with me now too, including Annadiamond and Glen's Dd, who is showing much promise and had a decent run at Roscommon last month."

While the yard near Owning is currently full to capacity, Garrett Power has no immediate plans to expand unless, of course, offers come in to take on more horses. "It was great to obtain my full licence in March and maybe, in time, I'd like to have about 25 horses, but where I am at the moment works well.

"We have one of the best gallops around so there's no need to make plans to move just yet."

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