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Exiles keep Moran on track in Toronto

In light of the fact that he rode his biggest winner there during the 12 years that he was based in Ireland, Davy Moran's decision to relocate to Canada last year is maybe no surprise.

During a 10-year stint as one of Jim Bolger's most trusted deputies, the Templemore native got to know Carolyn Costigan. Also born in Tipperary, Costigan emigrated with her family to Canada as a child, but did a two-year stint as assistant to the Coolcullen maestro.

In June 2010, little more than six months after setting up as a trainer at the Woodbine racetrack in Toronto, she flew Moran out to ride her father Robert's Roan Inish in the $350,000 (€280,000) Canadian Oaks. The horse duly won and a seed was sown in the rider's head.

Less than a year later, with the fortunes of those a bit lower down the food chain in Irish racing fairly synonymous with the perilous state of the national economy, Moran was the one upping sticks with his wife Maria and their five kids. It has proved a wily move, with over 50 winners clocked up so far, in comparison to a domestic career haul of 114.

"I love it here," the talented 29-year-old says from his base at Woodbine. "I'm still opening doors, but we race four days a week, there are eight or nine races a day and I'm busy -- you have a shot at making a living here. If you can get on the right horses, there are races here with $50,000 to $70,000 purses every day. You have to give 25pc of your take to your agent and 5pc to your valet and then pay tax, but the main thing is you are busy."

With well-established ex-pat trainers such as Cork's Danny O'Callaghan, Dublin's Michael Doyle and Offaly's Sean Smullen, a brother of former champion Flat jockey Pat, all utilising his services, Moran is gradually building up a support network beyond his initial contact with Costigan. However, as he explains, it is a dog-eat-dog environment.

"Basically, there are 2,000 horses on the track here in Woodbine," he says, "and you go around with your agent every morning hustling to get on some of them. That has been an eye-opener. It is very different to being with Jim Bolger, who was so loyal. It's all sharks here -- it's cut-throat and aggressive and you have got to play smart, but I'm glad that I'm here."

Canadian racing authorities are currently in the midst of a dispute with central government over funding, so the industry there faces a similarly uncertain future to its equivalent here. Moran, whose ready ability to do light weights helped him accumulate over 500 rides last year, doesn't know if that will prompt a premature return, but he is in no hurry home.

"Jim (Bolger) and I parted on good terms," he says, "but this has been a fantastic experience. I'm hoping the racing here is okay next year, but no one really knows. I have my visas, though, and, after spending the past year or so building relationships and breaking down barriers, it would be disappointing if I had to pull the plug on it so soon.

"Obviously, we all miss things from home, but sometimes you have just got to take a chance and hope things work out. Right now, we are happy. Maria and the kids have adjusted well, and, when you see the miserable summer that you have had at home, it's nice to be here. It has been nearly 30 degrees for the last four months, so you can't complain about that!"

Irish Independent