I would not sell a bad horse to my worst enemy
My afternoons are spent as an unpaid, un-tipped caddie for my 10-year-old son James. My wife Zoe and I like to think of him as our ticket to freedom – or at least to sunnier climes.
To all intents and purposes, he is our pension fund, so I invest what I need to into his development in an effort to maximise my return – planning for the future!
The rest of my time I source and produce top-notch racehorses. In the event that James Hales doesn't fulfil my ambition for him to become the next Rory McIlroy, I need to have something to fall back on.
The pity is that I haven't sold a proper horse for a year and a half. My whole operation is dependent on repeat business, so I have to be able to stand over a horse. If they are not up to it, I have to take my medicine, suck it up and go back to the sales.
My record stands up, and I wouldn't sell a bad horse to my worst enemy without telling him the truth. I was born with a big nose – it's not a Pinocchio-like growth!
Spot Thedifference was the first horse that I bought and the first horse I sold when I moved to Ireland in 1996. Since then, I have produced the likes of Watson Lake, Don Cossack, Pizarro, Adamant Approach, Bellvano, Samain and Quito De La Roque.
JP McManus and Michael O'Leary have both been lucky for me and me for them – it is vital to build up good relationships with owners like that who are so committed to the game. And it's always a good thing to have seemingly recession-proof clients!
My first preference is to sell a horse before it ever runs. If you've found a proper one, stand up and say so. In the good old days, that was obviously easier to do, but the equation remains pretty simple – if you have a serious horse, you'll get your money.
Tomorrow I will put Makethedifference through the sales ring in Newbury. He took a couple of runs to come good, but he came home really nicely at Navan on Monday.
After he won a schooling bumper doing handstands in the autumn, I took him over to Cheltenham for his debut, thinking that this is the way to do it, I'll get big dough for him when he skates up. Suffice to say, I got my comeuppance – it's never that easy.
Last year was the first year we didn't unearth a Grade One horse, but it's not easy to find them. Aidan O'Brien, remember, might put 180 two-year-olds through his hands every season and find only a couple to compete at the top level. That's how hard it is.
I have a couple here that might get us out of jail yet. If you were to win the lottery tomorrow, Blow The Doors Off is the one I would urge you to buy. He flashed home for third on his point-to-point bow at Lismore, and has come on bundles since.
Buying fresh blood won't be easy this summer. We haven't had a proper sale for a while and I have a big mortgage and three hungry children, but you have to restock.
We moved down here to Dundrum at the peak of the market. David Wachman, a great friend who lives nearby, told me it would be a beautiful place to train and bring up the kids, and he was right. I probably bought the place a bit like I would a horse. I just decided I liked it and put my hand up. That means life has its challenges now, but it's no burden.
My best friend, John Durkan, died of leukaemia in 1998 and JT McNamara is in intensive care right now in a Bristol hospital. The banks can come after you, your horses might be useless and sick, but 'JD' and JT would love to have those problems.
I just can't stop thinking about JT and his family. There has never been a point-to-point that I have been to that he hasn't been at, so he is someone we all know and love. All everyone wants is for him to recover.
For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie