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Kates benefit ends my year on high note

Kates Benefit provided me with my first winner under rules when making all to win the bumper by 18 lengths for Nina Carberry at Punchestown last Saturday.

I only acquired my licence in the spring, so it was great to finish the year with a flourish. Up until 2009, I had been training point-to-pointers in Dundrum.

When I came home to Killeagh, myself and my uncle Mike put up a purpose-built yard, and things have been going really well. Despite the ongoing economic difficulties, this is my busiest year to date, with 15 horses riding out.

We have a bunch of well-bred youngsters to look forward to that we never had before, so it is an exciting time. I just hope one or two are as good as Kates Benefit.

Way back in 1992, I won a Punchestown bumper by 12 lengths on My Sunny Glen for my father Pat.

Dad stopped training last year, and I couldn't resist teasing him that my mare won by even further than his one did all those years ago.

On a more serious note, My Sunny Glen went on to be a top-class operator for Aidan O'Brien, and I'd be delighted if Kates Benefit could emulate her.

She is a tough mare that stays well, so it was a bonus for her to win a bumper. Her owners Jim and Mary Browne and their son Dave from Youghal have been very supportive of me since I came back to Cork, and were very patient with this mare.

When they came down to see her work last week, she absolutely flew, prompting them to have a few bob on her at Punchestown.

I had a runner at Lisgoold point-to-point on New Year's Day, so the party had to be put on ice until Sunday night.

By the time my wife Laura and I met Jim and Mary for a meal in Youghal, they had more cause for celebration.

Another of their sons had just landed back from Geneva, it was Mary's birthday, and their daughter Tracey had announced her engagement. Talk about starting the new year on a high!

Suffice to say, I was moving a tad sheepishly when I reported for duty on the yard at 6.30 on Monday.

Laura rides out with me every morning before going to work at her day job in a veterinary practice in Tallow at 11.0.

We have grass and all-weather gallops on site here, while Micheal Griffin's excellent public facilities at Knockacool are only a five-minute ride away, so we are able to run a pretty tight ship. Once Laura goes to work, I usually tip away on my own.

However, Paul Tobin and Mark Beecher came in to school a bunch of the youngsters yesterday. They are two excellent men at educating horses how to jump, and thankfully everything went without a hitch.

That was a change from the previous couple of days, when the list of casualties included the pet goat, an unfortunate mare with a broken pelvis and the horse-walker. I'm afraid to say that the walker is the only one of the three with any sort of a future.

Coming from Killeagh, the home of the mighty Joe Deane, hurling is the second most important sport in my life after horse racing. Having played for Rosegreen and Killenaule in Tipperary, I'm enjoying knocking around with my home club again.

This year, at 39 years of age, I even made my senior hurling bow. It might have been the last league game and the first XV might have been unavailable due to an upcoming county football championship game, but I didn't care -- it was a proud day!

My next stab at a piece of local glory will be at Killeagh point-to-point on Sunday week. Aghabullogue is on this weekend, but I like to support our own fixture, so I will save the four or five that are ready to run for Killeagh.

All being well, one or two of them should go very close.

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie

Irish Independent