Wednesday 22 November 2017

Katla triumph pure fairytale

What a week it has been. Last Friday, Christy Ryan and myself set out for York from my farm in Cashel with Katla, the only horse I have in training.

Christy is a major cog in the wheel here. I'm a dairy farmer who keeps a few mares, but the two of us have been knocking around with the odd horse for 20 years now.

Christy works for Coolmore and spent years with Vincent O'Brien at Ballydoyle. He comes in early every morning to ride the filly out before going on to the day job.

I was up in Goffs recently when I got a call from him to say that the filly was flying at home. We had this Listed race in York in mind, so we said we'd let her take her chance.

I'd never run one in England before, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Katla won by six lengths on Saturday which, over six furlongs, was phenomenal.

I think I might have even had a mild heart attack!

At the four-furlong pole, everything else was under the whip and Billy Lee was just sitting there on Katla. He never had to move.

By the time they got to the five-pole, we were going ballistic, jumping up and down and roaring her home. We couldn't help ourselves. It was just fairytale stuff -- we'd never experienced anything like it in out lives!

As we were running back to greet Katla, I heard someone calling, "John, John!" Now, Christy was with me and I didn't know another soul in York, so it couldn't have been me they were after, but they kept calling. Eventually I heard: "John Grogan!"

When I turned around this fellow said to me: "Your phone fell out of your pocket when you were jumping around." I'd had it in my top pocket and it must have just bounced out of it. I never missed it.

He told me some other lad had picked it up and walked off with it. I turned round and ran back after the guy who'd picked it up and asked him to give it back. He gave it back all right, but I don't think I'd have seen it again if it weren't for the lad who pointed me in the right direction!

By the time I got back to the winner's enclosure, I could hardly breathe. All the media were there and I was asked to do an interview on Channel Four with 'Thommo'. I said to them I didn't think I would be able, but I'd try. I was just bowled over.

I've been breeding horses for 25 years and all I ever wanted to do was breed a nice two-year-old like Katla. But to own her, breed her and train her is just an unreal sensation.

At the end of the day, I'm a seller. The only horses we run are the ones we can't sell. Katla was turned away by all the big sales companies last year, so we ended up preparing her for a breeze-up at Dundalk in February instead.

Then that sale got cancelled. About 120 horses that were meant to go there were switched to a breeze-up at Goresbridge, but Goresbridge wouldn't take her. It was all for luck. The filly has done us proud, and her dam's pedigree has been enhanced, which is what it's all about for me.

As for future plans, nothing is set in stone. At this stage, given what she has achieved, I'm not desperate to sell her anymore, but we'll see what happens. I actually have her in a Group Two in France next month, so we could go there yet.

This is once-in-a-lifetime stuff for someone training one horse. I did have a second two-year-old in, but she didn't show anything in two runs, so I stopped with her.

Katla does most of her work on her own. I ploughed a strip around a field to use as a gallop for the summer and when the plough gets too wet we use the grass.

We take her away for a gallop every now and then but that's it.

We've been on top of the world since Saturday. My racing colours are the green and red of Cashel King Cormacs GAA club, so they had all the flags out to welcome us home on Sunday night. It was nothing major, just family and friends, but it was nice.

Little will change here, though. My son Barry milked the cows while I was away but I was back at it on Tuesday. And I'll still only train the horses I can't sell. I have a lovely brother to Katla that I'm looking forward to sending to the yearling sales next year -- provided he gets accepted.

It'll probably be a little easier to get him in now.

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out

Irish Independent

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