Wednesday 17 January 2018

Paddy success augurs well for new season

Paddy O Dee got the new season off to a flyer for us at Ballinrobe on Tuesday. By the time last term finished a few days earlier, we had around 30 second places, which was just cruel for a relatively small yard in a game where winning is everything.

If Paddy had come home second on Tuesday, I dread to think what I would have done!

Only a couple of years ago, we sent out 32 winners, our best tally. Then the horses got sick, the economy crashed, and I lost Rathlin, my best horse and the yard flagbearer.

Business dropped and the future looked pretty bleak, but some incredibly loyal owners stuck by me. I think that when people see that you are working hard, they trust that things will turn. Last season, by and large, the horses ran consistently well again, probably to the full of their potential, which is unfortunately fairly moderate.

Apart from Ballyburke, a decent sort that was touched off in a valuable novice chase at Navan, the highest-rated horse in the yard was probably 110. That tells its own story, but the most important thing is to get the best out of what we have.

To that end, having owners who support what you are doing is vital, and it has been wonderful to have JP McManus involved since he bought Ballyburke two years ago. What he and his racing manager Frank Berry are worth to Irish racing is incalculable.

When our horses were wrong last year, I remember Frank just telling me to let Ballyburke off early, not to worry, that the horse would be coming back to me anyway. That kind of understanding of the game makes a trainer's life so much easier.

I hitched the box onto the jeep on Wednesday and brought Ballyburke up to Frank for a summer's grass, knowing we have a smart horse ready to go to war with again in the autumn. At this time of the year, I seem to spend forever on the road.

I have always driven the lorry to the races myself, so on Tuesday I set off for Ballinrobe at 11.30. My day began at 7.30 and I wasn't back from Ballinrobe until 2.0 in the morning, but I was bringing a winner home and I wouldn't be anywhere else.


My father owns Boleybawn Cat, fourth on the night, so he jumped in beside me for the spin. I was back in the yard for 9.0 on Wednesday morning before heading for Kildare with Ballyburke, and tonight I am Kilbeggan bound.

Tomorrow it's Limerick, Sligo on Sunday, then Down Royal on Monday. All go.

I'll have about 20 to run for the summer. Although this is the time of year for restocking, these days it's all about consolidation, so I won't be buying too many.

That said, I have an eye on branching out into the yearling market, as there are amazing opportunities here for two-year-olds right now. The turnouts for juvenile contests have been dismal, with another three-runner event at Tipperary yesterday.

When you combine all the bonuses, a lot of our maidens are worth over €20,000 to the winner and I'm amazed that English owners haven't capitalised on the situation.

Considering the standard of trainer in this country and how much more expensive it is to keep a horse in training in England, I suspect there might be a few racing managers across the water wondering if they have missed a trick.

At Kilbeggan tonight, Mr McManus' Jack The Ref and Mayo Mystique have chances. Mayo Mystique is already in foal to Arakan, and she is due a change of luck.

Speaking of Arakan, one of Joe Foley's emerging sires at Ballyhane Stud in Leighlinbridge, I have a few broodmares of my own at home that I have put in foal to him. With the future value of their produce in mind, I'll keep a keen eye on another of his offspring, Richard Hannon's Trumpet Major, in tomorrow's 2,000 Guineas.

You won't hear me complaining if Richard Hughes gets that one home in front.

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out

Irish Independent

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