Thursday 13 December 2018

'People like to see the bigger prizes being spread out' - Prendergast

 

Patrick Prendergast. Photo: Alain Barr
Patrick Prendergast. Photo: Alain Barr
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Rarely has there been an outpouring of emotion like that which greeted the victory of Skitter Scatter in the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh on Champions Weekend.

A first Group One victory for trainer Patrick Prendergast and jockey Ronan Whelan sparked joyous scenes around the Kildare duo, but it could have been some other connections celebrating had fate not intervened.

Much like a lot of smaller yards, Prendergast sells on a lot of the best raw materials which pass through his hands for a tidy profit but that was never on the table as owners Anthony Rogers and Sonia Rogers had their eye on Skitter Scatter for their stud.

The rest is history and the Scat Daddy filly has gone from strength this season with a hat-trick of big-race victories culminating in collecting a €200,000 winner's cheque at the home of Irish racing.

Everyone in racing circles is aware of Prendergast's pedigree and his training ability - grandson of PJ 'Darkie' Prendergast, son of Paddy, and a nephew of Kevin.

Skitter Scatter has given him a chance to shine and he has picked up the ball and run with it.

The tears of happiness in the parade ring after the Moyglare success and the queues of well-wishers who met him and Whelan said enough about how highly he is regarded.

The victory was viewed as one of the results of the season as with all the doom and gloom about many smaller trainers handing in their licences and leaving the game, a smaller operation had trumped the bigger hitters, although the modest Prendergast is quick to acknowledge the role of Lady Luck in his finest hour.

"The well-wishing and the reception we got was quite overwhelming, it was hard not to feel emotional.

"Ronan is a very popular guy and it helped that we're both local guys as well," Prendergast (below) says.

"People like to see the big prizes being spread around a little and they like to see the smaller yards do well because everyone is worried about the survival of the smaller yards, particularly in the last couple of years.

"Ken Condon won a Guineas this year (Romanised claimed the Irish 2,000 Guineas) and Adrian Keatley won an Irish 1,000 Guineas two years ago so I do believe there are very, very talented fellas in Ireland.

"If they get well-bred horses and get the opportunity they will do the exact same thing. Good horses will make you look good and bad horses will make you look bad, it's the same for jockeys and trainers."

Having taken out a licence in 2002 following stints with Jim Bolger, Dermot Weld and Jean-Claude Rouget, as well as being an assistant to Ed Dunlop and Michael Stoute, Prendergast did a lot of pre-training for a Japanese operation while keeping his own hand in at training.

Racing fans may recall horses like Waterways, Sugar Boy and Queen Blossom which got his name on the training map but the pint-sized Skitter Scatter has helped parachute Prendergast to the next level.

The 43-year-old will never forget those who stayed loyal to him in hard times, however, and greatly appreciates the handful of staff who care for the 24 horses in his yard on a daily basis.

Looking back on when the Celtic Tiger faded, he acknowledges that you don't become a bad trainer overnight.

"I had a quiet spell when the crash came, there was nothing wrong with the gun but I just had no bullets to fire.

"I probably made a few mistakes business-wise as well, you get older and wiser but with the help of my main patron Rick Barnes... his support got me through that, I owe him a lot."

With "excellent" work riders in Whelan, Chris Hayes and Daniel Redmond, he has ambitions for further glory in the coming years and Skitter Scatter will make his winter a lot shorter.

A 16/1 shot for the English 1,000 Guineas next May and put away until the start of next season, she has him dreaming of what might be.

"While I was an assistant I worked amongst some very good horses but I never actually had one like Skitter Scatter myself. Going to the Curragh I thought she was a filly who could run well in a Guineas, now I think she could win it," he says.

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