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Road home always shorter when you snare a winner

Last Saturday was one of those nearly-but-not-quite-good-enough kind of days. Shamora and Jouster both ran really well to finish third in their respective races for the stable at Wexford and on the way home I stopped off in Jack White's Pub in Wicklow for the Heineken Cup final.

I had intended to watch it with a few friends in Kildare, but didn't get away from the races in time. Maybe it was just as well.

Being one of the few northern trainers on the circuit, I had spent much of the week fighting Ulster's corner ahead of the big game. It was all good fun, but this Leinster team is just a fantastic side, so clinical when they get any sort of opportunity. There was no shame in losing to them, that's for sure.

We were back on the road for Navan on the Sunday.

People might think that travelling , from our yard in Caledon, Co Tyrone is a big deal for us being where we are, but it isn't an issue at all. One of the legacies of the Celtic Tiger is a good road network.

Once we get on to the N2 to Dublin, there are great roads to most tracks, and that means the horses aren't inconvenienced. Navan, for example, only takes an hour and a half in the horse lorry, and it can seem even less after a winner.

Jazz Girl did her bit to shorten the road home at the Meath track, when she got a great front-running ride from Chris Hayes to score. She is one of a decent bunch of older horses that we have here, though we are maybe lacking a proven Group class contender.

Last year, I finished 10th in the trainers' table and we had our first Group winner, but, being ambitious, I am always trying to improve things. That means finding more winners and better horses, so that is what we are looking for right now.

Trying to unearth young prospects is a part of the job that I love. Because racing in Ireland is so competitive; any time you get a horse to win a race is an endorsement in itself, but I find it particularly satisfying to produce a nice maiden winner. Don't forget, it's not inconceivable that you could meet a Derby horse in an early three-year-old maiden round here.


This Sunday, I run a lovely two-year-old called Tiger Stripes in a maiden at the Curragh that was won by the subsequent Dewhurst winner Intense Focus a couple of years ago -- that's what you're up against.

I also run Super Say in the big handicap tomorrow. It's a race that he won first time up last year and he should run well again, but I fear that he will need the run, as might Tiger Stripes.

At Tipperary yesterday evening, Youtalktoomuch performed encouragingly in the juvenile race. It is always exciting to get new owners in the yard and she was our first runner for Lady O'Reilly, who is just a fantastic patron of the game in this country.

It is flattering to now be doing business with such a respected horsewoman, having made the transition from veterinary surgeon to trainer only eight years ago.

My dad had always kept a thoroughbred broodmare or two at home, but it wasn't until I spent time working for Mark Johnston in Yorkshire that I got the training bug.

While my position with him was essentially as an equine vet, I couldn't get the notion of doing the job for myself out of my system once it got in. The nature of the business means that there are lots of highs and lows, so there are times when you wonder if being a vet wouldn't have made for a simpler lifestyle.

However, nothing can touch what it feels like to have a winner -- it's a sensation that makes it all worthwhile.

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

Irish Independent