Tuesday 20 February 2018

Where are they now?

Frances Crowley

(Former racehorse trainer)

Saoire's victory in the 1,000 Guineas of 2005 was momentous. Seven years on from that triumph, Frances Crowley remains the only woman to have trained an Irish Classic winner.

It was an incredibly tight finish to the race and she wasn't sure if her filly had won. "I didn't think I had won from the angle I was looking at it. It seemed from the position we were in that she was a close second and we were delighted with that so when we found out she had won it was fantastic. It didn't hit me until later that I was the first woman to train a Classic winner in Ireland."

It was a special day for the Kilkenny woman and her family and an unforgettable birthday for her husband, jockey Pat Smullen, who rode Grey Swallow to win the day's other Group One, the Tattersalls Gold Cup.

Crowley had already proven adept at breaking through barriers as the first woman to be crowned Irish champion amateur jockey, winning that title in 1995 and 1996 before turning her hand to training in 1998, where she enjoyed incredible success. She trained National Hunt Grade One winners including Sackville, Moscow Express and Nil Desperandum.

There was further success after that Group One triumph, especially with Cheyenne Star, but in 2008 she decided to call it a day.

"I trained over 350 winners in the ten years. It was a tough job but I really enjoyed it. I had two kids at the time and I found it hard to give my whole attention to training and it's not the kind of thing you can give half your attention to. You need to be focused. My decision coincided with the downturn in the economy so it was a good time to take a break and I've no regrets."

Since then she had another baby and the family moved to a farm in Offaly. She retains an interest in racing, keeping some horses and is a member of an advisory committee on the racing industry for the Minister for Agriculture.

Crowley will be at The Curragh to watch her husband ride Yellow Rosebud for Dermot Weld in today's renewal of the race.

"She is a really exciting ride for Pat and looks to have a good chance in the race. Homecoming Queen is the one everyone wants to beat but it's a different track and different ground to Newmarket. Dermot does very well in these races and it would be great to have another 1,000 Guineas trophy."

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