Wednesday 19 December 2018

Keeping it in the family - Irish jockey Kate Harrington on her mother's unwavering influence

Kate Harrington
Kate Harrington
Jessica and Kate Harrington at the Longines & IFHA International Award of Merit, Dublin. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Jessica and Kate Harrington at the Longines & IFHA International Award of Merit, Dublin. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Kate Harrington at the Curragh Racecourse. Picture:©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Sean O'Brien with Jessica Harrington and Rovetta. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Leopardstown CEO Pat Keogh, Kate Harrington, trainer Jessica Harrington and Emma Harrington with Sizing John. Photo: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Kate Harrington. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

She has looked up to her mother, a racing stalwart, since she was a little girl but Kate Harrington is keen to walk her own path as a success in the racing world.

Amateur jockey and assistant trainer to Jessica Harrington, Kate Harrington, 28, is incredibly proud of all her mother - one of Ireland’s most successful horse trainers - has achieved.

Jessica’s impressive filly Alpha Centauri continued to triumph during this season after yet another win at Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket at the weekend.

And Kate - who starts work at 6.45am and often doesn’t finish until 9pm or later - is exceedingly proud to work alongside Jessica, 71, and older sister, Emma, 40, who works in the office at the family business, based in Commonstown Stables, Moone in Co Kildare.

Jessica and Kate Harrington at the Longines & IFHA International Award of Merit, Dublin. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Jessica and Kate Harrington at the Longines & IFHA International Award of Merit, Dublin. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

But she’s already making tracks to ensure the industry knows she is her own woman - and not just Jessica’s daughter.

“I bought a few two-year-old store horses last year to go point to point with,” Kate said.  “I got one to the track, Story of Friends and he won for me.

“I bought him for €25,000 and sold him last June for £72,000 sterling.  He has the potential to be a Gold Cup winner and I could have possibly sold him to mum’s owners in the yard but I chose not to sell him privately and to go to public auction because I need to be selling and not to be seen to be selling just to mum.

“I want to sell on my own feet and to have my own reputation.”

From first entering into the industry after college, Kate said her mother instilled in her an inner strength to always know she was equal to every man in racing and to never believe any different.  That belief is why Jessica has lasted beyond most women in the training world, Kate believes.

“Mum was probably the first woman trainer in Ireland,” Kate said.  “There’s more women trainers now but many have come and gone and mum has really put her stamp on the industry.

Fine fillies: Top horse trainer Jessica Harrington with her daughter Kate, an amateur jockey who is making a name for herself with 29 wins. Photo: Tony Gavin
Fine fillies: Top horse trainer Jessica Harrington with her daughter Kate, an amateur jockey who is making a name for herself with 29 wins. Photo: Tony Gavin

“You have to be tough skinned in this industry, as some see it as a man’s work but mum is so tough and strong, and she was the best possible example to me.

“I don’t look at myself differently to any man in racing.   I go to a weighing room and I see myself as the same as them.  Mum always taught me to go out there, to do the talking.”

Kate says she made the decision to work alongside her mother full-time after the death of her beloved father, esteemed trainer John Harrington, 77, in 2014 and despite the full working day, it's a choice she’s never regretted.

“We are together all day,” Kate said.  “I worked at home for six months after college but it didn’t work out, as I was still growing up, so I went to work for trainer Aidan O’Brien for three years and loved it.

“I learnt so much from them and then dad passed away.  I decided then I wanted to come home and I did.

“It’s extra special to work with my family  because we all share a passion but it’s difficult in other ways because we never shut up shop - we are working 356 days a year.”

During the heavy snowfall earlier this year, the Harrington women stood together, as always when the stable staff couldn’t make it into work to assist with the horses.  “We had 140 horses to be fed,” Kate said. “We couldn’t get the staff in, so we had to do everything ourselves but we did it because we are dedicated to training as a family.

“I love working alongside mum and Emma.  I adore my job and there just wouldn’t be anything else I’d love to do it. It can be hard in winter but during this glorious summer, I’ve been outside every day and we are in such beautiful surroundings.

“And yes, there is the odd mother and daughter row because that’s normal in every family but I’ve learnt so much from mum and in this industry, you never stop learning.”

Kate will be participating in the International Ladies Polo Tournament in aid of the Irish Injured Jockeys Fund at the All Ireland Polo Club at Phoenix Park, Dublin, on Saturday, August 18. 

Some of the best riders in the world, from the UK, U.S, France, Germany, Spain, and Argentina, will be competing.

And the Trainers versus Jockeys polo match, will be managed by Jessica and fellow trainer, Noel Meade.  Kate will captain alongside Paul Carberry.

For more information, log onto www.ladiespolo.ie

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