IN the world of sporting excellence, Ballydoyle and Coolmore are institutions without equal. The unfathomable success achieved by these two centres of champion thoroughbreds sets them apart as establishments from a different stratosphere.
Comparable to entering the dressing room at Croke Park just before an All-Ireland final, the University of Limerick Horse Racing Society were privileged to have the opportunity to see the starting point for superstar racehorses and the training place where equine legends are woven. This was not long before Aidan O’Brien and Galileo would dominate the Newmarket Guineas meeting.
The sense of history that permeates Coolmore Stud is a rare thing to experience. Elegant sculptures commemorate previous champions, lawns and flowerbeds are maintained to perfection and of course the rich blue branding so synonymous with success is everywhere. A peaceful paradise for stallions and mares.
It wasn’t long before we saw the thoroughbreds who create the Coolmore canvas of racing royalty, with memories evoked of famous successes down through the years.
Epsom Derby winners are at almost every turn including the 2001 victor who hasn’t fared too badly in his time at stud, with just the 65 individual Group 1 winners.
If contentment could be portrayed in the shape of a horse, Galileo the gentleman would certainly be in the artist’s eye. I had long heard the Ballydoyle brigade speak of the mental strength that Galileo’s progeny possess, but it wasn’t until standing at his stable door that I truly understood his nature. It’s a calmness, an intelligence, a professional and genuine nature that is as sought after in humans as much as it is in horses.
However, never did he seem as happy as when the students began to rub his teeth and pay him the attention he so richly deserves!
The extremely informative Jason Walsh then led the group through to the covering sheds and perfect paddocks before allowing us inside a private museum where any racing fan would long to stay for hours on end. Silks and trophies lined the walls; it was a surreal experience witnessing the accomplishments of Messrs Magnier, Tabor and Smith’s horses.
The preserved body of the legendary Sadler’s Wells, who passed in 2011, was also astonishing to see, with every hair on his resplendent coat still visible today.
A journey just shy of 12 miles brought us to the preparation centre of the world’s leading flat thoroughbreds, Ballydoyle Racing. It’s difficult to put into words how appreciative our group was to see this place of pure equine magic and to meet an individual as kind and energetic as Polly Murphy. We realise how truly fortunate we were to have had this once in a lifetime experience.
Many of our journeys to trainers’ stables are filled with banter and lively conversation; the bus fell completely silent on this occasion as we drove around Ballydoyle. An utterly awe-inspiring corner of the world.
To say no stone is left unturned would perhaps be the understatement of the century, with these equine jewels prepped to perfection to achieve their full potential.
And although the successes of Vincent O’Brien were long before any of our youthful group’s time, his legacy lives on at Ballydoyle with his fingerprints everywhere, illustrating how far ahead of his time he was. The quality of facilities for horses were on a different scale to anything any of us could ever have dreamed of.
As the sun shone across the fields of Rosegreen, we departed Ballydoyle for an evening of racing at Tipperary Racecourse realising the special place we had just experienced. It’s an air that covers the land like St Brigid’s cloak. The same feeling one can sense from being in the company of Aidan and Annemarie O’Brien.
The same perfectionist and professional mentality that the Magnier family have exhibited to make these establishments what they are today.
This flawless combination of human, horse and infrastructure are the standard the rest of the racing world must live up to.