DAIRERIN winning at the Galway Festival last month was one of those special days! Being a GAA man all my life, captaining Cork to win the 1999 All-Ireland Hurling Championship obviously holds pride of place.
Since retiring from the game, I have become more involved in the equine industry. Having entered the sport as a complete novice over a decade ago I have gradually built up a portfolio of stock through racing, owning and breeding.
It all started back in 2007, when a group of businessmen got together to buy nine foals, with the intention of reselling them as yearlings.
We weren’t to know then that a worldwide recession was just around the corner, leaving us with stock on our hands that we couldn’t move on.
Fast forward a few years and a decision had to be made on their future so we elected to put the horses into training and race them ourselves. Unfortunately, they achieved little on the racecourse, so come 2011/12, the syndicate was disbanded.
While one of the members has since gone to his eternal reward, others just wanted out at that stage. Of the original nine foals purchased, we just had one mare left in training, Queen Of Dubai.
With all other five members deciding to call it a day for one reason or another, I found myself, through guilt or otherwise, agreeing to take on the mare at a modest cost. Cyril Reaney, an original member, said that I could keep her on his land while deciding the next move.
Some time passed and Cyril suggested I consider breeding from the mare and we decided to send Queen Of Dubai to Getaway, a new, up and coming young stallion. The resultant offspring, later named Getaway Queen, was subsequently put in training with Ken Budds with whom I won an Under-12 County Hurling medal in 1984.
Following a third placing at Dundalk in November 2019 having tried her over various distances, Wayne Lordan popped off her and suggested we step her up two furlongs and she would have a good chance of collecting.
As a self-employed Tied Agent of Irish Life, I was not in a position to travel on the day due to work commitments when she reappeared less than a week later. I watched the race in a pub in Kilkenny and nearly choked on my dinner when she hit the front and won well under Conor Hoban.
A fortnight later, I was in Dundalk, along with close friends and equine enthusiasts Kevin Galvin and Patrick Mulcahy as she made it two-in-a-row! We met with some acquaintances from Dublin and celebrated into the night!
To date Getaway Queen has won five on the flat both sand and turf and twice won over hurdles. She rarely runs a poor race which is a tribute to the mare and the handling by trainer Ken Budds.
Having missed a couple of years with Queen Of Dubai, we got her back in foal to James Hannon’s Arctic Cosmos. Her second foal, The Toothpicker, has already shown definite ability, including when second over hurdles at Gowran Park in January.
I have sold a 50% share of him to three businessmen from the midlands, and is one we are really looking forward to.
Queen Of Dubai also has an unnamed three-year-old full-brother to The Toothpicker who stands at 16.3hh and will go into training for a four-year-old point-to-point in the spring. She has a very correct filly foal on the ground by Berkshire and is in foal to Jukebox Jury.
Based on her winning streak and the enjoyment and pleasure she has provided to me, my wife Jackie and our three boys, many people have said I’m being rewarded for deciding to show her loyalty and give her a second chance all those years ago. I tend to agree with that sentiment.
While I always had an interest on the breeding side, Covid certainly accelerated my interest as travel movements were restricted and we all found better ways to do business during lockdown. I found myself having more time to concentrate on the proper pedigrees and seeking ways of extending my equine portfolio.
One of my early acquisitions with a neighbour of similar interests was a flat-bred mare, Spinning Maid by Forresty, who is a half-sister to a Grade 1 winner in the US.
We agreed a foal share with Coolmore and sent her to first-season sire Caravaggio. Her filly is intended for the racetrack while we try to enhance her pedigree. The mare also has a three-year-old Estidhkaar filly in training who was beaten six and a half lengths by Lily Pond on her debut at Dundalk.
Lily Pond went on to win a Group 2 in the Curragh for Aidan O’Brien. The mare is back in foal to Arizona.
The breeding operation is run out of Prof. Richard J. Kelly’s farm at Ballyquirke in Killeagh, where we have a small expert team working closely. Richard, a Killeagh native, is a senior Professor at Japan’s prestigious Kindai University in Osaka, Japan; he has been a fantastic source of support and encouragement in the renascence of Ballyquirke.
We get great help from local farmer and horse breeder Sean Harnedy, who foals down the mares and provides invaluable advice and a wealth of experience and knowledge.
Zoe Tolson, a splendid horse lady, is in charge of the stock’s dietary requirements and well-being. Again, like Sean, Zoe has years of experience in the equine industry. Jimmy O’Leary, another local, is Ballyquirke’s farrier.
The Triumph Hurdle of 2020 is a significant race for us, as we have the dam of the winner, Burning Victory, (M’Oubliez Pas) and the full-sister to Goshen (Harrisburg) who fell at the final flight when clear. The significance is we now have a full-sister to Burning Victory by Nathaniel. The mare is back in foal to Walk In The Park, along with having a classy Dr Dino colt foal from the full-sister to Goshen (who is a half-sister to Elimay) who will go to the November foal sales unless sold privately.
One of the exciting breeding purchases this year has been Damara Du Tabert, a Balko full-sister to Halka Du Tabert, who is the filly that won her point-to-point by 45 lengths and was bought by Kenny Alexander to go into training with Gordon Elliott.
This broodmare is carrying a cover to top sire No Risk At All. We also have half-sisters to Allaho, Elimay, Grand Roi, Peageebee, Nollyador, Monmiral, Klassical Dream and Naasalem. All those are currently in top yards, trained by the likes of Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott, Paul Nicholls, Gary Moore, Emma Lavelle and Richard Spencer. When making broodmare purchases, having the breeding line with top trainers is a significant help in decision-making.
In a new departure, we have also bought a few foals and yearlings in recent years, with the intention of either racing or reselling. We have a two-year-old full-brother by Pastorius to an exciting filly in France called Alcyone Rouge who has won three on the bounce and is reported to be special.
We have two-year-old half-sisters to Adagio and Klassical Dream. I’m still undecided whether they will go back to a store sale or go racing. If I had a choice and a decent offer on the table, I’d sell 50% and race them to try to improve the pedigree and keep them for breeding down the road. Those are some of the hard decisions that to be made.
In terms of ownership, aside from being a sole owner, I am involved in two racing clubs. Anthony Daly, TJ Ryan and myself set up Caman Racing Club this year, after receiving numerous requests on the Dalo podcast show from listeners all over Ireland and further afield.
There is a large crossover between GAA and horse racing, with a number of ex-players and managers involved in one capacity or another. Caman Racing is also associated with Cancer Research and the Cliona Foundation.
TJ and I have played in the Hurling for Cancer games held in Newbridge and organised by Jim Bolger and Davy Russell. I think once you retire from the game, you find yourself with some free time on your hands without those regular Tuesday, Thursday nights and Sunday morning training sessions.
Listeners to the podcast were eager to dip their toes into ownership and we were able to open the doors to some of the largest trainers in Ireland. The racing club has currently four in training with close to 500 members at €200 annually.
It has been well received and we have horses with Jim Bolger (2), Willie Mullins (1) and Willie McCreery (1).
I also got involved with the Marnane Racing Club this year through a close friend of mine Jimmy Nolan. That has been an exciting journey, meeting some fabulous people from all over the world and enjoying some great days out. Lady Tilbury has been the star but we have a few nice juveniles to look forward to.
Last month’s Galway win was such a thrill, as it was my first winner at the Galway Festival. Getaway Queen ran really well there when sixth over hurdles last year but this was a rather different experience when you win a race.
A small group of us who enjoy each other’s company decided to buy a racehorse to socialise together. Mags O’Toole was entrusted with finding the right fit and she certainly came up trumps. Ciaran (O’Toole) is involved in the syndicate, and it was on his advice that we put Dairerin into training with Jessica Harrington.
He improved for the step up to seven furlongs when winning at Limerick early last month, then ran another huge race at Naas, before giving us a day to remember at Galway.
We had great celebrations for most of the week. Hopefully there is much to look forward to in the months and years ahead, both with Dairerin and my other racing and breeding interests.
Mark Landers was in conversation with John O’Riordan