Tom Connolly has grown up around racing. As a teenager, he rode out for the legend that is Willie Mullins. He has since moved on to work for Bill Dwan of The Castlebridge Consignment. This week he jets off to Australia to further his experience at Yarraman Park.
How did you get interested and involved in bloodstock?
Growing up at Burgage Stud in Leighlinbridge, Carlow, I was lucky enough to be immersed in the industry very early on. We are National Hunt breeders at home with 20 mares and young stock, selling mainly foals and some store horses. When I was 14 I began riding out locally for Pat Fahy and later Willie Mullins. I loved riding out and going racing across the country. A highlight was definitely leading up to the Cheltenham Festival for Willie. I had a few rides in bumpers and point-to-points during this time which was something I am glad to have done. After this I completed yearlings prep and did sales at Ecurie des Monceaux in France, Tally-Ho Stud and Springhouse Farm in Kentucky. All three were great studs to work at and I would like to think I picked up different things from each place. For the last five years I have worked for Castlebridge at many of the flat sales in Ireland and England. It is a good place to work with a big team of well-bred foals and yearlings, and a great group of staff. I began working for Tattersalls Ireland when I was 17 and have spent the last eight years working at Fairyhouse and later at Newmarket as a spotter on the rostrum which is both a privilege and a great buzz. Last May I graduated from Maynooth University with a degree in Law and Business and it was something I feel is very important to have done as it will always give me options going forward. I was on the Irish National Stud course of 2023 and have just finished after a very enjoyable six months.
Who helped you along the way or gave you advice?
My parents have been an unbelievable support over the years and they have worked very hard.
They have made huge sacrifices to give my brother George and me anything we ever wanted or needed. They are always there to give good advice and have opened many doors for me which is something I am very appreciative of. Bill Dwan of The Castlebridge Consignment is an excellent man to work for and is always keen to help in any way he can. Cathal Beale of the Irish National Stud is extremely approachable and knowledgeable and is more than giving of his time. Both Margaret O’Neill and Orla McKenna of Tattersalls Ireland have always been a big help to me while working at the sales in Fairyhouse. Another who has really helped me along the way is Danny Molony, also of Tattersalls. Danny has been an excellent mentor to me and is always trying to help me progress.
What challenges/problems have you faced so far?
Personally I have thankfully faced no issues. However, one thing that is becoming clear having been at the store sales for the last few years is the very noticeable demand for big horses. A 16hh to 16.1hh medium-sized horse doesn’t seem to cut it anymore and this a little big worrying. Shantou, who was an excellent stallion for us, stood at 15.3hh himself. His stock were never giants but they had a great will to win which outweighs any size advantage.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to get involved in the industry professionally?
Definitely to get stuck in and become involved! It is a great industry with some wonderful people and the opportunities are endless. I believe this is an industry where you reap what you sow. There are so many different avenues one can go down and horses allow you to see the world. Everyone in this industry is always willing to help and the more questions you ask the more you will know. Go in with a good attitude, try and work in as many different places as you can for good people and doors will open. There are many industry leaders who have had unconventional routes into this business which proves that this industry is not a closed shop.
What are your hopes for the next 12 months?
I am heading out to Australia and I hope to spend a year down there at Yarraman
Park. Australian racing and breeding is in a great place at the moment so it will be interesting to see how things are done there. Long term I hope to auctioneer for Tattersalls while working in the bloodstock department and also breeding from a few mares. Having failed to get a foal last year on a limited budget I would love to pick up one this year and will try and roll the dice again!