Position: Stud manager

LAST month, Castledillon Stud achieved top lot at the Derby Sale for the first time; consigning a son of Kayf Tara which was purchased by Gordon Elliott on behalf of Eddie O’Leary.

The February born gelding was the highest-priced National Hunt store horse sold in Britain or Ireland this year.

With a strong family background in the breeding sector, as manager of Castledillon Stud, I was exceptionally proud of that result.

My grandfather owned Old Fairyhouse Stud, where Tattersalls Ireland is now located, so the fact the recent sale took place at that location made it all the more poignant.

He stood a number of stallions over the years, including Be Friendly, who was owned by the legendary Sir Peter O’Sullevan. My father, Michael, worked for decades for Tattersalls, since their inception in 1975.

A few years after getting married, my parents moved to Straffan and purchased Castledillon Stud.

Initially, dad just bought a few horses with two close friends, Ned Gowing and Liam Spring but gradually over time the business took off.

Growing up on the farm, as kids we had to work and get stuck in.

Communion and confirmation money would have been saved up so that we could buy foals of our own. I would have been buying and selling on some level or another from a very young age.

We would also have done pony club and hunting over the years - I continued to hunt right up until a couple of years ago.


After school, I did a diploma in Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations. I was playing polo at the time and was lucky enough to be offered a scholarship to play in Australia.

Being paid to do something that I really enjoyed was a dream come through. I spent a winter down under and two summers in the UK but unfortunately a broken leg put paid to any ambitions I had of making it my long-term career.

With no money coming in, I had to give up on the polo after just 18 months. I came home and went back to college where I studied for a degree in Business and Marketing. I continued to work away at Castledillon Stud whenever the time allowed.

The plan had been to leave the horses behind, put my degree to use and establish myself in a different industry. However, after just three months working in Dublin, in a job I thoroughly hated, I decided it just wasn’t for me.

I went off to America for six months, where I did a breeding season with Gareth O’Rourke at Juddmonte in Kentucky. A short time after coming home, I received a call to see if I would be interested in working for Tattersalls Ireland.


I had done the sales and acted as a spotter in both Ireland and the UK from early teenage years, so I was well acquainted with the company. The opportunity to join their bloodstock team was too good an offer to turn down.

I started in February 2014, so am almost a decade there now. My role involves sales inspections and liaising with clients.

Since I took over the running of Castledillon Stud, we have steadily built the business, increasing in numbers. In the last couple of years, Tally-Ho Stud came in and got involved in a couple of the stores.

We have had a really good run in the sales ring over the last four or five years, with plenty of good winners coming out of here.

Between flat and National Hunt, we have produced winners at Cheltenham, Aintree, Punchestown and Royal Ascot during that short time period.

I am very fortunate to have a great team at home who do an excellent job at Castledillon Stud. With my job in Tattersalls Ireland, I am on the road a lot of the time, so I appreciate their efforts. The recent sale topping result is testament to their hard work and excellent horsemanship.

My wife, Annabel, who is also from a horsey background, would have done a lot of eventing. She does so much for the family when I am away; I can’t thank her enough for her support. Without each and every one of the aforementioned, the Derby Sale success would not have been possible.

While it’s always a nice achievement to sell the most expensive three-year-old in Britain and Ireland in the year, the most important thing is that he keeps going now. He needs to be a racehorse, not just a sales horse.

Timmy Hillman was in conversation with John O’Riordan