Members of the O’Byrne family from Kilmacthomas in Co Waterford have been amongst the most prominent bloodstock figures in Ireland for decades.

They have made their mark variously as breeders, owners, stallion makers, racing pub owners and, particularly, as sales judges.

The older generation of brothers – John, Roddy and Demi – are renowned judges who have been leading buyers in their time. Veterinary surgeon Demi is most well-known, having been Vincent O’Brien’s head vet before having a role at the forefront of the buying team for the Coolmore partners for decades, signing for what must have been the guts of 200 Group 1 winners.

His forays at the major yearling and breeze-up sales over the last five decades have been the stuff of lore. John and Roddy have also been valued members of that same team, with John having notably sourced Rip Van Winkle for Coolmore at a yearling sale in Italy.

The family’s The Lodge Stud has been home to many top-class horses over the decades and, now under the guidance of John’s son Timmy, it has – through the patronage of J.P. McManus – been responsible for nurturing the early careers of three Grade 1 winners for the champion owner in the last month: Inothewayurthinkin, Spillane’s Tower and Mystical Power were all broken in and educated there. The two last-named both won a second Grade 1 at Punchestown.

Timmy, on the cusp of turning 50 years old (“approaching adulthood!” in his own words), has been running the stud for 16 years, is proud of the heritage of the place and of his role in how it is currently flourishing;

“Dad had stallions in the early days,” he recalled. “I remember Raga Navarro and Wishing Star were leading first-season sires in their time. He bred plenty of good horses too, including Grade 1 winner Get Real, and also a Land Rover Bumper winner, Tuco, who I think was Michael O’Leary’s first horse.

“He also bought the Gold Cup winner Imperial Call out of a field as a young horse and was a director at the Irish National Stud for a period. Of course, keeping my eyes and ears open, especially at sales, I learned a lot from my father, as I did from Demi and Roddy.”


He continues: “When I left school, I worked in Longfield Stud here before spending two years in Ashford Stud in Kentucky and went to Australia for six months as well.

“I then went onto the racetrack to work for Dallas Stewart, an ex-Wayne Lukas assistant. He had plenty of good horses during that time, including the Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Unbridled Elaine. Brad Cox was there with me at the time and is still a great friend who I regularly keep in touch with. He is such a fantastic trainer, it is brilliant to see the success he has had.”

Having spent 10 years in the USA, changing circumstances dictated that the time was right to come home;

“Well, Dad was away a lot at the sales back then,” he explained. “He was doing much more agency work, both flat and National Hunt, and the yard needed someone to run it, so I decided to come home and give it a go.

“I put in a polytrack gallop, three furlongs uphill, with a one furlong warm-up circle. It is ideal for doing nice, steady work to get enough out of it for young horses without bottoming them. I am happy with how it has all gone and I wouldn’t change anything.

“I am married to Caroline eight years and we have a wonderful son, Robin, so life is good.”

Good clients

Timmy acknowledges he has been “blessed from the get-go with unbelievable clients” which helped to get him started.

“It’s a huge help because if you haven’t the back-up you have nothing. Initially, I got a lot of horses from David Wachman, and Paul Shanahan sent a lot of horses from Coolmore, mostly yearlings, to be broken and it just progressed from there.

“J.P. sent jumpers initially then sent a lot of flat horses here as yearlings. He has been a great supporter and we have had a lot of good horses for him. Obviously the three Grade 1 winners lately but before that Carlingford Lough, At Fisher’s Cross and Sweeps Hill amongst others.

“Joseph O’Brien has sent me loads of horses over the years. We had his Leger winner Galileo Chrome here. Max and Lyn Morris have also been very good to me. I have horses for Brian Gleeson too; last year I had his good filly Dollerina, who was group-placed. My own family, uncles Roddy and Demi always have horses here. I get support from other local people also, so I am grateful for it all.”

Top team

Good staff are vitally important too, he relates. “Oh yes. Ronaldo is from Brazil and is very gifted at breaking in young horses. I am very lucky to have him in the yard. Thomas Harty is a young chap and good worker. My brother Jondi still rides out and is in the yard when I am away at sales or whatever. My dad is still out and about in the yard and is a great help to me too if I need him or want advice about something. He and my mother Katie still live in the main house in the yard.”

Naturally, Timmy is especially proud of having been entrusted with the regally-bred Mystical Power.

Owned by McManus in partnership with Sue Magnier and Susannah Ricci (who owned his brilliant dam, Annie Power), he is arguably the best-bred NH horse in the country, being by Galileo, and has carried that breeding through to the track. He was, and is, a very precious horse to his owners.

“Yes, it was certainly nice to get such a high profile horse into the yard,” Timmy admits. “We got him as a yearling before Christmas and he stayed here until the following autumn. However, I didn’t worry about him because he was such a straightforward horse, everything was easy for him. He had an unbelievable temperament.

“You just try your best and mind them but it is definitely easier when they don’t give you any trouble. It is rare that a horse with that pedigree follows on and becomes a real good one but he thankfully has.

“Spillane’s Tower was a J.P. homebred and also a very straightforward horse to deal with. Inothewayurthinking, another homebred, was here as a two-year-old turning three, a very good-looking horse and straightforward too. They are both by Walk In The Park.

“It was amazing for us to have broken in three horses that won Grade 1s close together, for a yard that has only 25 stables. It is also great to see J.P. have such a team of good horses at the moment because he is probably the best owner in history. He is good to nearly everyone in Ireland and the UK, hardly anyone gets missed by him.”

Danny Connors

The O’Byrne link with J.P. goes back a long way. John was one of his principal agents at the sales for a number of years, buying numerous top-class horses for him. Roddy sold him Danny Connors, who won the 1991 Coral Cup at Cheltenham, landing a touch, trained by Jonjo O’Neill.

Timmy recalls: “He cost only 1,500gns at Doncaster because he failed the vet for a heart murmur. But Roddy had lots of good horses here in the 1980s, such as Whitbread Gold Cup winner Special Cargo and Grand National winner Miinnehoma.”

Even after he moved to Lexington and set up the famous McCarthys Bar with fellow Kilmacthomas man Peter Kiely, nephew of the venerable trainer John, Roddy still kept horses at The Lodge. In the last number of years he had Sydney Paget, who was a good horse for Donald McCain before he brought him back to Pat Doyle, for whom he was the champion point-to-pointer back in 2018 when he won eight in a row.

Noll Wallop, bought by John at a yearling sale in Italy and trained by Fozzy Stack, won the Group 3 Leopardstown 2000 Guineas Trial. Rotten Row won a bumper when trained by Joseph O’Brien before winning several times over jumps for Tony Mullins, notably twice at the Tramore August Festival, where McCarthys Bar are sponsors.

Sales work

Another string to Timmy’s bow is sourcing horses at sales, mostly for Roddy but also for other select clients.

He explains: “About 10 years ago Roddy sent me off buying horses for him and in that time I bought Danny Kirwan, who won a Grade 2 for Paul Nicholls plus Nick Rockett, who has also won a Grade 2 for Willie Mullins, and ran a blinder at Sandown last month 40 years after Special Cargo won the race. Roddy has had great luck with naming horses after local people!”

Not named after a local person but none the worse for that, is the classy three-year-old Kodi Bear colt Room Service, trained by Kevin Ryan for Roddy and Timmy’s younger brother Bobby, who works in McCarthys in Lexington. The colt sparked great family celebrations when he won the very valuable Weatherbys 2YO Sales Race at the Doncaster St Leger meeting last year.

Timmy relates a typical racing story of how the link-up with Kevin Ryan came about;

“Roddy met Kevin in McCarthy’s one night when the Breeders’ Cup was in Keeneland a few years ago and told him that he would like to have a horse with him some day. So, he rang me up a couple of years ago and told me to find him a nice flat horse to put with Kevin.

“I decided to go to the Tattersalls October Book 2 Yearling Sale and, out of about 200 horses I saw, he was the only one I really wanted to buy. So I rang Roddy and he told me to buy him (cost 115,000gns) and it has worked out great. He won first time out and then for him to go and win the Weatherbys Sales Race at Doncaster last year was marvellous.

“Though he was unplaced in his comeback run in the Greenham Stakes, he still has plenty of potential. Kevin said he will come on a lot for that, improve and progress, you would be hoping.”

Hoping to improve and progress, a sentiment that most equine enterprises wish for. At the moment, things are going very well at The Lodge Stud and that looks sure to continue with a top man at the helm.