I’ve only just turned 22, so as far as I know, I’m the youngest trainer in the country. Last weekend at Naas, I sent out my first winner, with what was just my fourth runner since getting my licence.

Training horses has been all I’ve ever wanted to do since I was in my early teens but I’ve had to wait until I was old enough to be allowed do so.

My granddad Paddy McLoughlin was head lad in Tony Redmond’s for years. His son, my uncle Paddy, has worked for Dermot Weld for over 30 years. He always had a couple of horses to race himself and through Paddy it was just something that I got interested in.

My own father never worked directly with horses but was a keen racing fan. I used to watch the racing at home with him on television every Saturday.

Uncle Paddy also works as a stalls handler, so I started going to the races with him when I was old enough. From about the age of 12, some mornings he would collect me and take me to the top of the (Old) Vic to watch Weld’s string canter up.

Until I was 13, I had never even sat on a horse. After that, I went to a pony club in Castlewarden where uncle Paddy’s girlfriend, Jane Foley, worked.

Leaning the ropes

During a couple of months at summer camp, I more or less learned the basics which helped get me going. Paddy had worked with Adrian Keatley years back, so asked him if there was any part-time job going.

I was certainly thrown in at the deep end but looking back now it was the best thing for me. Fresh out of pony club, I was put up on a racehorse on my first morning in the yard.

Muredach Kelly, who was head lad there at the time, found a quiet one to start me off. It still ran away with me though!

Adrian Keatley was brilliant to me and I still keep in touch with him. I wasn’t there too long before I decided to pack in school to go work full-time.

During the three years I spent in the yard, he taught me a lot. Apart from tidying up my riding, Adrian took me to the sales, went through race planning and showed me how to treat injuries. He worked me hard but I couldn’t have had a better teacher.

Flying start

Jet Setting had just won the Irish 1000 Guineas when I first started in the yard.

Later that year, I went to Tipperary with her when she won the Group 3 Concorde Stakes. Marto Davidson, who looked after the filly, used to always say to me: “you’ll be a trainer or a bloodstock agent one day.”

After three years, I moved to Dermot Weld, where I worked part-time. Similar to Jet Setting in Keatley’s, it was a great experience to be around really good horses and get to see how they are prepared for their races.

I was lucky enough to ride out future Irish Leger winner Search For A Song as a two-year-old and for a bit at three. To get the chance to experience what a group horse feels like to ride is something that I always take with me.

At least, I will know what to look for if I am fortunate enough to ever come across such a horse in my own training career.

I had learned how to drive while in Weld’s, so used to go to Reggie Robert’s to ride out a few in the afternoons. During that time, I also got a job working on the stalls with Paddy. I had my own horse which I had bought as a foal but never sold.

A little help from my friends

Scott McCullagh, who I would be good friends with, said that I should come ride out in Jessie’s (Harrington) with him.

For a long time, I had known that I wanted to train a few but I was still too young to get a licence. Scott and his dad Niall came up with an idea that solved a lot of problems.

Michael McCullagh, Niall’s father, was finding it hard to get staff in his place. The lads suggested that he move his trainer’s licence up to uncle Paddy’s yard on the Curragh.

I would come and ride out for him; start off as an assistant trainer. Although you have to be 21 to get your licence, I was allowed sit the trainers’ course last year.

I actually just turned 21 on the final day of the course. I didn’t feel quite ready to go at it alone and Michael was enjoying what we were doing, so we decided to leave it run another year, so I could get more experience.

Health scare

Towards the end of last year, I collapsed on the pitch while playing football. I needed two surgeries on my heart.

As I couldn’t ride out for a time, I did some sales prep for Guy O’Callaghan at Grangemore Stud. It was my first time working in that side of the industry and although it’s so close to racing, it also couldn’t be more different.

I learned an awful lot during the short time I was there. Dean Sinnott and Carlos Athilas stepped in to look after my own horses, so I was really thankful to both.

Scott and Oisin McSweeney were also brilliant, coming in to ride out. Oisin had been riding in the UK but was looking to come home.

Jeremy Harley had introduced me to Danny Murphy one morning in a local shop. Danny, who was with Kieran Cotter at the time, was looking for an apprentice.

I mentioned that Oisin might be interested. I met Danny for a second time when we were both on the same trainers’ course.

He offered me the opportunity to come work for him as assistant until I got my own licence.

Working two jobs

In February, I applied for and was granted my trainer’s licence. At the moment, I still work as assistant to Danny, although I train four horses of my own.

Tom Pender and Conor Whiteley, who are both apprenticed to Danny, ride out and are a huge help to me. Duckadilly, my first winner since taking out a licence, was recommended to me by Scott McCullagh.

Chris Mullins, who had Bold Optimist with Michael and myself, was looking to buy another horse.

Having picked up Duckadilly at the Horses In Training Sale, I sent her to T.J. Comerford’s girlfriend, Stephanie, as I felt she needed time. Stephanie did an amazing job, so much so, that I didn’t recognise the filly when I next saw her.

Duckadilly had been working nicely since coming back to us but I had expected her to need her recent debut at Naas.

To win as she did really pleased me, as I have no doubt she has plenty improvement in her. I was delighted for Chris (Mullins), who has been a big supporter of mine.

Big dreams

The ultimate dream one day would be to train a Royal Ascot winner. For me, that has always been the biggest of them all. I’ve always just loved the build up and the whole buzz about the place.

I’m loving what I am doing at the moment and hopefully over time, I can build it up. I have four in training right now, with room for a few more.

I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my training career, so hopefully it’s onwards and upwards from here.

Danny McLoughlin was in conversation with John O’Riordan