THE subsequent Royal Ascot and Breeders’ Cup successes of 2023 graduate Big Evs has helped M.C. Thoroughbreds gain wider recognition on the global stage in recent months. It has filled us with a real sense of pride to see him do so well for trainer Mick Appleby.

Although both my father and grandfather dealt in horses and ponies, it was not until my teens that I first worked with thoroughbreds. I started out doing weekends and schools holidays with Aidan Kennedy, before going pony racing with James Horgan.

After leaving school at 16, I went full-time with James I then rode under rules firstly for Thomond O’Mara and later David Wachman. Despite riding almost 40 winners in Ireland I struggled to make an impact and decided that I would give America a shot, so I applied for a visa. While I was waiting to get the call, myself and my girlfriend headed to Australia.

I got a job with Anthony Cummings, son of the legendary trainer Bart, who was based at Randwick racecourse. Under Australian immigration rules, I was only allowed stay in the same job for six months, so I was soon on my travels again - doing some sales work in the Gold Coast, Melbourne and New Zealand.

I learned a great deal during my six months in Randwick. All of the track work is done on the clock. Australian horses are galloped over shorter trips and it is mostly bridle work. In Australia, horses are basically trained to sprint, and the middle distance horses are also galloped in a similar way. Horses rarely go any quicker than 12 secs a furlong in their work and trainers are content with that. After returning home to Ireland, I worked for Andrew Slattery for a time. Andy and his brothers Brian and Willie are excellent horsemen and I learned plenty from them. I also went back riding out for Thomond O’Mara. Thomond, Aidan Kennedy and James Horgan were very good to me. Once my visa finally came through, I went to the US, where I was based at Delaware Park with mostly did track work, although I rode in 15-20 races.

I had ridden breeze-up horses earlier in my career as a jockey, so when an opportunity arose at home with Star Bloodstock, I jumped at it. While I was employed to break and pre-train the young stock, I also had the chance to shadow Byron Rogers at some of the major international sales. Getting to learn from a master such as Byron was the final piece in the jigsaw. In the back of my head, I always intended to go it alone at some stage.

In 2020, I finally took the leap, establishing M.C. Thoroughbreds. As it turned out, the unforeseen outbreak of Covid made it a difficult enough start. With so much uncertainly around the industry, we ended up keeping yearlings for longer than expected.

Obviously, that had a knock-on effect as there were months with no money coming in. Fortunately, when we came out of Covid, there was a huge demand for breeze-up horses. In a small operation such as ours, you are hoping to strike lucky with two or three breezers each year that help pay for the rest. Horses such as Summer Is Tomorrow and Water Of Leith helped build the foundations.

The Dubai Sale has also been very good to us over the last couple of years. You need to be getting results on a stage such as that.

The 2023 crop have proven to be exceptional with Rock Of The Mountain, Ballymount Boy and Big Evs all excelling. The first-named is a leading juvenile in Scandanavia, the second a listed winner for Adrian Keatley and the latter, the pick of the lot, winning for Mick Appleby at Royal Ascot and the Breeders’ Cup. Big Evs, Big Evs, who aside from myself was also owned by Thomond and Noel McDonald, missed an engagement at the Craven Sales but was later bought privately by Conor Quirke of Hunting Hill Stud.

Adrian Keatley bought Ballymount Boy himself before later selling the colt to Wathnan Racing. Both men trusted in their own judgement, so deserve every credit for the subsequent exploits of their purchases.

Although we always knew Big Evs was a very fast horse, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised by just how good he turned out.

Big Evs wasn’t ever stopping at the end of his work, so in hindsight, he had the ideal blend of speed and stamina. To produce a Grade 1 winner of his calibre so early in the life of M.C. Thoroughbreds is fantastic.

We are a very small operation with no more than 18-20 breezers each season. My girlfriend Oceane and I do all the breaking/training, while head man Mick Dwyer and my dad, Tony, are invaluable on the ground.

Being able to make our mark in one of the most competitive environments globally is a source of huge satisfaction to us. Men like Norman Williamson, Willie Browne and Con Marnane are some of the best in the business. If M.C. Thoroughbreds can even achieve half of what they have, then we will have done very well.

Mickey Cleere was in conversation with

John O’Riordan