TREO Eile delighted attendees at the Women’s Irish Network for Racing’s Spring Showcase with a captivating Racehorse to Riding Horse Masterclass. Taking place in the RACE indoor arena, the event was divided into two enlightening segments, showcasing the journey of transitioning racehorses into accomplished riding horses.

The masterclass began with an exhilarating jumping demonstration led by international event rider Esib Power, alongside thoroughbred retrainer Louise Duffy. Power, whose remarkable career includes a ninth place finish at Burghley 5* Horse Trials with thoroughbred Soladoun, dazzled the audience astride Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Sizing John. Duffy, riding another Gold Cup victor, Al Boum Photo, added her expertise to the presentation. Together, they worked through a series of gymnastic show jumping exercises tailored to enhance the balance, engagement, and suppleness of thoroughbreds over fences.

Part two of the Masterclass was led by the esteemed Joanne Quirke, three-time Dublin Horse Show Racehorse to Riding Horse class champion, who used the occasion as a first outing for her latest quest, six-time winner Chris’s Dream. Quirke offered profound insights into the art of retraining off-the-track racehorses for the show ring. A trio of Cheltenham Gold Cup winners was completed in this session by A Plus Tard, travelling from Waterford with his new rider Emily Kate Robinson.

Together with Emma Connolly on the Navan specialist Snow Falcon, point-to-point winner Feel My Pulse and Catriona Bolger, and Stephanie McGlynn, riding the RDS prize winner Mickah Wallace side-saddle, the group expertly showcased the different stages of retraining a thoroughbred. Quirke’s guidance illuminated the expectations of a racehorse in the show ring, providing invaluable knowledge to attendees.

Treo Eile’s Racehorse to Riding Horse Masterclass not only celebrated the remarkable athleticism and versatility of racehorses but also underscored the dedication and expertise required for their successful transition into the realm of riding horses.

Smooth transitions evident at WINR’s ‘fireside chat’

FOLLOWINg the informative Racehorse to Riding Horse Masterclass earlier in the afternoon (see above), “transitions” remained the theme at the evening event hosted by Women’s Irish Network for Racing (WINR) in partnership with Treo Eile, only this time it was humans rather than horses who took centre stage. A fireside chat, expertly led by Patrick Mullins - making his debut in such a role - introduced thoroughbred industry participants who had notably made successful transitions from one profession to another.

First up was Anthea Leigh, a champion point-to-point jockey who was notably the first female professional to win over the National fences in the 1991 Topham Trophy. After giving birth to son Henry, Leigh made a significant career shift and switched the racing silks for a going stick. Qualifying as a clerk of the course, she embarked upon a successful tenure at all five Scottish racecourses and most recently York Racecourse. While acknowledging the role of luck and timing in her transition, Leigh also attributes her resilience, honed during her time as a woman in the weighing room, as instrumental in navigating the male-dominated realm of clerking.

Fellow panellist Dena Merson shared a similar story of resilience in a male-dominated industry. On encountering barriers to entry in the field of racing journalism, she pivoted to investment banking. It was a good decision, it seems, as the Cambridge graduate went on to become managing director of Credit Suisse, which ultimately facilitated her return to her passion for breeding and bloodstock. Holding the accolade of breeding both a Royal Ascot and Cheltenham Festival winner, Merson’s success is a tale of determination and alongside her breeding operation she champions initiatives such as the Women In Racing mentoring programme in the UK and more recently, she founded Racing Home, aimed at assisting mothers in re-entering the workforce.

Bringing up the trio of panellists was the ever-engaging Johnny Murtagh. His journey began at RACE, characterised by a competitive spirit that has defined his career both as a champion jockey and now as a trainer. Transitioning from jockey to trainer, Murtagh did not make life easy for himself, juggling both roles for a while but with great success in doing so. Murtagh regularly put his success down to good fortune. Yet, what emerged most prominently throughout the discussion was that, while everyone needs luck on their side along the way, it was passion and determination that made luck happen. Just as racehorses transition into riding horses, people too can navigate career shifts in the thoroughbred industry.


THE Women’s Irish Racing Netwirk held its AGM at RACE after the Riding Masterclass, with 36 people in attendance. The outgoing chair, Clodagh Kavanagh, thanked the committee for their commitment and support, as well as citing the achievements of the network since its reiteration in early 2021. Following the secretary and treasurers reports, committee and officers elections took place by private ballot.

WINR Officers 2024

1. Sarah McNicholas Chair

2. Lucy Blake Treasurer

3. Leona Hughes Secretary