KEVIN and Marjorie McCarthy make the business of owning and breeding winners look easy.

It was 15 years ago when the couple from Templeogue, Co Dublin, decided to dip their toe into racehorse ownership. Kevin had just retired after 40 years with IDA Ireland, the agency responsible for the attraction and retention of inward foreign direct investment into Ireland. Now it was time to make an investment of their own and where better to start than with Willie Mullins.

“I told Willie I could only afford one set of training fees but that I had a 10-year plan,” Kevin recounts. “I wanted a filly we could race and then breed from.”

At the time Willie had a filly named Dani California in training, owned by his wife Jackie and named by their son Patrick after the title of a Red Hot Chili Peppers song. Already a winner on the flat, Dani California was sold to Kevin and Marjorie, and she went on to win five more times for the McCarthys, including an Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh.

“She was only small but very tough. She raced 30 times and was placed 50% of the time. She gave it everything but she was retired at the age of five, so she wasn’t overraced and I was hopeful she would become a good broodmare.”

All winners

To date, Dani California has bred five runners and all five have won. “And there’s two others by Walk In The Park still to come,” Kevin reveals. The McCarthys generally sell them as foals though they wisely decided to keep a filly out of the mare, who they named Dani Barcelona.

Last summer Dani Barcelona won a bumper at Clonmel first time out and just last month she hacked up in a Downpatrick maiden hurdle. On top of the prize money, she won an extra €10,000 through the ITBA National Hunt Fillies Bonus Scheme, having been nominated to the programme for just €200.

“Willie made sure we had her entered for the Bonus Scheme,” Kevin said. “For small owner-breeders like us it makes a huge difference. It’s like winning two more races.”

Kevin and Marjorie were in Downpatrick to see their filly win and had a great day out. “We were never looked after better. I would highly recommend Downpatrick to other owners.”

Unfortunately Dani Barcelona’s racing days may be over. “I got a call from Willie the other day to say the filly had a tendon injury, so she’s gone for at least a year. Maybe she will never race again – who knows – but we will breed from her at some stage.”

Dungarvan Stud

The McCarthys obviously don’t keep their mares and foals in the leafy Dublin suburbs. Instead they board their stock with Willie’s sister Sandra McCarthy and her husband Peter at Dungarvan Stud in Gowran, Co Kilkenny.

Kevin says: “I can’t thank Peter and Sandra enough for the great job they do preparing our horses for the sales. We also use Aidan Fitzgerald and Tracey Gilmour for pre-training, and Brian O’Connell is prepping one for us at the moment. And all throughout the past 15 years Willie and Jackie have given us nothing but encouragement and good advice. We’re very small clients of theirs but I sometimes tell Willie we’re lucky for him – he’s been champion trainer every year since we got involved!”

Sadly Dani California, the mare who started the McCarthy’s amazing journey, died on Easter Sunday, 2020. While they wait to see whether Dani Barcelona will race again, Kevin and Marjorie have two other broodmares on the go.

“Apart from Dani California, we’ve only bought two other fillies in 15 years,” says Kevin. “Dani Catalonia won a bumper, has already bred a winner, and has foals on the ground by Shirocco and Sholokhov. And then there’s Dani Salamanca, who could be the best of the lot.

“She never raced but she was morning favourite for a €50,000 bumper at the Punchestown Festival with Patrick opting to ride her ahead of five stable companions in the same race. But she went lame before the race and never ran. She was serious stuff and we’re hoping she will produce lots of winners.”

She has certainly started well, as her first runner, Rae Des Champs, won a point-to-point for Sean Doyle before being sold for £90,000 to north of England trainer Rose Dobbin, and he has since won over hurdles.

“Harry Fry has her next foal in training and we kept the next one, a foal by Getaway, and that’s in pre-training with Brian O’Connell.”

When the time comes to name it, you can be sure it will have the ‘Dani’ prefix. Kevin explains: “We didn’t name Dani California but when she won her first race for us the crowd really seemed to respond to the name so we decided to make ‘Dani’ our brand. Hopefully when people see ‘Dani’ on the catalogue page, they will associate it with good stock that win.”

You can also be sure that any fillies bred by Kevin and Marjorie will be nominated to the ITBA NH Fillies Scheme.