How did you get into racehorse ownership?
We started off with half-breds, my wife had and still has half-breds and the children all rode to various levels. We’re from Ballivor, Co Meath.
The first horse I had in training was with the late, great Dessie Hughes in 2008, Zaffran Lady.
What was your best day at the races and why?
My best day was when Pedisnap won at Gowran Park at the end of May this year. I had bred her and that means so much more.
Her dam was Snap Alam, who was trained by Joanna Morgan and coincidentally ridden by Pedisnap’s trainer, Joseph O’Brien, to victory at Wexford in 2011.
What is the biggest drawback about being a racehorse owner?
I guess the unpredictability of horses and the way things can unfold. But, on reflection, you have to go into racing with your eyes wide open. Horses are not machines.
In your experience, which racecourse in Ireland treats owners the best and why?
I really only have positive things to say and a special mention goes to Ballinrobe. It’s family friendly. It has that lovely local, buzzy feel like racing years ago, just as you would have experienced at the Phoenix Park or now at Laytown and Bellewstown.
Flat or jump racing, which do you prefer and why?
I enjoy both equally, the flat during the summer and National Hunt racing during the winter. They are totally different codes of racing which complement each other.
What qualities do you look for in a trainer?
It’s the whole package you are looking for – a horseman or woman who has a great feel for horses, someone who has integrity and is honest and keeps you informed, good, bad or indifferent about your horse. And you have to have a passion for the game to keep going, don’t you!
And I have experienced that with my trainers – the late Dessie Hughes, the late Michael McDonagh, Joanna Morgan, Dot Love, Mick Halford, and now Joseph O’Brien.
Joanna Morgan blazed a trail both as a rider and a trainer. She got out of horses more than they knew they had in them.
Joseph too has huge understanding of horses, he is highly professional and a good communicator and I’m delighted to have Pedisnap with him.
Understanding of horses is such an indefinable gift.
We keep horses so we know how you have to bring them with you, not fight them, to get them to perform.
It’s a fascinating relationship, you can only pick up what is going on from little details.
What improvements would you like to see racecourses in Ireland do for owners?
Things are fine. Owners shouldn’t be put on a pedestal. To see your horse racing is privilege enough!
How do you feel owners are treated when not having a winner?
I don’t have any particular complaint – owners are treated well. You are enjoying the day’s racing anyway.
The one thing I do think is important is that at the bigger meetings there are huge crowds in the owners and trainers section which is good, but at the same time it would be nice to have more space in a quieter area.
What significance do your colours hold?
There is no special significance. The family chose them. They are easy to spot and include the green of Meath.
What horses do you currently have in training?
Just Pedisnap currently. The snap part of her name comes from her dam Snap Alam and the letters of the word Snap represent my children’s names. Pedisnap’s sire is Footstepsinthesand and Pedi comes from the Latin for foot/feet.
What’s next on the agenda for your horses?
We will wait for Joseph (O’Brien) to decide.
Have you any horses to look forward to? (i.e. young/unbroken horses)
Yes we have a two-year-old by Casamento, a two-year-old by Canford Cliffs, a half-sister to Pedisnap, and a yearling half-sister to Pedisnap by Power. We also have a beautiful Buratino foal at home.
What would help to make Irish racing more competitive for the smaller owner/trainer?
You must go into the game with your eyes open. Aim to have a horse that can race competitively. It’s important that the powers that be don’t lose sight of the smaller owner and their horses.
Pedisnap races in 45-60 handicaps and the prize money can be up to €10,000 which I think is very good.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of becoming a racehorse owner?
Don’t have too high expectations, keep your feet on the ground. But don’t be afraid to dream – yours can come true.
John Farrell was in conversation with