CHAMP Kiely drawing clear in the Grade 1 Lawlor’s Of Naas was illusional.
A double on the card? It doesn’t happen to us! Appreciate It was unchallenged in the novice chase on the card two races prior, and it doesn’t get much better than heading into Dublin and Cheltenham with two serious contenders.
Sure, nothing beats a Cheltenham winner! Silver Jaro gave us our first taste of success on the Prestbury Park turf back in 2008, when holding on from a challenging Psycho to take the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle. You only have to look at his market price of 50/1 to know the victory was unexpected and we soon became very popular, with half the town at home having a supporting fiver on him for the fun.
The atmosphere was roaring and the incoming support flooding. Having the whole family in attendance at the Cotswolds showground and present for the post-race celebrations was unforgettable. You can’t beat one of those days!
A family affair
That’s what racing’s all about for me, the enjoyment it serves to the whole family. When winning the Lawlor’s, I had my three children, husband and family friends by my side. To see my children enthused with the same sporting passion as their grandad (my father) is special. Racing has centralised its self in my family’s heart and lifestyle for three generations now and all of us heading out to enjoy the same day is really unique to the sport.
It’s a real family affair and Dad was definitely the driving force. I grew up in west London and spent every bank holiday down at Kempton Park with the horses, a packet of crisps and a fizzy soft drink. You can’t beat that?
Dad was also a keen golfer but unfortunate injuries limited his play and pushed racing as a hobby on him more and more, until he eventually stepped onto the ownership scene.
I’ve lived in Dublin ever since my college years at UCD and it’s great to be involved in ownership over here, whilst my parents and brother continue their participation back in the UK.
Racing has also introduced us to some great family friends over the years and it’s always tough seeing close friends who are jockeys sustain an injury. It’s a risky sport for both horse and human with heart-breaking consequences. We lost a very promising six-year-old horse in Neon Wolf to a fatal injury six years ago and it never gets easier.
Unfortunately, it’s just the sport and thankfully the good outweighs and compensates for its occasional brutality. Dreams get trampled in the field but there’s ups and downs to everything in life, not just racing.
Trainers and trust
A lot of the relationships we’ve built in racing have stemmed from trust. David Casey rode some of our horses on the track before he became a key member of the Closutton team, and he was the one to first introduce us to Willie Mullins.
Of course, the 16-time champion trainer writes his own history but what isn’t as widely recognised is his hardworking team. There’s a lot of wonderful people down there that help make the operation the success it is.
I guess with all things in life, anyone you form a partnership with, either business or personal, you need a foundation of trust and the ability to connect with their personality. That’s what we need in a trainer anyway: trust, personal connection and a hardworking team.
As a family, we’re not overly knowledgeable on equine physicality. That’s another reason trust is so important, when sourcing horses we have to put our full trust and support in Willie’s eye and judgement.
We primarily recruit pointers showing promise and potential. At least this way you’re buying into proven form! Pedigrees sell at the sales but two Olympian athletes won’t always produce a child with the same capabilities.
Purchasing horses is always risky and getting them from the pointing scene doesn’t always work, but relying on proven performance and a horse’s attitude to compete is the method we’ve found to be most successful. After all, it brought us to Grade 1 winners Champ Kiely and Appreciate It.
Another important aspect of the purchasing process is getting horses vetted, ensuring they’re are suitable for the racing lifestyle is crucial.
On completion of their racing careers, we love bringing the horses home for retirement and letting them see out their days on good grass amongst the goats and donkeys. Giving back to them for all their hard work is amazing and Punchestown winner Fletchers Flyer is just one of our happy lodgers at the moment.
We’ve never ventured into the flat route; I think growing up on National Hunt racing made it difficult to get into. I couldn’t get over the absence of the fences and the associated lack of thrill. When you see a horse thrive from taking on a fence it’s incomparable.
I also love the career progression of National Hunt horses, from bumpers through to timber, through to chasing. You get such enjoyment and longevity from each horse’s career compared to a year or two on the flat. To have some of the nation’s favourite horses and to be able to bring them back year after year is unparalleled.
Through the years
My family’s been in ownership for over two decades now and I have to commend racecourses and HRI for their constant forward and innovative thinking. The food standards, both quality and quantity, has dramatically improved. Most places now offer a three-course meal and it really helps to make the most of the day.
The racecourse renovations at Naas, Navan and Punchestown have really improved owner facilities and it’s nice to highlight that such changes haven’t gone unnoticed.
The addition of four extra passes on race days and the newly introduced owner free days for 2023 will also no doubt go a long way. Racing’s hold on my family’s lives has already been expressed and to be able to get more of us there on the day is greatly appreciated. They were also necessary changes that needed to be made to lift owner encouragement, in terms of both keeping existing owners and enticing prospective ones in.
For anyone interested in ownership, syndication is a great way to start! Just look at the success Noel Fehily and David Crosse are having at the moment, they’re providing people with the dream on a realistic budget. When you are in it’s hooking, and you soon realise how much the ups outweigh the downs.
Irish Arkle Novice Chase (Grade 1)
Ladbrokes Novice Chase (Grade 1)
Arkle Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
Cheltenham Turners Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
Ladbrokes Novice Chase (Grade 1)
Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
National Hunt Challenge Cup (Grade 2)
Turners Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)