How did you get into racing and racehorse ownership?
I grew up on a farm in Rush in Co. Dublin. Around 2006 I got into horse racing, I started helping out with the local yard at the weekend, going racing that kind of thing. I went on to do an Equine Business degree in Maynooth. All the while giving Ado (McGuinness) a dig-out. After college, I did a year in Australia with Coolmore. I would go on to complete the Flying Start programme with Godolphin as well.
I came home from my travels in 2017 and that is when I set up the syndicate. I re-joined Ado McGuinness at the same time as an assistant. The first horse I bought for the syndicate, Rosenberg Rider, won a low-grade handicap in Dundalk but didn’t amount to much. So we started from very humble beginnings.
What has been your best day at the races?
Harry’s Bar was our first stakes winner and that was quite special. It was in November 2020 in the Belgrave Stakes. We had only bought the horse about a week before. The race is usually run in the Curragh but was run in Dundalk due to it being a Covid year. That suited us as the horse is a bit of an all-weather specialist. I wasn’t there myself that day due to being in isolation, but to have the first stakes winner in the colours was very important for the syndicate.
We had a one-two in the race as well which made it extra special. I also have to mention Pretreville as well winning the first group race for the syndicate last year. He won the Group 3 Amethyst stakes. Thankfully I was there for that one. He was bought in partnership with Augustin Normand. He was a very talented highly-rated horse.
Harry’s Bar has ended up being a good servant for you, would it be fair to say he has played a key role in the success of the syndicate?
He was a good sprinter in the UK, but he turned out to be an exceptional sprinter here at home, particularly on the all-weather. There are not many horses that can run in Dundalk to the type of rating that he can run to. We have managed to place him in two good handicaps last year where he was giving weight all around him. He also fits into them nice conditions races over five and six. He has brought us to Dubai and to Saudi Arabia. So yeah, he is a standout landmark horse for the syndicate.
At the sales then, what kind of horse fits the profile for Shamrock Thoroughbreds?
I try to keep the quality high. We try to buy a horse for the better days, the festival meetings. We want to have horses for Derby weekend, Guineas weekend, Galway festival, Irish Champion Stakes weekend etc. So we look for highly rated horses and we also look to find a bit of value as well. I prefer to have a horse with a higher rating and forgive age. I can’t buy a three-year-old rated 100 but I can buy a five-year-old rated 100. We do have a nice budget when we do go to the sales but we still struggle to compete with the Middle Eastern
market. We do try and source a sprinter/miler type. That particular type of horse suits us well. We struggle to buy a middle-distance horse due to the strength of the Australian market and the demand for that type of horse. We would have to buy a very low-rated middle-distance horse and then to go and try and compete in Ireland against Ballydoyle in that division is difficult. As a result, we are zoned in on the sprinter market.
And you are very much focused on the horses in training market?
Predominantly yes, we focus on buying horses in training. That is where most of our success has come from. In the last three years, we have branched out in to the breeze-up market. That is aimed more at the commercial side of things. If those types of horses manage to win first or second time out, they will be traded if the right offer comes in.
The breeze-up sales can be quite competitive environment, but they are on the rise in terms of the quality of horse at them, How are you finding the competeive nature of the breeze ups?
It is extremely competitive. They are ready-made two-year-olds, so there is a premium put on them compared to what they would cost as yearlings. They are probably the most expensive type of horse to buy in terms of young horses. But equally, you get to see more, you get to see them gallop, see their action. You can judge soundness an awful lot easier when you go through the breeze up market. You are able to judge them a lot better than you can a yearling.
All you can judge a yearling by is their conformation and walk. So with the breeze-ups, soundness really comes into the equation more. You can assess it an awful lot easier after they have had a gallop. It is an absolute must for the syndicate that the horse is sound.
Talk to us about Ado McGuinness, you know him personally as his assistant and also as a trainer. What key qualities does he possess that makes him appealing to the syndicate?
I have spent most of my racing life with Ado. I have always rated him as a trainer from the first day I walked into the yard. That mindset has never changed.
As I mentioned earlier, I have done an awful lot of travelling around the world and worked in some giant operations and Ado’s knowledge is up there with the best of them. He is a high-class trainer.
Through Shamrock Thoroughbreds we have been able to bring in a better quality of horse into the yard with the support of a big network of owners. There is a fantastic team at the yard as well, which is a big help to Ado and of course ourselves.
The syndicate itself has grown exponentially over the last few years in a very short space of time, can you talk about the size of the operation itself today?
Yeah we have 100-plus shareholders in the syndicate and we are involved with 20 horses. We have set up partnerships within the syndicate itself as well, which has been very helpful. There have been some high-profile owners that have come with us in some of these nice horses. I suppose the highlights and the good days make it all worthwhile. The group success last year, our listed successes. We have come an awful long way in a short space of time.
And is there also a social aspect to the operation? Usually, when syndicates like this get a winner at the races they really enjoy the buzz of it.
Yeah, there is great camaraderie among the stakeholders. Obviously, there are huge numbers involved and the key for me is to try and get as many people racing as possible. We want people to get the full ownership experience. Communication is key. We have to keep everyone in the loop. We want to keep everyone updated on how their horse is going, and what the plans are for them. Then the race day experience is very important.
Are there any horses that you expect to run well in the coming weeks?
Real Appeal is running in Leopardstown next week in the group 3. He is a very nice horse. Finished fourth in a half-a-million-dollar mile race at Qatar this year. We picked him up last year at the horses in training sale. He is a very talented horse so hopefully he can go well next week.
Go Athletico is a horse that we picked up from France. He runs next Friday in a listed sprint. A very nice horse as well. He is the very first high-profile horse that we have picked up from France. I think there is a lot of talent in France and the prize money is good over there and French form holds its own. So this lad is sort of a trial for us in regards to buying French horses, but we are hoping he can go well for us.
Anything else that you would like to mention?
I just want to mention Ricky Delaney from Harold House Pub in Dublin. He has been our biggest supporter and has been with us since day one. He has enjoyed 50 winners with the syndicate. Also if anyone would like to get involved they can email myself at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also have a website that people can check out shamrockthoroughbreds.com