Being a breeder and watching a filly that you have kept to race go and win a stakes races on her last racecourse appearance is a dream scenario and it was wonderful to live that dream with Penny Pepper at the Curragh last month.
I had bred Penny Pepper and sold her as a yearling but unfortunately her owner took ill and I got the opportunity to buy her back, so I did, and put her into training with Kevin Prendergast and she is now retired and in foal to Dragon Pulse, who I also bred. In this case things most certainly worked out, it doesn’t always work out but this was a real thrill.
I am the third generation of my family to run Owenstown Stud in Maynooth and also the third generation of my family to have horses in training with Kevin as he also trained for my aunt and for my grandfather so there is a lot of history there between us, he is a fantastic character… and a good story teller too!
Excelebration would have been our flag bearer here at Owenstown Stud. We bred him and sold him as a yearling at Doncaster. He was a nice yearling but a bit backward and babyish and you really want a more forward type for Doncaster so he didn’t sell for a massive amount of money but after the economic collapse I was happy to be able to sell anything and it just all worked out.
Deciding to sell or race the horses comes down to a balance between what you want to breed from to keep a family going and the state of the finances at the time as you have to keep the farm running but also keep the family lines going.
When you are breeding you always have something in mind and you are trying to breed something that could potentially win a Classic, that is what you dream of in the back of your mind and at the end of the day, breeding is a passion. It would be a funny way to make a living if you weren’t passionate about it!
There are days that involve very long hours and you have to be prepared for that, certainly in the breeding season you can fairly clock up the hours and then when it is yearling time they are long days too and at the sales you can often be starting at 5am and finishing at 9pm at night but that is all part of it.
And there’s a lot of thinking done, trying to decide which mare would be suited with which sire but there’s a lot of luck involved too. There are so many things have to come together for the likes of a filly like Penny Pepper. For her to win the stakes race at the Curragh that day everything has to come together, she has to be feeling at her very best, the ground has got to be right, everything has got to work out in the race or it is a hard luck story.
We would have 18 mares on the farm at the moment and eight people working here so it is pretty full on but when you have days like Penny Pepper winning or you can sit at home watching a horse you’ve bred to win a Group One it makes it all worthwhile. I have often deafened my television when something we have bred was running in a good race. It is an absolute thrill when something you have bred won a good race. It is absolutely fantastic.
Persuasive is a filly by Dark Angel that was bred on the farm here and won the Sandringham at Royal Ascot last year and was second to Alice Springs in the Group 1 Matron Stakes at Leopardstown and she is due to run at Newmarket later in the year.
I don’t set myself any goals or targets as I think that is a bit too exact for the nature of this job but I do have a dream and that dream is always to try and breed Group 1 winners and you would never get fed up of that.