Just before winning the Win Big With Tote Hcap at Galway with Magna Cartor on Wednesday, trainer Shark Hanlon joined us on the blog to tell his racing story.
When you are a neighbour of a star man like I was to Paddy Mullins, you have to develop some interest in horses and growing up so close to Paddy always had me intrigued and eventually I got out of the cattle dealing and went in to training horses and we are happy out there now with the horses.
Paddy used to always tell me “if you judge a bullock, you can judge a horse,” and anything Paddy would say you’d listen to. I went to school with Tony and Tom Mullins but I’d have learnt more off Paddy Mullins than I would in a lifetime at school.
What Paddy was then, I think is transforming into what Willie is doing now and they are incredible men.
Training still wasn’t something I thought heavily about doing until I began to trick around with a few point-to-pointers but we’ve had some good days in racing since we started training in 2001.
I still haven’t had a Grade 1 winner and I’d do anything to get one of those. I’ve been so close so many times with different horses but not been able to get one over the line so that is the big aim. Finding a Grade 1 horse isn’t easy though and I’m not sure I have one at the moment.
Hidden Cyclone has been a great horse for us but he is probably nearing the end of his tether as he’s 12 now and can’t go on forever, but I’ve two full-brothers to him at home so if they turn out to be half as good we’ll be doing alright! I do like the two of them.
We’ve a nice team of horses at the moment but a lot of young horses. We bought 25 three-year-olds this year and we’ve the guts of 20 four-year-olds that we didn’t run from last season to go down the point-to-point road and that’s a big thing for me now, the selling of theses horses is massive. If you sell a point-to-point winner now he’s probably worth €200,000 and that is what keeps the whole show ticking over. That is what we are aiming for. I think we sold 11 four-year-olds last year and we had a good season and this year I’m hoping to do the same thing. Being a cattle dealer all my life, as my father and grandfather were before me, I suppose selling of these horses brings me back to my roots! I love buying and selling, no matter what sale is on I’ll be there.
We’ve nothing to do with the cattle now at all, we are too busy with the horses and we have a load of yearlings and two-year-olds as well so there is plenty to keep us busy. You have to be able to do it all nowadays.
The Mee family, who own Hidden Cyclone, have been with me since I started, as have Barry Connell and the Durkan family, and Hidden Cyclone has been a superstar for us. Every man’s dream is to have a good horse and I’m determined I’ll find another one.
My aim with the horses though is to run in them in the right races and give their owners a good experience at the races, a good day out, and a day that they can tell their friends about. The best way to do that is training winners and that is what we’ll keep trying to do and with a bit of luck we won’t leave Galway this week without one.