Born in 1962 to one of Ireland's most prestigious racing families I was always surrounded by horses and ponies. My uncle Paddy Mullins who trained the world famous mare ‘Dawn Run’ to win the Gold Cup and the Champion Hurdle, used my father Jim’s farm and stables to train hundreds of winners and win several Irish trainers titles during his long career . My cousins Willie, Tony and Tom are all successful trainers in Ireland and my brother Gerard combines training a small string of horses with running a public gallops business and farming.
After an education at Rockwell College and University College Dublin I came to England to work as assistant trainer to Toby Balding in 1981. Having spent further years with Jim Old and Jimmy Fitzgerald, I set up my own Point-to-Point training business in 1985. Always riding as an amateur I was lucky enough to ride plenty of winners under rules and “between the flags” and crowned off my riding career by winning the 1989 Nation Hunt Chase at Cheltenham festival for my good friend Toby Balding. Having built up my Point-to-Point business and moved to Hatherden Stables near Andover I took out a public trainer’s license in 1991. Moving to Wilsford Stables in 1995 I have built up my business to train over fifty horses both flat and jumping. Wilsford stables is owned by the “Bailey Family,” and is where my good friend Peter Bailey trained many big race winners during his career.
Being from a family of “stockmen” I enjoy my animals and am very much a “hands on” trainer. There is nothing I enjoy more than watching my horses do their morning exercise and feeding them their early morning and late evening feeds. I enjoy the one-to- one relationship with the horses and have even been known to chat to them when nobody is around!
On the more human side, owner participation is actively encouraged and I like to keep the owners involved with the training and running plans of their horses. Some owners come and ride out their horses and most of them visit the yard on a regular basis to enjoy the atmosphere and watch their horse’s progress. Not every horse can be a ‘Cheltenham’ winner but I appreciate that they all mean the world to their owners and even the most modest success makes all our hard work worthwhile.
I try to run a relaxed regime in the yard where even the most junior members of staff can feel valued and that their input really matters. I demand the highest standards of equine management and the result is a team that works well together and ensures that my number one priority “horse welfare” is also their top priority. I source most of the horses myself, but am lucky to be sent some very nice homebred horses by many owner breeders.
What of the future? Every trainer will say that he (or she) just wants to go on training winners and I can promise you I’m just like the rest of them in that regard. Above all, I want my owners, my staff, my jockeys and everyone involved in the yard to share my passion and enthusiasm and to realise, just as I did back in Ireland with Uncle Paddy that racing is the most frustrating, fascinating and addictive game in the world. I feel very lucky to be one tiny part of it.