14th Apr 2021
Little did Cathal Beale know when he walked through the gates of the Irish National Stud in January 2007 that he would return a little more than a decade later as the CEO of this national jewel. Indeed, his somewhat meteoric rise to one of the key positions in the international bloodstock world is a huge compliment to the quality of the Thoroughbred Breeding Management Course at Tully, and Cathal could be said to be the poster boy when it comes to singing its praises. He follows in a long and distinguished line of graduates. If you argue that anyone can succeed in what is often seen as the tightknit community which makes up the thoroughbred racing and breeding world, and that having no equine pedigree is not a barrier, then the template for such a figure would be the Irish National Stud’s boss. What he may lack in terms of a background in horses is more than amply compensated by a desire to do well, and a passion for the business. Cathal Beale hails from Wexford town and holds a BA in English and History and an MSc in Management from the UCD Michael Smurfit Business School. After completing the Irish National Stud course, he was accepted for the Godolphin Flying Start Programme, and graduated from it in 2009. He was assistant manager at Forenaghts Stud for seven years before joining the Irish National Stud.
Studying English and history would not seem to be the foundation for a successful career in the bloodstock world, nor would a subsequent job working for Paddy Power in Dublin. In fact, Cathal had an aspiration to become a journalist. However, what he was born with was a great brain, and a clear mind for rational thought. This week, in Tully, he told me: “I took a notion in my early twenties that I really should have more of a hands-on experience if I was going to be criticising a ride by a certain jockey, or give out about how someone was training, when I didn’t even know how to put a bridle on a horse. “So, on my days off from the office, I would go down to Ken Bolger in Redmondstown, or to Michael Murphy at Forrestalstown Stud in Clonroche, and started to learn about horses. “After a few years of doing this I found I was enjoying those days more than I was enjoying the days in the Paddy Power office. Either Ken or Michael mentioned the course here, and so I went and did a bit of research, and found out that Sally Carroll was the woman to talk to. “I rang Sally cold one day and I ‘plaumased’ here as best I could. We got on quite well and I somehow managed to sneak my way on to the course. I must say I did so with a very limited amount of experience compared to the students we have coming to the place now.” Life-changing While Cathal had no direct connection to horses, a grandfather he did not know was a farrier and a showjumper, while his father would have an interest in racing. Cathal was fortunate to have supportive parents, and at the age of 23 he headed to Tully and six months that would change his life dramatically.
“I knew this was going to be the rest of my life,” he explains. “The friendships on the course, the enjoyment of the horses, the craic and the nature of the industry had all hooked me.” I quiz Cathal about how someone with what could be argued was a very limited background and experience with horses, was accepted for the Flying Start course. What did he bring to the table? His answer should be considered carefully by anyone with aspirations to get into the worlds of bloodstock or racing. Born and bred “People sometimes have an assumption about the industry that you have to be born and bred into it. I felt in my early years it was a drawback that I had to create my own pathway, and that I didn’t have any family ahead of me who knew what to do, or tell me how to go about it. Now, in hindsight, it was a huge advantage for me, and I think people in the industry are always willing to give someone a chance who has no background. “So long as you are hardworking, enthusiastic and want to succeed, you can do it. That is why the Irish National Stud course, and Flying Start, has been important – it provides opportunities. That’s a message that sometimes get lost among the wider world. Everyone sees the Mullins and the O’Brien families and think that the only way forward. “That is one way of doing it, but there are several other ways of getting wherever you want to go as well, thanks to people such as Michael Osborne who had the vision to put these courses in place. Now there are many other courses too, and more than enough opportunities for people to get involved.” Accreditation Recently accredited and now a Level 6 qualification, the Irish National Stud Thoroughbred Breeding Management Course is quite different from other equine programmes, and Cathal Beale explains why it works so well. “I think the core of it still is very much hands-on, vocational, and everybody in the world understands that after six months on the Irish National Stud course there is something valuable about the experience you have gained. “People know you have worked hard, you have done a breeding season, have been exposed to foaling, stallions, yearlings, every aspect of the real hands-on side of things. We are very conscious not to alter that, but that’s not to say you stand still either. Even since my time here a lot of the lectures and classroom-based activities have changed, been upgraded and updated. “Pedigrees and reproductive veterinary are still the core, but we have expanded to look at things, such as innovation with Michael from Equidec, and more besides.” I press Cathal on what is the best aspect about the course, to name the one thing that stands out above all others when you stand back from the programme. He is unequivocal about the answer. “The greatest thing about the course is the network. Every woman and man who has done this course, and who are still involved in the industry, will almost all look back with such fondness on the time they spent here. “They are always happy to lend an ear, to give us help, or to facilitate a visit with them. We often do ourselves down an awful lot, but I have found the industry is extremely receptive towards helping young people. It always has been. Because we have a good reputation here, and because so many people from here have gone on to do great things, they are always willing to lend support, or to welcome us when it’s appropriate.” Opening doors When travel is allowed, Cathal Beale finds that the Irish National Stud course is the key to beginning conversations, and opening many doors. He beams as he says, “That’s the amazing thing. Somebody I never met will come up and say something like, ‘oh I did the course in 1978’ and it’s an immediate conversation starter. “I love going to Kentucky in particular, where people will come up, see the Irish National Stud jacket, and it’s a case of ‘I remember Michael Osborne’, or they will recall someone from the year of something that happened.” With 50 years of history behind it,
Extract from the Irish Field by Leo Powell 2nd April 2021