26th Apr 2021
CIARAN Dunne is a man with his feet firmly on the ground. When I caught up with him on Thursday morning in Ocala, Florida, I started by congratulating him on his achievement a week or so earlier in obtaining $2.6 million and $1.3 million respectively for two-year-olds at the Gulfstream Sale.
There was no ego evident however as he thanked me, adding that “the good ones pay for the mistakes. Anyone who tells you that luck doesn’t play a part in this is not telling the truth. We are lucky to have a great client base, people who believe in you.”
Modesty apart, the facts are that Ciaran, his wife Amy and their team have built a great reputation for getting results in the sales ring and on the racetrack. The latter fuels the demand for stock sold from Wavertree Stables. Many Grade 1 winners are on their roll of honour.
Ciaran graduated from the Irish National Stud Thoroughbred Breeding Management Course in 1985, though his roots at Tully go much deeper. Indeed, his father John, who worked in the Japanese gardens for some 50 years, was born on the farm. In spite of Ciaran’s connections to Tully – he worked during the holidays as a tour guide – he had no direct equine connections, other than a love for racing.
“John Clarke was kind enough to give me a place on the course in 1985, though at the time it was seen as a transition year project and he took me on the condition that I resat the Leaving Certificate. Needless to say, that part of the deal never happened,” he said. Ciaran laughs as he adds that one of the advantages he had over his fellow students was that it as “easier for me to get my laundry done than it was for most”.
Thirty students started that year and another who had little problem with his laundry was Michael Collins from nearby Lisieux Stud. Many on the course that year have forged careers in the industry, including bloodstock agent Marc Antoine Berghgracht, while students also travelled from across the Irish Sea, from the USA and as far away as Australia and New Zealand.
Now well assimilated in the USA, Ciaran nonetheless is never far from an Irish influence. Indeed, his manager is another Irish National Stud graduate, Mark Edmonds who was in the class of 1992. He has been with Ciaran for some 23 years, while a relative newcomer is the 10-year veteran Lee Byrne from Waterford.
Wavertree Stables, established by Ciaran and Amy in 1995, reflects the Irishman’s pride in his native home as Lord Wavertree was the English aristocrat who gifted the stud farm that became the Irish National Stud to the Irish Government. Ciaran started his breeze-up business in Kentucky, but the Florida climate was more conducive to pre-training. He remains close to fellow Irish men and women in Kentucky, where fellow INS course member Peter Kiely welcomes visitors to McCarthy’s Irish Bar.
In a nice piece of synergy, Gerry O’Meara, who did the very first INS course in 1971, was a mentor to Ciaran at Glennwood Farm, while another Irishman who influenced him was Niall O’Callaghan, then assistant trainer to Tommy Skiffington before setting up on his own as trainer to Frank Stronach.
The Irish National Stud was on the itinerary two years ago when Ciaran was back in Kildare with his daughter Caitlin, taking in the Goffs yearling sale alongside visits to his brothers and sisters who are still here in Ireland.
Embarking on a new era at Park Lodge
THIS is the dawn of a new era at Park Lodge Stables in Newmarket. After a shade over 30 years in the driving seat there, James Eustace has handed over the reins to his son Harry.
The young trainer is ready to do battle with a team that is half and half juveniles and older horses, and he cannot wait to saddle up his first runner. Indeed, that will happen this afternoon at Lingfield when Portenza, already a three-time winner for the stable, lines up at 3.15pm.
Surely it is written in the stars that this will go well, as the five-year-old is a son of Born To Sea who was foaled and reared at the Irish National Stud and is himself a son of the farm’s greatest ever sire, Invincible Spirit. Don’t say you were not told!
Harry was one of 22 students who joined the Irish National Stud Thoroughbred Breeding Management Course in 2011, and what a year that proved to be. Indeed, Harry was part of a select group of students who were introduced to Queen Elizabeth when the monarch made her memorable visit to Tully. What an honour and what a treat for the young student.
Now it should be said that Harry was one of those students who enjoyed his time at Tully. He worked hard, but he also made the best of the opportunity to get to know the local area. He was up early to visit Paul Deegan and ride out, though admitting that he was not always the best timekeeper. Visits to Cunningham’s in Kildare town may have had an impact.
Possessing a great sense of humour, Harry recalls his first day on the course. “I had absolutely no experience of stud farm work, or any aspect of that side of the business. Our first day saw us brought to a field full of mares about to foal. We were asked to go up and check them out. As a trainer’s son, I approached the mares and looked at their front legs! I did not even know what bagging up was,” he laughs as he recalls the incident.
The course was an eye-opener and Harry adds: “Everything was new to me, teasing, foaling, everything. What I didn’t know at the time I did the course was how beneficial it would be. Indeed, my only reason for doing it in the first place was the reputation it had, and I heard about that when I was in Australia.”
He goes on: “I loved the course, and there were two champions there, John Osborne and Sally Carroll. John was such a good teacher and so bright. What can I say about Sally? She is an absolute legend. She was a mother to us all, but she was not someone to underestimate. For a petite lady she could pack quite a powerful punch, metaphorically of course.”
The six months spent at Tully showed Harry that the world of breeding was not for him. “Personally, the tempo of a stud farm was not what I wanted. I tip my hat to people in that business. It is very stressful, different to being a trainer.”
After leaving the course, Harry went to Chris Wall in Newmarket, spent a few years with Christophe Clement in the USA, before asking William Haggas if he could come back to England and work as his assistant trainer. The request led to some great times, including travelling the world with stars such as Group 1 Australian winner Addeybb.
Hopefully Harry’s career gets off to a great start, and Newmarket’s newest trainer will always be able to call on the wise counsel of his mentor, friend and father James. Harry certainly has the pedigree to succeed.
Extract from the Irish Field by Leo Powell 18th April 2021