HRI NextGen: Jack Davison

Young trainer on the Godolphin Flying Start programme, working for Jim Bolger and his first winner

Monday, December 21, 2020

Jack Davison has firmly established himself as one of the most talented up-and-coming trainers in Ireland

This National Hunt season, we're spotlighting just a few of the legion of youngsters building exciting and fulfilling careers in horse racing.   

The final of our four young stars is 33-year-old trainer Jack Davison, who trains out of his yard Killarkin Stud in Dunboyne, County Meath. 

The yard was originally his grandad Walton’s stud farm, but he turned it into a training establishment after becoming fully licensed in December 2018. 

Davison is an alumni of the of the Godolphin Flying Start programme and he gained his first winner with the Oisin Orr-ridden Black Magic Woman in August 2018. 

I knew as soon as I got into horses that I would one day have a go myself. 

I’ve always been watching mares being foaled and going to the yearling sales from a young age. I’ve always had horses in my blood and I love them and love working with them.  

I was doing ponies as a kid but then I went to boarding school and horses took a backseat in my life. When I went to college and I realised I wasn’t going to be a professional rugby player I just decided, I’m a sports man, that the racing was what excited me and got me going. 

I loved the fast-paced nature of it, horses just galloping. At the end of college I got onto the Godolphin Flying Start programme at the age of 23. 

I was on it from 2011 to 2013. It’s a two-year course and you spend different periods of time in different racing countries. 

You get an insight into every facet of the industry. That was fantastic in terms of opening all the doors. The people you meet, the experiences you get and the contacts you make are brilliant.  

It was then a matter of walking through those doors and taking the opportunities there. It’s an industry where you get out what you put in. Flying Start was great in encouraging me and inspiring me to go training. It’s a great thing to have on your CV. 

From there I focused on the racing that bit more than the breeding because that’s what really interested me. 

I got a real global sense of the racing world and picked up plenty of little tips along the way. I learned an awful lot in a short space of time and I had a real thirst for knowledge when it came to training horses. 

I decided to take the plunge in my late 20s and go training because I thought if I didn’t do it then then I’d never do it. 

It’s a tough environment in Ireland with it being so competitive and it’s a young man’s game. I knew that if I didn’t just jump in head first into the deep end then I’d probably never do it and I’d regret it. 

I’ve always tried to surround myself with the best people I could post-Flying Start. I got good experience working for good trainers around the world.  

The likes of Jim Bolger, Clive Cox, Gai Waterhouse, Eoin Harty, Francis Graffard and Eddie Lynam. I was in California for a while, I was in Chantilly. 

I went to Jim’s immediately after the course. The reality of Irish racing is a hard graft so I felt Jim’s was the best place to get back to the coal face. 

At Jim’s it was amazing to walk into an operation where he not only trained them but he bred them and he sold them at a high level. To see those three elements dovetail into the successful operation he ran was really cool. 

You’re picking up good experience the whole time in terms of horsemanship. Working alongside the really good team of people there, where the basics are done really well and obsessively, was a great foundation. 

The whole time I was on the Flying Start it fuelled my ambition that I knew that I would do my own thing eventually. 

When I went to work for other people that really fuelled it as well. I wanted to one day have a crack myself. I became more thick skinned and learnt how things are done. 

[The feeling of winning with Black Magic Woman] was relief really. There was a lot of hard work and a long journey since I got back into horses in college. 

Relief for myself, for my family who owned the mare that I didn’t make a mess of it. You do need the winners as a young trainer to really nail down the belief that you can do it. The only way to survive in this game is to train winners. 

I’ve gone from eight horses to ten to 20 to, come spring next year, 30 horses. It’s been a rollercoaster, really. 

In a relatively short space of time for a young trainer I feel like it’s been a good progression in terms of numbers and winners and owners. 

What I’m looking at now is having ten individual winners and maybe 20 in total with the 30 horses next year. 

On the whole we’ve got some pedigree, some good athletes and most importantly some good staff at home and nice facilities. 

I think I’m in a position to bump up the winners next season. It’s important to get some two-year-old winners so I would love to get some of them. 

I decided to take the plunge in my late 20s and go training because I thought if I didn’t do it then then I’d never do it.

- Jack Davison