HRI NextGen: Meet aspiring trainer Patrick Harty

Young assistant trainer on his time at Lambourn, lessons learned and a rude awakening in 2017

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

There are around 40 horses in training at Mulgrave Lodge

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

Next is 29-year-old Patrick Harty, assistant to his father Eddie at their dual purpose yard Mulgrave Lodge - 300 yards from the edge of the Curragh.

Racing has been in the Harty family since 1860, and Patrick's grandfather Eddie won the 1969 Grand National with Highland Wedding.

Patrick's uncle is a successful trainer in America, winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 2001 and the Dubai World Cup in 2009.

Eddie junior - Patrick's father - started out in finance but returned to the family business in 2004, most famously winning the Supreme in 2008 with Captain Cee Bee.

Horses were always my life, in one shape or form.

I had little interest in the animals growing up, but I followed the racing. Without really realising, I found myself in the yard doing bits and from the age of 14, I was hooked.

I finished school at 18 with not much clue what I wanted to do with my life, apart from knowing that I couldn't be a jockey because I was six foot.

I decided to take a year out and work around the world. The first job I got - thanks to Frank Berry (JP McManus's racing manager) - was with Nicky Henderson at Lambourn.

I initially went there for a couple of months before Christmas in 2010, that turned into six months, which turned into five years.

I went over there thinking I knew everything - Dad had trained a Cheltenham winner and I'd had a few rides on the track.

But by the end of the first week with Nicky, I realised I didn't know the first or last thing about how to train a racehorse.

I was there for a magical time, when Nicky became Champion Trainer for the first time in 30 years. We had seven winners at Cheltenham one year, King George winners, Gold Cup winners, Sprinter Sacre. It was fantastic.

I wasn't unaware that I had a privileged upbringing. I got handed a lot. When I was abroad, I had to learn and earn what I got and that was pretty refreshing actually. I grew up very quickly over there.

Nicky was a great person to learn off. He wouldn't spoon feed you, but if you kept your mouth closed and your ears open, you couldn't help but learn.

My experience at Lambourn made me grow up fast and grow up a better person with more of an understanding of how the world works, not just racing.

I came back to Ireland in 2015 to work with Dad. I had some new ideas to bring to the table, and Dad was very successful in his own right without expanding like he always hoped he would, numbers-wise.

We clashed a few times over things, we wanted to go in different directions. I'd be gung-ho about wanting to buy horses and Dad was warning me, 'look, we'll go broke in six months if we do.'

I was pretty confident coming out of Lambourn that I could train a horse as well as Nicky Henderson could. That belief is still there, but I didn't know how a business worked and how you campaign 30 different horses.

We had a rough spell in 2017. For 18 months, whenever we got hold of a nice horse we ran into a problem. It could have been a problem with how we trained them, or just bad luck, but we kept hitting brick walls.

We were way down on numbers and the bills were racking up. In a last-ditch attempt, Dad got a syndicate together to buy six yearlings with a view to gaining some form and selling them on.

At the end of their two-year-old season, it looked like an absolute disaster. Only one of them had run, one of them had refused to go into the stalls and another two stayed at home.

That was a worrying time. I took a course in stock trading on the side, that was how close it came to going belly-up.

He persuaded one of the guys to put a few more pounds into the kitty and sure enough, one of them won on his first start in Hong Kong and Paul Nicholls bought another to go jumping. The syndicate have now doubled their money and re-invested.

We've got a small National Hunt team this year, but we've got some really nice ones. Kilfinora had a great year last year and won two big handicaps, he should be a Cheltenham horse. We've got a couple of good JP McManus horses too.

Everyone in the yard and everyone outside the yard thinks Eddie Harty should be having more winners than he is. But we're working past that and I don't think it'll be long before we're back to where we were.

I still get the most enormous kick out of this job. Every evening I walk around the yard and can't help but think 'that could be a graded horse', or 'that could be a Cheltenham horse.'

I love the work that goes into bringing these plans to fruition.

I could train a horse as well as Nicky Henderson, but I didn't know how a business worked
- Patrick Harty

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