KILWORTH farmer Desmond Kenneally reminded the racing community of his capabilities as a trainer when making a return to the winners’ enclosure, with Empors Sword, earlier this month.
The local handler saddled his first track winner since 2010, when his mare won the first race of her career, at Clonmel, on October 1. It marked a popular triumph for the region of Kilworth-Araglen, as the daughter of Oscar is owned by the trainer’s brother, Pad, and was partnered to victory by local jockey, Darragh Allen.
The homebred mare had been off the track for more than two years with injury problems, before making her return to action in August, when she finished fourth at Tramore.
The eight-year-old built on that comeback effort when taking the lead on the turn into Clonmel’s home stretch, and staying on strongly to land the spoils, in the Kilsheelan Mares’ Maiden Hurdle, at odds of 12/1. Kenneally was delighted with the win and says it was a massive boost to the local community in these uncertain times.
‘‘It was great. There was mighty excitement in the locality; everyone in the area was delighted for us.
"You’d swear we were after winning over in Cheltenham! They like to see the small man win.
"I bred her myself at home. I still have her mother (Collou) and she won for me in Mallow (in a bumper in 2007). My brother, Pad, is involved as well, he owns her. She is a very hard mare to keep right.
"She had a leg injury, nothing serious, but she was very hard to get right. We eventually got her right and she won well. We’re hoping she might win again, whenever we can get her back to the track again.
"It’s great to get a winner to keep the thing going,’’ he said.
At the heart of that latest success is the reason why National Hunt racing has perhaps gathered such a strong following.
Irish people love the story of the underdog. In jump racing, small-scale trainers and farmers have been able to produce horses that are capable of competing against the larger stables; even if that has become much more challenging to do in the current climate.
Kenneally is a cattle farmer by trade, but he has trained racehorses in a small-scale capacity for many years. Up until recently, he usually exercised his string on the gallops of his trainer neighbour, Sean O’Brien.
But Kenneally has since upgraded his own facilities, installing a new gallop to work his small team of horses closer to home. So far, he is reaping the benefits from that decision, judging by his recent return to the winners’ enclosure.
‘‘This (Empors Sword) is actually one of the first runners off of the new gallop. You have to have these facilities now. I put in a new Wexford sand gallop myself over the summer, which is working very well.
"I’m farming full-time. We just do this for a bit of craic. I just like to have the horses for a bit of enjoyment.
"I only train about three or four for myself. I keep a lot of cattle and I have two broodmares.
"My father always had point-to-pointers years ago. We have been involved in horses all our life on a small scale. We would win a race, maybe sell on and that keeps the thing going.
‘‘I’ve the mother of (Empors Sword) and I’ve another broodmare as well. I have maybe 13 or 14 horses.
"I don’t keep a big string. I have a couple of nice four-year-old horses who should be going for the point-to-points.
"I’ve another horse then going for a bumper, in early spring. It’s great that the point-to-points are up and running. Who knows what’s going to happen, but it is a credit to them that they are able to run these races,’’ Kenneally said.
The trainer’s previous winner was another homebred, Letterofapproval, who won a Mallow bumper in 2010.
He saddled Concrete King to finish third in a hunters’ chase, last season, but that horse has since been sold to race in England.