THESE are exciting, if still somewhat challenging, times at local trainer Terence O’Brien’s Woodstock Stables.
The Carrigtwohill yard enjoyed a record haul of prize money across 2019-20, the Terence O’Brien Racing Club is gathering momentum, and stable star Articulum is set for a crack at the upcoming Galway Plate.
This writer was fortunate enough to visit the yard in recent times — a state-of-the-art facility, set against a picturesque backdrop, in east Cork. The natural landscape, with its gradient, is the ideal location for training jumpers, even if the handler is no stranger to having a runner on the Flat either!
Over the years, O’Brien has saddled multiple high-profile winners across festivals such as Galway, Fairyhouse, Killarney, Listowel and Punchestown, while he has also had horses placed at Cheltenham and in the Irish Grand National. Notable feats, there have been many, but the most impressive aspect of it all is perhaps the development of the yard into a high-class training operation.
Facilities include grass and sand gallops, a schooling strip, an indoor school and horse walkers.
Attention to detail, through the use of heart monitors and hay steamers, is also evident.
The stable has continued its rise, to coincide with the development of its facilities, by surpassing 100 winners, and more recently achieving its best-ever total (of over €215k) for prize money earned in a campaign.
Stable lad Michael Browne was a fantastic tour guide on the afternoon of this writer’s visit. He was a source of great insight into how a yard operates on a daily basis, and how a team of around 60 horses are trained.
With 6am starts, and horses having to be cared for regardless of the weather or what else is going on in the world, being a groom is a way of life rather than just a job. But it’s a way of life that Michael seems to thrive on. A native of Navan, he pounced at the opportunity to work in the jumping stronghold of Cork.
“I came down to work for Hyde Equine (near Glanmire) in 2010, originally,” he said. “They were very good to me and I was there for years.
“I moved back home for a while then. I was looking for a job again and I heard that Terence was looking for someone. I jumped at the chance. I’m here 18 months and I’ve been absolutely loving it.
“Big time, you have to love what you do.
“The hours are long, but it’s great to see the horses working well, running well, and that makes it all pay off in the end,” he said.
Articulum is the stable star at Woodstock. The strapping son of Definite Article, fondly known by stable staff as ‘Dinny’, has won five times and was third in the 2019 Arkle Chase at Cheltenham.
After a mixed season last term, which concluded with a promising second in a grade three, he is currently being aimed at next month’s Galway Plate.
Our Roxane kept improving throughout last season and she could also appear at one of the summer festivals. A two-time winner last winter, she boasts some strong form to her name, including a Leopardstown runner-up berth to subsequent Quevega Hurdle and Coral Cup second, Black Tears.
Our Roxane was most recently seen finishing second on her fencing debut, back in March.
The ultra-consistent mare, Lakemilan, has been a mighty servant for the yard, having netted close to €200k in career earnings.
The eight-year-old has won six times under rules and was a winner of a Mallow chase last autumn. Ballyadam Destiny also deserves a mention.
A grey son of Martaline, he is continuing on the strong tradition of ‘Ballyadam’ horses at the yard, with previous William Horgan-owned runners Ballyadam Approach and Ballyadam Brook bringing plenty of success.
Meanwhile, the newly-launched Terence O’Brien Racing Club is set to have its first runners in the coming weeks. Mahlers Dollar, who was third in a maiden at Ballindenisk point-to-point, and the unraced Blaze Of Light, will carry the club’s colours this season. Along with the racing club, the yard has also recently launched a new website: terenceobrienracing.ie.