Innishannon trainer Coleman trying to maintain a routine during uncertain times for the horseracing industry

Innishannon trainer Coleman trying to maintain a routine during uncertain times for the horseracing industry
FLASHBACK: Jockey Kevin Coleman crosses the line to win the William Hill Galway Plate on Sir Frederick in 2007. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

KEVIN Coleman joined the training ranks less than two years ago and he subsequently saddled his first winner last summer.

The former jump jockey moved to a new yard last autumn, and he’s now hopeful of unearthing a promising runner from his current team of horses in 2020.

The Innishannon native retired from race-riding in his 20s owing to injury, weight struggles and a lack of big-race opportunities.

After pursuing a third-level education, where he emerged with a sports science degree, he has since returned to racing again and has reinvented himself as a trainer. Coleman is currently based at a purpose-built yard in Carrick-on-Suir, having previously trained on the Curragh, and his string of horses continues to grow.

His team consists predominantly of homebred horses and horses sourced on a small budget. The ethos of the yard is to race the horses, but with a view to selling on those who perform well enough.

“That’s how I roll it. If I can sell those horses on, that’s how I keep the thing going.

“You don’t be long picking them up; between mares and foals there are around 17 or 18 horses here. There are around 12 for racing here, but six of them were for breeze-up sales.

“But they’ll probably end up going to the track because who’s got the money to buy these horses in the current climate when every business is failing? It is one thing saying ‘will the sales be on?’ and another saying ‘will there be anyone there to buy them?’.

“So they’ll probably go to the track. If you race them, then how bad is the economy going to be? Is there someone going to buy these horses even if they do win?

“You have to go through the motions. But if you buy 10 horses, you might get one good one. The two-year-olds, they’re different. You’d be kind of getting a bit excited about them.

The former conditional rider, who steered Liam Burke’s Sir Frederick to victory in the Galway Plate of 2007, rates Swiss Army Officer as the pick of the current bunch at his Tipperary yard. A son of Swiss Spirit, he produced a good effort to finish second when last seen at Dundalk in December.

“He was entered for the Curragh (before racing was cancelled). Now, he’s only back a few weeks. God knows when we’ll start up again, but we were all just trying to get our horses out.

“Sure, he probably is (the best one we have).”

Coleman sent out his first winner last year, when Allhallowtide was victorious in a summer sprint contest at Beverley. His most recent runner, before racing was called to a halt, was Russian Vine, who finished down the field at Dundalk, in mid-March. When he’ll have his next runner is anyone’s guess.

But he’s determined to make his yard a success. Like his peers, Coleman has now been tasked with maintaining his business at what is an extremely difficult time for everyone. But the daily routine continues, even without competitive action, as a racing yard simply cannot stop.

“At the end of the day, I have to go and feed the horses and do everything like that. I can’t just stop. Joseph O’Brien is up the road training 200 horses — he can’t go out and feed them on his own.

“With racing called off, all those staff still have to go to work. So, I don’t think it will make any difference that way.

“For the first few weeks (of the Coronavirus outbreak), everyone was a bit complacent. As regards the small yards like mine, social distancing, I have my own tack and Ben Kennedy (work rider) has his own tack. That’s the way it is.

“For big yards, it’s probably a lot harder. But it has to be done. Health is the most important thing.

“I’m only a small trainer and I’m tipping away at the minute. It’s tough. I was on the Curragh and you had the best gallops there. You had a routine. There are good gallops here, but it is a completely different setup.

“You have to find a system that works and it’s hard because it’s a total change. You are going from woodchip gallops to sand gallops. It just takes time. When you have numbers, it’s easier.

“Ben (Kennedy) is working here with me and he rides out for me every morning. You couldn’t train horses on your own as they need to be ridden out in groups.

“All of the two-year-olds need as much education — and you need to get them away as much — as possible. At the present time, we can’t bring them anywhere.

Pom Flyer with jockey Kevin Coleman clearing the last to win the Horse & Jockey Hotel Hurdle at Thurles. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Pom Flyer with jockey Kevin Coleman clearing the last to win the Horse & Jockey Hotel Hurdle at Thurles. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“To be honest, you can do the road work, go to the woods and the beach; the majority of them are better off when you just keep them in a routine anyway.

“When they ride out here, they come back and have a bit of lunch but then they get let out for the day. So, they’re happy, they’re not in the stable all day.

“They are simple animals, they don’t get bored. If you keep it simple with them, that is the best policy.”

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