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My Racing Story

Brendan Duke

Mon 11th Sep 2017, 21:35

Brendan Duke
©Healy Racing Photos
It is an absolute pleasure to train Warm The Voice for Jim and Jackie Bolger and we had another terrific day at Listowel on Monday. It’s a stark reality within the yard that this is a multi-talented, very high class colt that has loads of improvement left in him.

I thought it was an outstanding performance at Listowel, on ground he hated, to haul 9st7lbs around with some very shrewd trainers in the race and he took on all comers and saw them all off and he won without having too hard a race.

The great thing about it is that when Jim and Jackie started sending me a number of horses, Jim clearly told me to not expect to train too many winners for about five seasons. This is year four.

I took it on with a heart and a half because I love training horses. I’m not stupid. I know to the outside world that people were shaking their head and pontificating about my ability to train racehorses and why was I getting the support, but I was getting the support because Jim and Jackie had total faith in me and I was prepared to do the work.

We are only in year four so it is really, really encouraging that this horse and a number of others have come along this year. I was quite prepared to have another very low key year, to a degree a frustrating year, but not frustrating enough to want to stop training racehorses. I was prepared to wait for the dawn to come because if there is one thing we all know about Jim Bolger, when he gives you his word it is written in stone. He told me it would get better, to take my time, it is a great game played slow and to keep being professional and telling him about the horses.

It’s unbelievable support from one of the worlds leading trainers and probably the best breeder in Europe today, certainly you would be looking at himself and Aga Khan as the foremost breeders in Europe.

Jim’s personality also came out because in fairness to him Vocalised came in for plenty of criticism but he never doubted him for a minute and continued to put his money where his mouth was and we saw the result with Verbal Dexterity on Sunday and Warm The Voice on Monday and Vocalised has had a wonderful season. He is an absolute stunning looking horse with a stunning pedigree and his two-year-olds this year speak for themselves and there is a lot more to come in that department. Jim has kept faith with him and covered some really smart mares with him.

Warm The Voice came to me at the end of September last year, I broke him and took my time with the horse and I thought I had a really exciting horse in the month of March but not a “now” horse in March. I thought he was an August time horse and to be quite honest with you, I never discussed the horse with Jim at all until The Broghie Man ran at Leopardstown and was second. Jim said to me that day ‘He’s a very good horse, Brendan’ and I said “Hold on, Jim, I’ll be running a very good one belonging to you next week.”

We kept him low key and gave him plenty of time and he’s still a horse in the making, he’s a very long way from being where he’s going to be, he’s only a baby and there’s a lot more to come.

At the moment I have 16 horses for Jim and I had 30 horses to train this season. I weeded some horses out but all of my owners are absolutely brilliant people. Most of my owners are just one horse owners but it is the volume from Jim and Jackie that holds the whole thing together.

All of my owners are top class people and so generous and they’ve enabled me to keep going and grow this business. It would have been hard to keep going in this game without Jim Bolger but I would have died trying to keep it going, even if I was only training two horses, because I just love this sport.

I’m probably dating myself a bit but, for me, this is still a sport. It’s not a lot about the economics. Of course, the economics is very important, but there is a bit more than that. I still think it is a sport. We are pitching our wits against one another, we are learning about horses all of the time, but at the end of the day, I’m a sportsman and I do it for the sport and competition of horseracing.

My father, rest his soul, and all my relations earned their living with workhorses and that is where my love of the horse came from. We were born and reared in Dublin and my Dad was brilliant with the workhorses. He was a fabulous man to feed and look after horses and their wellbeing.

I just came along and was brought racing when Arkle was in his prime and Flyingbolt and in the late 60’s, whenever Lester Piggot was coming over to ride for Vincent O’Brien, I would always go to the races and one day I said to my late mother, “Mammy, I’m going to train racehorses and that is all I want to do” and even though they spent money getting me a private education and I did pretty well at school, but I just had this addiction to horses and I just loved the idea of training racehorses. I loved being around horses, I love watching them, I love trying to get on a one-to-one with them, do different things with them to try and help them on a bit and I find that fascinating trying to work out their personalities. I just love it.

Obviously it is great to be loving horses with real ability, but I do my best for every horse that comes into my yard, some of them don’t measure up and that’s sad, but we go again and we look to a brighter day and these are fantastic times for me to be honest.

Jim Bolger gave me my first job in racing and then I left Jim because I wanted to train. Jim could not see why I wanted to leave the train. I had no financial backing or strength so I decided to go to the UK for a year and I sat down with Charlie Mann in 2000 and told him I’d love to go and work with him for a season and then go training.

The poor prize money in the UK and the cost of getting horses from A to B was just unsustainable but I needed to keep trying. There was a lot of stress in the UK and I must admit, my love of the racehorses would colour my judgement about the financial reality but it has been very different since I have come home. We run a tight ship and it is washing its face and I’m having a great time. I seriously hope that I will be training horses on my 100th birthday.

I have a lot to look forward to at the moment. The Broghie Man is a very good colt and I think I will have to look at the Birdcatcher at Naas with him because it is a stiff 6f and I didn’t enter Uluru Park in the 1,000 Guineas just to look at both of our names in the paper. She is really smart. She’s just not a ‘now’ filly but she’s a girl I’d be saying nice things about and she has a lovely pedigree. She’s just a bit of a frame of a filly at the moment but a gorgeous filly, with a very good mind. We’ll be telling her how good she is right through the winter.

The Beresford Stakes at Naas has been my plan for Warm The Voice since April and I made a conscious decision to go baby steps with him, give him all the time he needed. He’s gone to Listowel in very testing conditions and it very much depends on the coming 10 days what he is telling me. I’m not going to bring him to Naas unless he’s in fighting order and ready to go and win again.

I’d love to be going to Newmarket with him next year for the 2,000 Guineas but I’d get a bigger kick, if I’m being honest, going to the Curragh with him. I’m Irish to the core and I think our races are the most competitive races in Europe and he likes the Curragh. Every fibre of my being, and everything I do will be geared to hopefully going to the Curragh next May with him. That is what he’ll be trained for.

That said, and I’m not a gambler, I was staggered by the people at Paddy Power to offer 50/1 about Warm The Voice for the 2,000 Guineas… They might just be committing a mortal sin because this is a very good colt.

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THE IRISH TIMES