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My Racing Story

My Racing Story

Marshall Watson

Marshall Watson
© Photo Healy Racing

I didn't really have much say about getting into racing! Dad (Keith Watson) has held the licence for 47 years now. He took over from his uncle Archie Watson who trained Flashy Boy among other good horses back in the 1970s. I'm Armagh through and through - being an only child there is probably more responsibility to stay around and do your bit. I always like to say I have learned from my own pocket and my own mistakes. I think that is sometimes the best way of doing it.

In my heart of hearts, I always wanted to train but I rode to gain the experience of riding. I had five point-to-point winners and a track success. I rode my first point-to-point winner for the late Johnny Vance in 2012 in Tyrella on a horse called Potters Wall. Johnny was a big hunting man and rode into his forties. He gave me the opportunity to ride that horse who had been placed so many times and I got him over the line.

My track winner was Tyrone House at Tramore on New Year's Day 2015. Mum and dad had gone to Fairyhouse with a mare (He Knows My Name) that we thought would run well in the maiden hurdle. She was pulled up that day but went on to good success for us. I drove jeep and horsebox to Tramore, saddled the horse and got somebody to lead it up and rode him. There was no backup plan if anything had gone wrong. There might have only been two that finished but the win is what matters. That came at the end of a year that had been quite tough as I lost my late uncle Rodney who was a big point-to-point owner. I was very close to him.

Later in 2015 I took a nasty fall in The Pigeons and broke my neck. As a result, that was me done and dusted from riding. I did come back but the confidence was just gone. I wanted to finish on my terms riding in a flat race on Galway Plate day. It was on a horse called Heavenly Brook in a qualified riders' maiden. He was having his first run on the flat at 11 years of age.

I was never 100 per cent committed to the race riding. I liked the social aspect of university a wee bit too much. The other problem was that I struggled with my weight. I was in Coleraine at the University of Ulster and I did Finance & Investment. I got a job in England with Citibank working on financial regulations and I went for three days! I just knew it wasn't for me.

I became assistant trainer to my dad when we built the all-weather gallops in September 2014. I committed that I was going to come home and train with him. The plan is to take over from dad once he reaches 50 years training - he took a restricted licence out back when he was 20. He has probably enjoyed training horses the last few years more than he had done for the 30 years previous to that. He would even say that himself. If he is enjoying it, he will be the trainer for as long as he wants.

When I came home in 2014, we probably had 10 horses in and we are touching 40 now. It is 40 all year round. You love training winners for anyone - even a seven-year-old and upwards maiden point-to-point is somebody's Gold Cup. We do like to celebrate any winner, there has to be a social aspect to it. We have a WhatsApp group for the owners to get to know each other and you see them slagging each other about other sports or results. It is a broad field of people and they go to the races together. That is what it is all about. Everybody wants to train winners but there is a journey as well and people are investing in the journey. I even had owners here on Christmas morning as they were home from England.

Happy owners after Amaulino and Andrew Ring won at Downpatrick in 2019
© Photo Healy Racing

Amaulino winning the Ulster National at Downpatrick in 2019 and having the double (on the flat) in Cork last year were my best days in racing. In relation to dad, Stonehall Prince won for him at the Punchestown Festival in 1980, I think, when completely out of the handicap. I probably get that trait from him where we are never too afraid to run them in the bigger races even if they are supposed to be no-hopers. He also bred the winner of the Ulster National in 1990, Peacock Royale trained by Billy Patton. In more recent times, one of his favourite races was when Aladdins Cave finished second at Leopardstown behind Vautour. I even rode him and he was an 11-year-old having his first race over fences in a Grade 2 novices' chase, and won 10 grand.

Of the 40 horses we have in today, a lot of them are younger - there are 22 four-year-olds and we have a lot of good owner/breeders. We have a lot of owners who want to own to race and very few owners that own to sell. That's not to say a bumper winner won't be sold, there's always an option to sell. We are trying to increase the number of winners every year and trying to get winners for all owners. Trying to get nicer horses and better quality is the number one goal.

We use a lot of younger jockeys like Shane O'Callaghan and Derek McGrath, and we have our own apprentice in Sorcha Woods. I'm young in this game and I want to have these 7lb claimers turning into fully-fledged jockeys, and being on my side down the line.

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