No rest for McBratney

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

No rest for McBratney thumbnail COLIN McBratney and owner Cathal McGovern after landing the Galway plate

"You're only as good as your last winner," is the philosophy of successful horse racing trainer Colin McBratney, who trains from Templeburn stud stables close the townland of Crossgar not too far away from Downpatrick.

McBratney comes from a staunch farming background with his father always having a horse or two around the yard from as far back as he can care to recall.

"Myself and my brother David would have done a lot of hunting, sometimes up to four days a week and then we sold them on but then when we got Point-to-Point horses it all changed, we were hooked on racing," said McBratney.

McBratney had his debut ride in a Point-to-Point race at 16-years-old, which was remarkably a winning one and from that day on he had plenty of successes in point to points and the racecourses up and down the country though modest McBratney tells us: "I won a few races but nothing outstanding, I always had trouble with my weight and when I broke my arm at a May meeting at Downpatrick I had the summer off and got heavy.

"It was then I decided to train horses instead of being a jockey and fortunately, I already had a few owners in place which gave me a great start in being a handler." Currently McBratney's ever-growing yard has facilities to stable 30 horses, which he insists "is a nice number to look after," though his amenities are always on the upgrade to challenge the rest.

He has an impressive four furlong circular, all weather, gallop along, with a three furlongs woodchip gallop on a steep incline in conjunction with various grass gallops, schooling fences and hurdles, a lunge pen and a horse walker, all helping to get the best potential out of all his horses in training and the results speak for themselves.

Currently there seems to be fewer young people getting involved in horse racing but McBratney insists: "Yes it's getting harder to get staff though luckily for me I have great staff at the minute who all get on well which is a great help for the whole operation." People have the premonition that horse trainers turn up to the races with the horses and their work is done but that is definitely not the case.

McBratney 's day normally starts at 6am which is feeding time, then he has to check the horse's legs and look for any other abnormalities or injuries, which may have happened during the night by that time his staff have started.

"I normally get my daily morning call from fellow trainer and friend Liam Lennon when we catch up on the racing gossip," said McBratney.

"Then the first lot of horses are ready to head to the gallops at roughly 8am after that we have a well-earned short tea break and it's back out to finish the remainder of the horses which takes to about 1pm or thereabouts.

"After the lunchtime feed the staff groom and rug the horses and make sure they are all ok after their exercise then usually finish around 3pm, provided they are not away schooling or heading to the races." After all of that is done McBratney then prepares the gallop so it's ready for action the next morning and catch up on any paperwork which then takes him up to feeding time again around 5.15pm, this takes roughly an hour then that's him finished for the night, though that's only when things go to plan.

And this self-driven trainer says that local people get behind his stable and runners.

"There's always plenty of support from local people from ways such as reading the local papers including the Newry Democrat,"said McBratney.

"It's amazing you think nobody notices then a neighbour would stop you out of the blue and say your horses are running well, it keeps me on my toes and it is great to see." "Horse racing is often addressed as the 'Sport of Kings' due to the large money involved.

"It's competitive in every sport as everyone wants to win whether it be the trainer, jockey, owner and stable staff; that's why you need to be on the ball and make sure the horses are healthy and everything is in tip-top shape." McBratney said.

A piece of advice which fellow trainer Michael Cunningham once told McBratney: "Never be afraid of one horse as if where you would never run anything". "Which makes perfect sense, they won't win standing in their stable that's for sure. It's hard to come across a top-class horse but you can be lucky like we were with 'Ballyholland' and 'Marito' both of which we brought back from injury" adds McBratney.

Every trainer strives for victories but two racecourses that are extra special for this trainer are his home venues of Down Royal and Downpatrick, which are in close proximity to his stable, McBratney said: "Downpatrick racecourse is only 10-miles away and Down Royal is 20-miles from my home, although it is brilliant to have a winner anywhere the local ones are always extra memorable.

"Both tracks are a credit to Irish racing, I've had winners at both but one race I really want to win is the Ulster National!

"I've had horses placed several times but hope one will come home in front someday." There have been so many notable victories for this trainer that Three-Furlongs are proud to call one of our own but we asked him what successes stood out for him and he replied with a grin: "That would have to be in 2009 when 'Ballyholland' won the Galway Plate, what a day that was! "It was a mighty day for Newry man Cathal McGovern and his family, myself and my family and all the local community.

"There were banners put up for the horse coming home, neighbours called for weeks to see him, it was just unreal. The race hadn't been won by an Ulster Trainer for 35 years after it was won by Jeremy Maxwell, who was a great trainer, another victory that was extremely memorable to me was in 2014 'Carsonstown Boy' (40-1) should have been half the odds when turning into the straight in the Cheltenham Foxhunters when he was still in front.

"That is a day I will never forget, only to be beat by Tammy's Hill who was trained by a great friend Liam Lennon, ridden by James Smyth and owned by his father. Both horses travelled over together from Co Down to finish in first and second place and both ridden by two local jockeys.

It whet my appetite for Cheltenham and 'Carsonstown Boy' finished fourth in the same race the next year." We were interested to know how the lucky combination of popular Ballyholland man Cathal McGovern and trainer Colin McBratney who won the lucrative Galway plate together teamed up.

"I have known Cathal and his family I'm sure for 30-years," he said. "Cathal rode in the points the same time as me and our connection just moved forward from there.

"I can't remember now what the first horse I had for Cathal was called but we've had a great time over the years crowned by Galway. Cathal and I have never had a cross word and he's a great man to take bad news to, which is important in racehorse ownership as things don't always go according to plan!

Cathal just moves on and looks for his next winner, he's as game as a badger and one of life's gentlemen." Many local people in the community would love to get involved in race ownership but just don't know how to go about it, McBratney gave his advice.

"For anyone looking to get involved in having a horse in training with me I would say come and see the facilities, watch the horses exercise, basically get the feel of the whole operation and then experience what it is like to have a runner.

"It's a great buzz for an owner to have a runner and an even bigger buzz to get a winner, joining a syndicate is a great way for owners to cut down the costs.

"Becoming a member of a syndicate can be a sociable and enjoyable experience." There are always plenty of options available so anyone interested can get in touch via his website or email


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