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 that is not too far away from Downpatrick.

Colin McBratney pictured with his jockey Noel McParland

Mc Bratney came 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, though mostly show jumpers or hunters. McBratney adds “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 points to point horses it was all changed we were hooked on racing”.

McBratney had his debut ride in a point to point race at 16 years old which was coincidentally a winning one and from that day on he had a plenty of successes in point to points and the racecourses up and down the country though modest McBratney adds in “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 thirty horses which he insists “is a nice number to look after “though his amenities are always on the upgrade to challenge and better the rest with his 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 which all of these helping to get the best potential out of all his horses in training which the results speak for themselves.

Currently there seems to be a fewer young people getting involved in horse racing but McBratney insists “Yes’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 race horse trainer turns up to the races with the horses and there work is done but that is definitely not the case as McBratney’s day normally starts at 6am which is feeding time then he has to check the horses legs and look for any other abnormalities or injuries which may have happened during the night by that time his staff started McBratney then adds “Then normally get my daily morning call from fellow trainer and friend Liam Lennon when we catch up on the racing gossip” then the first lot of horses are ready to go out  at roughly 8am then after three lots head to the gallops which after that we have a short well-earned tea break and its back out to finish the remainder of the lots which takes to about one o’clock or thereabouts. after the lunchtime feed while my staff groom and rug the horses and make sure they are all ok after their exercise then his staff 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 me up to feeding time again around 5.15pm which takes roughly an hour then that’s him finished for the night though that’s only when things go to plan.

We asked this self-driven trainer does the local people get behind his stable and runners and he replied “There’s always plenty of support from local people from ways such as reading the local papers including the Newry Democrat. 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 king’s due to the large money involved but we asked this relatively small trainer on the scale of things is it hard to become competitive or is there still opportunity out there and he responded, “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”. A piece of advice that fellow trainer Michael Cunningham once told McBratney “never to 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 whom we brought back from injury adds McBratney

Every trainer strives for victories but two racecourses that are extra special for this trainer are is home venues of Down Royal and Downpatrick which are in close proximity to his stable McBratney add “Downpatrick racecourse is only 10 miles away and Down Royal is 20 miles from my home though it is brilliant to have a winner anywhere but the local ones they are always extra memorable”.” Down Royal and Downpatrick Racecourse are both a credit to Irish racing” he then adds “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 has been so many notable victories for this trainer that we are proud to call one of our own but we asked him to what where the successes that most 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 1st and 2nd place and both ridden by 2 local jockeys. It wet my appetite for Cheltenham and Carsonstown Boy finished 4th in the same race the next year.

The lucky combination of popular Newry Man Cathal McGovern and trainer Colin McBratney, who won the lucrative Galway plate together, we asked McBratney how did the two ever team up together and McBratney responded “I have known Cathal and his family I’m sure for 30 years. 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 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 but McBratney adds “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 our website or email .

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