Co. Down born Colin McBratney has forged a successful career for himself as a racehorse Trainer, his Templeburn stables is close to the town of Crossgar.
McBratney’s training operation is 10 miles from Downpatrick Racecourse and 20 miles from Down Royal Racecourse, his record at them venues speak for themselves.
Tell us your backround and how you got into horse racing and your achievements and how the local community helped you
I come from a farming background. My Father always kept horses, most show horse and hunters. Myself and my brother David would have done a lot of hunting, maybe 4 days a week and then we sold them on. I also done a bit of show-jumping and then when we got a few pointers I was hooked on racing.
I had my first ride in a point to point at 16 which was a winner and I rode with a bit of success in points and the racecourse, 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, I already had a few owners in place.
There’s always plenty of support from local people from ways such as reading the local papers. 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.
How many horses to you have in training this year?
I’ll have 12 or so in for summer and hopefully 25-30 for winter.
What size is your yard and how many stables?
I only have 30 stables, but it’s a nice number to look after.
We have a 4 furlong circular all weather gallop, a 3 furlong woodchip gallop on a steep incline, various grass gallops, schooling fences and hurdles, a lunge pen and a horse walker.
It’s getting harder to get staff although I have great staff at the minute who all get on well which is important.
What does your day generally consist of doing and what time would you start work and finish?
My day starts at 6am which is feeding time. I check the horses’ legs and look for any other abnormalities or injuries which may have happened during the night. My staff start at 7am.
I then normally get my daily morning call from fellow trainer Liam Lennon when we catch up on the gossip!
The first lot of horses are out for 8am then after 3 lots we have a short tea break and its back out to finish the remainder of the lots which takes to about 1 o’clock or thereabouts.
I then do the lunchtime feed while my staff groom and rug the horses and make sure they are all ok after their exercise.
My staff usually finish around 3pm provided we’re not away schooling or something of that sort.
I then harrow 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 5.15 which takes roughly an hour then that’s me finished for the night.
Is it getting harder to get competitive and win races or is there still opportunities out there?
It’s competitive in every sport. In racing everyone wants to win whether it be the trainer, jockey, owner and stable staff. You’re as good as your last winner, that’s why you need to be on the ball and make sure the horses are healthy and everything is in tip top shape.
In winter it’s a lot harder with all the big guns firing every day there’s racing but you have to take them on.
Michael Cunningham, a fellow trainer, once told me never to be afraid of one horse as if you where you would never run anything.
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.
Down Royal and Downpatrick racecourse are fairly close to you, do you get a thrill out of a local winner?
Yes, Downpatrick is only 10 miles away and Down Royal is 20. It is great to have a winner anywhere but especially the local ones.
Down Royal and Downpatrick Racecourse are both a credit to Irish racing. What they have achieved with regards to hospitality, surroundings and ground conditions. There is always a great atmosphere at both especially Downpatrick where Richard Lyttle and team are endless workers.
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 some day!
What would your advice for someone from the surroundings areas getting involved in horse racing and the best way to go about it?
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 www.camcbratneyracing.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org . They can also follow us on Facebook CA McBratney Racing.
Favourite memory of a local horse racing?
My favourite memory would have to be in 2009 when Ballyholland won the Galway Plate. What a day that was! It was a mighty day for Cathal 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, a great trainer.
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.
In 2016 Marito was 2nd in the Foxhunters at Cheltenham, just getting touched off by champion Hunter Chaser, On the Fringe.
Do you have any hobbies outside horse racing?
I play a bit of golf (badly) but would love to be good at it. Socializing, I’m good at that!
Yourself and local Newry Man Cathal McGovern have a great connection, How did that start?
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.