INTERVIEW: PAT CONNELL OF PERIA STUD
12 March 2018
Pat Connell is no stranger to success in flat racing, having
bred Group 1 winners and been involved in successful stallion operations during
his time in New Zealand. Upon his return to Ireland, he set up Peria Stud in
County Waterford and is hoping for his first Cheltenham Festival success with Getabird
(IRE), who is favourite for Tuesday’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
What is your
background in racing?
I rode as a kid and worked in Rathbarry Stud for a number of
years before moving to New Zealand. I lived there for 16 to 17 years and owned
a share in Volksraad, who was New Zealand champion sire eight times*.
I returned to Ireland and bought a farm in Tallow, while
also working at Rathbarry again. I now run our own farm with my wife and
daughters, as well as running Al Eile Stud for Michael Ryan.
*Pat Connell was one of four members of the partnership, who
purchased the well-bred Volksraad for 21,000gns through BBA Ireland, with the
assistance of Liam Cashman. Starting off at a fee of $2,500, the son of Green
Desert would be crowned champion sire eight times, a modern day New Zealand
record. Having died in 2011 at the age of 24, he is now a successful broodmare
sire, including through Able Friend.
You must be very
excited to see Getabird (IRE) going into the Cheltenham Festival with such high
expectations. How do you fancy his chances?
There’s a great thrill in having a runner at Cheltenham and
to have the favourite of a race like the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is a brilliant
buzz- that’s what we do this for. He’s obviously a very good horse, but after
that, all we can do is be hopeful and hope luck is on our side. I don’t like to
get carried away!
What would breeding a
Cheltenham Festival winner mean to you?
I’ve bred five individual Group 1 winners on the flat, but I
would trade any of those for a Cheltenham Festival winner. My heart is in the
national hunt, but it’s tough to make money from breeding national hunt horses
alone and that’s why I also breed flat horses. It’s harder to breed good
national hunt horses as they have to get to the track and then stay sound.
Regardless of what
happens, he’s already impressed. How did he strike you in his early years?
He was a grand foal- correct and well-balanced, with a good
temperament. He very much takes after his dam, as all her stock do. As he was
the first foal out of the mare and by a young sire, I didn’t want to put him in
a sale as he wouldn’t make his price, so when Walter Connors bought a bunch of
foals off me, I asked him to include Getabird (IRE).
I knew he would be well looked after with Walter and Una-
they do a great job and that’s been key to Getabird (IRE)’s success- he’s been
with all the right people from day one. From Walter and Una, to Colin Bowe, and
Willie Mullins… they’re some of the best in this game.
You bought the dam of
Getabird (IRE) privately for €5,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale. What
did you see in her?
I’ve always loved that family- it’s the family of Long Run,
and she was stabled beside me at the sale by a man I knew- Paul Giles. She was
a good, strong mare and so, he told us the price. We broke her and she had loads
of ability. Unfortunately, she was injured in her point-to-point and looking
back, I should have kept her for the racetrack.
I think it’s important for us to race more national hunt
fillies and retire proven mares to stud. The ITBA and race planners have done
great work in increasing opportunities and prize money, and I believe breeders
should take advantage. People may look at the dam of Getabird (IRE) and think
different, but the horses she was working with showed us she was talented.
What other progeny of
Fern Bird (IRE)’s do we have to look forward to?
I have a full-sister to Getabird (IRE) and I sold a very
nice Ocovango colt foal to Walter Connors at the end of last year. Both look
very like their dam, as Getabird (IRE) did, and she’s currently in foal to
Getaway. She’s due to foal in the next week and we’ll make a decision then on
where she’ll go, but I’ll imagine we’ll stick with the same formula. If it ain’t
broke, don’t fix it!
You sent her to
Getaway in his first season and he’s had a fantastic start. What drew you to
I’ve always liked Getaway, both his form and as a type.
Physically and mentally, he suited the mare and he was good value. I sent five
mares to him in his first season and got five colts- I’ve been very lucky with
We are very lucky with the exceptionally high calibre of
national hunt stallions we have in Ireland. In fairness to the stallion farms, from
Grange, to Rathbarry, to the Beeches, to Boardsmill- they put up the money and
buy bloody good horses. We send our mares to Group 1 winners and there is no
comparison between their form and those of the stallions standing in France,
for instance. I don’t think stallion farms always get the credit they deserve.
What other young sire
is exciting you at the moment?
I think Leading Light (Grange Stud) has a good chance- he
had good foals. I also think Karpino (Glenview Stud) looks interesting.
Do you think it’s our
stallions that make Irish horses the best in the world?
Ireland has always had a high standard of bloodstock, both
mares and stallions. But the people are very important- we’ve always had
top-class people continuously raising standards, world leaders like John
Magnier, Vincent O’Brien, Liam Cashman, Jim Bolger, etc.
I do worry about continuing this. We have to keep raising
standards, and with our current staff crisis, that is hard to do. Sourcing
staff isn’t necessarily the problem; it’s maintaining the high calibre of
The number of colleges and their degrees has increased over
the years, but I think our old farm apprenticeship system was the best
foundation. It lasted three years and included placements with the best farms,
covering all topics, including grassland management.
At the end of the day, horses need to be mucked out and the
work has to be done. We need to educate them on practical work, providing them
with placements at the right places, giving direction and nurturing those with
the ambition to succeed.
As a shrewd trainer once told an ex-jockey who was becoming
a trainer, “What would you know about training? You’ve never had to look down
in your life!” Hopefully everything works out. You can’t learn what we do in a
book. There’s a huge satisfaction in breeding winners and we’re very lucky to
work at what we love.