WHEN racehorse Forjoethepainter galloped out at Fairyhouse, Dublin, this Wednesday, two Portadown men in particular were cheering on the eight-year-old gelding.
Fred Wright, originally from the Brownstown area, owns the yard where the horse is stabled while former jump jockey Tony Mulholland is its trainer.
Although from very different backgrounds, the two men not only have the same home town in common but, more importantly, a passion for the Sport of Kings.
This love of horse racing has led them from England back to Cavan in the south of Ireland, where Fred has established a new racing stables, Ashfield Stables.
Fred, whose late father Freddie played for Portadown Football Club in the 1950s, is a former pupil of Portadown College and worked as a clinical psychologist in Thirsk, Yorkshire for 27 years, before retiring and turning his attention to all things equine.
Tony, meanwhile, is a former pupil of what was then St Malachy’s College (now Drumcree College). He left Portadown at the age of 16 to train as an apprentice jockey under the revered racehorse trainer Sir Henry Cecil, having his first ride for him when he was 18.
Tony then became a National Hunt jockey for around 10 years before spending three seasons with trainer Mark Johnston as a work rider and then setting up his own business as a trainer in Yorkshire.
Although Fred’s career was in the Health Service, he had always taken a keen interest in racing and he and Tony’s paths first crossed in Thirsk where Tony was riding a horse belonging to Fred. But it was to be a few years before they got together.
Said Fred, “I had bought the land in Cavan a couple of years ago and Tony had come back to Portadown, so I contacted him and asked him to be my trainer.”
Tony has had a successful career, riding the winner Henry Mann in Cheltenham Festival in 1990. He also rode for the Queen Mother, including her horse First Romance to second place at a race at Newbury. He said, “Every time I rode for her I met her. She was very knowledgeable about her horses.”
In his career, he has suffered the usual injuries that are just “part of the job” for every jockey including a broken collarbone, leg, cracked ribs and fingers.
Ashfield Stables has just completed its first full season and has both flat and jump horses in training, with room for 20 more. Said Fred, “The first year was spent getting the stables ready. We have purpose-built gallops, a horse walker, new stable block, 60 acres of land and uphill gallops.”
Horses that have been particularly successful include Polish Partisan, which won a ‘bumper’ - a National Hunt flat race; Tillargon, which was placed a number of times over hurdles, and of course, Forjoethepainter. On his last outing at Limerick Forjoethepainter won the handicap hurdles and was a market mover, backed down from 20-l to 7-1.
Although Tony no longer rides professionally, he still rides out on the gallops every day, and a lot of the jockeys the stable uses are Irish-born.
As Fred points out, many of the horses are owned by syndicates, with a Portadown man part-owning Forjoethepainter.
Fred’s mum (Mima) died just last year while Tony still has family in the Portadown area, including his mum Bridie who lives on the Moy Road as well as brothers and sisters, with brother Paul breeding racehorses.
Ashfield Stables trains flat horses from two years old and National Hunt horses from three to four years old. Horses are also available for leasing for the season. For more information contact Fred on 07976447236 or Tony on 07742045770.