Bobby Zen

Barry Fitzgerald may be an under-the-radar trainer but he is by no means unheard of. The County Carlow-based handler registered five winners in Ireland last season and six the previous campaign. What’s more impressive is that he was operating at a hugely respectable 10 and 14 per cent strike-rate for those respective campaigns. No mean feat when you’re operating with just a handful of Flat horses and working with limited pedigrees every year. 

But the quality is on the up in the yard and Fitzgerald, already off the mark this year at Dundalk, is hoping to hit the ground running when he unleashes a couple of youngsters on the opening day of the new Flat season at the Curragh on Monday. First up for Fitzgerald is Far At Sea (Ire), a filly by first-season sire Far Above (Ire), who tackles the opening two-year-old maiden and is reported to go well at home. 

The trainer said, “She goes very well–she’s a good, fast filly. I know the ground is quite soft and hopefully that won’t blunt her speed too much. We’ve liked everything she has been doing so far so hopefully she can bring it to the track. 

“Far At Sea was bought privately by her owner David Granville. He buys a lot of horses privately and, actually, he bought Harbour Gem (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}) privately as well. She did well for us last year, placing in two maidens, and she has gone to Dermot Weld now. She could have a big year in front of her.”

Fitzgerald will also run another debutante, Bella Mistiko (Ire) (Invincible Army {Ire}), in the three-year-olds and upwards fillies’ maiden later on the card.

On her prospects, he commented, “She goes very well as well. We’re hoping for a big run but she’s drawn in stall 19, which isn’t ideal. She was just a very backward two-year-old and we were going to go to Dundalk with her. We said we’d wait and go for the grass instead and I think she will love the ground. She’s ready to go as well. If either of them win or get placed, the likelihood is that they’d be sold. You need to sell in order to keep the whole thing going.”

Fitzgerald splits his yard of 20 horses between Flat and National Hunt. Much of the emphasis to his business revolves around trading and he has done well in that aspect of the game over both codes.

He explained, “We’re getting better horses every year. We started off in 2019 and we’ve built it up to about 20 horses split 50-50 between the Flat and National Hunt. We got a couple of two-year-olds sold to America last year but we need to keep the two codes going to make the game pay. If I only concentrated on the one code, I’d be out on the road.”

On his background, he added, “I grew up on a farm in Limerick and was pony racing for 15 years before I went training a little under five years ago. Things got so expensive at the pony racing, I said I might as well have a go at training them for the track, and thankfully it has been working out for us. 

“I have worked for Mags Mullins, Shark Hanlon, Enda Bolger and Michael Hourigan so I have seen plenty and have been around the block. I have seen a lot of different things and, above all, I know how important it is to keep your yard clean and healthy. That’s been a big part of our success.”

The respective strike-rates posted by Fitzgerald in recent seasons do not happen by accident. He only brings a horse to the races if he thinks it has a chance and it’s a modus operandi that has served the stable well.

He said, “There is no point running horses for the sake of it. It costs a lot of money to bring a horse to the races and we like to be good and competitive when we go. You need to be trying to get as much of the prize-money as you can. It’s an expensive game-even if I want to get the horse plaited, I have to give somebody 20 quid to do that for me. Everyone needs to be paid so there’s no point going to the races and not being competitive. There’s no craic in that.”

Away from the youngsters, Fitzgerald also has a number of smart older horses to lead the team into battle this season, and the handler nominated A Piece Of Heaven (Fr) (Jukebox Jury {Ire}) as being one to keep the right side of. 

He said, “A Piece Of Heaven is back in and is one to look forward to this season. He will work next week and hopefully he’ll run when the ground dries out. To me, I think he could be a Royal Ascot horse. Races like the Ascot Stakes could be right up his street. It’s great to have a horse like him because I don’t even know how to enter for Royal Ascot, never mind getting there, so it’s nice to dream in this game.”

Fitzgerald added, “Genesis (Ire) (Prince Of Lir {Ire}), who ran well the other night at Dundalk, is another to keep the right side of. He’ll probably stay sprinting for now but we might step him up to seven furlongs towards the end of the year. The Scurry Handicap is the race I have in mind for him. He could be a progressive horse.”


The post Meet The Under-The-Radar Trainer Out To Make A Splash At The Curragh appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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