Get a behind-the-scenes tour of a racehorse training stable at the Curragh in Kildare, Ireland.
In honor of all things Irish today, we’re sharing this glimpse into the world of the Irish racehorse at Johnny Murtagh Race Horse Stables based at the Curragh in Kildare, Ireland. Johnny Murtagh is a champion jockey who has won most of Europe’s major flat races as well as all over the world; he famously piloted Ridgewood Pearl to victory in the Breeders Cup Mile in 1995. Murtagh recently announced his retirement from riding races in February of 2014, focusing now on training horses rather than riding them. Here’s a glimpse into life as a racehorse trainer:
The Curragh Racecourse, often called simply “the Curragh,” hosts all five of Ireland’s classic flat races. What impressed me on first sight was that “flat racing” in Ireland is anything but: the track isn’t a regular flat oval like I’m accustomed to in the United States, but an oblong course that varied in elevation.
When I visited the racecourse on a misty spring day in 2013, horses were training on the various surfaces–dirt, natural turf, and a wood chip blend. Horses trained at the Curragh from a variety of locations: Some of them were stabled right on the property, like Johnny Murtagh’s barn, while some of the horses were hauled in to work over the course. My favorite, however, were the horses that hacked to the course from their stables in the surrounding countryside, a gang of exercise riders chatting away as they jogged to the track over the neighboring fields. The horses worked in a group and we felt the rush of the wind as a herd of nearly 20 young Thoroughbreds went breezing by.
Go riding, and happy St. Patrick’s Day!