Slightly different angle with this one, as the gentleman in question is Irish and therefore not technically a driver on my 'patch', so to speak. Nonetheless, I felt compelled to interview him as we have struck up quite a good friendship since spending some time together in France at the end of 2016.
Sean has been training and driving horses for the last few years from his family's home at Mooreside Stud, Dublin. His father, Ger, has been training horses for much longer, and sisters Mary and Emma also drive and ride in races. It's a real family affair.
|Sean (centre) with sisters Mary & Emma in the saddle (Nadina Ironia photo)|
Sean and I have known each other for a couple of years, in the way that many people in harness racing in the UK and Ireland know each other: to say hello in passing at major meetings. However, in December of last year we found ourselves at Vincennes as two of the youngest delegates for our respective countries (Sean as a driver representing Ireland, myself on behalf of STAGBI and the UK) at an international Le Trot weekend. During some of our free time we got chatting over a few drinks and by the end of the weekend I had come to realise just how passionate and hard working an individual Sean is. I think the idea for Sean to feature on the blog was spawned over a few vodka and cokes in an Irish pub that was definitely not Irish - so here we are!
These questions were sent to Sean, and returned to me, at the beginning of June. Due to various other commitments and posts, this interview was put on the backburner...until now. At Aberystwyth a couple of weekends ago, I accosted Sean in the Pier and asked when I was 'allowed' to post his answers. He told me that I must wait until he'd driven a winner again; we agreed that he would carry his phone in his pocket and as he crossed the line in front, he would take out his phone and Snapchat me a winning photo as a signal that I could 'go live'.
On Saturday, 8th July, at Portmarnock, Sean drove Soprana Gede and Ecrin De Bussieres to victory, and DID NOT send me the requisite Snapchat in order for me to post this interview! So the friendship is on the rocks here...
...anyway, here the interview is, in all its glory!
For anybody who doesn't know you, how long have you been involved in the sport and where did it all start?
You're a trainer/driver; which do you find more rewarding of the two aspects?
I get as much of a kick from training a problem horse to win as driving any winner really.
Which is the best horse you've ever driven/trained?
The best horse I've sat behind was a 2 year old in France, Earl Simon. He was under my care when I worked out there and was the fastest ever 2 year old to qualify in France . He has won 3 of 3 now. I'm yet to meet my superstar horse to train I think. I'm waiting patently!
Which horse, past or present that you haven't driven, would you like to drive and why?
I would give an arm and a leg to sit behind him in full flight!
Who did, or do, you admire as a driver?
John Campbell has always been the boss for me. I've read his driving strategy column whenever I'm on a bad spell.
Who did, or do, you admire as a trainer?
I've been fortunate enough to come across some clever men on my travels but I think Mark Purdon is someone I'd admire as he's won everything.
Which is your favourite track in the UK and Ireland?
Portmarnock Raceway for the home advantage!
Which is your favourite meeting in the UK and Irish racing calendars?
I love the Vincent Delaney Memorial weekend [at Portmarnock in August] because it brings horse people from all over the world to our venue. I also like Aberystwyth because I can just take a break and watch some class racing in the sun.
Out of all of the races you have won, which has been the most memoriable? Which race would you like to win that you haven't already?
I think my first win in New Zealand on Righteous Royal will be hard to forget. I was on a big losing streak at the time and it was badly needed. The 3 year old gold division in the Le Trot scheme [in Ireland] would be amazing to win.
If you could change on thing about the sport in Ireland, what would it be?
I would love to make a living from the sport so whatever it takes to do that. I believe it will happen with the good work from the Irish Harness Racing Association.
Trotting has really taken off in Ireland over the last few years, and a couple of weeks ago Dundalk staged the first PMU meeting. With the rise of trotting, do you think that pacing races have had their day? Or can the two divisions work side-by-side?
I don't think pacers have had their day, they have declined due to the incentive from Le Trot but once we're self sustainable I think it will rocket back up to work side-by-side.
You've done your fair share of travelling to follow the sport - tell us a bit more about the places you've worked around the world.
So far I've been to Sweden and New Zealand twice and France; each different styles in their own right but I've taken what I've learnt from each country and adopted it into my own training regime and I'm happy with the results so far. I've met some great people along my travels which is what I love about this sport.
How have you fared when driving abroad?
I won 7 races in New Zealand and drove 4 times in France with the best being a second place finish where I was just beaten.
Where is next on the bucket list to visit?
This winter I want to head over to America and see what I can learn over there.
What's the motive for working abroad?
I really just wanted to up my game and see how each country does it. Plus my dad was a big influence in me heading abroad.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given, and by whom?
If you're going to do something make sure you do it right; don't half do it.
That was from my uncle Jason when I was a kid.
Where do you see yourself in the sport 10 years from now?
Hopefully making a living training a nice barn of horses with some staff. [editor note: I wonder if I could get a job...].
What are your hobbies/interests outside of racing?
I like to run a lot and train in the gym but I don't have a lot of time during the racing season.
If you could visit one place in the world, where would it be and why?
Stockholm, Sweden for the Eliteloppe weekend.
You're stranded on a desert island - what five things can't you live without?
I can only think of four!!
You're holding a dinner party for five famous guests (alive or dead) - who would they be and why?No idea I'm a brutal coo!
[editor's note: maybe you should have invited Gordon Ramsay?!].
If you were invisible for a day, what would you do?
Follow JR [John Richardson] around, I reckon he has it handy!
If you won the lottery, what would the first thing you would spend your winnings on?
Probably on the stable.
What would you name your autobiography?
Mistakes By Sean
Which actor would play you in a film about your life?
James Haythornthwaite [editor's note: former Rugby League player - yes; harness racing driver - yes; actor?? James is there something you want to tell us?!].
When was the last time you go into trouble?
Describe yourself in three words.
Mad about trotters.
For an interesting behind-the-scenes look at Mooreside Stud, watch this video filmed and edited by Adam Keogh, Daniel Breen and David O'Carroll.
|Sean on board Soprano Gede (Nadina Ironia photo)|
|Sean, Emma & Mary (Jacqueline Richardson photo)|
|Sean working at Vincennes, Paris (Nadina Ironia photo)|
Thanks Sean for taking the time to answer my questions and to humour me with this borderline pointless (but thoroughly enjoyable) blog. I'm sure everyone will join me in wishing you all the best with your future travels and training ventures and I hope to keep seeing you in the winner's circle because people like you are the future of our sport!
Over and out,