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Updated: April 12, 2018 at 3:32 pm

John Kennedy | Amy Lynam photo

By Alayna Cullen

Young Guns is a series where we endeavour to find out more about some of the young professionals in the industry. Today we speak with John Kennedy, manager, Castlehyde Stud-Coolmore Group.

TDN: What was your path into the industry?

JK: My father is a small breeder, and we have always had horses at home, so I suppose I grew up in the industry as much as anything. Following a stint in University College Dublin, I applied for the Irish National Stud course. The next six months flew by, I made friends for life and got great exposure which comes in handy on a daily basis. Sally Carroll and the team at the INS do an amazing job, it is easy to see why the course is held in such high regard within the Industry.

TDN: Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

JK: I’ve been lucky enough to meet some great people along the way and a good few have helped me get to the point I am now, Luke Barry, James Hanly and Maureen Stanhope to name but a few. However, it was my time at Yeomanstown Stud with the O’Callaghan family that was a pretty vital stage on my learning curve. It was hard work but a brilliant experience, they run a great show and it’s easy to see why they are so successful.

TDN: What does your role involve?

JK: It’s a varied role and one you would never get bored with. I can be doing any number of things on a daily basis- from being on the farm and carrying out all the day to day duties- checking the mares, assessing the new arrivals, stallion management and the paperwork, to actually being out and about at the sales or elsewhere. No two days are the same and it’s a huge team effort- I’m still relatively new at Castlehyde and the staff there have been a huge help in getting my head round everything.

TDN: What challenges do you face in your role?

JK: Like I said- every day is different and with horses they are always trying to test you with new problems so what new challenges do I face? The list is endless!

TDN: What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?

JK: Learn from the best but trust your own judgement at the same time. We work in an industry that is based on a lot of personal opinions so if you don’t back yourself then no one else will! Travel is an amazing thing, I was lucky enough to spend some time in Kentucky for sales and yearling prep. It was a great experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone that is in a position to do so. I would also stress the importance of hands on experience, that and experimenting with your own money are the best learning tools!

TDN: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the industry and how would you solve it?

JK: I think the breeding industry is generally in pretty good shape- I suppose one of the issues is attracting new owners into the game and getting new people to invest. Surely the best way to entice fresh investment is to actually advertise the success stories a bit better- the successful breeding and pinhooking results should be used in our shop window as one of our key advertising tools to inspire and sell the industry.

TDN: What do you think horse racing’s perception is for the general public?

JK: It’s evident that the general public’s perception of horse racing is that it is an elitist sport, and so not accessible to the man on the street. Horse Racing Ireland and Great British Racing are doing a lot to help with this topic and widen the sports appeal. Initiatives such as the two year old auction race programme are great incentives to allow smaller owners and trainers to be competitive.

TDN: How would you attract more young people into the workforce?

JK: I’d show them how a role in the breeding sector can be so varied. Young people generally have a desire to travel. A career in the breeding industry can take you to many different corners of the world, in many different roles, learning many different skill sets. It’s an industry that can offer you a brilliant lifestyle (trust me on this one!) and we should be using that angle as a selling point.

TDN: Who is your favorite racehorse of all time and why?

JK: Hurricane Fly. A solid source of income during the college years! He had a serious constitution and a will to win like no other. We all want to breed good looking, fluid moving horses but at the end of the day they have to perform on the track and he sure did that.

TDN: Tell us something about yourself that not many people would know.

JK: It’s not common knowledge but once or twice a year I really enjoy a pint!

TDN: What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?

JK: To breed or pinhook a Royal Ascot winner and get to see more of my brother who is also busy carving a career for himself in the Sporthorse Industry!


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