Brendan Walsh, who took out his trainer’s license in 2011 and started one horse that year, has never before saddled a horse in a Grade 1 or Grade 2 race, let alone on the world stage. On Friday, he will be represented by Worldly in the Breedersʼ Cup Marathon.
ARCADIA, Calif. — Brendan Walsh, just back from jogging Breeders’ Cup Marathon hopeful Worldly around the Santa Anita Park racing strip on Tuesday morning, could not stop marveling at his good fortune.
“I keep pinching myself to make sure this is real,” said Walsh, 40, a native of County Cork, Ireland who now resides in Louisville, Ky. “When we were kids in Ireland, weʼd watch the Breedersʼ Cup on TV and think what it would be like to have a horse good enough to be there. I could only imagine that someday I could have a horse in one of these races. Iʼm very excited to have this happening so early in my career. Some people go their entire careers and never get this chance. Iʼve had this dream for a long time, and now itʼs coming true. I am on cloud nine.”
Even though Worldly has yet to run farther than 1 1/4 miles, his trainer is high on the horseʼs chances in the 1 ¾-mile test. Wordly is out of multiple Grade 1 winner Urbane, who was second in the 1995 Kentucky Oaks at 1 1/8 miles, and was sired by A.P. Indy, who won the 1992 Breedersʼ Cup Classic and the Belmont Stakes at 1 1/2 miles that same year and also sired 2010 Breedersʼ Cup Marathon winner Eldaafer.
“Iʼve only had this horse since May or June when Mr. [Chad] Schumer bought him from Samantha Siegel. The first time I ran him [in the Prairie Meadows Handicap] he was second to Golden Ticket. The next time out in the [Governorʼs Cup Stakes] at Remington, he was unlucky and lost to Prayer for Relief on the head bob, and then the last time [in the Homecoming Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs] he was beaten only 3 1/2 lengths by [2012 Breedersʼ Cup Classic winner] Fort Larned. So heʼs been running against some of the top horses and after that last race, we had it in the back of our minds that weʼd run in the Marathon,” Walsh said.
“He gives us the impression that heʼd like to stay, and heʼs bred to stay. Heʼs the type of horse who will give himself every chance to win. The Marathon, being so long, is a funny race, so you never know. Worldly is a legitimate horse.”
After completing the course at Irelandʼs jockey school and finishing high school, Walsh took the stud management course at Darley and went to work for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoumʼs Darley Irish division at Kildangan.
”I spent my winters there breaking babies and riding racehorses, and in the summers Iʼd flip-flop and work for trainer John Hammond in England,” he said. “One winter I went to Dubai and worked for Godolphin at the time Tom Albertrani headed up the training. I ended up spending nine winters in Dubai back in the day when they had some very good horses.”
Walsh traveled with their horses to racetracks around the world, and was with Daylami (1st, 1999 Breedersʼ Cup Turf), Fantastic Light (1st, 2001 Turf and 5th, 2000 Turf), Street Cry (3rd, 2000 Juvenile) and Zosima (5th, 2003 Juvenile Fillies), among others, when they came to America to race.
After moving on from Godolphin and Darley, Walsh went to work as the assistant to English up-and-coming trainer Mark Wallace.
“We had the European champion sprinter Benbaun. But I knew I wanted to come to the United States, so I got a job with Eddie Kenneally and was his assistant for four years. Thatʼs where I got my American experience,” Walsh said. “I went everywhere with Eddieʼs horses and then decided it was time to go out on my own.”
He took out his trainerʼs license in 2011 and started one horse, who came in second, that year.
Business began to pick up for Walsh in 2012 as he attracted owners and saddled 51 horses with four wins, four seconds and eight thirds with $149,905 in purses. So far this year he has more than doubled his wins and almost doubled his earnings from the year before, and Worldly has two seconds and a third in three starts since joining his barn.
“Brendan has done an outstanding job with Worldly, an absolutely spectacular job,” said Schumer, who is experiencing his first Breeders’ Cup as an owner. “This horse has flourished under his care and I give all the credit to him for Worldly’s turn around. Brendan is extremely knowledgeable and is an excellent horseman.”
WORLDLY ON THE TRACK AT SANTA ANITA
Photo courtesy of Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing
Walsh currently trains for seven or eight separate owners and has between 10 to 12 horses in the barn. He also works as his own exercise rider.
“Iʼd like to have more horses and am trying to build it up, but I donʼt want more than a number in the twenties because I like to be around all of my horses every day and give each one personalized care,” he said. “Itʼs a big advantage to be able to get on them in the mornings. I rode some really good horses, so I like to think that I can recognize whatʼs going on with them — when theyʼre right and when theyʼre not right. No matter what level of race theyʼre in, you only want to run them when theyʼre right. If you can ride them yourself, it gives you a bit of an edge. I can see and feel a lot more from the horseʼs back than from the trainerʼs stand.”
Even though he traveled for years with the Godolphin horses to the Breedersʼ Cup and other major events in the world, this time it will be much different for Walsh.
“Iʼve been around a bunch of Breedersʼ Cups, Japan Cups and the like, and I am having flashbacks seeing all of the horses with the Godolphin blankets and all of their emblems this week. It sure does bring back old times,” he said. “But itʼs very nice to be going for my own gig now. This is why I started training.”
While at Santa Anita this week, Worldly is tucked into the barn of fellow Irishman Simon Callaghan, who will saddle two Breeders’ Cup runners — Ontology in the Juvenile Turf and No Jet Lag in the Mile.
“Simon and I were assistants together in Newmarket and we’ve remained very good friends. It’s hard to believe that both of us are here with horses good enough to be in the Breeders’ Cup. Who would have ever thought? It’s funny the way things work out, and they’ve worked out for the good. I am truly grateful. I can’t stop pinching myself.”
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Courtesy of Adam Mooshian