Patrick Fahy: Athenry to Aintree

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Pat Fahy, from Moanbawn, is now one of Ireland’s top racehorse trainers.  This success did not come overnight, it is a story of determination, dedication and a love of ponies and horses from an early age.  At eight he held the gate open for Captain Fanshawe of the Galway Blazers who immediately recognised him as ‘young Fahy’ from his brother Gabe.

His early years in Carnaun National School helped nurture his love of horses and ponies. Schoolmaster Finbarr O’Regan had a pony at the school and Pat often followed the hunt beside his teacher.  On one occasion Pat, having got an hour off from school, rode as far as Derrydonnell after the hunt.  The pony was so tired he had to leave it in a field and return next day to collect it.

Another important element in this story which Pat will never forget is the help of friends and neighbours, especially Josie ‘Giant’ Duffy who had a piebald pony that Pat used to ride.  He has never forgotten this and now has a point-to-point horse called ‘Black Mountain Giant’.

After Carnaun School Pat went to Presentation College, Athenry. Here he proved to be a good hurler, not surprising, since his father Padraic was also very handy with the stick and represented Galway.  Pat represented both his school and club but his real interest was in horses.  While at school most of his spare time was given to riding ponies for Martin Cullinane, Mountbrowne.

By the time Pat had reached fourteen he had moved on to horses.  He competed in places like Millstreet against the likes of Eddie Macken, Paul Daragh and James Kiernan.  Pat learned a great deal here watching them ‘school the horses before they’d go in’.
At fifteen he rode his first point-to-point winner.  He was later to have problems with his weight but he was accumulating the knowledge he would need to become a top trainer.

Pat started work in Thermo King when he was eighteen. However, the outdoor life was too strong an attraction.  He started work with the local and legendary Tommy O’Brien where he rode about fifteen horses.  His first winner was Stormy Haven, owned by Athenry man Pat Byrne.

Pat added to his store of knowledge with other trainers: Paddy Mullins, T.V. O’Brien, Willie Mullins and Paddy Hughes.  It was with Paddy Hughes that his career began to take off.  ‘I drove the lorry, I was the head lad, I dealt with owners, I rode my first winner, I schooled with Frank Berry, did a lot of racing and riding.  There was a lot of Cheltenham horses trained there, it was a top class yard’.  Antartic Bay, Silent Member and Potato Merchant were some of the winners he rode for Pat Hughes.

At this stage, Pat had fallen in love with Natalie Smyth, from Leighlinbridge.  They got married and Pat went to work for Anglo-Irish Meats.  He also took a course in life assurance salesmanship and believes that this was invaluable later on as it helped to deal with people.

However, Pat returned to racing with Tom Kidd, a veteran Carlow trainer, and farmer, and then on to Jim Bolger and Paddy Mullins.  Pat has his father-in-law, the late Wesley Smyth, in particular to thank for his move into training.  This part of the story is best told in Pat’s own words.  ‘I was happy enough preparing half-breds and young jumpers for the sales in Goresbridge, until, I came across my first racehorse Cobblers Rock.  Wesley kept at me to take out a licence and I resisted for quite a while because I didn’t want the hassle.  Eventually, he encouraged me to build eight boxes and lay out gallops.  Both Wesley and Martin Cullinane in Athenry – whose place I haunted as a youngster – made sure I had the minimum six horses required for the turf club to grant my licence.’

With the expertise of Wesley Smyth they went on to install a wide range of top facilities such as lunging rings, paddocks, gallops, big barns and an isolation yard.  The gallops were dug out by a neighbour, who had the machinery.
Success came fast, Pat recalls: ‘It was a real pleasure to train my first winners for Martin Cullinane; Forest Feather won at the East Galway point-to-point in May ’92, while Sheer Mist got Pat his first win on the racetrack in a hurdle race in Tipperary.

One of Pat’s most famous horses is NUAFFE, owned by John Doyle, a native of Coolarne, near Athenry who was at school with Pat and played on the same hurling team.  This horse came to him as a seven year old in October ’92, without a win since taking a point-to-point as a youngster.  Pat recalls ‘He obliged for us, first time out, in a point-to-point at Ballon and then began to pay his way on the racetrack too’.

Nuaffe had further successes at Navan, where he landed the Santa Claus Handicap Chase and the prestigious Thystes Chase at Gowran Park.  Then the runners-up spot in the Jameson Irish Grand National put Nuaffe and Pat firmly on the national stage.

The Horse continued to improve with Pat concentrating on his jumping.  Further successes were recorded in The Tripleprint in Cheltenham, The Hennessy at Leopardstown and the Greenalls at Haydock.  These victories put Nuaffe firmly in for a run in the Aintree Grand National.

Pat and Natalie had 28 winners in three seasons.  He is now the proprietor of a twenty eight box complex – Ellen Lodge Stables outside Loughlin bridge, Co. Carlow where he has over twenty horses in training.

Pat is confident in his ability.  ‘Confidence came into the owners I knew if I got a horse I could get the best out of it.  There was only one way to do it and I had seen how it was done’.

The Pat Fahy story is one of success, due to determination, hard work, great ability and the help of family and friends.  Pat does not forget this.  He keeps in close contact with parents Padraic and Teresa and also Gabe, who still breaks horses for him, Also Martin Cullinane who was such a help in the early days.  He takes an annual trip home for the Galway Races every summer, where he likes to have a few runners.

To Pat, Natalie, Conor and Niamh we wish you success in the future.  Athenry is proud of you!

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About this record

Written by Dermot Monaghan

Published here 09 Feb 2021 and originally published August 1995

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