Trainer John O’Shea confident a good foundation has been laid at Godolphin’s Australian stables   Leave a comment

Trainer John O’Shea confident a good foundation has been laid at Godolphin’s Australian stables

Godolphin international trainer John O'Shea , Darren Beadman ,Tom Ward and Alex Ferguson

Godolphin international trainer John O’Shea , Darren Beadman ,Tom Ward and Alex Ferguson ( trackwork rider ) at the Agnes Banks training facility. Source: News Limited

It only takes one look. On an almost achingly perfect autumn morning, the view as the final thoroughbreds complete their work at Godolphin’s private training facility at Agnes Banks on the cities’ north-western outskirts takes your breath away.

Looking down past Osborne Park’s pristine cottages, office buildings and barns, the track is nestled in lush surroundings. In its entirety the complex resembles not so much a typical Australian stable as a country club. Not a loose hay bale or rusty old piece of gear in sight.

To those who have considered Godolphin – previously under the Darley label – a foreign interloper, the luxurious property might seem the ultimate expression of imposed wealth. Paid for with a flourish of Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s platinum credit card. A complex where horses are trained for brief cameos on the track before they are sent to the breeding barn or leave for foreign conquests.

But at The Championships, and beyond, Godolphin is eager to give their re-branded stable an Australian accent. To demonstrate they are here to race horses, not merely augment their bloodstock business.

In every sense the best man to provide that Aussie accent is John O’Shea. The no-nonsense Queenslander who assumed the head training job at Godolphin’s Australian operation 12 months ago.

Trackwork at Godolphin’s Agnes Banks facility.

Trackwork at Godolphin’s Agnes Banks facility. Source: News Corp Australia

O’Shea will today saddle up Sydney Cup favourite Hartnell who, with four other Godolphin horses, was sent to Australia to race first, breed later. A form of equine reverse migration. Another of those thoroughbreds Contributor would have been favourite to win the Queen Elizabeth Stakes until he was reported lame on the eve of the race.

‘’The transition (from Darley) to Godolphin means that the boss (Sheikh Mohammed) has really made a vote of confidence in the Australian racing industry,’’ says O’Shea of the decision to trade the breeding label for the racing brand.

Posing for photograph’s in their Godolphin blue under the supervision of two Godolphin PR officers, O’Shea, his assistant Tom Ward, track rider Alex Ferguson and jockey’s manager Darren Beadman look as much like a Formula One pit crew as a stable team. Fitting given Godolphin’s image as the Ferrari of horse racing.

O’Shea alternates his days between Osborne Park where horses can train in wide expanses – a particular advantage for imports such as Hartnell unused to busy metropolitan tracks – and the Warwick Farm stables.

‘’This is the pinnacle of a racing facility in this country,’’ he says. ’’It’s just a very special location. No time constraints, no facility constraints you have in a public training centre. That helps tremendously.’’

O’Shea compares his role at Godolphin with that of a football coach. ‘’I still have a hands on component in that I like of an afternoon just to get a runner for the week and go out walking with the horse,’’ he says. ‘’But the team focus is very important because they do their jobs and it makes what I do very easy.’’

Thus O’Shea is eager to deflect attention to a team that he helped assemble when he accepted the Godfather offer to join Godolphin.

Trainer John O'Shea with 'Private Steer'.

Trainer John O’Shea with ‘Private Steer’. Source: News Corp Australia

‘’It’s not about me,’’ he says. ‘’It’s about the good people that work here and working for a guy (Sheikh Mohammed) whose got a passion for racing equalled by no one else in the world.’’

Yet, as O’Shea strolls up the path from the pristine track in the slow gait that betrays the wear and tear of an impressive junior rugby league career in which he played five-eighth for Queensland, you can’t help reflect on the path he has travelled.

How the 13 year-old kid who mucked out the bush stables near the family home at Mareeba, near Cairns, now controls the fate of millions of dollars of Arab investment.

How the young man who slept on his cousin’s couch while working seven days a week for Gai Waterhouses’s Randwick operation is now in charge of an enterprise even more impressive and lucrative than Sydney racing’s fabled heiress.

The irony that after O’Shea’s first good thing Mushtak was killed in a race fall, and his French-Canadian wife Isabelle worked as a sales clerk at Peters of Kensington to pay the bills, it was a horse named Back In Dubai that helped O’Shea get back on his feet.

Now back in Dubai is O’Shea’s employer Sheik Mohammed. The man who handed him the keys to a thoroughbred Ferrari and expects it to hum.

O’Shea says he has spent just one day with ‘’the boss’’ at the World Cup in Dubai. But he clearly understands the expectations that have come with the job.

‘’There is a consideration that this is something that Sheikh Mohammed is very passionate about,’’ he says. ‘’You have to be very mindful of that. Your main concern is what is in his best interests.’’

Yet given his experience and the thick hide you inevitably develop in a tough industry, you suspect O’Shea is genuine when he says he does not feel any unusual pressure.

‘’If I didn’t think we were able to do the job I wouldn’t have taken it on,’’ he says. ‘’We’ve got the right people around us and I think we’ve laid a good foundation in the last 12 months.

‘’The pressure doesn’t come from within. If you were to sit and read every newspaper and web site you would feel some level of expectation. But that’s not in my nature, so it’s a very relaxed environment.’’

That has not always been the case. Beadman, who was once the subject of a very public spray from the famously fiery O’Shea after butchering a ride in the 2002 Craven Plate, knows better than most the excellence demanded by Godolphin’s head trainer.

On this morning O’Shea’s drive and attention to detail are apparent in the forensic way he quizzes Ward about a jockey who wants to ride at an unacceptable weight. But Beadman gives the impression the trainer’s passion is now fiercely focused.

‘’John’s a tremendous asset to have around,’’ he says. ‘’You can just see in his leadership role, the way he is planning, he’s making sure everyone is putting in 100 per cent.’’

There are some things neither Godolphin’s wealth or O’Shea’s horsemanship can change. Contributor’s scratching was an unexpected blow.

But for Goldolphin, now, it is not all about one race. O’Shea has the green light from Dubai to take the five year-old to Melbourne’s spring carnival for a crack at the Cox Plate.

That is the type of race money can’t buy. But as you take in the splendour of Osborne Park you are well aware it doesn’t hurt.

Originally published as O’Shea has his foot to the floor

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Posted April 11, 2015 by belesprit09 in Uncategorized

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