Racehorse trainers are going out of business at an alarming rate. Some of the most high profile trainers have voiced their fears and expressed concern at how rising costs endanger their very livelihood, and that of those who work for them.
Donald McCain has grown up surrounded by horses, his late father being the man who trained Red Rum to three Grand National victories. Last week Donald junior received news that is a body blow to his training operation.
Paul and Clare Rooney have been major supporters of McCain. They have told the trainer they will be removing fifty two of their horses from his stables in Cheshire. Every single horse they had there. That’s a dramatic action.
Now for all I know there has been a problem between the owners and trainer. Perhaps something is amiss that few of us know about. Maybe Paul Rooney feels his horses should have been winning more races than they have. I’ve no idea what the reasoning is. I do know that such an action will have a major knock on effect at the stables and in the locality.
Think of the loyal stable staff who may be laid off. The ancillary staff such the local farrier or blacksmith, the attending vet, those who provide the feed for the horses. This withdrawal of fifty horses will threaten the livelihood and employment of many people.
Were I wealthy enough to own thoroughbred racehorses I would spread the load. I would place different horses with different trainers. Not least because I would want to witness and compare how different trainers go about their business. That will, of course, have to remain a dream for me. But for McCain the nightmare has just begun and I feel for a man who I’ve never met, but who always comes over as friendly, knowledgeable about his horses and seemingly a more diplomatic man than his late, lovable but cantankerous father.
McCain told the Racing Post: “I had a meeting with Paul on Thursday and he said he was going to move a large number of horses. I requested some of the ones on the list should stay for various reasons, but after much thought I was informed on Sunday evening they had decided to move all their horses elsewhere and start afresh.
“Of course, it’s their prerogative and I wish them every success. I knew this was a risk when becoming so involved with one big owner, but it was an opportunity to buy the type of horses I’d always wanted to train.”
“Obviously, this was a huge blow. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time training for Paul and Clare and would like to think I leave them with a really nice bunch of high-quality horses.
“I firmly believe that among them there is a Grade 1 hurdler and a serious Grand National contender.”
McCain did put too many eggs in one basket. So, it seems, did Paul and Clare Rooney. As McCain says, the couple own the horses so it is their right to choose where they are trained. The world of National Hunt racing awaits to see which opposing trainer or trainers will now be looking after those same horses.
My thoughts are with Donald McCain and his stable staff. To see one horse leave is upsetting. To witness the removal of fifty two will be heartbreaking for all concerned.
I hope other owners rally round and send their horses to McCain. If not, I fear one of the most famous names in the history of training will vanish forever.