Intrepid former jockey eager for new challenge
Donie Fahy: "we believe we can create something very special"
PICTURE: David Dew (racingpost.com/photos) Intrepid former jockey eager for new challenge
By Caoimhe Doherty 12:42PM 2 SEP 2016
GERRARDSTOWN HOUSE STUD in Dunshauglin, County Meath, quietly changed hands at the end of 2015 with Frank Fahy's name now sitting above the door. The story continues as his son Donie, the former jockey and Mongol Derby champion, has taken over the reins of the operation.
The property, which boasts a magnificent 180 acres of quality limestone land, was previously under the sole care of Robert and Amber Byrne, who run Platinum Bloodstock from Gerrardstown. Although the farm has changed ownership, the Byrnes have stayed on to help manage the stud and, along with Fahy, will continue to consign both Gerrardstown's and outside clients' stock under their Platinum banner.
"We have a lovely consignment for all of this year's yearling sales," says Donie Fahy. "Platinum Bloodstock will offer 15 yearlings which are made up of a combination of homebreds, pinhooks and our clients' stock. We're lucky enough to get cracking right away."
Fahy has grand plans for the farm and, between himself and Robert Byrne, they aim to increase the productivity and services of Gerrardstown.
"We want the farm to be productive year-round – the boarding and breeding season is the bread and butter but we'll be consigning too, and we're putting in an all-weather gallop so we can break and pre-train and provide a whole package from new-born foal to the racehorse ready to train," he says. "We'll cater to the individual – and that is both the horse and the owner."
Jockey on a journey
Fahy's journey from jockey to stud manager has been a remarkable one, as he relates: "I started as an amateur for Tony Mullins and got plenty of rides for Tony and Mouse Morris at the time, although sadly never rode a winner for either of them!
"I then went to Colm Murphy and within a month rode my first winner on Irish Raptor. I suffered a lot of injuries at the time and broke my collarbone three times in one year and was very close to calling it quits, but decided to give it one last go over in the UK."
Fahy joined Evan Williams and the partnership got off to a fine start when Fahy rode 34 winners in his first British-based season and finished second in the conditional jockeys' title. After riding out his claim he remembers "playing with pulling stumps, but I gave myself the challenge of riding a fully licensed term injury-free".
Only a month into that challenge he broke his back in a fall at Ludlow in October 2011. Three months of relative stillness ensued, in order for bones to knit and heal before Fahy expressed a wish to go to Oaksey House in Lambourn to continue his recuperation. He was determined to beat the 12-month timeframe predicted for a back-to-race-riding recovery.
"I stayed in Lambourn for three months at Oaksey House and it's a fantastic facility that provides the best of rehab," he says. "I definitely wouldn't have got back [to fitness] as quickly were it not for the help of on-site physios, conditioning coaches and other staff."
In the meantime, Fahy had set himself a challenge.
"At the beginning of December I got a phone call," he says. "It was one month after the accident and I was quite low at the time. Richie Killoran sent me a video clip of the Mongol Derby and I rang him straight away to ask when we were doing it."
The pair undertook the arduous eight-day trek through 1,000km of the Mongolian Steppe in 2012 and it turned out to give Fahy his first winner back in the saddle.
"It was the first thing that gave me a shake-up and it was the best thing that happened to me at the time," he recalls.
The next chapter
Fahy's winning streak continued when he returned to regular riding, with Andy Hobbs providing the jockey with his first winner under rules on the same day he returned from his Mongol expedition. The mare he won on, Faith Jicaro, also provided Fahy with his last winner before he hung up his boots in 2013, having completed that injury-free season after returning from Asia.
He says: "It was a very busy year in terms of the number of rides, but there were not enough winners so I knew I had to finish but that begged the question, what next?"
As is so often the case, the Irish National Stud course proved to be an influential step in his career, igniting a passion for breeding and production. After a season of yearling prep and sales at Gerry Dilger's Dromoland Farm in Kentucky, Fahy returned to Ireland and joined the foaling and breaking team at Coolmore, eventually working in the offices there.
"The last 12 years has snowballed and now we have Gerrardstown," he said. "We're all fresh and eager to make it a success. Over the years the farm has bred and consigned a number of big winners, it's a fantastic opportunity and we believe we can build on those foundations to create something very special."
If Fahy can recover from serious injury to conquer one of the most gruelling races in the world, he should take stud management in his stride.