Q&A: Kate Harrington - ‘Everything is geared towards March 16th and being at Cheltenham to defend the Gold Cup’

Kate Harrington, 27, is assistant trainer to her mother Jessica, who will have a strong team, headed by Gold Cup hero Sizing John, operating over the festive period. Kate is also a prolific winner as a jockey herself

Q&A: Kate Harrington - ‘Everything is geared towards March 16th and being at Cheltenham to defend the Gold Cup’

Q: When did the Christmas buzz start to come from racing rather than Santa?

A: I was around 11. I distinctly remember the excitement of Moscow Flyer running against Istabraq in 2000. On Christmas morning we’re up at the crack of dawn with all the horses. There’s always a great atmosphere around the yard. People love coming in to get out of the house for a few hours and avoid peeling the vegetables!

Q: The yard has had some wonderful success at this time of year. What stands out for you?

A: Moscow was always a big buzz but Our Duke winning the Grade 1 novice last year was great. He had only run once over fences before that and it was so exciting to see the potential he had. He showed that in the Irish Grand National then. He is coming along well now after his back operation. He has cantered a week and we’ve upped his cantering again. With that operation, they don’t stop moving, they keep walking to keep all the muscles flexible. So we are very happy with him.

Q: You are going into this period with your strongest team ever.

A: Yeah. We are going in there with hopefully Sizing John, Supasundae, Jezki. Then we’ve got a very, very exciting bunch of maiden hurdle runners. A lot of our maidens have been a little bit late to come out this year. We were a little behind with them probably and then we were held up due to renovations on our gallop. The last few weeks we’ve been in full working order. A lot of the horses had been needing a run and hopefully, they’ll be in top form for Christmas.

Q: Sizing John was the 2017 Horse of the Year after winning three Gold Cups and looked as good as ever in winning the John Durkan Chase on his seasonal reappearance. How did he come out of that?

A: He has done really well. He’s bucking and squealing coming in after riding out every day so we couldn’t be happier with him. Everything is geared towards the 16th of March and being at Cheltenham to defend the Gold Cup so if he was to miss a day’s work between now and the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown, we would have no problem holding off until the Irish Gold Cup in February. There is no pressure on us to run and we won’t be taking any chances. Physically though, he’s a much stronger horse this year than he was last year and in great form.

Sizing John on the way to winning the Gold Cup
Sizing John on the way to winning the Gold Cup

Q: Does he get special treatment?

A: Yes, I suppose he does a little bit. Our jockey Robert Power always asks why he’s the only one with a quarter-sheet riding out when it’s cold but he likes to be nice and warm. He gets a few extra carrots. He lives about a 10-minute walk away from the house, right down the other end of the farm, where it’s really quiet. He gets a little bit anxious when there’s too much going on. He’s a lovely horse to work with. He is always trying to give you more.

Q: How did you discover he likes Katy Perry and Ed Sheeran?

A: It was after the Irish Gold Cup and Puppy (Power) was playing it on his phone. He loves Katy Perry. He was playing the song and he looks at John and says ‘I think he likes it.’ How you know John is in good form is that the head starts going left and right. It was going up to ninety so we kept doing it. He’s funny. Sometimes, when we’re walking in after work and I don’t have my phone or my battery is dead, he’s nearly turning around to look at me to ask ‘Where’s my music?’

Q: Your mother was picked on two Olympic teams and you were a European Championship bronze medallist before going all-in on racing. Why did you make that decision?

A: When I finished college, I worked at home for six months and then I went to work full-time with Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle. I was trying to do my event work at lunchtime and it was just a bit too much. Then when my Dad (Johnny) got sick, something had to give so I went completely for racing. It’s been great. I had an amazing time working for Aidan for three years and I learned so much there. One thing was not to overcomplicate things. Keep everything simple and always go back to the basics.

Q: What is your mother’s best trait?

A: Her energy. For someone who’s 70 years of age, I don’t know how she does everything she does. She has amazing enthusiasm for each individual horse. Be it Thursday afternoon at Clonmel or the Friday at Cheltenham, she always wants that horse to perform to the best of their ability and treats them individually.

Jessica Harrington with Kate
Jessica Harrington with Kate

Q: You have ridden plenty of bumper winners, which is no mean feat when you’re taking on Patrick Mullins, Nina Carberry, Katie Walsh, Lisa O’Neill and Jamie Codd.

A: It’s very competitive. We have a few nice ones hopefully for Christmas though.

Q: Do you get to do Christmas Day in the traditional sense ahead of such an important week for the yard?

A: My sister Emma, who is a major part of the team at home, will have about 25 of us for Christmas dinner at her place down the road. We have a great day. Mum loves Christmas, she gets very into it.

Q: What’s your Christmas wish for the week?

A: That’s simple. Have a winner at Leopardstown!

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