Q: What was your childhood ambition?
A: To be an amateur jockey and train and breed horses like my father.
Q: Growing up, who was your sporting hero?
A: In hurling it was Donie Nealon, he was our neighbour and scored three goals in the 1964 All-Ireland hurling final. In racing, Pat Taaffe was my hero. My father ran two horses in a maiden hurdle that Arkle and Pat Taaffe also ran in. They were revered in our house.
Q: Do you have a mentor?
A: My father was a very good judge of a horse and had great skill with problem horses and I learned a lot from him growing up.
Q: What or where is your happy place?
A: Home is always happy for me.
Q: What sparked your love of racing?
A: My dad’s involvement with horses. Horses and racing were always a part of my life for as long as I can remember. He bred and trained two Cheltenham Festival winners and his cousins were Martin and Tim Molony who were champion jockeys – so we ate, drank, and slept racing and breeding.
Q: What horse put you on the map?
Common World set me up. I won my first Stakes race on the Flat and a Group race in Germany with him. He took us everywhere – we raced in Ireland, England, France, Germany, and Sweden. He was owned by Mark and Theresa Costello two great Nenagh natives – Mark is the Deputy Editor of the Irish Field.
Q: Who is your favourite horse?
A: Gordon Lord Byron – he has brought us on a brilliant journey. He cost €2000 to buy and despite a serious injury, he went on to win three Group 1 races including racing five times in Hong Kong and was the first Irish-trained horse to win a Group 1 in Australia - the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill Gardens in 2014. My secretary Jessica bought him, and she co-owns the horse with her dad, Morgan Cahalan – great neighbours of mine who run the local point-to-point in Ballingarry.
Q: Describe the feeling of training your first winner?
A: Agent Scully won in Sligo ridden by Pat Shanahan in 1998. She has been unlucky in her previous run at Galway so when she crossed the line in front we were absolutely delighted. There was a great sense of satisfaction to get her to the racecourse in one piece as she had some health problems.
Q: What is your most memorable racing moment?
A: There are a few – Having a Cheltenham winner was always something I dreamed off - Silver Jaro won the 2008 Vincent O´Brien County Handicap. The day that Gordon Lord Byron won the Qatar Prix de la Foret in Longchamp in 2012. We had to find investors to get him there, but I was confident that he would win so the satisfaction was unbelievable.
Q: What is your favourite racecourse in Ireland?
A: I cannot make up my mind between Cork and Tipperary. I am biased of course!!! (Tom’s son Andrew manages Cork and Tipperary racecourses).
Q: If you weren’t a trainer what would you be?
A: A farmer/breeder.
Q: If you could train one horse, what would it be?
A: Goshen – he is a super racehorse and I’m looking forward to seeing him next season.
Q: How do you cope with pressure?
A: I pass it on.
Q: What mental preparation do you do for the big days?
A: We do all the normal things and pay attention to the small details. Once I am satisfied, I have done everything I can do to make it happen, it is over to the jockey and horse.
Q: How do you stay motivated?
A: I am always optimistic and always hungry for the next winner.
Q: How do you deal with dips in form?
A: You have to be patient in racing – a lot of times it doesn’t happen. Training racehorses can be months of hard work for moments of glory, so you must savour them when they come.
Q: Outside of racing, what is your favourite sporting moment?
A: I had some great days in Croke Park with Tipperary, but my greatest sporting moment was to see the tears come down the Bull Hayes face when they played the National Anthem in Croke Park before Ireland beat England.
Q: Can you give us a Netflix/film recommendation?
A: Black 47.
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
Q: Desert island discs – name your favourite three songs?
A: Raglan Road – Luke Kelly; My Hometown – Bruce Springsteen; Play Me – Neil Diamond.
Q: What person do you admire the most and why?
A: In my lifetime, the person I have admired the most is Nelson Mandela. He endured so much hardship and torture and he was never bitter, and he was a wonderful statesman.
Q: Favourite dinner?
A: Bacon and cabbage. I am a man of simple pleasures.
Q: Where is your favourite place to go on holidays?
A: I love Dingle and Westport, but Renvyle in Connemara is my favourite.
Q: What ambitions do you still have?
A: To avoid Covid-19 and to train a Classic winner.
Q: What is the hidden gem of your home county?
A: The look out at Portroe – it is beautiful.
Q: When you think of your home what immediately springs to mind?
A: My wife and family and our dog Puddles.
Q: How are you occupying your time during the Covid-19 restrictions?
A: We are spring cleaning around the farm and getting through a list of jobs that have been put on the long finger.
Q: If you had one piece of advice for everyone during these worrying times of Covid-19, what would it be?
A: Follow the advice from the Chief Medical Officer and Government and stay safe, we will all get through this together.
Q: If you were to go back to when you were 20 years old and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: Think positively. It won’t always be dark at six o’clock in the evening.
- Horse Racing Ireland