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Paddy Twomey

It was during the summer that Paddy Twomey started to think Breeders’ Cup thoughts.  Pearls Galore had a lot of the attributes that you look for in a potential Breeders’ Cup Mile candidate, went his reasoning.  The American style of racing would suit her: fast ground, tight track, fast pace.  A classy filly with a sprinter’s speed who stays a mile.  It was after she won the Fairy Bridge Stakes at Tipperary in August that the trainer’s thoughts crystalised.

“We were going to go for the First Lady Stakes at Keeneland in early October,” says Twomey.  “But, after discussing it with Andreas (Putsch, owner) we decided to go for the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp instead.  She had to run well there if she was going to earn her place in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.  There’s no point in going anywhere just to make up the numbers.  I was thinking that she had to finish in the first two.” 

On unsuitably heavy ground at Longchamp, the Invincible Spirit filly probably put up the best performance of her life in finishing second behind Space Blues.

“Space Blues is a seriously impressive racehorse.  And we’re probably going to meet him again on Saturday.  But I’m hoping that we will be helped by the faster ground and the sharper track.  There are just 280 metres between the home turn and the winning post at Del Mar.”

That’s Paddy Twomey for you.  Attention to detail.  He spent the summer in Del Mar in 2002, with trainer Laura De Seroux, who had a star-studded team at the time, including Grade 1 winners Astra and Dublino, and the 2002 Horse of the Year, Azeri.  

It isn’t the realisation of a long-held dream, going back to Del Mar with a horse who has a real chance of winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile.  Twomey is way too practical for the harbouring of such romantic notions.  It would be nice, he admits.  There would be a synergy to it.  But it is more about doing the best for your horses, running them in the right races, facilitating and enabling them to go as high as they can go, achieve what they can achieve at the highest level that they can reach, while at the same time not over-facing them.  It’s a judgement call, but you only compete in races you think you can win.  You don’t go along just for the journey. 

It is a philosophy that has served Paddy Twomey well through the years.  Trust your judgement.  He was still in school when he bought back a filly that he had always liked, a filly that his dad had had, who ran down the field in her only run on the racecourse, and bred her to the Rathbarry Stud stallion Taufan.  The resultant foal was Tagula who, trained by Ian Balding, won the July Stakes at Newmarket and the Prix Morny at Deauville in 1995 as a juvenile.  Paddy Twomey was a Group 1-winning breeder as a teenager.

He took out a permit to train in 2012.  Hunting Goddess ran in a maiden at Dundalk that April and, racing in Twomey’s own colours, she duly won, surprising most, as evidenced by an SP of 28/1.  He took out his full trainer’s licence in 2016, but still the numbers were tight.  More snipe-shooter than blunderbuss.  He ran Decrypt in the Irish 2000 Guineas in May 2019, and he finished third.  He ran Silk Forest in the Listed Garnet Stakes that October, and she won easily.

“There are four sticks in the parade ring with numbers on them, one, two, three and four.  After the race, if you have finished in the first four, you go back in and you unsaddle beside one of them.  Of course, you’re aiming for the number one spot, but I’m disappointed after any race if I’m not unsaddling beside one of those sticks.” 

The stats back up that philosophy.  Paddy Twomey’s strike rates in Ireland for the last four years are 25%, 29%, 22% and 29%.  Those strike rates are off the charts.  To put them into context, this season, no other trainer in Ireland who has had 30 runners or more has a strike rate of greater than 20%.  Twomey’s strike rate is 9% higher than the next best this year, and they have been thus for years. 

Right horses, right races.

The figures are progressive too.  In 2017, he had just one winner.  In 2018 he had seven, in 2019 he had 11 and last year he had 16. 

“I said at the start of this year, if we could beat last season’s total of 16, and if we could have our first Group winner, that would be a successful season.”

He has had 18 winners so far this year, and he had his first Group winner when Sonaiyla won the Group 3 Ballyogan Stakes at The Curragh in early June.  Four more Group race strikes since, Le Petite Coco twice and Pearls Galore twice, and you can label the 2021 season an unqualified success.  As well as that, Limiti Di Greccio looked like an exciting filly when she won the Listed Staffordstown Stud Stakes at The Curragh, Beamish looked like an exciting colt when he won his maiden on his only run to date at Leopardstown in June.  There is lots to look forward to next season.

There is also lots to look forward to this season though, this week.  Pearls Galore is fit and well and ready to go, and the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar on Saturday could be the right race for her.

© The Sunday Times, 31st October 2021