Anne Gaffney has Just Joan in partnership with her sister-in-law Marie and their husbands, brothers Michael and Tom, owners of Churchtown House Stud, North Cork. Check out Anne’s interview below with the Irish Field.
How did you get into racehorse ownership?
We have a small stud farm, Churchtown House Stud in north Cork, and we breed for sale. We retain a filly from bloodlines we would like to keep.
What was your best day at the races and why?
When we had the first win with Just Joan in Listowel this past June – it was a real thrill. Her mother Wanna won in Killarney carrying our colours, same jockey and trainer. It was special to get her filly winning as well.
What is the biggest drawback about being a racehorse owner?
The financial costs are a drawback but for us it’s an investment in our future. Competition is severe as everyone is searching for that elusive blacktype.
In your experience, which racecourse in Ireland treats owners the best and why?
We have been always been impressed by how well owners have been treated at the racecourses we have attended. Killarney has a lovely feel to it and Mallow (Cork) is exceptional. They have a programme to really encourage owners to go racing. Recently they had a Sunday event for owners and trainers, which included a lovely lunch. It was a great opportunity to meet other owners in a very convivial setting. Minister Michael Creed attended also. We are very happy generally with our experiences and of course the prize money, even for the lesser races, is so good in Ireland.
Flat or jump racing, which do you prefer and why?
Flat racing is our business and has always held a fascination for me.
What qualities do you look for in a trainer?
The free flow of information is very important between owner and trainer and Fozzy (Stack) is very good at that. The trainer really has to enter into a structured plan with the owners for their horse. In our case we want to race our filly and then hope to keep her as a broodmare. The trainer must know what the owner’s purpose is – is it for fun or for a breeding future?
What improvements would you like to see racecourses in Ireland do for owners?
Mostly things are fine, but sometimes catering can be lacking, especially for racing staff. I can understand for track management that there isn’t always a sufficient crowd to generate enough business for a caterer, but for owners a hot meal is appreciated. We have a young family so all kids facilities are appreciated.
If you have a winner you are always made a fuss of.
What significance do your colours hold?
They are my choice. I like the Cross of Lorraine; the blue is strong and the yellow is for the sunshine in which we hope to run!
When buying a horse, what do you look for?
When buying fillies we place a great emphasis on good broodmare sires.
What horses do you currently have in training?
We have one filly in training with Tommy Stack at present.
Have you any horses to look forward to? (i.e. young/unbroken horses)
Not as yet in our ownership but we sold a lovely Galileo last year, who is in training with John Gosden, Great Sound. We bred Roxity, who won first time out in France.
What would help to make Irish racing more competitive for the smaller owner/trainer?
A return of syndicates would be a great help.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of becoming a racehorse owner?
Go for it. It’s a great business to be involved in – there is just such a buzz. Be prepared for bad days; it’s so difficult for trainers to keep horses sound physically and mentally. They are not robots, they are bloodstock. The costs are high but it’s well worth it.