ELLMARIE HOLDEN, TRAINER
Rookie trainer Ellmarie Holden (27) from Ballyhale in Co Kilkenny got her big break after guiding gelding Abolitionist — owned by her mother, Catherine, and ridden by Rachael Blackmore — to success at the Leinster National recently. And the rising star, who got her restricted trainer’s licence last summer, believes it’s important to give Ireland’s female jockeys a leg-up in their careers too.
WI was brought up with horses from day one. My dad, Paul, had a couple of horses in training with Eoin Doyle, Shark Hanlon and various people. So when he bought a farm a couple of years ago and built a new gallop on it, I was kind of like, “I’ll do the licence if you give me all your horses!” I was always mad to do it; it was just to get the opportunity.
Since getting my licence last year, everyone has been so nice and welcoming. Everyone knows you’re kind of new. It is more of a man’s world, but that never bothered me. Being a trainer definitely isn’t glamorous. You’re up at six to the yard to feed your horses, do a bit of mucking out and ride out a couple of lots. When you’re going racing three or four times a week, you tend to stick to jeans and wellies.
I have Abolitionist in the Grand National on Easter Monday. Between winning the Leinster National, going to Cheltenham with Ex Patriot the week after, and now the Irish National, it’s just been a crazy couple of months. I didn’t expect to even have a runner in the Leinster National, let alone a winner. I don’t know how many horses Rachael Blackmore’s (see page 13) after riding for me now, but she’s been so lucky for me. She’s always been first, second or third. The two of us are just working well together so far.
The secret to being a good trainer is knowing what you have. You can see when a horse is thriving on its work. When the horses are fit and happy and well, that’s when you run them. All horses come and go. You would have your favourites — your little stable stars — but you can’t get too attached. We only have a small number of horses in training at the moment. A couple of people have asked me to train a few horses, but because I don’t have the full licence, I can’t yet.
It’s nice when you’re getting going that it’s just family. I’ve only got one person to give out to me!