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'Money won't buy the enjoyment that we got out of Limerick, this is a passion for us'

Master McShee has provided trainer Paddy Corkery with Grade 1 success and the horse of a lifetime.

Master McShee en route to winning at Leopardstown in December 2020.
Master McShee en route to winning at Leopardstown in December 2020.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

THE SUCCESS ARRIVED on St Stephen’s Day at Limerick.

The celebrations travelled further afield to Las Vegas.

When Paddy Corkery became a Grade 1 winning racing trainer, it was with Master McShee. His wife Deirdre is the named owner, it’s a sporting pursuit that is a natural focus at home in Villierstown in West Waterford, but it wasn’t the only landmark day for their household in December.

A week before, his son John got married in Doolin in Clare. Honeymoon plans meant he was Stateside when word filtered through of his father’s winner in the €100k steeplechase that was the feature as the Limerick Christmas Festival commenced.

“He had landed in Vegas when he got the result,” says Paddy.

“It was a pity he missed it but look he was there for a couple of wins in 2020, like at Christmas in Leopardstown.

“He had a few quid on as well so it’ll pay for a bit of his honeymoon!

“A great end to the year. To go to a Grade 1 and to go with a positive attitude and then to win it, you couldn’t ask for much better.”

Drill a bit deeper and unearth the detail that illuminates this achievement.

Paddy Corkery had a dairy farm for many years, which John has now taken over the running of, and he combined that with work as a tractor mechanic, counting Davy Russell amongst his customers.

Master McShee is the first horse that he has officially trained and the primary focus of his racing operation now. Victory at Limerick arrived in a photo finish over Gordon Elliott’s favourite Farouk D’Alene. This particular race has been carved up by the training juggernauts of Elliott and Willie Mullins over the past five years. Reel off the list of recent winners – Colreevy, Faugheen, Hardline, Dounikos and Bellshill.

The break up of that hegemony was caused by an unexpected source.

“This is more of a hobby than something full-time,” says Corkery.

“I just always like to have one or two in training. At the moment I have Master McShee in training and then three more horses that are not named yet.

“I suppose everything gets neglected bar training Master McShee. But then again I was going to England for years, buying and selling tractors. I’d be always kind of busy and doing something.

“Training the horse is what I love. It’s very easy to do something that you like doing. It’s a lot easier to get up in the morning and do something that’s a passion.”

Corkery hails from Donoughmore in Cork but Waterford has been his base for almost four decades.

“I got married in ’81, went to Australia for a year and a half, came back and I’ve been living in Waterford since.

“I always had a great interest in sport. I played hurling and football in Cork, with Donoughmore and Muskerry, then trained underage teams down here with St Oliver’s.

“I used to play a bit of golf but gave that up when I started at the horses.”

ian-power-onboard-master-mcshee-comes-home-to-win Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Before the emergence of his current prized asset, there were a few forays into the racing world.

“Any horse I had really, Mrs MacVeale (a seven-time winner for trainers Robert Murphy and Gavin Dower) was a typical example, she ran under someone else’s name. I did all the work myself, I rode them out and then ran them under other people’s names as such.

“I had a horse called Stilo’s Ace and a mare called Off The Hoof, won point-to-points with them. Then I’d a horse called Chance It, he was placed three or four times, but he’d nearly rather be in the pub than running that fella, he’d no interest in racing!

“I always found it was like buying a set of golf clubs and giving to someone else to play with them. I like to be hands on in any kind of sport. That’s what I really enjoy about it. It’s a great old buzz there to get a horse and to get them fit, to see them build muscle and build fitness.

“The biggest aspect then is how good or how bad they are.”

Master McShee was bought by Corkery’s two friends Tom McCarthy and John Sheehan as a foal, subsequently named after that partnership.

Sheehan has form in successful horses passing through his hands, like 2006 Gold Cup winner War Of Attrition and 2003 Grand National winner Monty’s Pass.

That paved the way for Corkery to take ownership of plotting Master McShee’s route.

His first race was in March 2020, a modest placing of sixth after preparations were hindered in the build-up. Ten days after that run at Leopardstown, Ireland was locked down and Covid-19 threw more problems into the mix for a small trainer.

Corkery kept the faith and that November provided some vindication at Cork racecourse, second in a maiden hurdle behind Appreciate It, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner last March.

“We knew what we were taking on that day, but I was so hungry for a run at that stage, we didn’t mind what we took on.

“Once we saw what he did against Appreciate It, we knew the calibre of horse we had. My job then is to try and get that out of him again and get over any problems we have. Do the best we can and do what’s best for the horse.”

A return to the Mallow track a couple weeks later yielded the breakthrough of a win and 2020 was capped off by success in a handicap hurdle at Leopardstown.

Last year saw a climb to higher altitude with a Grade 1 appearance at the Dublin Racing Festival and the dip in form there, along with later appearances at Punchestown and Fairyhouse, was subsequently explained.

“I had the horse wound up for it as it was Grade 1 company and I suppose he was a little bit eager and he burst a blood vessel. That’s a serious thing when a horse does that, they can’t continue to run.

“The fact that a horse will burst a blood vessel, it could happen again, it’s just an unknown factor.

“So we came back then after the summer, I changed his feed and I changed him from training indoors to outdoors. I built a shed and put him out in the field full time and put three rugs on him. Whether that’s a factor or not, we don’t know.

A chasing debut in November resulted in third behind Bob Olinger, another entrant to the winners’ enclosure at Cheltenham last spring, Corkery leaving Gowran Park that day pleased with his jumping and convinced Limerick was the right target.

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That provided the standout moment to date of the partnership with Ian Power, the 40-year-old Dungarvan jockey who added to the novelty by tasting top-level success for the first time.

“That’s a two-way street. It’s good for Ian, he’s doing the proper job, and it’s good for me. From the first day he rode him against Appreciate It, every day he’s ridden him, he’s been perfect on the horse.

“I walked Limerick from the third last fence home and I just said to keep him on the bridle as long as you can. I don’t give Ian instructions, we discuss the race beforehand and then he rides his own race the way it unfolds.

“The one thing we were very conscious of, if Ian went 30 seconds sooner, he was gone too early and 30 seconds later, he was gone too late.”

Success sparks interest and admirers. For Corkery the goal is not about moving Master McShee on at an attractive price.

“A lot of people there have horses, the horse will do well, next thing they’re offered money and they take it.

“Money won’t buy the enjoyment that we got out of Limerick, this is a passion for us.

“”There’s a lot of hype about it and a lot of people are on about how good it was. I love to see the locals in Waterford that have interest and that watched it and that got good enjoyment out of it. I’d be delighted for their sakes as well.

“It’s a family affair supporting this horse. The colours, I picked them out a good while back, being from Cork they’re red and white.

“All of my family are from Waterford. I’m here so long now, I just didn’t get any bit of blue into him, maybe I should have,” he laughs.

2022 stretches open in front of him, brimming with potential. There is no definite position on heading to Cheltenham yet and the Grade 1 two mile five beginners’ chase on the Sunday at Leopardstown in early February is being considered.

For now he can take the plaudits and profile.

And in adjusting to the spike in interest, he has found the coastal spots of West Waterford such as Whiting Bay and the Cunnigar, helpful in returning to a familiar routine since that moment of magic on St Stephen’s Day.

“The beach, I just find it’s great to bring a horse back down to earth. Every day since he’s ran at Limerick, I’ve taken him to the beach.

“I ride him myself and both myself and the horse are coming back down to earth now and we’ll start building him up again.

“The horse game, there’s a lot of highs and a lot of lows. We went to Dublin Racing Festival last year on a high and we came home on a low.

“I think you must be prepared for that if you’re in horses. You’re only one gallop away from a disaster and maybe one gallop away from a Grade One. You have to take both as it comes.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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