Upwards and Onwards at Calluna Stables

Arctic Skipper’s win in the Fortria Chase at Navan last month gave Vincent Halley the highest profile win of his young career. Munster Express Sports Editor Catherine Power paid a visit to Halley’s Calluna Stables just outside picturesque Kill recently to speak to the Co Waterford handler about his recent successes and his hopes for the future

Vincent Halley with Artic Skipper

Vincent Halley with Artic Skipper

It was one of those beautiful cold, frosty winter mornings when I visited Calluna Stables recently. Situated just outside Kill, the stables sit in the shadow of the Comeragh Mountains in a quiet and tranquil setting.

Accompanied by photographer Noel Browne, whose enthusiasm for working outdoors in such a lovely setting is only matched by my own, I visited the stable to speak with Vincent Halley who began by explaining how he came to be involved in racing.

“I always had an interest in horses. My parents were involved in the breeding side of the business, mostly on the flat side when we were younger.

Returning from the morning gallop

Returning from the morning gallop

I grew up on a dairy farm and there was always yearlings and foals going to the flat sales so I suppose you could say it was inevitable that I would eventually get involved with training and racing. When I was younger though I was very big into other sports, gaelic, hurling, athletics, anything really so I started riding horses a little later than everyone else in my family.

They were into hunting and showjumping from an early age, so I was definitely a late starter but once I got started my interest grew and I started to work in the business. I always wanted to go training on my own, Some yards are back in numbers but if you can manage to get a few decent point-to-pointers in to start with and work very hard it’s possible to make a go of it”.

James Flavin who looks after the horses and stables.

James Flavin who looks after the horses and stables.

Halley’s first job in racing was working with Henry De Bromhead where he spent five years. I really enjoyed the years I spent working at Henry’s and I certainly learned a lot from checking the horses legs to going racing and watching the horses being schooled by some of the top jockeys. You would learn a lot, especially small little things that you would pick up and bring into your own yard.

Obviously everyone has different ways of going about training but you would pick up plenty. I also spent a summer working with Eoin Griffin and all that experience was invaluable to me when I decided to start training myself”.

Having taken the plunge to begin training Halley started off with a couple of point-to-pointers of his own before attracting the attention of local owners.

The Horse Walker at Calluna Stables

The Horse Walker at Calluna Stables

“My father Lar has supported me from the start with both point-to-point horses and horses for the track. Tom Fleming from Dungarvan is also a very good supporter as is Martin Allen who is a neighbour of mine and gives me great support.

I also train for Julia and Michael Foran, Jack Walshe, Martin Allen, Michael Veale and Tom McCarthy as well as Emmet Halley, my father’s second cousin so it’s great to have such good owners”.

Based at Calluna Stables for the past three years, Halley enjoyed his highest profile win when Arctic Skipper, owned by his father Lar, won the Grade 2 Fortria Chase at Navan last month. The trainer agreed it was a very good day for the yard.

“It’s great to get a win anywhere but brilliant to win a Grade 2 like that. It was also a really exciting finish as Arctic Skipper only got the better of Gilgamboa by a short head but it was a brilliant day for all of us and gave us a great boost. Julia and Michael Foran’s Tintown Robin also won a handicap hurdle earlier in the month at Fairyhouse so those wins help a lot and it’s great publicity for the yard”.

While training is Vincent Halley’s top priority, he’s also buys and sells horses and admits to a huge amount of satisfaction when a horse he’s sold goes on to do very well.

“Some horses will have to be sold and if we sell horses from the point-to-point scene and they turn out to be good horses, it’s great for the selling side of the business and fantastic to see horses you’ve brought through sold on and doing well. For instance Otago Trail won a nice listed chase for Venetia Williams at Newcastle last month and we got a great kick out of that as we had sold him on”.

Henry Casey on 6-y-o- unraced by Flemingsforth and Nick Kiely on 4-y-o unraced by Beneficial

Henry Casey on 6-y-o- unraced by Flemingsforth and Nick Kiely on 4-y-o unraced by Beneficial

With 10 to 12 horses currently housed at Calluna Stables, Vincent Halley is hopeful that number will have risen by next summer. “We of course are always looking for new owners. Hopefully the recent successes will help in that regard. There’s a great team here at the stables, we all work hard but there’s no doubt the bigger wins help”.

Vincent Halley ready for word at Calluna Stables

Vincent Halley ready for word at Calluna Stables

Halley paid tribute to his hard working staff and the jockeys that ride out at Calluna Stables. “We have a great staff and a good working relationship with out jockeys, John Barry on the point-to point scene and Andrew Lynch sometimes on the track. He also comes here schooling and I also use Philip Enright and Séan Flanagan on the track”.

As in every stable around the country, the daily routine at Calluna begins early and sometimes ends very late for Vincent Halley. “It is an early start but it’s great to be doing something you love. We begin with the morning feed, check the horses legs, get them ready for the walker and then tack up the first lot for the gallops.

We have great facilities here, a five furlong wood chip gallop, two furlong sand gallop, great schooling facilities and of course the river on site is a great advantage. Horses love the change of going through the woods for an easy day down in the river and the cold water is great for the horses’ legs after galloping and exercising. I try to finish by 5pm every day as it’s important for the horses to relax and then that leaves the evening time for office work!”.

And so to the future!. With the Fortria Chase under his belt Arctic Skipper will be aimed for the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas according to the trainer. “It will of course be a big step up for him into Grade 1 company but I think he’s entitled to take his chance after winning the Grade 2 in Navan. Hopefully he runs well and we’ll see where we go for the rest of the season with him after that race.

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Carrigmoorna Matt is another horse I really like the look of. He’s owned by Michael Veale and Tom McCarthy and they are fairly local so they enjoy dropping in from time to time to see how he’s getting on. It’ll probably be after Christmas before he runs”.

We leave Calluna Stables after a most enjoyable morning on the promise of return, for Noel Browne to photograph the wildlife he’s assured are in abundance and for me to speak again with and up and coming Waterford trainer who is surely destined for further success.

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