Kilkenny & Proud with Siobhan Donohoe

Day in the Life of Eddie Scally - General Manager of Kilkenny's Gowran Park

Siobhan chats to Eddie ahead of Thyestes Race Day - the race that stops the county!

Siobhan Donohoe

Reporter:

Siobhan Donohoe

Email:

siobhan.donohoe@iconicnews.ie

Day in the Life of Eddie Scally - General Manager of Kilkenny's Gowran Park

Eddie Scally, General Manager of Gowran Park, with Mrs. Maureen Mullins, wife of the legendary Kilkenny horse trainer Paddy Mullins

Eddie Scally, joined Gowran Park in June 2012 to take up the role of General Manager. Eddie is a keen racing fan and has strong background in sport with affiliations to both GAA and FAI. He is currently a board member with the Association of Irish Racecourses.

 

Originally from Westmeath, he lives in Gowran with her wife Breda and their three children.

 

Eddie was educated in Marist College, Athlone IT and Cornell University. He worked in the hospitality industry for Treacy Group Hotels and Carlton Hotels. Eddie use to train the Wexford camogie team and now manages the Blacks & Whites Hurling Club in Skeoughvosteen, Co. Kilkenny.

 

I caught up with Eddie for a chat ahead of Thyestes Day - the race that stops a county!

 

Eddie, what’s your Thyestes day like?

Morning – it’s a 5am start and as a rule, I wake everyone! It’s a big day for us all in our house, so Breda and the kids get up to wish me luck. I meet my track foreman at 5.05am, he is Raymond Dreeling from Gowran and the assistant foreman Paul Walsh. The minute we arrive at Gorwan Park, we start walking the track. It’s a mile and a half around the full track.

If it’s frosty, we need to wait for it to lift, but rain, hail or shine we walk that track. We set off on foot to walk the whole chase course and then the hurdle course. Its takes about an hour and a half to do both tracks. At this hour, we can only check the underfoot conditions as it’s still dark and we can’t really look at the fences and hurdles.

I need to make sure the ground is what we said it was the day before. So if I said the ground was soft on Wednesday and we get rain over night, we might have to change it to heavy in places. This information has to be giving to the trainers before 7am, before they set out on the road. It’s vital for them to know if the ground is suitable for their runners.

At 7.30am the Clerke of the Course comes in – that’s Paddy Graffin from Graignamanagh. He is like a referee and he walks the course on his own.  He puts out his official Gowran report at 9am, we both sign off on it and from that stage he takes over the track and managing the jockeys for the day.

I leave the lads on the track and I go to the front gate to do my ‘customer journey’. I look to see what the customer sees when they arrive. At 10am I am onto the fire exits and checks, then I sign off on my fire file. Around 11am, I fly home for a quick rasher sandwich, shower and change into the suit.

Lunch – By the time I’m back at the track around 12noon, my job is nearly done, even though I am on tender hooks all day! I do start to relax around 2pm, when the car parking situation is sorted and I know everyone is in.

Evenings – About 8pm, the crowds from the ground floors will have filtered out. My parents, sister and her husband come for the day so I try to meet up with them around 9pm and have a drink. I always go out for a meal the night after Thyestes with my wife Breda. 

You describe Thyestes Day as been like a wedding day every year. Why?

Yes this is our wedding day, we get married every year in January! I have to make sure it’s a first up and best dressed situation! Everyone rings me first if something goes wrong, however I must say I have a brilliant team. My whole year is based on preparing for Thyestes and Red Mills Day and everything hinges on the success of these two days.

The two of these race meetings are only three weeks apart. So the minute we finish Thyestes, there’s a full meeting the very next morning with thirty of the team. We discuss what went wrong and how we can fix it in time for Red Mills Day.

Racing enthusiasts from all over Ireland come to Gowran for Thyestes. Why is it such an important meet?

History plays a major role in this day, this is somewhere your Great Granddad brought his family to and now your parents are bringing their sons and daughters to. This race is engrained and its culture.

The other side of it is the romance attached to the race, we’ve had Grand National and Gold Cup Winners and people love that.

It’s a very important race in predicting who will race Cheltenham in March?

We have a beginner’s chase that will throw up the Arkle winner every other year. The John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle Race, which is the under card, the Grade 2 – that would be a trial for the World Hurdle at Cheltenham. Then there’s the Thyestes itself, you might have one or two horses that are potential world cup horses running in the Thyestes. 

People will tell you that Thyestes always had a great hook to it, years ago they used to put out the Grand National weights on Thyestes Day. So Aintree’s weights were released on the same day as Thyestes and that used to be the big focal point.

Up to last week there was 46 entries to the Thyestes Chase. Is it always that big?

There’s always been 40 to 50 entries for this eighteen horse race. Everyone wants to run in it, it’s a €100,000 prize so it’s no wonder!  Even tough Willie Mullins has won it the most times (seven times), if you fill in the gaps between Willie’s wins – Gordon Elliot has only won it once but some of the smaller trainers like Liam Burke and Paul Gilligan have also won it. The super powers will win, but the smaller trainers can win it too and that’s the attraction of the Chase.

You have a huge announcement this year. The first of the 2020 Ladies Series if taking place on Thyestes Day.

When the 2020 initiative came up I said to myself, we have the biggest female sports star in the world - Rachel Blackmore, with the exception of Katie Taylor. Katie Taylor is competing against her own sex, while Rachel Blackmore is competing against men and women, and beating them both.

We said that we would love to do something on Thyestes Day for the lady jockeys. In fairness to Red Mills they are put up the ladies rider series which is a ladies race and RTE are covering it on the day.  There is so many young girls in Irish racing so it’s brilliant to give them the chance to be put out there in the limelight and you don’t know what trainer will spot them on the day.

Eddie, you are a very busy man and always on the go. Is there anything that people might not know about you?

In my own life I have had some very tough things happen to me. I lost a brother to suicide more than twenty years ago. It’s something that has completely changed my perspective on life. When it happened, it wasn’t as common back then and I remember the stigma that went with it and how hard it was on my Mum and Dad, well it still is. It’s the one thing for me, for charities or any opportunities I get, I want to help out with.

I actually think that people who are feeling down, should talk to people who have survived losing a family member to suicide and actually see the carnage that is left behind. I’m always looking out for the small triggers as a father, especially when it comes to social media, where people have a constant access to criticize you. Years ago if you were bullied at school and you could come home to the safety of your own home. Nowadays they are not even safe at home as people can still get at them through social media.

The full audio interview with Eddie and Siobhan is now available to hear on www.kilkennypeople.ie