Born in Golden, Co Tipperary in 1967 Kevin was the youngest of eight. From a non racing background Kevin did a lot of showjumping and had a few point to point rides. Leaving Ireland at fifteen he took out a conditional licence riding 47 winners. Although he was finding some success, a lack of rides and injuries meant Kevin had to think about his future. Quickly realising that his passion lay elsewhere in racing, he set out on the path to training, which he now feels was always his number one dream in racing.
Following his retirement from the saddle, Kevin went to work for one of Britain’s leading trainers, Mr Jack Berry. Through hard work and dedication he was soon selected as one of the head lads. This came at a time when Jack “The Boss” was enjoying great success, proving to be a genius with 2 year olds and having some of the very best sprinters around. The experience gained was vital and following 6 great years time had come to move on.
It was a move to Yorkshire where he would become assistant trainer to Richard Fahey, a long time friend from their days riding. Richard was an up and coming trainer and over the next few years the yard grew. Kevin’s skill and knowledge did not go unseen and after four years an opportunity arose that would help Kevin realise his dream.
Hambleton Lodge was available, a training establishment steeped in history and would now have a new occupant who would, over the years, add more success to roll of honour.
Kevin’s training career started on 15th June 1998 and it was only 3 days later that he sent out his first runner, Swan At Whalley to run at Ripon in a low grade handicap. Unfortunately there was no fairy tale start but it wasn’t long before the first winner crossed the line, kick starting Kevin’s training career. Komlucky won an apprentice handicap on 22nd July 1998 and as they say the rest is history. In that first season it was a horse called Silently, claimed for just £6000, that really stood out. After winning on his second start for the yard, in a good Mussleburgh handicap, he was consistent all year, running at some of the top tracks. Kevin’s training career had made a promising start and it had caught the eye of a few owners.
Eastern Purple was a very good sprinter and when owner T C Chiang decided to move him to Hambleton Lodge, it was a real boost to the stable. Just one year after taking his licence out Kevin saddled Eastern Purple to win the Group 3 Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh, 22nd May 1999. Not only was it a first group success but it was on one of Ireland’s top racing days, the 2000 Guineas. It would be Eastern Purple who would give Kevin his second group win 2 years later when winning the Pheonix Sprint at Leopardstown.
Winners became more common and the quality of horses increased year on year. From early on Kevin realised he needed to invest to build up the fire power of the yard. Just like his mentor, Kevin found plenty of joy with 2 year olds and quickly began to gain a reputation for having a midas touch with juveniles. It was also his purchases from the Horse In Training sales that saw the yard turning out more and more winners on the bigger stages.
By 2002 Kevin had started to establish himself and that season he broke the half century of winners for the first time, when Platinum Charmer won a maiden at Wolverhampton.
History beckoned in 2004 when Halmahera won the Portland handicap for the third year in a row. One of Kevin’s shrewdest buys, Halmahera had been knocking on the door of some of the top sprint handicaps. In 2002 he gained his first success in the Doncaster showpiece before making it his own the following two years and writing his name into the record books.
Hambleton Lodge was thriving and Kevin’s talents were shining through. By 2005 he was seen as one of the most up and coming trainers and it was that season when he achieved another great feat. Amadeus Wolf had been an expensive purchase from the Breeze Up sales and from day one looked to be one of the most exciting horses to ever grace Hambleton Lodge. Winning his maiden comfortably, Wolf went on to finish 3rd in the Coventry at Royal Ascot. When he took the Group 2 Gimcrack at York, Amadeus Wolf proved to be one of the leading juveniles that season. More was to come in his next run when he took the Middle Park Stakes, earning Kevin his first win at Group 1 level. Having broken through that barrier he didn’t have to wait long before making it two top level successes. Palace Episode had come out of the same sales consignment, had won at the same York meeting (Acomb Stakes – Listed) and followed in his stable mates footsteps. Although viewed as the outsider, Palace Episode ran away with the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, earning Kevin his second Group 1 winner of his career and season. With these star performers and many others throughout the year, the £1 Million prize money barrier was smashed for the very first time.
With the yard firmly established, producing winners regularly and now competing on the very highest level, there were further achievements rolling in. In 2006 Kevin was the fastest trainer to send out 50 winners for the season, with the horses in flying form. There was one win that stood out that year and it came at one of flat racing’s greatest festivals. Royal Ascot is racing’s World Cup and everybody wants to have a winner at the meeting. Uhoomagoo gave Kevin his first with a dramatic last to first victory in the Buckingham Palace Handicap. He has gone on to saddle four other winners at the meeting with Bapak Chinta (2011 Norfolk Stakes) Hototo (2012 Windsor Castle) Lightning Cloud (2013 Buckingham Palace Handicap) York Glory (2013 Wokingham Handicap)
The Ayr Gold Cup was a race that Kevin had always wanted to win, even from the earliest days of his training career. In 2007 Advanced helped to realise this dream when he beat a 28 strong field to lift the Gold Cup. That first victory has been followed by a further three with Our Jonathan (2011) Captain Ramius (2012) and Brando (2016). Also during the 2007 season, Kevin saddle over 100 winners for the first time in his career.
As the years have past the yard has grown and Kevin has secured his reputation among the best trainers in Britain. In 2014 he reached the highest echelon of flat racing with the help of The Grey Gatsby. Having won the Group 2 Dante at York, one of the Derby’s best trials, the star grey was sent to Chantilly for the Prix Du Jockey Club (French Derby). Showing an electric turn of foot, The Grey Gatsby scythed through the field to gain a first Classic for Kevin. The journey didn’t finish there as the Gatsby went on to take the Irish Champion Stakes, toppling duel Derby winner Australia.
From humble beginnings Kevin’s reputation and successes have grown. With great support from owners and a top class team Kevin has amassed over 1500 winners. There are still many goals left to achieve and everyone at Hambleton will be striving to reach them.
Career Statistics up to 2017
WINNERS – Flat (GB) – 1392
Flat (IRE) – 37
Jumps (GB) – 18
Total – 1447
GROUP WINNERS – 32 Flat 1 Jumps
GROUP 1 WINNERS – 6 Amadeus Wolf (Middle Park) Palace Episode (Racing Post Trophy) Desert Lord (Prix De L’Abbaye) Astaire (Middle Park) The Grey Gatsby (Prix Du Jockey Club, Irish Champion Stakes)
ROYAL ASCOT WINNERS – 5
Although the Trainer always gets the praise the job would be impossible without a good team. The yard has a warm and welcoming atmosphere with each member of staff working hard to bring success. It is a family run business with Kevin’s wife ensuring the yard runs smoothly from the office. His daughter Amy, the 2012 champion apprentice, is one of the leading female jockeys and rides out daily. Adam, his son, is assistant trainer and will be seen working in the yard and at the racecourse. All of this produces a friendly and close knit team, keen on bringing success and enjoyment to every owners experience at Hambleton Lodge.