Trainer of the Quarter - Brendan Walsh
By Bill Heller
It’s an easy decision for a trainer to continue with his three-year-old on the road to the Kentucky Derby when he runs super in a key prep race. Imperial Court Racing’s three-year-old colt Plus Que Parfait was about as far away from super as a horse can get in the Gr2 Risen Star Stakes at The Fair Grounds on February 16, finishing 13th by 20 ¼ lengths under Julien Leparoux.
Trainer Brendan Walsh’s faith in Plus Que Parfait sent him halfway around the world to race in the $2.5 million UAE Derby in Dubai March 20. With blinkers added and a new rider in Jose Ortiz, Plus Que Parfait won, earning his spot in the starting gate for the Run for the Roses on May 4.
He will be the first Kentucky Derby starter for his 45-year-old Irish trainer whose success in the United States continues to build just eight years after he saddled his first starter at the end of 2011. “It’s been going great,” he said. “It’s a tough business, but I’ve been very lucky. It was pretty tough the first couple of years.”
He wasn’t kidding. He had just four winners in his first full year in 2012 and only eight the following year. More recently, he’s already clinched his fourth consecutive year with at least $2 million in earnings. That’s quite an accomplishment for a young man who fell in love with horses at a young age.
His father’s farm near the coastal village of Shanagarry in County Cork in southeast Ireland had a few dairy cows and sheep, but no horses. Regardless, Walsh said, “I loved horses since I was a kid. My dad bought me a pony when I was eight. He won 200 pounds in a raffle, and he bought the pony. That’s the kind of man he was.”
Walsh attended the Jockey School at The Curragh, then landed a job with Sheikh Mohammed’s Kildangan Stud. He then spent three-and-one-half years as an assistant to trainer Mark Wallace at Newmarket and three years with Eddie Keneally in the United States.
“I’ve worked around some great horsemen,” Walsh said. “I think you just take a little bit from everybody. You try to piece it all together.”
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