By Kelsey Riley
European Exports is a series where TDN International Editor Kelsey Riley catches up with people who have left their home countries to make a new life in the racing industry in America. Today, we kick off the series with Four Star Sales’s Tony Lacy.
KR: Where are you originally from?
TL: I’m from Ireland, County Offaly, which very few people have ever heard of unless you’re from there.
KR: When did you move to America, and why did you decide to go there?
TL: I came to America in 1994. I was actually in France working with Emmanuel Chevalier du Fau and I was just wrapping up things there. Beau Greely had become a good friend of mine over there, and he said, “Why don’t you come to the States and work for my dad?” A few months later I arrived at Wintergreen Farm in Midway, and that was my first experience of America. I’d had no real intention of coming to America in the beginning. France was an option that I had, and I did it, but then after coming to the States, I just fell in love with the place.
KR: What do you miss most about Ireland?
TL: Obviously family. I think the way of life in Ireland is cool and I think it’s something that you can’t replicate anywhere else. I think Kentucky, funnily enough, having so many Irish here, I think it replicates it probably closer than most places, because there are so many Irish people here and there is an ingrained culture that you can absorb yourself into. A lot of people may say food, but you can get it here now. The world’s small.
KR: What do you think American racing can learn from Irish racing?
TL: I think they treat it as a sport in Ireland more so than they do here. I think everybody looks at racing here and they want to see the bottom line; what’s your return on investment? And I think in Ireland it’s very much a sport, and I think we’ve lost that direction somewhat here because everyone is looking at betting, attendance. All of that is very important and it’s a critical part of racing, but I think everybody’s lost the fact that this is a sport. I’m not a gambler, and I see a lot of people that want to see how much money you made in every race, and I just enjoy racing.
KR: Vice versa, what can Irish racing learn from America?
TL: The focus on days like the Breeders’ Cup and the Kentucky Derby are just incredible. The hype is amazing, and I think that’s something that we can focus on with Irish Champions Day, which is gaining more traction, but probably could be improved on over time.
KR: What was your biggest adjustment coming to America?
TL: Frankly, coming here wasn’t that much of an adjustment. I think going to France was probably a far greater adjustment. Not only from a language standpoint, but cultural too. I think just having to be very open-minded as far as the different ways of doing things, and realizing that because you do it at home a certain way does not mean that it will work here. I think learning that you have to adjust yourself, and not allow yourself to be ingrained and very stubborn in your opinions. You have to be very open-minded, and I think that’s something that takes a little time.