'He's Potentially A Group Horse' – Conran Full Of Hope For Leopardstown Winner

Ryan Conran (left): alongside Thomond O'Mara | Tattersalls Ireland


Everybody is searching for that flagbearer. Be it a jockey, trainer or an owner, the hunt for a horse capable of taking in big-race riches, that's the lure

Breeze-up consignors are no different. Being associated with good horses is what sustains a business and keeps buyers coming back for more. That's what makes Sunday's Leopardstown maiden winner Ecureuil Secret (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) such an important horse in the career of Ryan Conran. 

Having put down two big stints working for prominent breeze-up handlers Con Marnane and Thomond O'Mara, Conran has been connected to many top-class horses, but Ecureuil Secret is shaping up to be the first flag-bearer sold through his own Lacka House Stables. 

After failing to sell at the Arqana May Breeze-Up Sale last year, the €22,000 yearling purchase was snapped up privately by trainer Edward O'Grady on behalf of owner Aidan O'Ryan last summer. Afforded time to fill into his fine frame, Ecureuil Secret made his debut in a one-mile maiden at Leopardstown on Sunday, justifying strong support to score in the style of an above-average colt. 

Conran said, “I have only been consigning under Lacka House Stables since 2020 and, while I have worked with a lot of good horses and sold some nice horses through Knockanglass Stables [Thomond O'Mara] and Eoin McDonagh's Shanaville Stables, Ecureuil Secret is potentially the nicest I've sold under my own banner.”

He added, “Edward had an order for a two-year-old and I think he tried and failed to fill that order at the Tattersalls Ireland Breeze-Up Sale. He looked at a couple of Thomond's horses that were going to the July Sale in France and then, afterwards, looked at my lad as well. He liked Ecureuil Secret and asked if I'd work him in his yard that week. 

“That all went well and we had a deal done a few days later. Edward gave the horse the time that he needed and now he has a very nice colt on his hands-he's potentially a Group horse.”

Ecureuil Secret (right): winning at Leopardstown | Racingfotos.com

Ecureuil Secret does not hold any fancy entries at this juncture but that might change soon. Described as 'a very nice horse' by O'Grady in his post-race interview, the Wootton Bassett colt is the latest example that smart horses don't have to break the clock at the breeze-up sales. 

Conran recalled, “He was not your typical breeze-up horse–he was big and raw but he always had a big engine and showed plenty of pace. He was just on the weak side. With that being considered, he couldn't have gone to a better trainer in Edward O'Grady, as he gave him all of the time that he needed.”

Ecureuil Secret might be the first horse that Conran is getting deserved recognition for but this is far from his first rodeo. He has been a key cog in the wheels of various big operations and has enjoyed many fine touches before branching out on his own. 

Explaining his background in the industry, Conran said, “Thomond is married to my aunt, Roisin O'Mara, and they taught me how to ride. They have taught me so much. I rode a lot of good horses for Thomond, including Malc (GB) (Calyx {GB}), who finished second in the Norfolk last year, and I still ride two lots for him every day.

“All told, I've been pinhooking and trading breeze-up horses for seven or eight years now. 

Happy Together (Ire) (Dragon Pulse {Ire}) is probably the best horse that I have been associated with up until now. He has won over €3 million in prize-money in Hong Kong. I bought him for £15,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland September Yearling Sale when it was held at Newmarket during Covid in 2020. Thomond took half of the horse with me and I actually consigned him at Doncaster but he didn't breeze well and we withdrew him. I didn't do so well selling him at Doncaster so Thomond had a go at consigning him at Tattersalls Ireland!”

Conran added, “He wasn't ideally-suited to breezing–not every horse is–because he liked to pass horses and never really did it on his own. I met Peter Nolan the night before Goresbridge and, thankfully, he listened to me and came down and looked at the horse the following day. He didn't breeze brilliantly again but, Peter is such a brilliant horseman, he saw enough in the horse and bought him for £24,000 on behalf of Noel Meade. He nailed it.”

Nadowessi (Ire) (Sioux Nation), who finished second in a winners' race at Naas before being sold on to America, and rock-solid sprint handicapper Secret Guest (GB) (Havana Grey {GB}), are other graduates.

Like so many of the young breeze-up handlers who are making a proper go of it in their own right, Conran also speaks highly of his time spent working for Marnane, and credits the Bansha House operator for fast-tracking his progress within the industry. 

He said, “I spent three or four years working for Con Marnane and had a great time working for him. I rode a lot of nice horses for Con–Sands Of Mali (Fr), Prince Of Lir (Ire), Different League (Fr), Teppal (Fr)–and went out to France when Matthieu Palussiere was looking after his string out there. When you think back now, so many of the staff that Con sent out to France are running their own breeze-up consignment now, so that's hardly a coincidence. You could call him the Jim Bolger of the breeze-up game! 

“Off the top of my head, you had Stephen Byrne [Knockgraffon], Justin Timmons [Dolmen], Eoin Mc Donagh [Shanaville], Colin Bargary [Drummona House] and Shane 'Rancher' Ryan as well. Con had a brilliant method in place and we all learned a lot there. It helped me realise what a good horse actually feels like and that helps when you are standing outside your own consignment. 

It seems as though Marnane is indebted to Conran just as much as the latter is to the Bansha boss. 

“He didn't just ride Different League every day,” Marnane recalls of Conroan's input, “he practically trained that filly. Ryan is a special horse man and you'd be proud to see himself and the lads doing so well out on their own.”

While becoming bigger and better is the name of the game, Conran explained how his rapid progress came as a surprise even to him at one stage last autumn. However, there is no such thing as a problem in Conran's world, only solutions.

He said, “We've nine horses this year but at one point we were a little short of room! My partner Pamela and myself bought a small place near Fethard in Tipperary a couple of years ago. We don't have a gallop yet but we try to improve the place every year. To that extent, we have been relying on the help of our neighbour, Johnny Cummins, who lets us use his gallop.”

He continued, “The other little hurdle we had to jump recently was a lack of stables! There were only eight stables when we moved in and, as I said earlier, I buy a couple of horses every year with Eoin McDonagh, but we were both full by the time Book 3 came around. Anyway, Eoin fell in love with a Starspangledbanner (Aus) filly and we couldn't leave her behind. We just couldn't help ourselves. 

“When I got home, I said that I had no other option to convert the garage into stables. I rang a couple of mates and we had it up in no time. When I started off buying breezers, I did it with Eoin and his aunt, Noleen O'Brien, and they have also been very good to me and gave me a great start. Wherever you go in this game, there are so many people willing to give you a hand, and I'm forever grateful to so many people.”

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