Racing

'It's all about winners' | Paul Nolan on the highs and lows of racehorse training

Jake O'Donnell
Jake O'Donnell

21:21 31 Jan 2020

Paul Nolan joined Friday Night Racing this week and discussed the highs and lows that come with being a trainer in Irish racing.

Going from 40 winners in 2005/06 to just five winners in 2016/17, Nolan knows better than anyone the challenges faced by a trainer when they go through a spell of horses simply not being good enough.

It is a sport – and job – where it is very easy to go from the extreme highs right back to "rock bottom", Nolan said.

"You'll see top-class trainers, even on the flat, having fantastically successful seasons and then the next season they've no decent horse.

"Even if you have a tremendous season, unless you get the right men into the yard with the chance of bringing in a decent horse you're really living on the clippings."

Admitting that luck plays a big part in getting the right horses in the yard – and, importantly, keeping them there –, Nolan explained all trainers must know that not every year will be one of success.

Knowing that he didn't have the best horses in his yard during the tough patch, Nolan contended that it can be even more difficult when you think you have horses who should be winning.

"We knew that the five winners a year was coming. It would be more stressful if you had 100 horses in and you had loads of runners and they were underperforming and you were going around taking swabs and scans to see what kind of a virus you had.

"That wasn't the case, so as bad as it was it wasn't as stressful as that."

Naturally, things were shaken up as Nolan wondered if he could change his work to improve things on the course but, ultimately, he also knew that things couldn't be altered too much if he wanted to return to past glories.

"I don't want to sound like I am bullish by saying I never doubted," he explains. "We had done different things, we put in another gallop, we changed the surface on the gallop we had, put in a different surface and did things like that too.

"I remember Martin Pipe was saying to me, he said: 'Don't fix what's not broken, if it worked once it will work again and don't keep beating yourself up that you have to keep changing this and change that.'

"You can get so hooked up on things; 'Could I get him fitter? Could I make him ten lengths better?'"

The loyalty of the owners who stuck with him though, is something that Nolan says will be difficult to ever repay. Ultimately, Nolan explained, racing is solely about winning.

"You can have all the lovely websites and yards and lakes and waterfalls around the place but if you're not getting winners it doesn't matter. It's winners that make you and attract owners to the yard, and that's really it. It's the winners. It's a winners game and it's a numbers game."

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Friday Night Racing Gordon Elliott Paul Nolan Willie Mullins

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