May 11, 2010

ZATT Update - Kathleen O’Connell & Anthony Stephen

Calder’s champion trainer in 2009 continues to impress racing fans and now even the hardcore followers of horse racing agree, Kathleen O’Connell is among the best and most under-appreciated conditioners in the business. After her history-making training title at Calder the veteran trainer took on Jamie Ness and his powerful stable and she tied the nation’s 2009 second leading trainer in wins for the recently concluded meet at Tampa Bay Downs. Tampa’s leading trainer on multiple occasions, Ness found himself in an unusual position facing off against O’Connell, fighting to keep his usual place on top.

In every stall early in the morning and atop her pony every day when the track opens for training, she did not show the pressures of being in a trainer battle for the title, but in her eyes, you could see the intensity that makes her so special. Not blessed with classically bred racehorses or the richest owners, O’Connell continues to compete using her trademark hard work, intelligent use of the condition book, and a steely focus on the well-being of her horses. At a racetrack where brilliant conditioners Wayne Catalano, Dale Bennett, Tom Proctor, and so many others send full-strings for the winter racing, her work ethic powered her runners to upset win after upset win, when she wasn’t sending the morning line favorite to the winner’s circle.

O’Connell is no stranger to the top five in the trainer standings whether at Calder, Tampa or Colonial Downs, but when others would sit back and enjoy their exciting careers she just continues to work harder and smarter than the year before. Readily admitting it is exciting to be in contention every year for training titles, O’Connell flat out refuses to take a breath and admire her fine work instead using the time to find ways to improve her horses. Traveling back and forth to Miami all winter O’Connell prepared her runners to not only share the training title at Tampa but has freshened many of her Calder runners and has them primed for Calder and others for Colonial Downs.

And, as if to prove yet again she has the heart and eye of a champion, O’Connell among her many accomplishments was first to regularly ride and win races with a new face to America's race riding scene when she spotted and rode Anthony Stephen on some of her Tampa winners. The semi-vacationing rider also went on to win several races for multi Breeder’s Cup winner Wayne Catalano at Tampa. Both excellent trainers were first to recognize why he was a superstar in every country he has ridden in and again firmly cements them both as overall brilliant judges of talent from the sales ring to the winner’s circle. Meanwhile, look for Anthony Stephen to make another crack at American racing in the near future.


Ciarán said...

nice! hard work like o'connell's deserves rewards.

Anne said...

I knew Kathleen 'way back when' and after reading this article it sounds as though nothing has changed: "...flat out refuses to take a breath...". When I was hanging out with Kathleen, she was working so hard she couldn't close her eyes during the day for fear of falling asleep in the very spot she was standing! She was on a ton of horses early in the morning for other trainers, training a few herself, running horses, repairing tack, making BEAUTIFUL chaps, legging and gun cases...the list goes on and on. No one has worked has hard, no one deserve more success and appreciation than Kathleen! Congrats!!