“An overnight success after 56 years”, Ger Lyons chuckled as he described his feelings around achieving 1,000 career winners during the week.
The County Meath trainer reached the milestone after Offiah, marshalled by jockey Colin Keane, took the Class Grass Handicap at Roscommon on Monday.
It’s the latest achievement in a remarkable 15 months for Lyons. Last year, the trainer celebrated his first two Classic victories, with Siskin taking the Irish 2,000 Guinea in June, and Even So claiming the Irish Oaks in June.
Lyon’s first career win came at Navan in October 1994, and when one reflects on a 27-year career, the word ‘retirement’ slowly begins to creep into the picture.
Lyons, however, has dismissed any notions of calling it a day. Speaking on Friday Night Racing, the trainer explained that it’s not simply a matter of deciding when to pack it all in.
“Trainers don’t retire; they die,” Lyons said.
“I feed the horses at 5 o’clock in the morning, we kick on at half 6 or 7 o’clock - whenever the staff come in.”
“I’m finished at half 11 or 12, I have a snooze, and I do whatever I have to do in the afternoon.”
“Yesterday, I went for a cycle around Glendalough; today, I have runners in the first at Downroyal, so I’ll watch that; I mean, what else would I be doing in retirement that’s better than that?”
“Basically, I’m working a retirement anyway. I’m my own boss, I can come and go as I please, and this is the way we choose to live.”
“At the minute - and not to paint a blasé picture or anything - but I’m very chuffed with what’s going on", Lyons added.
"I’m very proud of the way the horses are running and I’m very proud of what’s been achieved. I feel good about myself and I feel good about the yard.”
"They've hit the target": the joy of training this year's string
Lyons went on to reveal that the enjoyment he receives from training horses has never diminished over the years. He detailed his careful approach towards getting the most out of his string:
“I love training two-year-olds," Lyons said, "and when you get a good one, it’s just brilliant.”
“I’ve always said with racehorses - especially two-year-olds - that they’ve only one thing on their minds and that’s to commit suicide, and your job then is to stop them from killing themselves.”
“I train them as if they were kids. I always maintain that they’re like underage footballers - they’re naturally fit, so there’s no need to gallop the brains out of them.”
“You teach them, you educate them, and I always say to my guys here: ‘if they get bad habits, you’ve given them to them.’”
“You bring along quietly, all in the one class, and then slowly but surely, as the weeks and months pass, the best in the class come to the front; then you hope that the best in your class is the best in the class - but normally, it isn’t.”
“Then, when you look at the best in your class getting beaten, as has happened many times, then you know that what you have at the back is selling class, and it’s gonna be a long year from that point.”
“But luckily enough," Lyons continued, "I took the view at the start of this year that I wasn’t going to rush the two-year-olds - not that I ever do - but I was just going to let them come.”
“I said that if they were good in March, they’d be better in April and May, and I’ll just wait, and wait, and wait, but when I do launch them, they’ll know their job, and thankfully, they did.”
“It’s been a pleasure training the two-year-olds this year because, more often than not, they’ve hit the target.”