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Seán Keogh leading the way

26 May 2023 Written by VRC

Seán Keogh transitioned from life as a jockey to training the next generation of winning horses for the Godolphin stable, and has just been named the winner of the VRC-sponsored Leadership Award at the coveted Stud & Stable Awards.

Seán Keogh doesn’t know where his passion for horses and racing came from. The Dublin-born Senior Foreman at Godolphin’s Flemington operation had the urge to learn to ride when he was seven or eight. At 13, he got his first summer job mucking out stables. When he was given the chance to ride some of the racehorses there, too, he was hooked.

“Back when I began riding, nobody in my family knew a horse from its mane to its tail! But I kept banging on about wanting to ride, and a friend of a friend of my grandfather had showjumpers. I eventually got the chance to ride them, and I got the bug. There was no racing history in my family – I was an outlier,” said Keogh.

"This is me – I want to work with horses the whole way through my life" - Seán Keogh

“But my family supported my interest. They saw my dedication – I was up and at the stables by 6am every Saturday to work. So, they sent me off to the Academy to follow my passion and now my family are very involved in racing. They stay up late into Saturday night in Ireland to watch the Aussie racing and my parents have travelled to race meets in Dubai, Hong Kong and Australia. They’ve well and truly taken racing on board now.”

At 15, Keogh left home to study at the Racing Academy and Centre of Education at the Curragh. He studied with the prolific trainer, Dessie Hughes, and after qualifying as a jockey he travelled to races across Ireland before building his racing experience by moving to the United States. 

Godolphin trainer James Cummings and Seán after In Secret won the 2023 Group 1 Yulong Stud Newmarket Handicap. (Brett Holburt/Racing Photos)

“I saw going to America as an opportunity to improve my riding and I spent a year on the east coast in Pennsylvania and Delaware. It opened my eyes to the global scene and after America, I heard about opportunities in Australia,” said Keogh.

He arrived Down Under in 2009, and after backpacking his way around the country for 12 months, Keogh initially worked with Bart and James Cummings.

“I hadn’t ridden for about 18 months and so I applied to be a senior stablehand. I worked on the ground for a long time before Bart and James realised I could ride. When they were short of riders at one time, I told James I was a jockey and then I started working more trackwork,” he said.

In 2017, Keogh joined Godolphin’s Osborne Park stables in the foothills of the Blue Mountains before moving to Melbourne.

He keeps a close eye on each horse’s progress and some weeks he travels up to 1000km to see the Godolphin horses in action on the track.

“It is fascinating and very rewarding to see our horses develop. Seeing the full circle of what we do in the thoroughbred industry is very rewarding. This is me – I want to work with horses the whole way through my life,” said Keogh.

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