Owen Byrne (49) was born in Dublin but has called Waterford home for over 20 years. He is married to Annette and has two daughters, Emma and Katie. For the past number of years Owen has been the General Manager of Tramore Racecourse. He met his wife the day he returned from spending five years working in New York and moved to Waterford the next year.
LIFE IN A DAY
A typical day for me starts with feeding the horses and making sure they are ok. Then it’s off to the office at the racecourse. We have a very small team here on a non-race day with only three full-time and one part-time staff, including myself. Zoe Kearney is a recent Marketing graduate from WIT and she works with me in the office. Every day is different here and we deal with everything from sponsorship, accounts, hospitality to maintenance. The most important part of the racecourse is the track itself. Chris Shanahan has been the head groundsman here for 15 years and he is so knowledgeable. He literally knows every blade of grass. We touch base every morning to discuss what might need to be done, whether that’s watering, fertilising etc. Most people would not realise how much work goes into the maintenance of any racecourse and safety of riders and our horses is of paramount importance. Racing is worth €29 million per year to Waterford county alone and directly employs over 1,000 people so it was very important for the industry that we are back racing again.
When we are racing my day is a very different one. My team grows to over 100 people including, bar and catering, casual staff, vets, doctors etc. It is a big operation with lots of moving parts. Security in the stable yard is vital with only grooms and trainers allowed in the stable yard.
We typically welcome 200 owners here and we like to give them a great day out. If it wasn’t for the owners there would be no racing. There are always little challenges on a race day but the great thing about Tramore is everyone wants to do their part. Everyone who works with us wants the place to look and do well so I am very lucky really. I have always felt that it is a manager’s job is to set the tone for a business and the racecourse is no different. It’s a hospitality business and people are coming here to enjoy themselves. I love hearing feedback from everyone whether its shareholders, owners, trainers and customers. You can take feedback as a criticism or as someone wanting to help you improve and I always try to look at the latter.
The best part of the day is seeing winning connections when their horse has won! Syndicates are great fun and when they win the crowd gets involved and the atmosphere is electric. Tramore as a racecourse has done really well in attracting top class horses to run here and go on to the big festivals like Cheltenham. The Cheltenham gold cup winner for the last two years has run here on New Year’s Day and has gone straight to Cheltenham to win the Gold Cup. We hope to see him back here again on New Year’s Day and go on to win an historic three Gold Cups in a row.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
Slow down, not to be in a rush to get somewhere and enjoy the ride.
How do you relax?
Our lives revolve around horses, both my daughters are on the national show jumping circuit so when I am not working I am driving a lorry up and down the country to pony events. I also live right beside the Greenway so I love to get out on the bike. We are very lucky to have such a resource in Waterford.
What is your favourite film?
My favourite film of all time is Goodfellas but the film I watch the most at the moment is Bohemian Rhapsody.
When was the last time you cried?
Ten years ago I was lucky enough to win an Irish Arkle with the first horse that ran in my colours – I shed a little tear that day, it is such a thrill to have any winner but An Cathaoir Mór won five races for me in two seasons and he was a great horse to be associated with.
What has been your happiest moment of recent times?
My eldest daughter won a national championship in her first year competing on the pony circuit, it was a lovely moment for us both, she worked so hard and I was so proud of her.
Do you pray?
What is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is for my girls, it’s a very strange world we live in and I just hope they get the chance to explore the world the way I did
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your favourite thing about living in Waterford?
I think we are very lucky to live in Waterford. We have the best of countryside, beaches and mountains on our door step. I just love Tramore, I think it’s such a positive place and the people are really lovely.
If you could change one thing about Waterford, what would it be?
Waterford deserves a stand alone hospital not tied to another region. The fact we do not have 24/7 cardiac care for such a large catchment area is a disgrace.
Compiled by Ger Lawton.