By Simon Mapletoft
David Loughnane, who grew up in Galway, was destined to work with horses from the day he bought an unbroken pony with his pocket money - without asking his parents’ permission.
He taught himself to ride - without a saddle - and quickly graduated onto racehorses despite turning up to ride work at local trainer David Ryan’s yard as a schoolboy without boots or a helmet.
A speculative flight to Australia later led to invaluable apprenticeships with trainers Anthony Cummings and Paul Messara before Loughnane gained further experience back home with Tom Dascombe, John Quinn and his namesake Mark Loughnane.
His ambition to train was fulfilled when he spent a short spell at Roger Fell’s base in Helmsley, North Yorkshire, in 2016, but when historic Helshaw Grange in Shropshire became available Loughnane seized the opportunity with grateful hands.
With wife and experienced horsewoman Sara by his side, he saddled 38 winners from a team of around 40 horses last year and is on course to better that total in 2020 after masterminding a flurry of winners on the All-Weather.
“I knew from a young age that I wanted to train,” he recalls. “I definitely had the bottle to ride but knew in my heart that I was a better horseman than a jockey. I’ve always been fascinated by getting inside a horse’s head and figuring him out. Improving a horse gives me the best feeling in the world.”
Loughnane, who has 55 inmates, has no desire to get much bigger in terms of numbers. “I have 63 boxes and wouldn’t want any more,” he insists. “I can train the horses I have with a hands-on approach and attention to detail and I’d never want to lose that.
“What I do want to do is improve the quality in the yard and I’d like to be in a position where I don’t have anything rated lower than 70. I firmly believe that if you can win a couple of races with that calibre of horse you can more or less cover your owners’ fees.”
Quality is not in short supply at Loughnane’s impressive facility. Kaser and Ghaith are on target for big prizes at Wolverhampton in March while Ginger Fox, Baby Steps and Fizzy Feet could all up at Lingfield Park on Good Friday Finals Day.