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O'Kelly retires from Irish National Stud post

THE disappointment of the Irish National Stud not standing Sea The Stars was put forward yesterday by Pat O'Kelly as one of the reasons for her retirement as a director of the stud, a position she has held for the past 18 years.

Her retirement marks the second major departure from the Irish National Stud within four months following the resignation of chiefexecutive John Clarke in September after 27 years.

Clarke is strongly tipped to be succeeded by John Osb0rne, who already sits on the stud's board.

"I enjoyed my time as a director immensely but I felt that I had done enough," said O'Kelly yesterday. "It's a lovely place in nice grounds - the stud, gardens and gift shop are all going well - and John Clarke was a very good chief executive. My time there broadened my outlook and I'll miss it."

During her time as director, the Irish National has cemented its reputation as a forerunner in the bloodstock industry by acquiring such as stallions as Indian Ridge and Invincible Spirit, and raising the likes of Sea The Stars and Desert King.

"Indian Ridge was the second stallion we got when I was there," recalled O'Kelly. "When we saw him, he had hurt his leg and it was terribly swollen. But that didn't put us off and obviously he was very good for the stud.

"More recently, I suggested that the Irish National went to the US to buy stock and through Johnny McKeever we were able to get some good mares."

The Irish National's most recent claim to fame wasfoaling and raising Sea The Stars on behalf of the Tsui family, and consequently the stud was a hot favourite throughout last season to stand the colt. However, the Aga Khan's Gilltown Stud eventually won that battle, an outcome which left O'Kelly disappointed.

"In the end, there were people who felt Sea The Stars was too big a commodity for the Irish National," she said. "But I know the stud could have handled him."

While O'Kelly also nominatedher involvement with the stud's renowned breeding course as one of the highlights of her tenure, it was also their decision to cut their annual intake of students that prompted her to reconsider her position as chairman.

"I used to present all the awards at the end of the stud course," she said. "I was very keen on it as it produced an enormous number of good people in the industry, such as Christy Grassick and Henry Beeby, and the students came from all over the world.
"Then this year, they decided to reduce the numbers of students. It was a great shame."

O'Kelly will remain on the board of Goffs while her Kilcarn Stud is currently home to 12 mares, including Echo Of Light's dam, Spirit Of Tara. The sister to Salsabil is set to visit Sea The Stars this season.




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