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The Trainer

John O'Shea has rapidly established himself as one of Australia's premier trainers. Renowned for his professional no nonsense attitude, John has proven his ability to train all types of racehorses and invariably extract the best out of them.

John moved to Sydney in 1995 and served his apprenticeship under the great Tommy Smith. He also had stints with Bart Cummings, Gai Waterhouse and Garry Moore before branching out on his own in 1999. Initially based at Warwick Farm, John soon found success in the 'big time', winning the listed Stayers Cup in 2000 with rejuvenated galloper Mushtak, and taking out the G2 Villiers stakes with the honest Grey and Gold.

Early in the piece, John established himself as a trainer who could improve horses. This was evidenced by the afore mentioned duo whom he inherited from other stables.  John was also able to coax improvement from gallopers such as Bedouin, Private Steer, Shot of Thunder, Best French etc.

Photo Arrowfield Stud
Photo Steve Hart
However, John doesn't just improve older horses, he is just as skilled at developing colts into young stallions. In recent times he moulded the brilliant career of Sydney's star 2yo Charge Forward.  Having taken a shine to the powerful yearling at the 2003 Magic Millions Premier sale, John went to $100,000 to get the colt and syndicated him to a group of loyal owners.

The horse quickly established himself as one of the land's premier juveniles, taking out the G2 Todman Slipper Trial and Listed Breeders Plate, whilst finishing a gallant and narrow 2nd to champion triple crown winner Dance Hero in the 2004 G1 Golden Slipper. Careful management allowed Charge Forward to furnish into a magnificent 3yo, with the horse adding the G2 San Domenico stakes to his impressive tally, beating home Dance Hero as well as Australia's emerging champion Fastnet Rock. He then claimed the G1 David Jones Galaxy in his last start, and is now one of Australia's most valuable and sought after stallion prospects, with his value stretching into many millions.  

The art of training fillies and mares can be extremely challenging, but it is an area where John has thrived. John inherited Private Steer as a talented but enigmatic race mare. Once he took over her training, John transformed the mare into one of Australia's top racehorses, winning the G1 Doncaster Handicap, G1 Stradbroke, G1 All Aged Stakes, as well as a host of other group and listed events.

Throughout her brilliant career, Private Steer has been dogged by leg problems, owing to less then perfect conformation. As a result she has had to be carefully managed, but under the expert tutelage of John O'Shea she has been able to find her very best, a fact her connections are very grateful for. The mare was recently crowned champion race mare of Australia, further enhancing her burgeoning value as a broodmare.
John's recent successes have been highlighted by John's second Doncaster win, with Racing To Win in 2006.  The horse also took out the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes in the same preparation.

John's success is based on the simple principles of hard work and professionalism. Before a horse commences its campaign, John has already spent many hours mapping out its program. He works meticulously to find the most appropriate races to allow each horse every chance of success. John also looks to book only the most capable jockeys.

John leaves nothing to chance, and has assembled a superb support staff. The O'Shea stable employs more staff to horses then any stable in Sydney, and his veterinary assistance is second to none. Each horse receives individual care, and the manageable number of 43 boxes means everyone is well looked after. You are not just a number in the John O'Shea stable.

After serving a long apprenticeship, John is now reaping the rewards of many years of hard work. With his current group of established stars and bumper crop of babies, the future looks bright for John and everyone associated with John O'Shea racing.
"John is an outstanding trainer who can set a horse for a preparation and be successful at it. He is able to place his horses very well and as a jockey I have the utmost confidence in riding any of his horses at any track" - Darren Beadman, jockey.
"John is a great young trainer who always has his horses very fit and places them to an advantage. John is also the easiest person to ride for because he is realistic about every horse's ability, and is always willing to listen to a jockey's opinion" - Jason Lee, jockey.
"John is destined for great things in racing because he puts the horse first, works hard, notices the detail and doesn't get distracted by the "side shows and tricks" that are part of the racing scene" - Glenn Fraser, owner.

The Family Man

John O'Shea is a tough trainer. His hard-working, no-nonsense attitude means that he gets the job done, and as a result he has experienced success as a metropolitan trainer. He maintains one of Sydney's best strike rates, and has tasted Group One glory with horses like Racing To Win, Private Steer, Charge Forward and Shot of Thunder.

There is another side to John, a side that many people don't see.

John is a dedicated family man, a loving husband and devoted father.

The story begins in North Queensland, where John grew up. Raised as a Catholic by his parents Bernie & Frances, John and his two brothers, Paul and Greg, and sister, Susan were raised to work hard and believe in themselves.

John recounts, "Growing up in North Queensland had its advantages and disadvantages. It's a very isolated area, so as a child growing up there, you tend to think that life revolves around the area where you live".

"As a kid I played football for Queensland, and I was very lucky to go on a tour around Australia when I was twelve or so. All of the boys from that tour then went on to sign up with one school in Brisbane, but I didn't because it wasn't a Catholic school".

"When I turned 15, I had the option to move to a GPS school. Life would have taken a very different path if I had decided to go there, but I chose not to as I couldn't take my horses with me. It all works in mysterious ways - I didn't go to that school because I couldn't take my horses, and I am where I am now because of my horses".

John went to the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba, where he completed a degree in journalism in 1989. John found journalism to be a great learning experience, but by the time he got to third year, he knew it wasn't what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

Living in Toowoomba was a real experience for John.

"Toowoomba is a hard, tough town. As a kid playing football, it's very hard and it's very tough. There is nowhere to hide. It's a town where men are men, where they drink rum, play hard and fight hard. I had a great time there, and made some really good friends".

"At the time I played really hard, but it was good because I got all of that out of my system, so by the time I got to 25 I was focused. I hardly drink at all now. It was a good experience though, and I wouldn't change any of it. "

John made the move down to Sydney in 1995. When thinking back to that time, John commented, "At first it was hard. It took me a while to find my feet, but once I did, it was great. I worked really, really hard when I came down here. I wasn't here to muck around".

Understandably John noticed a lot of differences between Sydney and North Queensland, the biggest thing being the degree of wealth that existed down here.

"I come from a pretty well-to-do family, but nothing like it is down here. Growing up, we didn't have to worry too much about money, and we were very lucky in that respect."

"It's a very different lifestyle down here, things move quickly. People in North Queensland have no concept of what it's like down here, and the same applies to a lot of people in Sydney, and their perception of Queensland. People in Sydney can be just as insular as those from North Queensland".

"When my parents come down here to visit, they really enjoy Sydney and the hospitality that is down here. There are a lot of really nice people down here. In a small town, you have to tolerate people a bit more, but in Sydney, since there are so many people, and so many nice people, you can just hang out with the people you enjoy. That's something I am a bit guilty of ... a lack of tolerance".

John has been influenced by a number of people. He lists TJ Smith as his favourite trainer, and Pope John Paul II as one of the people he most admires. Perhaps the most influential person with regard to his career is his father, Bernie. He taught John to have a very strong work ethic. John has had responsibility and worked hard from a very young age, and the hard work has paid off now.

John is also in awe of his wife Isabelle. John strongly believes that he could not have achieved everything he has achieved to date without her.

John and Isabelle met in her native Canada. It was the football off-season, and John had some free time. He knew a girl who had been an exchange student from Canada, and he had never been there before, so he decided to contact her and arranged to go over there. She took John around to see the sights, and that's when he met Isabelle.

"I just remember thinking how pretty she was, and what a nice girl she was", recounts John. "After meeting her, I went back there twice. I didn't see her the second time, but I spoke to her. She wrote to me a few years later and said that she would like to come to Australia and have a look around, so she came over, and that was it. We stayed in contact for a few years, I went over to Canada, and she came over here, that sort of thing".

"Special people really knock you over, and I decided I wasn't going anywhere without her. I believe that if I hadn't have met her, I would still be looking for her".

"I enjoy my kids so much, and I hate being away from them. I'd love a heap more to be honest. They are my life, and racing runs a very poor second. To put it into perspective, if people tell me that I'm not a good trainer, then que sera. But if my kids tell me I'm not a good dad, then I would be very worried. I put a lot of effort into my job, but my family is my life".