World renowned tenor Anthony Kearns has long been able to hit the high notes with his voice, but now he’s doing so in the world of horse racing too, writes Bradley West.
The 49-year-old from Kiltealy, County Wexford is best known for his exploits in singing trio The Irish Tenors, but is also beginning to put his name on the racing map thanks to a mare called Mt Leinster Gold.
Kearns’ has long been a lover of the sport, having been schoolmates with a trainer he now works alongside in Colin Bowe and brought up in an area known for its Point-to-Point racing.
But it wasn’t until 2001 when the trio garnered worldwide fame from their album Ellis Island, that Kearns was convinced by bandmate Ronan Tynan, who owns some 60 horses, to get involved with racing.
The trio purchased their first horse together, Man of Lemancha, and have since then shared ownership on a number of mares and fillies – some more successful than others.
But it’s not about the winning and losing for Kearns.
“I’m in it for the sport and the enjoyment of it,” Kearns said.
“I have been very lucky with The Irish Tenors, we’ve done very well in our careers, but I’m not in the business of buying a horse and selling it on for the profit.
“I always wanted to be a part of it, whether on my own or in a partnership and I’ve had both.
“Where can they go? Babysteps, where can they take you? That’s the buzz of it.
“I’m a big Point-to-Point fan, I like attending the ‘grassroots’ of it. Being out in the fields, and the Point-to-Point fields are as good as some of the tracks these days, you get to meet the people on the ground in hail, rain or snow.
“I enjoy that, and you get to see the potential that’s coming through. That’s exciting.”
Kearns, who spends a lot of his time in America, insists there are many crossovers between his two passions.
“It’s a great distraction,” he added. “Our business, like any business, is stressful. We’re like the thoroughbreds of the singing world. We have to get up there on our back legs in all kinds of conditions.
“You’re travelling long distances and people have paid top dollar to come and see you – you have to deliver and you may not always be on form.
“A lot of the time I’m in the States. When I’m in America I go to a lot of racing, mainly Flat but also National Hunt – I get to see a lot of tracks and I’ve performed at a lot too.”
Kearns may have owned horses with others before but is now finding his greatest success under his own steam.
That is all down to Mt Leinster Gold, who has won five races in a row – three point-to-points before graduating onto the track with wins at Fairyhouse and Wexford.
Excitement is growing around the seven-year-old, who takes her next step up at Punchestown Festival this week, although it hasn’t always been this way with Tynan deciding against owning the Bowe-trained horse when given the choice.
Kearns's star horse gears up for the seventh race of her career in the Adare Manor Opportunity Series Final Handicap Hurdle, over 2m 4.5f.
The question now is whether she can hit the right note once more.
“We had the dam of this lady [Mt Leinster Gold] and we had other horses that she had bred that didn’t race,” Kearns added.
“The dam was old now and Ronan was asking ‘well, which horse do you want? I’ll take one and you take the other’.
“It was a toss of a coin but I think in hindsight, knowing Ronan as I do, one was a three-year-old and the other was just turning two so he thought he had less work to do with the three-year-old – that’s the mistake for him!
“Her first day out she could have won. She was up against a very good mare in Bella Ballerina that day.
“She probably hasn’t been really tested yet, she’s been given a nice time of it. That’s good planning, finding the right races, the right ground, right jockeys – all the ingredients coming together.
“She does the bare amount at home, but when she goes to the track she grows another foot taller and does whatever we ask of her – she’s a smart mare.
“We won three Point-to-Points but after that it was open company so we said we’d give her a chance on the track.
“The long-term goal would be to hopefully breed off her, if she was good enough maybe she could win a Grade Three or Grade Two along the way.”