Trainer Keri Brion Makes More History In Ireland

April 10, 2021

Keri Brion wrote another piece of American horse racing history on Friday when becoming the first US handler to train the winner of a hurdle race in Ireland.

The Mean Queen (4/5f), bought by Buttonwood Farms LLC on the recommendation of Brion, came home the six and a half-length winner of the 2 miles 4 furlongs Slaney River (Mares) Maiden Hurdle at Wexford under amateur rider John O’Neill.

A five-year-old daughter of Irish-bred stallion Doyen, The Mean Queen was making only her third career start in the 11-runner field at the racecourse closest to Brion’s Irish winter base.

The Pennsylvania-born Far Hill, Maryland-based former rider became the first American trainer to win a National Hunt race in Ireland when the Irv Naylor-owned Daniel Nevin-ridden Scorpion’s Revenge (25/1) was an impressive winner of the Jim Ryan Services (Pro/Am) Irish National Hunt Flat Race at Cork Racecourse last Sunday 

Following Friday evening’s win, a jubilant winning handler declared:

“She (The Mean Queen) was very unlucky at Down Royal Racecourse. The mare (Me Too Pleasing) who won that race also won a bumper (National Hunt flat race) at Aintree yesterday so it was a form boost. I’ve always thought very highly of her, and she proved today how good she is. She’ll only improve from here and I can’t wait to see her in the States.”

“She’s a really good mare,” asserted Brion. “I expected a big run from her today and she didn’t disappoint. She’s always been a great jumper and has won a point-to-point. She’s had plenty of schooling and the jumping has always been spot on.

“We were going to try and win a bumper with her rather than a maiden hurdle but the owner has bought a bunch of mares as he has a broodmare operation and I have a couple to take home to try and break their maidens in America. We figured we’d try to break her maiden here and then go on to bigger things in America.”

The Mean Queen’s next run may be at the Iroquois Races in Nashville on 26 June, either in the filly and mare stake or an allowance hurdle against males, with a trip to Saratoga then likely.

Explaining why she suggested to Rod Moorhead of Buttonwood Farms to purchase the mare, Ms. Brion admits:

“She showed so much promise when I saw her. She has a very good page and Rod loves to grow his breeding programme and loves the idea of incorporating mares that don’t run on lasix.”

The win was a second Irish success for Keri Brion, who has been based at Baltimore Stables in County Wexford since last November. 

The months since her arrival in Ireland have seen huge changes for the dual purpose conditioner, as she graduated from assistant trainer to the legendary Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard to being the main trainer at her own KB Stables. 

“I’m going out with a bang as I’m heading back to America on Sunday and there are nine horses including this mare coming back with me,” discloses Brion.

Among those returning to the USA will be Eclipse Award winner Winston C, who only ran once while in Ireland predominantly due to minor setbacks; Baltimore Bucko, a faller at the final hurdle when leading a novice hurdle handicap at Cork on St Patrick’s Day (17 March), and the former US Grade 1-winning French Light, a runner-up at Clonmel in a novice weight-for-age hurdle in January. 

Discussing her achievements in Ireland over the past week, Brion proudly responds:

“I’m now the first American trainer to train a bumper winner and a hurdle winner in Ireland and that is so special to me.”

When asked if a return visit to Ireland is likely later this year, Keri Brion says:

“I’d say we’ll come back again now that I have a better idea what it takes and what kind of horses you want. The owners seem to get a kick out of it and hopefully next year they can actually come over and be at the races which would be fun.”

In a history-making weekend for women in horseracing, Keri Brion wasn’t the only woman writing her place in jumps history. At Aintree, England, on Saturday, Irish jockey Rachael Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Randox Grand National. Keri Brion is just 29 years old while Rachael Blackmore is only two years her senior. Both of these women are history makers already, but don’t expect their history-making achievements to end with this weekend’s successes.

Photos: Courtesy of Breandán Ó hUallacháin

Contributing Authors

Breandán Ó hUallacháin

Breandán Ó hUallacháin writes about Irish, British, French and Australian horseracing, both National Hunt and Flat. He has an interest in the history of racing...

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