Situated in the heart of Tipperary just a few miles outside Clonmel, Minella Racing is a remarkable nursery and early years training establishment for some of Ireland and the United Kingdom's top National Hunt horses.
Owned by John Nallen, Minella Racing is run from his pristine yard at Lavally in the shadow of Sliabh na mban. John has been buying, rearing, pre-training and producing some of the finest jumpers our generation has ever seen.
Together with his sister Elizabeth, John also owns and operates Hotel Minella, a four-star hotel complete with a leisure centre situated on the banks of the River Suir right at the epicentre of the international acclaimed thoroughbred scene in Tipperary. Hotel Minella is not only a renowned jewel in the crown of Ireland's Ancient East but it is also located right in the centre of Tipperary's equine epicentre. Furthermore, it is important to note that 'Minella' is the naming prefix given to all the foals that have passed through the hands of John and his team at Minella Racing over the years.
This team have been fortunate enough to enjoy many successful years in the thoroughbred business with many stand out moments and memories of great Minella horses to reminisce. Most notably 2021 was a real showstopper when Cheeltenham Gold Cup Winner Minella Indo and Aintree Grand National Winner Minella Times fulfilled the dream in quick succession making all the hard work, attention to detail and unwavering patience worthwhile.
The model is simple, John attends the foal sales each year and keeps in touch with breeders on the ground also to acquire approximately a dozen foals annually. The foals are typically bought at six or seven months and take up residence at their new home in Lavally until they are four-year-olds and they are introduced into the point-to-point scene.
John has a keen eye for a special foal which has paid great dividends over the years for Minella Racing. In a recent interview, John described a feeling he gets at the sales as one he can't quite put his finger on "when a foal just jumps into his arms" and he knows he has to have it. John has a strong preference for the traditional looking national hunt types who often present as foals with big heads and big ears which they "grow into in time".
This maestro gets a great kick out of finding rough diamonds and turning them into stars. To catch his eye in the busy sales environment, for a start they need to have a presence and a good page (success in their bold lines as outlined in the details of their pedigree in the sales catalogue).
As aforementioned the model is simple but it is widely recognised that John sees something else in many of the foals he purchases and it is when these foals arrive at Minella Racing that the real magic begins!
Foals are treated like royalty, closely monitored as they grow into themselves and develop their own unique personalities. They are guided and nurtured by John and his team who believe in the principles of plenty of good food, lots of time and patience and adapting the training of young stock to the individual to ensure they reach their full potential as youngsters before going on to point-to-pointing and eventually racing for top owners and trainers here at home and in Great Britain.
John has invested heavily in the facilities at Lavally over the years and the horses who are tutored under his watchful eye enjoy the best early upbringing a prospective owner or trainer could hope for.
Top Trainer, Henry de Bromhead commented "It's very important to us to be able to see them perform for a start and also to know that they have been brought through the right way, well-schooled and well trained that's massive for us. I'm probably John's biggest fan because we've had so much success buying from there and of course we'd love to buy more."
For over 40 years John Nallen has been buying foals and dreaming of producing the next big jumping superstars and with a year like his last one under his belt, it's fair to say he's living that dream and not ready to wake up yet.
His keen eye, expert know-how and loyal team lead by Assistant Trainer and Former Point-to-Point Champion Corky Carroll, have served him well over the years. The really exciting part is, who knows what next year will bring and that's why the team at Minella Racing love this sport so much!