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Wanganui celebrates a big win for the locals

"Mate, it was a hell of a weekend, one in a million, let me tell you," that was the very explicit description from a jubilant but somewhat hoarse Wayne Keenan, owner-breeder of O'Ceirin's Angel, winner of the Group Three Postponed @ Stoney Bridge Stakes, when spoken to on Monday.

"My hand is sore from everyone shaking it on Saturday and again on Sunday, and my voice is hoarse from yelling and screaming. I started screaming when she (O'Ceirin's Angel) came down the straight well before she hit the front. Every one around me just stared and when the race was over they all clapped – I'm not sure whether it was for my performance or the horse's performance that they clapped – I don't care either."

"We had a big night in the Sports Bar in Wanganui on Saturday night and continued again Sunday night at an Awards evening. It's the best feeling," the Wanganui identity enthused.

Keenan races the Al Akbar mare O'Ceirin's Angel under the mantle of the Keenan Family Trust, who bred the mare from one of their seven broodmares in residence on a fifty acre property just out of Wanganui known as O'Ceirin's Lodge. O'Ceirin is the Celtic version of the surname Keenan, and it seems apparent that this Keenan may also have a touch of the "Blarney".

The ebullient 55-year-old former West Coaster lives in Wanganui where he operates a successful concrete placement business, and has always had an interest in racing.

"I come from a family that was mad keen on racing, and I was no different. I got into breeding because I was sick of going to the sales and coming home empty handed, I never seemed to have enough money to buy the type of horse I wanted, so I started breeding them.

Keenan describes himself as a hobby breeder and maintains that in the last twenty years he has probably had about 30 odd winners. He raced O'Ceirin's dam, Angel Cadell, on lease from John Corcoran, and purchased her through the sale ring after she had finished racing. She is one of three Yachtie mares that he breeds from - the others are Yachting Magic, a winner of two races and in foal to Handsome Ransom, and Gold Regatta, a winner of three.

"I was a fan of Yachtie. They were very tough racehorses and for the same reason I was a fan of Al Akbar. Besides they were local. I bred a good Al Akbar a few years ago that won $800,000 odd in Singapore, he was called Connery and is out of my Truly Vain mare Truly Lucky. She is going back to Postponed this season, so it's good to get some of their money back with the win last Saturday. Her daughter Clancy O'Ceirin(Al Akbar) is going there as well.

"Cadell won six races including the Miss Scenicland Stakes on the Coast which, because I'm a Coaster, was my biggest thrill in racing before O'Ceirin's Angel's win.
I left the Coast about 35 years ago – I was a bushman and milling was being phased out on the Coast. There was no future for my young family there. I got a job as the manager of a saw mill in Wanganui, but a year later it burnt down so I started the concrete placement business and haven't looked back.

"I have been able to establish O'Ceirin's Lodge where I can spend time at the end of the day chatting to my mares and foals – it's a nice way to unwind. When you have had a bad day and they come up and smooch for a feed you feel a whole lot better. I have a manager on the farm - he does all the weaning, breaking and pre-training. I have done a bit myself but leave it to the experts now. Gold Regatta nearly killed me once and according to Alexander Fieldes, who was there at the time, if I hadn't been such a big fellow she probably would have!"

You get the feeling that Keenan is fond of his stock and knows all their characteristics and personalities and would like to share his thoughts on these with anyone who is interested. He tends to keep his horses up to two or three-year-olds and sell them as trial winners rather than sell them as yearlings.

"Cadell's first foal was by Victory Dance and was sold at the Ready To Run Sale to Graeme Rogerson but unfortunately it went amiss. The next foal was O'Ceirin's Angel(Al Akbar) and a mate of mine is racing the next foal Tuscadell, a gelding by Tuscany Flyer. She has a Stark South two-year-old colt that we have broken in, and a yearling by Postponed. She is about to foal to Handsome Ransom and booked to go to High Chaparral," he concluded.

Cadell is out of the unraced Bagalot mare On The Murray, and is the best performed of her seven winners. She in turn is a half sister to the Wanganui Guineas winner Higgins (Avatar) being out of Amourelle by Idomeneo. Amourelle was a half sister to the Group One winners Card Shark and Avon Angel, and the stakes winners Peggy Ann, In Vogue and What A Hit, being out of Just Regal out of Regal Fair (by Fair's Fair out of Tenderfoot).

Another branch of this family produced the stakes winners Lunar Probe, Our Fun (dam of Go Fun, and Such Fun) and Chantal, the dam of Inceptor, Bright Halo and Hampton's Pride and grandam of Chagemar.

O'Ceirin's Angel is now the winner of seven races and has seven placings from just 23 starts, including a win earlier this year at Westland. She will now be heading for the Group Three Cuddle Stakes at Wellington on Melbourne Cup Day – she has already won two races at Wellington this year, and if she were to win this one you will probably here the celebrations all the way from Wellington back to Wanganui!
- Michelle Saba


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