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John ‘Cookie’ O’Callaghan hopeful ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity with Matilda Picotte will lead to Saudi triumph

February 22nd, 2024 10:30 AM

By Kieran McCarthy

Matilda Picotte will race in the Turf Sprint at the Saudi Cup meeting on Saturday.

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‘WE’RE not going for the craic,’ John O’Callaghan quipped, as he was packing his suitcase for his five-day trip to Saudi Arabia this week.

Passport? Check. Visa? Check. Factor 50 suncream? Check. A horse capable of winning the 1351 Saudi Turf Sprint that has a prize-fund of over $2 million? Check.

‘We have a chance here and that’s why we are going,’ O’Callaghan explained.

‘We are in horses all our lives but this is the first time we’ve had a very decent horse. For the likes of us, this happens once in a lifetime.’

John ‘Cookie’ O’Callaghan from Castletownkenneigh (well known locally as he owns Cookie O’Callaghan’s Bar), his brother Niall and his son Jack are part of the Matilda and Kilmichael Racing Partnership that owns the hugely-promising four-year-old Matilda Picotte.

On Saturday she races in the prestigious Turf Sprint in Riyadh, a seven-furlong Group Two run that carries huge prize-money – and O’Callaghan is hopeful this winning team will have another memorable day out at the Saudi Cup.

‘We have had a massive run, and please god it will continue this weekend,’ he said, noting some of Matilda Picotte’s many impressive performances, including back-to-back wins in Doncaster and Newmarket late last year.

‘As a three year old she finished second in the guineas trial in Leopardstown and then finished third at the 1000 Guineas in Newmarket – a lot of people in West Cork did well off her that day,’ he said.

‘As a four year old we are hoping to win a Group One with her. In her last two runs she won in Newmarket and Doncaster with Oisin Murphy on board, and he is booked to ride again this weekend.’

There’s an element of luck to how the O’Callaghans crossed paths with Matilda Picotte.

‘We bought her in October 2021, by accident really,’ he explained.

‘We were meant to buy a colt in Tipperary, but there was a weather warning the day we were meant to travel so we couldn’t go. The colt was sold by the time we got there a few days later, but this filly turned up. Our trainer, Kieran Cotter from Monasterevin, said to have a look at her. My brother Niall did and said we’d buy her straightaway; we are part of a syndicate, the Matilda and Kilmichael Racing Partnership.’

John, Niall and Jack are the ‘Kilmichael Racing Partnership’, with the name a nod to John and Niall’s mother who hailed from Kilmichael.

‘We have a quarter share in Matilda Picotte,’ O’Callaghan explained, and all three are in Riyadh for the big race on Saturday, but it does mean Castletown Celtic are without their star striker Jack for their Beamish Cup semi-final against Clonakilty Soccer Club on Sunday. 

‘That’s unfortunate, but we were lucky enough to get an invite for Matilda Picotte and you can’t turn down an opportunity like this.

‘Hopefully we will have a bit of luck.’

They’ll be waltzing in Riyadh and Cookie O’Callaghans Bar in Castletown this weekend, if Matilda Picotte does the business.



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