After the global financial crisis in Ireland and the hustle and bustle of Sydney, Daniel O’Connor is content to call Perth home.
The O’Connor name is new to WA training ranks, but his racing resume is broad and packed with international experience.
A jumps jockey and horse breaker in Ireland to working with leading English horseman, Richard Hannon, O’Connor’s grounding in thoroughbreds is extensive.
Five years ago O’Connor reluctantly left home in search of improved opportunities after sluggish economic conditions impacted the Irish racing industry.
With his Scottish partner and young daughter in hand, O’Conner travelled to Sydney and commenced his Australian grounding with Rick Worthington at Warwick Farm.
But the bright lights of Australia’s biggest city failed to inspire the Irishman who was soon back on the road again across the Nullarbor to Perth.
And following a mix of good luck, opportunity and generosity, O’Conner landed a plum job with one of Western Australia’s iconic racing families.
“I had the contact numbers of two Western Australian trainers in my pocket and said the person I pick out will be the person I call first,” O’Connor said.
“It happened to be Dan Morton who was good enough to offer a job and sponsor me as part of Australia’s visa application residency rules.
“The other trainer’s contact number that I had in my pocket was Fred Kersley so I don’t think I was ever going to miss out by coming to Perth.
“I enjoyed working with Rick Worthington, but the busy lifestyle in Sydney didn’t really appeal to me and I was told Perth was very family oriented.
“I was only in Sydney for about three or four weeks before coming to the realisation that it wasn’t really the place for me and my family.”
O’Connor also worked at stables in Germany, Switzerland, Norway and France.
He said Morton’s knowledge had given him invaluable insight to Australian racing.
“Dan has been brilliant and taught me an awful lot,” O’Connor said.
“He has a much more relaxed and patient approach to his horses.
“It’s simpler process than back home where we work horses more regularly.
“Dan is also a perfectionist in everything he does.”
Now that he is comfortably nestled in the heart of racing territory at Mathieson Road Ascot, O’Connor is determined to land his first Perth success.
The 41-year-old came close to snatching that maiden victory when Reef Keeper ran a ¾ length second to Very Tempting at Bunbury last month.
O’Connor has a big opinion of the gelding and is bringing him to town for the Xmas $300 Club Membership Plate (1600m) at Ascot on Saturday.
“I think he is an outstanding chance,” O’Connor said.
“He is a horse on the way up with loads of scope.
“I think he is a Derby horse and that is my plan.”
RWWA: Julio Santarelli