Tommy Stack first shot to public prominence as a high-profile National Hunt jockey, perhaps being best known for riding Red Rum to his famous third win in the Aintree Grand National. However, a crushing fall off one of his mounts at Hexham almost killed him and cut short his riding career, so he returned to Ireland to turn his hand to training. Since switching his attentions to that new profession, he has established himself as one of Ireland’s most consistent trainers from his base in Co. Tipperary.
The victory of Corwyn Bay in the inaugural running of the Cartier Million at the Phoenix Park in 1988 was one of Tommy’s most notable early victories on the flat and it wasn’t long before he was making an impact at Group 1 level. He has twice tasted Classic success, the first of which came with the Robert Sangster-owned Las Meninas who won the Newmarket 1,000 Guineas on her seasonal reappearance under John Reid in 1994. The second of those wins came when Tarascon, who had won the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes the previous September, won the Irish 1,000 Guineas in 1998, giving a youthful Jamie Spencer by far the biggest win of his career at that point.
However, later that year something happened that would change Tommy’s life forever. He was struck down with meningitis and having spent three weeks in a coma, three months in the hospital, and all but losing his hearing, he was deemed well enough to return home. Obviously, such an ordeal had an effect on everyone involved in the yard, so it was unsurprising that things went a bit quiet for a while. That said, more recent years have seen a major revival in the fortunes of the yard and with Tommy’s son Fozzie now a major cog in the operation, a steady stream of big-race winners now emanate from Thomastown Castle.
The 2004 season got off to the perfect start for the yard with the Patsy Byrne-owned Tolpuddle landing a gamble in the Lincoln. That horse would prove to be the star performer for the yard that season, going on to win the listed Heritage Stakes. 2005 again began in fine style for the yard with them saddling Northern Flight to win the opening juvenile maiden of the season at the Curragh. The aforementioned Tolpuddle won the listed Amethyst Stakes while Bali Royal claimed a valuable success for the yard when winning the Rockingham Handicap at the Curragh in July. Perhaps the most exciting performance of the season came from Alexander Alliance who broke her maiden in great style in the listed Flame Of Tara Stakes on just her second racecourse start.
2006 saw something of a trend emerging with the yard’s tally of winners comprising mostly of juvenile winners, and this is a trend that has continued to today. They again saddled the winner of the opening juvenile maiden of the season with Drayton winning in good style (subsequently disqualified) before going on to win the listed Coolmore Stakes and the listed Isabel Morris Stakes, both at the Curragh. Other notable juveniles were Hammer’s Boy and Varsity Blues, who both more than paid their way by winning twice. However, perhaps the most exciting prospect was left until later in the season when the Noel O’Callaghan-owned Alexander Tango broke her maiden at the Curragh in July prior to running with great credit in Group company and she would go on to prove her ability the following season.
2007 saw another batch of talented juveniles pass through Thomastown Castle. The Loan Express won at Naas prior to finishing in the frame in a number of valuable events, including the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot. He saddled Triskel to give Hawk Wing his first listed race success as a sire when she won the Silver Flash Stakes at Leopardstown in July. Arguably one of the best juveniles to ever pass through Stack’s hands came during that season when Myboycharlie appeared on the scene. He won a maiden, the Group 3 Anglesey Stakes and the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville prior to finishing third in a vintage renewal of the Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh. Outside of the juvenile ranks, Alexander Tango went on to prove herself a high-class performer, winning the Group 3 Derrinstown Stud 1,000 Guineas Trial, the listed Kilboy Estate Stakes and most notably, the Grade 1 Garden City Stakes at Belmont Park in America.
While known as primarily a trainer of Flat horses, the Stack yard invariably house a useful National Hunt performer, and 2007/8 saw not one, but two of these horses ply their trade. Perce Rock proved a lucrative performer in novice chases, winning three contests including a Grade 3 at the Fairyhouse Easter Festival. Wanango also paid his way by winning a valuable handicap chase at Uttoxeter in February.
2008 proved to be Stack’s best season in terms of number of winners in over 15 years, with the star of the show being the bargain-buy Unsung Heroine. The three-year-old filly won the Group 3 Give Thanks Stakes at Cork on just her second career start and went on to be placed in the English St Leger and the Group 2 Pride Stakes at Newmarket later in the season. The pick of yet another strong crop of juveniles was Ryehill Dreamer, who won the listed Golden Fleece Stakes prior to finishing second in the Group 2 Futurity Stakes at the Curragh.
2009 started off in excellent fashion for Stack, with him gaining his second win in the Irish Lincolnshire courtesy of Pollen. That momentum has continued to build throughout the season, with highlights being the win of Walk On Bye in the Group 3 Anglesey Stakes at the Curragh prior to finishing third in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes. Aine and Sugar Free tasted success at listed level, with Aine winning the Belgrave Stakes at Fairyhouse and Sugar Free winning the Land O'Burns Fillies' Stakes at Ayr. Cochlear and Magen’s Star also played a big part, winning three races each with the former winning a valuable handicap at Dundalk in August.
2010 couldn’t have gotten off to a better start for the Stack team when they recorded the remarkable feat of sending out the first four winners on the card on the opening day of the turf season at the Curragh.
During that campaign Noll Wallop picked up the Group 3 2000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown and High Award won the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom while this season also saw the emergence of Lolly For Dolly who landed the Group 3 Athasi Stakes at the Curragh.
Lolly For Dolly was once again to the fore in 2011 when winning the Group 3 Park Express Stakes and the Group 3 Gladness Stakes before then giving the yard its first Royal Ascot triumph with a memorable victory in the Group 2 Windsor Forest Stakes.
With an ever expanding list of notable victories the Stack name has been at the forefront of the training ranks for quite some time and the Thomastown Castle yard can be expected to remain a significant force in Irish racing for quite some time to come.