Orla McKenna always dreamt of working at Tattersalls Ireland but it wasn’t until 2006 when managing director, the late George Mernagh (a family friend) asked if Orla would be interested in a part-time role in the bloodstock office with colleagues Gladys Graham and Margaret O’Neill.
As head of bloodstock, Orla continues to ensure the smooth running of the bloodstock office on a day-to-day basis and in the build up to the busy sales season.
“With a lot of veterinary requirements attached to the store sales I will liaise closely with vendors and with our veterinary panel and throughout the vetting process before each sale.
“This is an important part of the select sales and can be a nervous time for vendors. It’s hugely important to make sure it runs as smoothly as possibly.”
On sales days, Orla helps deal with any issues that may arise, to arrange staffing prior to the sale and to ensure the sales complex is set up to a high standard for the arrival of horses, vendors and purchasers.
Co-ordinating the complex sales process can be tricky and isn’t always an easy position. “You try to help as many people as you can, but at the end of the day, we are trying to put our best catalogue together and unfortunately it’s not possible to accommodate everyone.
“It’s difficult when you have to call a vendor to let them know we can’t offer a place in their preferred sale. However, our store sales are now set up so that we can offer every horse that our team of inspectors see a place in a sale through our new July Sale.”
It’s fantastic to have the September Yearling Sale back in Fairyhouse again
Tattersalls also offers a part-two of this sale to accommodate those that have not been offered a place or need the extra time. “The same will apply to our flat yearlings. It’s fantastic to have the September Yearling Sale back in Fairyhouse again and I am hugely enthusiastic about this.
“We also have our later open November Winter Yearling Sale, so again, it’s great to have a later option for our flat yearlings.”
Nominations for the May Sale, Derby Sale and now the July Sale start to pour in to Tattersalls from December and continue into February when the team of inspectors hit the road.
“Inspections are ongoing for five to six weeks and Cheltenham is always a good target to try have them finished by.”
With up to 2,000 horses to be seen, Orla’s busy team of inspectors does a great job getting around and spending some time with all of the vendors. The inspectors report back to the office where in turn all resulting correspondence goes out through the bloodstock office.
I am very impressed with some that were notoriously ‘not IT friendly’ and are now flying with doing online entries
“Our online entry system is a fantastic asset and we are now moving away from manual entry forms completely. Our vendors have latched onto this very well and I am very impressed with some that were notoriously ‘not IT friendly’ and are now flying with doing online entries.”
According to Orla, the bloodstock office is like the engine room at Tattersalls and from early nomination/entry stage everything happens there. One of Orla’s roles is to arrange the staffing for each sale.
“We are very lucky and have staff that have been working at the sales for many years and are very familiar faces on any given sales day. The buzz at the Derby Sale is second to none. We know we always have some potential superstars on offer.
“I always enjoy the vetting days when you can really get to see the horses up close and see the quality and substance that our team has selected and the dreams that lie ahead with most of them. The same applies to the yearlings.”
Orla and her team deal with so many nominations each year, finally putting the catalogue together often feels like a great achievement – this year being extra special as the sales are back at Tattersalls Ireland again having been in Newmarket with this sale for the past two years.
“I love the Friday before the sale when the complex is just open for the arrival of yearlings, the excitement and anticipation starts from there for me.”
Orla doesn’t just have contact with thoroughbreds at work, in her down time they appear regularly too. In 2018 she won the final leg of the Corinthian Jockeys Challenge on Song of Namibia and she rides out at trainer Gavin Cromwells every morning before work.
“I started to ride out with Gavin in 2018 when I signed up for the Corinthian Challenge having not ridden out for a number of years.”
Alongside a high-octane job and a high-octane riding habit, Orla also finds time for well-being and to clear her head in other ways.
“I recently joined the Slane Spinners cycling club which has been great fun, keeps me fit and I have met some great people. I also love to play golf.
“My two sons are very keen Gaelic football players and play senior football for our local GAA Club Mattock Rangers and it’s great to head off to a match at the weekends.”
If you are prepared to work hard, and be passionate and enthusiastic, I think that is a good starting place
Orla admits to never having dreamed she would be in the position at Tattersalls she is today and confides to feeling extremely honoured to be in the head of bloodstock role.
“Working in the bloodstock industry for me has been hugely rewarding. If you are prepared to work hard, and be passionate and enthusiastic, I think that is a good starting place. There are so many varied roles in the bloodstock sales industry and Tattersalls has and will continue to be a great place to work.”