Curragh trainers John Oxx and Patrick Prendergast have joined forces to form a new partnership ahead of the commencement of the flat season at Naas on 24 March.
Prendergast will not renew his licence at the end of February and the new operation will continue with Oxx as the named trainer.
The news has emerged just a month after Prendergast collected the Flat Achievement of the Year honour at the HRI Awards for his handling of Skitter Scatter throughout a busy juvenile campaign that ended with the filly providing him with his maiden Group 1 success in the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh in September.
That was the highlight of his best ever season in terms of prizemoney earned (€649,095) and quantity of winners (21), improving on a 2017 term that also set new marks. As a result of his success however, Prendergast, who had previously enjoyed Group 3 victories with Coral Wave and Sugar Boy, is in demand but has limited room for expansion at Melitta Lodge.
Now, Skitter Scatter will continue her career under Oxx’s name. One of the most successful active trainers in Irish racing, he is just 34 winners short of reaching an astonishing landmark of 2000 winners.
The tally of 1966 winners includes 296 group and listed races, with 11 classic triumphs contributing to an accumulation of 37 Group One victories.Champions of the ilk of Ridgewood Pearl, Sinndar, Alamshar, Azamour and the remarkable Sea The Stars flourished under Oxx’s astute handling.
He has endured a leaner spell since, coinciding with the ending of a long association with the Aga Khan in the midst of the economic downturn, but has worked diligently to rebuild and counts 16 Godolphin horses among his string for the year ahead and a healthy spread of owners generally.
This new partnership with near neighbour Prendergast, who uses the same gallops and who he sees every morning anyway, is another step in that growth and confirms his enduring ambition.
This proximity of Currabeg Stables and Melitta Lodge is just one of the attractions for both men, who view the collaboration as the best way for them to perform at a higher level on a consistent basis. No jobs will be lost and the owners have all given their backing to the enterprise.
"We want to have a sufficient number of horses to ensure a strong and viable stable but also a number that is appropriate to the programme in the country, so that we can offer a good service to our owners" says Oxx.
"We both felt this was the best way for us to do that. I have the stable capacity and facilities that Patrick would have needed to grow and I have the staff needed to work it. Therefore, horses and sufficient staff will transfer from Melitta Lodge to Currabeg.
"It makes sense for us to pool our resources, our facilities, our staff, our horses, our ideas and our experience. We greatly look forward to this."
Prendergast is thankful to his owners for their support until now and for backing the new venture.
"I am deeply appreciative of all the owners that supported me over the years, the likes of Rick Barnes of Grangecon Stud, John O’Connor at Ballylinch Stud and the Rogers family at Airlie Stud, and it is great that they are taking the next step with John and me. I can’t wait to get going" states Prendergast.
"Splitting the roles will enable us to focus more deliberately on the different elements that are needed in order to provide a more comprehensive offering to our owners.
"Very little will change for Skitter Scatter. She will work on the same gallops she has always worked on, she will be ridden by the same jockey, Ronan Whelan. The only difference is that there will be an extra set of eyes on her. That those eyes belong to John Oxx is an obvious benefit."
Oxx is obviously enthusiastic about working with Skitter Scatter but views the benefits of an amalgamation as long term.
"I am delighted to have Patrick on board and am most appreciative and grateful to his owners, that they have welcomed the idea so wholeheartedly."