In Focus: Keith O’Brien - former jockey
Former jockey living on Long Island
A former jockey, currently works as a horse trainer and voice actor. Lives on Long Island with his wife Deirdre and five children.
Tell us about your Irish heritage.
“My father Leo was born and raised in Newcastle, Co. Dublin. He left school when he was 13 and went to work for a famous Irish trainer based in Newcastle. His name was Tom Taafe who was the father of Pat Taafe, the rider of Arkle. My mother Joan was born and raised in Clonsilla, Co. Dublin.
“Following a severe head injury my dad suffered in a jump race at Monmouth Park we returned to Ireland in 1977. Dad began training with his brother, Michael, who had been paralyzed from a fall in a jump race in 1974.
“They built Rathbride Stables on the Curragh from scratch and in 1980 they were champion steeplechase trainers! During those years we lived in Leixlip, Co. Kildare and I attended school in Maynooth. In 1981 we returned to the U.S., and my dad had one horse named Sports Reporter.”
Tell us about your involvement in horse training.
“My involvement obviously stems from my father. When he was a steeplechase jockey I was captivated. I was a boy who idolized his father, and to me being a jump jockey was the most daring and courageous career.
“Thankfully, my parents were very education conscious, and after graduating from Chaminade High School in Mineola, I went to college at Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. I graduated with a BA in political science.
“I rode over jumps for several years and was lucky to ride winners in Saratoga as well as in Ireland and England.
“I became interested in training because it enabled me to continue to be around my dad, and you get to work with such magnificent animals. I'm not as fascinated by the gambling, I relish the sport and the physical and mental challenges it presents. It still amazes me that my dad was the first and to this day only American based trainer to win a European classic, which he accomplished in 1991 with Fourstarsallstar winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas.
“Over the years he achieved some marvelous success without tremendous resources behind him. I think he has imparted a great horse sense to me and a love of the animal and the sport at its core. Racing is a game that demands patience, because we are dealing with these living and breathing creatures.
“Sadly, I think that has been greatly forgotten in the modern era. I know how to train a racehorse, but without significant backing it's become an exercise in futility.”
How did you start your career as a voice over artist?
“Voice acting is another passion of mine. I have always had a great imagination and loved to play different characters for fun. Whether it's changing a dialect, assuming a different personality anything creative.
“Anyway, my wife noticed a class at a local high school teaching the rudiments of voice acting. Well, I was hooked and I began to research on the Internet and going into the city taking acting classes, voice classes much to the chagrin of my wife! It's taken a few years of diligence but I'm starting to book some interesting spots.
“It has opened up a whole new world to me, and I have met some wonderful people. It's one thing I want to teach my children, that there is a great big world out there. Follow your heart, your passions. Experience as much of life as you can and you will be a better person for it!”
(For more information check out Keith’s website http://www.keithlobrien.com)
Interview by Molly Muldoon
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