The secret is out--Garrett O'Rourke, manager of Prince Khalid Abdullah's North American division of Juddmonte Farms, is this year's Kentucky farm manager of the year. The annual award is formally given at the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club dinner dance in December, but club president Steve Johnson named the honored guest at the Nov. 6 meeting in Lexington.
O'Rourke has been with Juddmonte since 1992. A native of Limerick, Ireland, O'Rourke grew up with horses. His father, the late Willie O'Rourke, was a veterinarian, and counted many of the area's top studs among his clients. His line of work made a strong impression on his children--of the five, three are farm managers, including Garrett, and one is married to a trainer.
"He was a very particular and picky person. There was a right way and a wrong way (to do things), and he insisted on the right way," O'Rourke said of his father. "I appreciate that. I used to complain about that when I was younger, and now I'm the one trying to teach that."
One of O'Rourke's main teaching opportunities has come through the Kentucky Equine Management Internship (KEMI) program, which he helped start. The intent was to create skilled and educated farm workers, whether for Kentucky or elsewhere. Now in its fourth session, it appears the program is working. A number of its graduates are permanent residents and employees of Thoroughbred farms, and at least one current enrollee works at Juddmonte each semester.
In addition to O'Rourke, the club will honor associate members Ed Bowen, author and former editor of The Blood-Horse
, David Switzer, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, and active member Ted Carr, manager of Diamond A Farms, at the December event.