He rode Breeders Cup Marathon (gr. II) contender Worldly down the rail Oct. 31 at Santa Anita Park, just him and the bay son of A.P. Indy out in the melee of morning training leading up to the Breeders' Cup World Championships.
For trainer Brendan Walsh, preparing his first Breeders' Cup starter in two years of training is a brand new world, an all-consuming focus that could lead to the first graded stakes victory of his career coming on the sport's biggest stage.
"When you're an assistant, sure, you're around them all the time, but at the end of the day you can go home and not worry as much about it," he said. "It's definitely different with your own. There's been nothing else in my head for the last two or three weeks; what do I want to do here, what do I want to do there? You just try to do it all the best you can."
Walsh, 40, is an Irish native who saddled his first winner in March of 2012. Worldly, 6, is a racehorse who came to him just this spring.
"He's got a lot of class; he's been running against some really nice horses his last few runs since I've had him," Walsh said. "I got him probably end of May, June time, so I've only had him for his last three runs, and he's run well each time."
In the July 27 Prairie Meadows Handicap, Worldly was second to 2012 Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner Golden Ticket. In the Aug. 17 Governor's Cup Stakes at Remington Park, he came within a head of catching multiple grade II winner Prayer for Relief. And in his last start, the Sept. 28 Homecoming Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs, he ran a good third in the 1 1/8-mile race won by defending Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Fort Larned.
"His owner is a bloodstock agent; he's a good man," Walsh said of Chad Schumer, who purchased Worldly privately this spring. "He does a lot of business, he buys and sells for Saudi Arabian clients. With this horse he said 'I'm not interested in going anywhere fancy; I don't want to go to Saratoga or the big places, let's just put him on the road and see how he does.'
"We aimed him at those couple of stakes just to win some money, and he's brought in about $75,000- since we took him over, and now he's here. The only question is whether he'll stay or not, but I think he will. He's bred to stay and he's got a nice style about him; he will relax. I think he'll give himself every chance."
The trainer could be talking about himself. Initially interested in becoming a jockey, he attended the Irish apprentice school but wound up changing routes to spend stints at the Irish National Stud, with Coolmore, as an assistant to Mark Wallace in England, as a rider for Godolphin, and as an assistant to Eddie Kenneally the past four years. He's put himself in a position to succeed.
"I've always wanted to train, and always wanted to do American racing," Walsh said. "It worked out really good to work with Eddie, because I learned a lot. When you're with Godolphin it's a little surreal, money's no object and you've got the best of horses and everything. Listen, Eddie had some really nice horses, too, but it's a little more of a working man's barn.
"So that was good and then a couple of years ago got my first three horses and set out on my own and it's worked out good."
From 104 starts, Walsh has a 13-13-12 record for earnings of $437,461.
"It's actually been a pretty good year," Walsh said. "I've got this guy (Worldly); it worked out great to get him. We're just trying to pick up some horses and get the whole thing going—I've got around 12 all year, I'd like to pick up some more, and things like this will help."
Standing on the apron Thursday morning, Walsh's father Patrick and brother Jonathan sported official Breeders' Cup "Worldly" baseball caps and matching enthusiastic airs.
"He'll be very well-known in our area as well for his exploits," Patrick Walsh remarked with a grin. "When he was a young lad, we bought a pony for him and he won a couple of gymkhanas. We knew he would succeed because he never got killed by the pony."
"We're very proud of him," Jonathan Walsh said. "He's cool as a breeze. Maybe when he sends him out tomorrow he'll be a bit nervous, but right now we're just all excited."
Worldly, bred in Kentucky by Samantha & Mace Siegel out of the grade I-winning Citidancer mare Urbane, raced through 24 starts for Jay Em Ess Stable before being purchased by Schumer. Now, he's the foremost member of Welsh's modest string.
"He's like clockwork, he just does what he does, and that's him," the trainer said. "He's got to be kept happy is the main thing. I'm very easy on the horse, I only jog him and hack him most of the time, it seems to be what keeps him happy. If he stays, which I think he will, I think he's actually got a very good chance."