When you walk into a room with Anthony Kearns and Ronan Tynan, two-thirds of the famed Irish Tenors, you might not expect to hear them talking horse racing.
Once they get started sharing stories and photographs of their favorite horses, however, you'll have a hard time getting them to stop.
“Horse people recognize horse people,” Tynan said, leaning back in his chair and letting loose a booming laugh. “There's an element of madness in both professions, I suppose. Anthony and I, we're kind of like stallions when we walk out onto the stage. We don't hold back, we leave it all out there, just like you want the horse to have the heart for racing.”
The pair are clearly great friends, joking back and forth over the table. They've been working together on and off since 1998, and while Tynan grew up with horses, Kearns didn't get into the sport until the Irish Tenors made international fame with their concert “Live from Ellis Island” in 2001.
The original trio got together to purchase a racehorse shortly thereafter. The news made the front page of an Irish newspaper, Kearns recalled, and it was his introduction to horse racing. Unfortunately, Man of Lemancha wasn't much of a racehorse, failing to hit the board in five starts. Now 20 years old, the gelding is still going strong as a rehab/therapy horse.
Despite the early venture, Kearns was instantly hooked on the game and today has a pair of racehorses in training, including the talented national hunt filly Mt Leinster Gold. Out of one of Tynan's mares, Halfway Home, Kearns' “Leading Lady” has won three of her four starts in point-to-point competition, and the hope is that she'll become their first starter in the Cheltenham Festival next spring.
“We're both dreamers, Anthony and I,” Tynan explained. “St. Patrick's Day always falls during the Cheltenham Festival, and anyone who's Irish and can sing is working on St. Patrick's Day. We decided though that if the mare makes it (to Cheltenham), we'll take off work next year and go and cheer her on. So, the dream is alive!”
Tynan knows a little bit about achieving extraordinary dreams. Born with physical deformities of his lower legs, the young horse enthusiast never let the braces he wore stop him from riding. His father taught him to ride, and by the age of 16 Tynan was skipping school to jockey in point-to-point races.
He recalled occasionally securing his boots to the stirrups with rubber bands, which he now acknowledges was quite unsafe. He told stories about near-death experiences when his mounts failed to make a turn on the course, including one ill-timed venture into a parking lot.
Perhaps Tynan's favorite story, however, came aboard a mare named Blue Day.
“We were winning by 25 lengths when I fell off at the last fence,” he said, another booming laugh erupting from his chest at the memory. “I looked behind, and before I knew it the mare was in the air! You know the white gates they have on the edges of those jumps? Rather than making the stride all the way to the orange pole, she took off that far away from the jump.
“She was favored, too!”
At age 20, a motorcycle accident forced the issue and both of Tynan's legs had to be amputated. Within weeks he was back at school seeking a physical education degree, and shortly after he developed an interest in track and field.
Competing at the Special Olympics from 1981-1984 in both track and equestrian events, Tynan won 18 gold medals and set 14 world records.
He was hardly finished; Tynan went on to pursue a medical degree. A year shy of completion, he entered and won the BBC talent search show, “Go For It!” This led to the launch of his operatic career, which Tynan later complemented by opening his own medical clinic in Ireland.
Today, Tynan owns 60 horses in total, including Thoroughbreds and homebred show jumpers. He loves to do the farm work when he's at home in Ireland, from grooming to foaling out mares and has thousands of photographs and videos of his “children” on his smart phone. His favorite, Tynan said, is the jumper Warrentstown You 2, who won 38 Grand Prix's and represented Ireland in the Nation's Cup.
All Kearns and Tynan's equine success pales in comparison to their musical careers.
The Irish Tenors hold the record as the third-highest grossing performance in PBS history and have performed from Carnegie Hall to the Sydney Opera House. Both on their own and with the Irish Tenors, Tynan and Kearns have performed for numerous world leaders, including four U.S. presidents, multiple prime ministers, and the Pope, as well as at major horse racing events like the Breeders' Cup, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes.
In addition, the group has performed countless concerts for U.S. military, active duty and veterans, and their families, and for police, fire, and emergency responders. This St. Patrick's Day the Irish Tenors will appear at the historic Louisville Memorial Auditorium in Louisville, Ky., which is both a public auditorium and World War I Memorial.
Of course, there are more goals the friends still want to accomplish before they hang up their boots.
“We've had success, you know,” Tynan said, “but my real dream is to breed one that goes the whole way. It means you made the decisions, the right match, you know? You put two and two and you got four, and then you squared four and you got sixteen. You got the whole lot. And it's such a thrill.”
Kearns agreed, adding that sharing the experience with his good friend would make it all the sweeter.
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