Mimi Wadham & Violet Hesketh

19 May 2020

We are now nearing the end of our time in Newmarket and it is safe to say we have been exposed to an enormous amount in a relatively brief six-week stint in Britain’s headquarters of racing.

Our time here has been made all the more enjoyable by ex Sales Director of Tattersalls, Martin Mitchell or “Mitch” as trainees like to call him. Most of the group were warmly greeted by Mitch upon arrival and after a brief introduction were swiftly relocated to The Yard, a popular watering hole among Newmarket folk.

This set the scene for a highly entertaining weekend which included a group supper cooked at the impressive townhouse that trainees are very fortunate to inhabit for the duration of their stay. The evening was also marked by the start of the Breeders’ Cup meeting and we all listened intently to American trainees, Stu and Hallie, share their knowledge and give us a few tips. Unfortunately it was to no avail but still made for great viewing and an entertaining start to Newmarket!

 Fresh faced after our night of betting we all ventured to Dalham Hall and were very kindly shown around the farm by assistant stud manager, Ray Eyre. One of the highlights had to be seeing a gorgeous Frankel foal who’s a half brother to Dubawi- he certainly looks the part so fingers crossed he can emulate his kin on the track. Although it was arguably a shame that our arrival in Newmarket coincided with the final day of the flat season, it was great to spend it in the sun at the Rowley Mile among a great crowd and with a decent card.  Given that National Hunt racing is a fundamental part of the industry, taking up approximately 50% of the British Racing calendar, it was only fitting for trainees to attend a local NH meeting at Huntington. This was a completely new experience for some of the foreign trainees notably the Australians and Americans who don’t have the equivalent in their countries, they all left the meeting with a newfound respect for National Hunt jockeys!

 One of the first challenges of Newmarket was ensuring that everyone was ok to drive the cars. It may sound simple but many of the group have never driven on the left hand side of the rode and there were some serious questions marks over certain members of our group when presented with a gear stick! Nonetheless, this first hurdle was successfully negotiated and we were able to move onwards and upwards to the weeks ahead.

 Despite being an induction, the first week was still jam packed with exciting lectures and visits. It was fitting to begin with Hugh Anderson who spoke very eloquently about the merger of Darley and Godolphin, an event that we have naturally taken a keen interest in. We were also extremely lucky to be shown around Godolphin’s own training grounds at Moulton Paddocks and Stanley House by Hugh. They were phenomenal and it was fantastic to see Charming Thought in action. It was during this week that trainees really got to grips with the prominent history of Newmarket and its training grounds. We braved the first frost of the year when Nick Patton showed us around the infamous Newmarket Heath. Filled with enthusiasm Nick really caught the imagination of the group making many anecdotal references including when he recalled seeing Frankel galloping up the Al Bahatri faster than the train travelling along side him.

 Having seen where generations of trainers have produced top class horses we then visited the original meeting place of the industry participants, namely The Jockey Club Rooms, home to some of the most renowned paintings of racing history including those by Stubbs and Munnings. Everyone was in awe of the history of the venue and were delighted to return later that evening for the inaugural Steward’s Debate. This was hosted by Stephen Wallace and facilitated by Alan Lee who oversaw the panel consisting of Simon Bazalgette, the Chief Executive of The Jockey Club, Andy Hornby the CEO of Coral, former ROA Council Member Eamonn Wilmott, and owner/syndicate manager Sam Hoskins.The debate focussed on bookmakers’ contribution to racing, racing in the media as well as the retirement of thoroughbreds from racing. The discussion fuelled debate within the group itself invoking a number of differing and passionate views regarding the future of our sport. It was a great spectacle to be a part of and the Flying Starts have also been involved in remodelling next year’s event which will hopefully be better still. The team leaders for this leg of the course were fortunate to be asked to speak at the Next Generation Committee Careers Course about Godolphin Flying Start. It was great to speak to so such an enthusiastic group of people many of which are looking to apply to Godolphin Flying Start in the near future.

 During our time in Newmarket the group has been split into three groups each spending one week at the British Racing School, one week at Hamilton Hill where Darley’s pre training centre is located and also a week in the office at Dalham Hall which has included stints in the marketing, nominations, accounts, racing and stud offices. Spending time with the Darley team has been a real benefit to the group. They have a huge amount of knowledge to share and have been very generous about doing so. We had a brilliant stallion parade and broodmare valuation session with Stud Director, Liam O’Rourke while Sam Bullard gave us a fantastic talk on the stallion business and Diana Cooper gave us an insight to her new role as Falcon’s Head of Charities.

 All of the trainees enjoyed their experience of the Racing School although I think it may have been to varying degrees! As senior trustee Martin Mitchell likes to visit BRS a few mornings a week and, much to the frustration of the group (and the glee of Mitch), his visits seemed to without fail coincide with one of the horses depositing it’s rider. Despite various thrills and spills, it really was a brilliant week. For those who had little prior experience of riding racehorses it offered a fantastic opportunity to do so and for those who had it enabled them to refine their technique, including in the equicizer room where we all learnt to appreciate the fitness level required of jockeys when riding a finish! Sue Donnelly who supervises and instructs us exclaimed that she had never seen the room so steamed up! Meanwhile, the facilities at Hamilton Hill are second to none and the group were thrilled to re-encounter the yearlings they had broken at Kildangan and see them take the next steps in the breaking process before they head into training.

The afternoons have generally been dedicated to an exciting array of lectures and visits. Since we are in the epicentre of British Racing, which includes unrivalled veterinary minds and facilities, we have been exposed to some intriguing lectures from some of the leading experts in their fields. Dr Geoff Lane spoke to us about soundness of wind in horses which was incredible.  Geoff is a real character and succeeded in elucidating the complex issue of wind to the group through the use of videos. These included footage of yearlings making a noise under lunge as well as overland scope footage from horses in training. Geoff made the group laugh when he highlighted the necessity of having a young female veterinarian present as “the ears” when listening for a whistle in a yearling being lunged.  We also visited the state of the art facilities at Newmarket Equine Hospital which has relocated to it’s new and purpose built site in 2008. James Crowhurst, one of the NEH vets who spends a lot of time at Dalham Hall during the breeding season, gave us an in depth insight to the role of the vet at the sales. While Adam Driver of Global Equine Group talked us through imaging diagnostics where he placed us in various shoes including those of the owner and vet and asked us to make a decision about the future of an individual based upon what we saw on the images in front of us. Sometimes the best way of learning is to be thrown in at the deep end and it was certainly the case here. I think all the trainees would agree that being exposed to the veterinary expertise in Newmarket has been one of the highlights, particularly in the prelude to the December Sale at Tattersalls.

 The sales have to be the pinnacle of our time here. The mare sale has been coined as the most international in the world and this is evident to those based in Newmarket, as the town truly comes to life with people flocking in from near and far to take part in the largest breeding stock sale in this hemisphere.  All of the trainees organised to work alongside agents at the foal sale and the first couple of days of the mare sale. It was an incredible experience. French trainee Fanny Cypres spent the sale with Angus Gold and described how she enjoyed the novelty of looking at foals as racing rather than selling prospects: “It was great to look at the best foals with a genuine interest. Angus bought two of the top lots and it was truly exhilarating to be a part of it”.  As well as the horses, the Sales offer an unrivalled opportunity to meet people in the industry from breeders and consignors to agents, owners and trainers. Sam Harte who spent the sale with Flying Start graduate, Mick Flanagan, said, “we’re often reminded that the thoroughbred industry is a people business and experiencing the last two weeks at Tattersalls has really demonstrated this point”.

What sets the Flying Start apart from other programmes is it’s all encompassing nature. Trainees are constantly amassing skills which will be invaluable to them upon graduation. In Newmarket these have included a hilarious media skills session with Rishi Persad who was incredibly patient with us and our endless takes! We also spent a day learning about business and property law while Jonny McIrvine of Weatherbys Hamilton talked us through bloodstock insurance as well as liability and property insurance. All of which are crucial aspects of setting up a business. Overall, it’s been an incredible six weeks jam packed full of activity and we are incredibly grateful to everyone who has contributed to the experience.