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Matt's Blog - July 2011

Matt (photographed above) with Galileo on a lovely Irish summer day
Matt (photographed above) with Galileo on a lovely Irish summer day

I cannot believe it. I am finished my second leg of the Sunline Trust International Management Scholarship. The year has passed by very swiftly whilst I have been abroad, and what I have learnt in both England at Cheveley Park Stud, and Ireland at Coolmore Stud has been spectacular, and an experience I will never forget.

My final three weeks at Coolmore Stud has been filled with pure excitement with events such as the Irish Derby weekend, stallion parades for breeders all over the world, including Australia, France, Germany and New Zealand, who I showed the stallions for Rick Williams, David Ellis, Peter Vela and many more. Of course my personal tour of Darley Ireland otherwise known as Kildangan Stud, my night I spent at Ballylinch Stud courtesy of John O'Connor and my old work colleagues, and the famous Ballydoyle racing establishment.

I have spoilt enough to visit some magnificent places in Ireland, but one place that I thoroughly enjoyed looking around and at the facilities, was another part of the illustrious Coolmore Stud, Ballydoyle racing stables. Dr M.V. O'Brien, one of the founders of Coolmore Stud, put Ballydoyle on the map with winners of six Epsom Derby's and nearly every other race in Europe worth winning. He is still talked about as one of the best trainers in his time and thought very highly of in Ireland. With particularly large shoes to fill Vincent O'Brien's unrelated namesake Mr A.P. O'Brien took over as trainer of Ballydoyle. Aidan O'Brien started his training campaign off like a true professional, his first day of being a licensed trainer he was rewarded with his first winner and it all escalated from there. In 1996 Aidan was named Ireland's youngest ever champion trainer and has held the prestigious title since 1998. In 2001 he was also named as champion British trainer and the first holder of this title since Vincent O'Brien. Aidan is still moulding his fine selection of thoroughbreds to champions with Group 1 winners in, Ireland, England, North America, France and Italy. Aidan's first ever champion racehorse now sire was Desert King, who stands at Bombora Downs in Australia. The triple Group 1 winning son of the mighty Danehill gave Aidan the thrill of training a great colt that became a good stallion. To this day Aidan and the Coolmore team are still adding to their success with winners nearly every week.

My tour of the famous Ballydoyle racing establishment was kindly set up by Coolmore Stud managers, Christy Grassick and Tom Lynch, who have been great to me in anything I requested in my time at Coolmore Stud. My tour was scheduled for 2.30pm, which is the horse's quite time, where they are not to be disturbed where they can relax and switch off. I arrive at the main gates not knowing what to expect as Ballydoyle isn't your typical racing yard, being approximately 470 acres and with 140 staff working in all different areas, Ballydoyle is like nothing I have ever seen before. I was greeted by security at the gates where I had to give my name and state I had an appointment before the massive iron gates open revealing Ballydoyle's sheer size and beauty. I spent over an hour being toured around the impressive establishment seeing all there was to see of the private operation. Ballydoyle is equipped with all the facilities needed to be achieving the best results from their fine selection of around 150 thoroughbreds in work. Depending what stage of training the horses are in depends on the wide selection of gallops they will work on. The horses are warmed up in their different strings in a large indoor enclosure approximately 200 meter perimeter, from there they will move to the appropriate gallops for work. Routine exercise is on either wood chip or poly track gallops, whilst fast work is done on grass or wood chip. Ballydoyle has it all, including facilities trainers would dream of having in their own yard, such as the equine swimming pool and spa pool, you name it and Aidan would have it. It was an absolute privilege to look around one of the most famous racing operations in the world and I would like to thank Aidan O'Brien and Mr John Magnier for allowing me to spend time there.

I have been lucky enough in my travels to visit different racecourses and meetings whilst being in Ireland, and one particular weekend simply takes the cake, the Irish Derby weekend. Saturday 25th June I packed my overnight bag and set out to County Kildare to the Curragh racecourse for the beginning of my weekend off. I was met by Vicky and Scott who accompanied me to the races and who were also hosting me for the night at Kildangan Stud. Now knowing the course like the back of my hand, I led the way for the purchase of the essentials, our race books and a chilled pint of Guinness to quench our thirst whilst watching the horse's parade for the first race. We were soon met by The Oaks Stud General Manager Rick Williams, who happily joined us on our endeavours.

The main race of the day was the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes for fillies and mares. Rick and I took our time looking at the seven horse field in the parade area passing comments on each of the thoroughbreds that took our eye. Remembering back to the Irish 1000 Guineas, a filly named Misty For Me won very convincingly against a strong field, and here again she was in amongst the seven going for Group 1 glory. Yet again she stood out to me, even up against the hot favourite from Sir Henry Cecil's yard in England, Midday (Oasis Dream). Yet again the fantastic daughter of Galileo did it again, another Group 1 success to add to her race record whilst filling my pocket with plenty of spending money. The day soon came to an end, with smiles all around it was time to go Scott and Vicky's house and have a bite to eat and prepare for a night out in the town of Kildare.

Sunday proved to be an absolute struggle for us as we all had a very large night out which resulted in not allot of sleep, but we knew we could not let a lack of sleep and some severe head pain spoil our day for the Irish Derby. I began the day with a private tour of Kildangan Stud, courtesy of Scott. I was able to see all the areas of the magnificent Darley Stud farm owned by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum including his spectacular line up of stallions.

A delicious full Irish breakfast had me set and ready for another big day out at the Curragh for the Irish Derby. Arriving at the racecourse I could barely move in amongst the massive crowd, the sun was shining and with a good line up of Group 1, Group 2, Group 3 and Listed races to occupy me, I was guaranteed a great day out. The Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby was run at 3.50pm with some of the best colts throughout Ireland and England going head to head to win this prestigious race, including the highly backed favourite Carlton House (Street Cry), who is owned by the Queen and trained by Sir Michael Stoute. Another massive threat was Aidan O'Brien's line up, consisting of four of the eight runners including Roderic O'Connor who won the Irish 2000 Guineas. As the horses set out on the track with the jockeys aboard and the anxious trainers walking beside them making sure every last detail has been covered about how the race is going to be run. The eight thoroughbreds were soon loaded into the starting gates and as they jumped the Curragh erupted with cheering on lookers, over powering the race caller on the load speaker, it sent shivers down my spine to be in amongst the crowd. Yet again for the sixth consecutive year Aidan O'Brien along with Coolmore Stud took out the Derby with the three year old son of Galileo, Treasure Beach. To sweeten the victory even more for the Coolmore team, they were graced with both second and third behind their stable mate Treasure Beach. Second was picked up by Seville, another son of Galileo, and third to Memphis Tennessee by Hurricane Run. This weekend was something I will never forget, from the great people I met and the spectacular racing at the Curragh, it is something I will be talking about for years to come.

As I was always approaching Harry King wanting to absorb as much as I can in the time I had at Coolmore, he has always without fail organised for me to learn from the best in their dedicated positions. One part of the thoroughbred industry that I had not yet experienced was advertising, but as the Sunline Scholarship allows me to focus on points in the industry I would like to increase my knowledge in, I was able to spend some time in a division of Coolmore Stud named Primus, who are dedicated to all the advertising and marketing of the fine selection of stallions.

Over the two and a half months I spent at Coolmore Stud I have been very privileged to work with some of the best stallions in the industry and an absolute incredible group of staff, I completely and utterly agree with the statement "Home Of Champions". I would like to give a special thanks to Mr John Magnier for having me at his magnificent stud farm and to managers Harry King and Christy Grassick for taking the time out of their day to speak with me, answer all my questions and allow me to experience everything Coolmore Stud had to offer. I would also like to say how fantastic it was to spend time with Rick Williams over lunch at Coolmore Stud and at the races during the Derby weekend. Also a contact kindly provided by Michael Martin, CEO of the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing, Michael O'Hagan, very kindly had me to dinner with his family. Matt & Galileo on a lovely Irish Summers day

In conclusion of my final blog from Ireland I am pleased to say that I will be next writing to you from the Bluegrass State, Lexington, Kentucky in the United States of America. The famous Taylor Made will be hosting me for my final ten weeks of the Sunline Scholarship where my main focus will be working and assisting in every way possible with the yearling preparations of both the Saratoga sale in August, and the massive Keenland sale in September.

Good luck to everyone in New Zealand for the start of the 2011 season, I hope all goes well.

Keep well everyone,

Matt