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Benji’s Blog – August 2015

From Ireland to America

The Prestigious Royal Ascot Racing Carnival

Whilst at Coolmore Stud, Ireland I was fortunate enough to spend a fortnight at one of the most successful training yards in the world 'Ballydoyle', Ireland.

My experience at Ballydoyle over the Royal Ascot carnival was unforgettable! The quality of the horses heading over to Royal Ascot, England and the racing over the five day carnival was truly amazing. Top horses travel from all over the world: Ireland, France, America, Hong Kong and Australia to compete for the prestigious races. Not to mention the spectators that travel from all around the world too to witness the amazing event. Whilst working at Ballydoyle I was very grateful for the small involvement I had with the Royal meeting whilst getting horses ready to travel to England for this major event.

We had runners every day representing champion trainer Aiden O'Brien. On the first day we had four runners Cougar Mountain from the new main yard (where I was working) in the first race of the carnival, he ran a very strong third in the Queen Anne Stakes Group 1, it was won by multiple Group 1 winner Solow from France.

Air Force Blue ran second in the 2YO Coventry Stakes, however the race that we were all waiting to watch was the mighty Gleneagles lining up in the St James's Palace Stakes Group 1, where he destroyed the rest of the field to win easily. In the last race of the day we had Washington DC a Zoffany 2YO, he bolted in to win the Windsor Castle Stakes Listed. For the first day of Ascot we had four runners all finishing in the money 1st-2, 2nd -1 3rd-1 this set the pace for the rest of the week!
Gleneagles winning the Gr.1 St. James’s Palace Stakes
Gleneagles winning the Gr.1 St. James’s Palace Stakes

All up we had a couple of unlucky runs where the horses were very unlucky not to have won, all in all we had a very good Ascot, 18 starts for 5 wins, 4 seconds, 2 thirds. My experience at Ballydoyle was so exciting, I had a great time and learnt so much about the European style of racing.

For the last week at Coolmore I spend time in the Primus office in Fethard, a small town just a few miles from Coolmore. Primus design and organise all the marketing for the Coolmore global stud farms. All the marketing for Coolmore is managed in the one office. I thoroughly enjoyed watching how all the adverts are produced digitally and the intense scale it is done for TV, newspapers and magazines and internet. I spent a day with their photographer and watched her amazing ability to capture an image of a horse in so many different ways for their brochure and for social media that is also a big part of their promotion now.

Irish Derby

My last weekend at Coolmore I went to the Irish Derby on the Curragh. Here are a few historic facts about the Irish Derby; the first version of the Irish Derby was in 1817 O'Darby Stakes, it was then replaced for the modern day Irish Derby. The first Derby was run in 1866 it was run over a distance of 1 mile 6 furlongs 3 yards. In 1872 it was cut back to the present distance it is today 1 mile 4 furlong (2,414m). The race has been won by so many influential horses including Nijinsky, Desert King, Montjeu, Galileo, High Chaparral; the young guns Camelot, Australia and now Jack Hobbs. One of the most famous graduates of the race was Shergar, who in the middle of the night was stolen from his stable in Ballymany Stud in County Kildare by masked gun men - he was never to be seen again.

The Irish Derby became a major international race in 1962 with a significant increase in the prize money, the prize money to-date 1,250,000 euro, the major sponsor is Dubai Duty Free who have also agreed to stay in the sponsor for another two years.

The Irish Derby is also a part of the Triple Crown; the first race is the 1000 Guineas (for the fillies) or 2000 Guineas (for the colts), Derby and then the St Leger. I have been very lucky to have seen the first two parts of the Triple Crown since it started in Newmarket on the first weekend of May when Gleneagles won the 2000 Guineas on the Rowley Mile, then it was the fillies 1000 Guineas also over a mile, and won by Legatissimo trained by David Watchman.

Then it's off to Ireland where I got to also see the Irish 2000 guineas at the Curragh where Gleneagles made it a double 2000 guineas winning with pure class. The next day was the 1000 Guineas, Coolmore was going for the full Guineas clean-up with Found, unfortunately she was beaten second by Pleascach.

I didn't get over to the Epsom Derby (English Derby) the 1 mile 4 furlong race was won by Golden Horn by Cape Cross John Gosden trained worth a cool 1,325,000. The Epsom Oaks over 1 mile 4 furlongs 10 yards was won by Qualify trained by Aiden O`Brien

Coolmore kindly gave us all tickets to go to the Irish Derby and we felt very privileged and special to have an area where we could all go and 'wine and dine' in between races! The horse we were all waiting to see was Jack Hobbs by Halling. The Irish Derby is a race that is purely dominated by Irish trainers and record holder Aiden O'Brien has won the race 11 times and 7 times in a row. However the John Gosden trained Jack Hobbs was too good for the Irish, winning very well and showing everyone why he is the best!
Irish Derby winner Jack Hobbs
Irish Derby winner Jack Hobbs

The last leg of the 'Triple Crown' is the St Ledger on Saturday 12 September at Doncaster, UK.

Nijinksy was the last horse in 1970 to win the Classic British 'Triple Crown'. A well-known racing saying states the "The fastest horse wins the Guineas; the luckiest the Derby –and the best horse win the St. Leger!"

Fond Farewell to Ireland

I said my final good byes to everyone in Ireland, and reflected that I had had an amazing few months at Coolmore Stud and Ballydoyle . It was now my time to head to America and Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky. It was a very easy flight to Charlotte Douglas, just the 8 hours then on to my connecting flight to Lexington Kentucky where John Hall, from Taylor Made was waiting for me. I have a very nice apartment in Nicholasville and everyone has made me feel very welcome.

The following day I was picked up by Tom Hamm and he took me to Eagle Creek Barn B where I was going to be working. All the yearlings are in a full yearling prep, we start at 6 o'clock, mucking out all the boxes since the horses live outside over night. When the boxes are ready we all go, as a team, to bring the yearlings back in, every horse is checked over by the manager before it goes back into the box.

When all the yearlings are in, we head back to our original barns we were allocated. The first lot of horses that are getting exercised will go on the walker, the rest will be washed. Every day after the horses have finished 30 minutes of exercise they are taken from the walker to the wash bay where they get a well deserved shower. After that we go back through and skip the boxes out, check all the waters and clean up the barn.

Lunch is at 12 noon for an hour, then we set out to groom. We each have a row of horses to groom, at the moment I am grooming a row of colts for the Keeneland September sale, we then feed up at 3 pm after all the grooming has finished.

We will then do any treatments and clean the barn and finish around 4 – 4.30 and come back at 7 pm to turn out the horses since it's too hot to do any earlier and the sun will bleach their coats. I have only been at Taylor Made Farm for a week, but the routine seems quite similar each day.

They don't have any rugs on as it is very hot and humid in the day averaging 30 degrees and about 18 degrees in the night.

The prep here so far seems very similar to the way we prep at home. The horses are out at night, in during the day, there are a huge amount of benefits for the horse mentally and physically, the horses are getting a break for the heat, and with the horses in for the day it means that they are very accessible to get ready for parades, any vet treatments and general care.

We have 24 yearlings to sell in Saratoga and are only prepping nine on the farm but we will meet the rest there. However, there are around 80 yearlings in the prep at the moment for the September Keeneland Sale.

In between the daily routine we have had a day where the farriers were in to trim all the horses and the vets were in to do the general x-ray's on the horses travelling to the Saratoga sales in a few weeks time. One day we had a full parade of all the horses going to Saratoga for the Taylors and the team, so they can assess the horses, and see any final touches the horses my need.

It was also an exciting time here at Taylor Made last week when American Racehorse of the Year and four-time Group 1 winner California Chrome arrived back home to take a break from racing, in the hope to train him from here in the near future. Taylor Made Farm now own the majority share in California Chrome.

A visit to Darley USA

My good friend John Row from the 'Darley Flying Start' took a group of us around the Farm's Jonabell Farm where the stallions are based. The office and the stallion area was amazing it was very quiet since most of the horses are in quarantine to travel back to the southern hemisphere. I was so happy to get to see Elusive Quality who still looks amazing at 22 years of age.
Darley USA, looking towards their stallion barns
Darley USA, looking towards their stallion barns

We then got to see one of two covering sheds where the mare will arrive and where they will get teased and ready for the shed. A massive operation and very well run. We then went 20 minutes down the road to another farm Gainsborough, where the mares live and a lot of the foaling is done. We got to see the massive foaling barns set up with everything you can think of, temperature controlled rooms, video surveillance, areas for a difficult foaling, with a classic look of brass handles and wooden finishes