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Robert's Blog – April 2014

Robert Dennis
Robert Dennis

Robert files another blog from Cheveley in England

Back to the blog! I'm currently in my seventh week living and working at Cheveley Park Stud in Newmarket, although it feels like I only arrived yesterday, time is flying! I've settled in really well, happy, healthy and enjoying my stay here. In this blog I'll go over some foals born on my nights sitting up, give an update of some of the things I've done, places I've been and people I have met and the night lectures.

As I said in my first blog, I had quite a streak of foals when on call for foaling at
The Oaks so it didn't really surprise me when one mare waxed up out of the blue on my first night sitting up. The night watch starts at 8pm and runs through until 7am, which is quite the task after a day's work. By about 10pm she was sweating and rolling, showing all the signs. I made the call to Dale (the stud groom who does the majority of the foalings) about 11 and she foaled shortly after, a very quick and uneventful foaling, which is exactly what you want. The mares name is Spacious (Nayef ex Palatial, a Green Desert mare) a dual G2 winner and G1 place-getter, she had a lovely New Approach filly who was of medium size compared to her two older brothers who were big foals and by all accounts are now giants. The New Approach filly was up on her feet and quick to find a drink. Spacious is to be served by resident sire Intello this season.
Spacious and her cheeky New Approach filly, probably my pick of the foals. She's bulking up nicely and looks to be developing into a quality horse as long as her extension does its job.
Spacious and her cheeky New Approach filly, probably my pick of the foals. She's bulking up nicely and looks to be developing into a quality horse as long as her extension does its job.

My second night sitting up ended in a result also with a Bay filly by resident sire Medician out of the mare Blithe. A little small in size at the time, she has since gained plenty of weight and is starting to strengthen up nicely. It has been good to watch the foals grow and mature over the past 4 or 5 weeks under everyone's eye in the main yard office paddock.

My third night was a miss but a few nights ago on my fourth night up it was all go. First to foal was Red Bloom (Selkirk x Red Camellia) who produced Cheveley Park's first Frankel foal on my night up! After an overly dramatic performance from the mare, she produced an average size chestnut colt, a little slack all round but hopefully should tighten up with correct management. Complications with the birth meant the mare and later the foal were transported to Rossdales vet clinic, with the end result being positive for both. Probably a memory I won't forget, hanging onto Cheveley Park's first Frankel in the back of a horse box as the Managing Director drove us through Newmarket to the vets in the middle of the night. Next door to Red Bloom was Hooray (Invincible Spirit x Hypnotize) who was sweating up and ready to go about an hour later, producing a Pivotal filly only 5 minutes before Abandon (Rahy x Caerless) gave birth to a Mayson Colt.

All this action meant all hands on deck with Managing Director Chris Richardson, Stud Manager Andrew Snell, vet Andrew McGladdery, second man Mark Dean, Stud Groom Dale Clements and myself all being present. Being in the presence of such professionals was a chance to step back, watch and learn as the hugely experienced group worked their way through firstly Red Blooms troublesome foaling, transport and treatment and later the other two simultaneous foaling's. What a night! I definitely slept well at the end of my shift.

- Sir Michael Stoute's Freemason Lodge

On one of my first days here I accompanied Cheveley's Managing Director Chris Richardson to the gallops where I was invited by Sir Michael Stoute's head man, Stewart, to spend a day at his training complex. Of course I took up that offer and on a mild Saturday morning I made my way to Freemason Lodge, where I observed the morning routine and Saturday work at the Limekiln gallop (relatively flat one mile straight gallop).
Sir Michael Stoute giving final instructions before horses head out onto the Limekiln gallop.
Sir Michael Stoute giving final instructions before horses head out onto the Limekiln gallop.

The horses go out in 3 strings, the first 2 about 30-40 horses that are more forward in their training and the last slightly smaller with around 20 horses consisting of mainly 2yo's and horses just back into work. Each rider saddles up their own mount and before they all head into a 400m covered sand ring for a 15 minute warm up. Horses then walk out in single file with riders taking instruction from Michael as they walk past and carry on down to the gallop. Quickly jump in the car to beat the horses to another ring were everyone is given more instruction and the horses are put into their working groups (anywhere from 1 -5 horses per group). Back in the car and over to the gallop to take up the best viewing position, often where Michael and his entourage meet with owners who have come out to watch their horses. It was gallop day so most of the horses were hurried along, some more than others, with everyone being at least satisfied with all the horses. Not to worry if you missed a horse or two either as all the work is recorded on video to be watched later in the day. Back to the yard and after a quick breakfast break the next two strings completed their work in similar fashion.

All horses were well bred, either out of top performing mares or by champion stallions. The majority were solid and strong especially in the shoulder with good thick bone and looked like staying types, which was no surprise as Stoute is more renowned for his stayers than sprinters or 2yo's. Although they agreed thoroughbreds nowadays were finer and more delicate than they used to be and couldn't handle the same amount of work as earlier generations. But the work a horse does over here is considerably more than home, with riders being in the saddle for over an hour per horse.

It was a good morning to go as two of Stoute's horses' Dank and Hillstar were leaving to board the plane to the Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan. It was also the morning of O'Reilly mare Silent Achiever's G1 success in the Ranvet Stakes in Sydney, with the former Stoute-trained horse, Carlton House coming second. Good thing I had my Waikato Stud jacket on! Overall it was an enjoyable morning being able to get an inside look at all aspects, from feed to staff management, and learn a few more new things about training thoroughbreds. A big thanks to Stewart for offering me the chance to come out.

- Vets Hattie and Lewis and the Rossdales Clinic

I had previously spent mornings with Stud Manager Andrew Snell following Andrew McGladdery as he does the reproduction vet work on the farm. But thanks to the freedom I have been given at Cheveley Park I was able to spend a day with Rossdales vet intern Hattie Sparks. I accompanied her as she completed her rounds, starting at Cheveley Park before moving onto Fittocks (owned by Luca Cumani and his wife), National and Lordship studs. It was interesting to take a different perspective and see things from a vet's point of view. It wasn't an overly busy day, flushing a mare, foal checks, a transfusion and stitching up an eye. It was good to check out some of the other studs in the area and see how they were set up. Being a quiet day, Hattie had time to take me to Rossdales clinic and show me around. Rossdales is an internationally renowned equine veterinary practice in Newmarket providing first opinion, emergency, referral and laboratory services. Rossdales is full of new equipment and technology, they are leaders in innovation and constantly ahead of the game to satisfy not only their thoroughbred customers, but as Hattie pointed out, their world class event and show horse clients.

On a Saturday off I joined Lewis Smith, another Rossdales Vet, on his round through the racing stables. Aside from treating a knee and checking up on a horse with a broken hip the morning was spent at top trainer Jeremy Noseda's stable doing routine check-ups and injections. Vets are used a lot more frequently here compared to home, called out to check on more minor issues and to give most injections. Again it was a good experience and interesting to see some more stables and how they operate along with the treatment ofdifferent injuries.

Shadwell's Nunnery Stud
At the head of Shadwell's boardroom table surrounded by bookcases full of trophies. The TV behind me is for Sheikh Hamdan to take part in meetings
At the head of Shadwell's boardroom table surrounded by bookcases full of trophies. The TV behind me is for Sheikh Hamdan to take part in meetings

Shadwell is owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is the Deputy Ruler of Dubai. One Monday after work Cheveley's second man Mark was kind enough to take me, Martin (Stallion man) and Edward (Marks bookie mate) to Shadwell where Mark had worked for 13 years previously. There we met Shadwell's second man who showed us around the farm and even took us down to see the old boy Green Desert. At 31 he's healthy and well, enjoying life in the paddock but is still full of spirit, needing two people to catch him! Shadwell's stallion unit and breeding barn is very impressive, probably the best laid out I have seen. The stallion barn is fully enclosed with good sized boxes and a covered and rubber matted walkway to the covering shed, which itself is a large round barn with separate entrances for mares and stallions. Padded walls and a good sand base provide cushion, making things safer for horses and people involved.

We then moved on to the foaling and broodmare unit were we met the happy night watch staff. Similar to Cheveley and the norm over here, mares are boxed overnight and watched under camera until they foal. A lot more central than Cheveley Park though, with all mares boxed in the one yard. Walking around the boxes I felt I had become accustomed to seeing quality broodmares in foal to the world's top stallions, not even looking twice when I see a Dansili or Oasis Dream is on its way. I was also given a list of all Shadwell's horses in training, here in the UK, across Europe, over in the States and down to Australia, a very long list indeed!

The final treat for the evening was a visit to the main office at Shadwell's Nunnery Stud. With a little help from the friendly cleaners I had my hands on all sorts of trophies that I never in my life thought I would hold. Guineas, Epsom Derby but easily my favourite was the 1986 Melbourne Cup won by Al Talaq. A look in the boardroom and Stud Director's office revealed more Group 1 trophies, quite a surreal feeling to be surrounded by the spoils from some of the best races in the world. A section of wall dedicated to Australian victories held a photo of the recently retired champion NZ sire Zabeel, winning in Sheikh Hamdan's colours….which were a good fit on me! Check out my photo blog for some photos of the trophies and Shadwell. Thanks to Mark for an evening enjoyed by all.

Larry Stratton, Mark McStay, John Boyce and Darley
The Oaks Stud's Rick Williams gave me Bloodstock agent Larry Stratton's number so I got in contact with him and met for a drink in a pub called 'The Boot' in Dullingham, not far from Newmarket. Hopefully all going well I will spend some time with Larry at the upcoming Craven breeze up sale, and also the breeze up and horses in training sale just before the Guineas.
Sepoy, standing at Darley's Dalham Hall Stud
Sepoy, standing at Darley's Dalham Hall Stud

By chance a friend of Larry's, Mark McStay, was also at the pub. Mark works at Darley's Dalham Hall Stud (over the road from Cheveley Park) as a stallion nominations man. We got to talking and he was kind enough to offer to show me around Darley. Last Monday I met Mark and he showed me a small part of the 2,500 acre stud (about 13 properties gradually bought and turned into one). A spectacular property with mostly new barns and sealed roads right through. I also discovered that Darley is not only a world class stud, but one of the biggest sheep farms in England.

Once the tour concluded it was off to the stallion unit where Mark had organised a parade for me. This kid from Southland had his own stallion parade at Darley, never thought that would happen! First was Dubawi, a real bull of a horse, short and stocky only 15.3 hands, strong all over with good bone, not a glamorous horse but with 11 G1 winners, a host of other black type performers and a service fee of £100,000 he commands respect. Galileo's Derby winning son New Approach was next out, a rich chestnut, much more elegant than Dubawi with a big stride standing at 16.2 hands. A young sire kicking goals on the track with his first winner, Dawn Approach being champion 2yo in Europe and taking out the 2000 Guineas, now standing his first season at Darley's Ireland base. At £80,000 he's not cheap but time will tell if he is worth it. Of the rest, the former Australian champion 2 and 3 year old was an eye catcher, Sepoy is built for speed with his short neck and strong, streamlined body, his 10 wins amassed £2.5m and he been popular in both hemispheres, by Elusive Quality out of a Danehill mare, bloodlines that northern hemisphere breeders can relate to. He stands for £15,000, a price breeders over here have warmed to. It was a real privilege to be shown around Darley and I must thank Mark McStay for his time and organisation.

One of the evening lectures at the National Stud was taken by Darley's Stallion Director, Sam Bullard, and he briefly talked about the research division at Darley, including Darley's own rating system for broodmares. This intrigued me and after a talk with Sam and a couple of emails to Mark McStay I was off to Darley again, this time to meet with John Boyce, head of research. UNBELIEVABLE. Some of the statistics and figures John showed and explained to me were fascinating, taken from samples of hundreds of thousands of thoroughbreds and broodmares. He explained the rating system, how it works, how they judge the quality of a stallions book and also key factors that statistically make a black type horse. Again I consider myself extremely lucky as most of the information is confidential so I feel very privileged to get a glimpse of what goes on behind closed doors at Darley.

As I mentioned I have been attending night lectures at the English National Stud. Interesting and informative, they are well worth going to and I have learnt plenty! With different speakers from the industry twice a week, often vets, some of the topics covered so far include pregnancy issues in mares, a practical with placenta, foal adoption, skeletal and muscular lameness, Sam's talk on stallion management and more. Hopefully the Equine ITO courses in NZ can reach this standard one day.


Here's the link to my photo blog, plenty more photos uploaded. Take a look; pictures explain far more than words and you're probably bored to death after all that reading!

Only 3 weeks left here at Cheveley Park in England before I head off to Coolmore, Ireland. I'm going to repeat what I said in my first blog and say I really can't write about everything I'm doing, there's just too much! Trying to take every opportunity offered to me. I'm going to the races on Wednesday with the Cheveley lads, it's a big day with the key lead up to the 1000 & 2000 guineas which I will also attend on the 3rd and 4th of May. I've also moved from the main yard to Sandwich Stud (yearling part of the farm) to see how things tick over there. A little tired as I write this, I was up late last night listening to The Bold One's effortless win at Trentham (who I have a small ownership interest in) and The Glitzy One's 2nd in the Canterbury Cup. Hope all is well at home as you move into the colder months and shorter days,



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