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Bruce's Blog – March 2008

The main office and yard at Cheveley Park Stud
The main office and yard at Cheveley Park Stud

At the gates of Cheveley Park

Cheveley Park Stud, Newmarket

WEEK 1: 26 February - 8 March 2008

I have finally arrived. Arrived at the beginning of my Sunline Education Trust: International Management Scholarship; 30 weeks of international experience, and an experience of a lifetime. The past few months leading up to the beginning of the scholarship was plenty of time for me to let the excitement build up to sometimes unmanageable levels, and now finally I stand at the towering steel front gates of Cheveley Park Stud, the destination for my first 10 weeks of the scholarship.

In TransitMy journey to Newmarket via Christchurch, Auckland, Singapore and Heathrow (London) went very smoothly. Despite an initial hiccup (I left my passport at the check-in counter at Christchurch Airport, only to be run down by an older lady who kindly handed me back the important document), the rest of my 38 hours of travel and transit went down without a hitch.

Singapore Airlines were a dream to fly with, the food was delicious (I enjoyed roast beef, Thai green curry chicken, fish and sausage omelette on the trip) and the in-flight entertainment first class (I took in blockbusters Michael Clayton and Transformers, played a bit of poker, and filled in the gaps with my favourite sitcoms Scrubs, Flight of the Concords and The Office). Swimming at Singapore Airport (terminal 1) freshened me up nicely for the second part of the journey, though the machine gun wielding security guards positioned sporadically around the terminals did little to aid my rest and relaxation at this stop.

Finally I jumped on board my bus at Heathrow Airport, destination Newmarket, home of the thoroughbred.NewmarketWow!! On the way into Newmarket my bus drives alongside a "gallop", moving slowly down the narrow road, the horse alongside the bus canters with us for at least 500m though it seems like forever. Wonderful large brick homes and stables result at the end of each and every drive way we pass, and each speaks of its own illustrious history. You get the sense that these buildings have been in Newmarket for as long as the thoroughbred has graced the area.

Just before the bus pulls into the main street of Newmarket we are diverted around the "stallion and handler" bronze statue which sits in the middle of the roundabout and is one and a half times life size. My bus drops me in the middle of high street opposite the statue of Hyperion, located outside the Jockey Club rooms. I make a beeline for it with camera in hand before darting off to buy myself a Racing Post (1.50 pounds, the daily racing publication for the U.K.)before I sit down at The Bull pub and grill to treat myself to a traditional Old English Breakfast consisting of bacon, sausage, eggs, toast and tomato, with HP sauce of course.

This place is amazing. The traffic stops for horses at all times, racing strings make their way through town daily to get to the heath for their gallops. One after another strings of up to thirty horses walk by, colts, geldings and fillies, no doubt blue bloods, all of them.

They belong to the yards of Sir Michael Stoute, Sir Mark Prescott, Peter Chapple-Hyam, Luca Cumani, Henry Cecil etc who all train out of Newmarket for owners who could all be categorised under at least one of the following; royalty, riches, and/or the recognisable. It is easy to feel out of place at times amongst this "who's who" environment, yet on so many levels my passion for the thoroughbred places me at 'home' in Newmarket. I find this a very weird contradiction at this point in time, and it is one I am sure I will explore further in the following 9 weeks or so.Cheveley Park Stud

Owned by David and Patricia Thompson and managed by Chris Richardson. Breathtaking!! It really is. You can only come so well prepared for a trip like this.

I had researched Cheveley's history, their location, the people behind the name, and took note of their recent successes, yet when the taxi pulled through the front gates (towering at least 4 times my height, black, and automatic- thus opening agonisingly slowly before revealing itself) I knew none of my preparation had come to fruition in terms of helping me understand what I should expect of Cheveley Park Stud.

The first thing that struck me was the orangey-red brick buildings - houses all of them, some stabling horses, the others people. Beautiful and historic architecture, this is obvious even to an amateur on the subject. Each stable topped with large clocks; golden hands and roman numerals make the time comprehensible, with every hour, on the hour, marked with a corresponding number of rings of the bell. Every stable here is finished in black and red with white trim. The upkeep of the farm is amazing, from the painted stables down to the polished brass knobs on the feed room doors.

This 1000-acre farm is made up of three units: Cheveley Park (stallions, mares and foals), Ashley Heath (maiden mares), and Sandwich Stud (yearlings and racehorses). All the paddocks are large, post-and-rail, and separated by a row of mature lime trees, paddocks without corners that is, more curved edges built up and blocked up by tightly knitted rails. A barn centres each group of paddocks here as horses come into the straw boxes at night, after being put out to graze during the day. Cheveley Park consists of 30 of these barns, connected to each other by paved roads, possibly in better condition than most of our state highways at home.

This place really is a spectacle in itself, that's before we discuss the horse flesh that chews these pastures. It's a place to be proud of; proud to work at, proud to manage, and very proud to own.Facts and Figures
Cheveley Park Stud, established in the 1700's and owned by the Thompsons
since 1975
1000 acres - clay based soil
50 staff
350+ Horses
7 stallions
130 broodmares**
100+ Horses in training

5 minutes from central Newmarket**All privately owned by the Thompsons. No boarders or visiting mares are kept at Cheveley. Thus all outside mares are "walked-in" to the Cheveley stallions.The WelcomeHot, definitely warmer than a warm welcome. From the minute I walked in the door of the Cheveley Park office everybody here has treated me extremely kindly.

Matthew Sigsworth gave me the grand tour first up, took me shopping for the essentials, and then got me settled into 'the dairy house' which I have all to myself. I started work the next morning but not before waking at 1am (U.K. time) feeling bright and ready for action... jet lag I know, but I am sure the excitement of the morning ahead contributed to my high energy levels at that unheavenly hour.

7.30am arrived and I met the rest of the crew including general manager Chris Richardson, stud manager Andrew Snell, and stud groom Dale Clements, all of whom were quick to enquire and ensure that I had settled in well to my new surroundings. I can truly say that their money has been where their mouth was... they have ensured that I am present at every occasion on the farm that they believe may interest me or be beneficial to me in future. Chris', Andrew's, Dale's, the vets, the farriers, and my fellow CP grooms' ears have been battered and bruised by my barrage of questions... unrelenting and annoying at times I am sure.. but they really have been helpful in answering all of my queries.

Matt Sigsworth has also fed my hunger for pedigrees by giving me the pedigrees of every racehorse, yearling and broodmare owned by Cheveley Park, so at the moment I am tirelessly memorising their families, so that I can appreciate further, the horses I am fortunate enough to work with every day (of which I will touch on in a later post).

Roger Davies has worked for Cheveley Park for the past 28 years and is a keen English historian, with his knowledge of Britain dating back over the last 1000 years. As I now work with Roger on a daily basis, I have the pleasure of hearing the fascinating history of Newmarket, Cheveley Park, and the surrounding areas, thanks to Roger's outstanding memory. I have really found the history of the place very interesting, so I have decided to share some of it with you, little by little, on each of my posts. Below is the first part of Roger's History Bits:
  • Newmarket was so named during the Plague of the 1600's in Britain. With the plague sweeping through Cheveley (a big village back then) and surrounding areas, it was decided that the markets should be held away from the towns, which were highly infected, for health reasons. Thus it was decided that the markets would be held on land verging on the town borders, this land was named Newmarket of course.
  • Cheveley town was named by the Normans in 1066 when William the Conqueror took all before him in his invasion of Britain. "ley" meaning a clearing in the woods suggests that Cheveley then was surrounded by dense bush.
Conclusion:I really do have so much more to tell, even though I have only been here for all of 10 days. Piv (Pivotal) and the rest of the stallions, foaling, the Group 1 mares I have been working with and their foals, the racing team, the Group 1 mares Cheveley have going to stud for the first time this year, my house... all topics I will have to touch on in later posts. Keep well everybody,Bruce SladeP.S. I saw Green Desert yesterday. I will tell all in my next post.


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