THREE weeks in Kentucky - 10 inches of snow, one Keeneland sale, one University of Kentucky basketball game, three barbecue dinners, and welcomed into numerous local stud farms.

It is safe to say we have kept the momentum from the runway since the day we landed. It has been a fantastic experience so far for all of the first year Godolphin Flying Start trainees here in Lexington, new for some. Still, for myself, it is overpowering with nostalgia to return to the Bluegrass state. Thankfully, having spent some time here in 2018, not much has changed.

We are fortunate enough to spend our time in Lexington under the guidance of Godolphin Flying Start alum Hallie Hardy as our coordinator. Hallie has been excellent in organising our timetable and adapting to weather changes.

Our first few weeks have consisted of visiting the Godolphin properties and meeting all the staff at Jonabell, Gainsborough, Dubai Millenium, Stonerside, and Raceland Farms. They have been extremely accommodating and informative about their roles in the whole organisation. Aside from the breeding and rearing racehorses aspect, we have enjoyed trips to Johnny Burke’s pre-training facility and the Keeneland racecourse.

Valuable insight

In our first week, we received a talk from John Williams about stallion conformation. This talk was hugely beneficial to us as we later attended the open house stallion tours that many of the Lexington farms offer throughout the sales week. It is baffling how the American and European racehorses fall under the same banner as the thoroughbred but differ in many aspects. Hearing from John and his reasoning behind his preferences was a valuable insight as we went around ourselves to inspect some of Americas finest sires.

On our second week, we were fortunate enough to go around with another Flying Start alum, Kate McMahon, from the Darley nominations team to inspect some youngstock by Darley stallions.

It was a pleasure to meet the consignors and get Kate’s feedback on these foals and some notable characteristics of each Darley stallion when stamping their stock. When the inspections were over and the sale day arrived, we all took part in rotations between helping out at the Jonabell stallion shows and the Godolphin consignment at the Keeneland sales.

It was great to meet some Darley clients and local breeders. The diversity of broodmares, broodmare prospects and short yearlings brought a wide variety of buyers to the sales complex, and it was great to meet many of them. We shuttled around Lexington to visit some stallion shows and enjoyed visits to WinStar, Spendthrift, Lanes End, Hill ‘N Dale and Coolmore’s Ashford Stud.

Rotavirus outbreak

An interesting talking point around Lexington is how they dealt with last season’s outbreak of Rotavirus, which many farms unfortunately experienced. When talking to Gerry Duffy, manager of Stonerside Farm, he expressed how they had to alter the standard foaling practices to beat the outbreak.

The new routine transformed into mares being turned out into small grass yards/paddocks as soon as their waters broke and were foaled outdoors with minimum interference. The newborn foals experienced some below-average temperatures, but it didn’t knock a stride out of them by all reports, and they were happy and healthy. Parallel to this, it took immense pressure off staff labour, along with bedding and feed costs. This remodelled practice suited horses and staff so much that they are preparing to continue it this foaling season.

It will be interesting to follow those more “organic” foals in the future during their race career and see if they have any athletic advantage over foals born more typically inside in a foaling barn. A situation like this would remind you of our Covid-19 pandemic, with staff forced to work from home, which was beneficial to employers and employees.

Our third week consisted of a web design module where all trainees were ultimately tasked with designing and creating a website platform. This was a colossal eyeopener into how easily a simple website can be developed. Previously, if I were to visualise developing a website, I would have pictured a team of 10 people working overtime in an office. This is not the case.

Nathan and his crew from ZIPIE taught us how to design your website from your couch. A collective Flying Start sigh of relief was heard across the state, and we presented all of our website ideas and businesses on the final day of the module.

We have started our equine nutrition module in the University of Kentucky and our Racing Officials Accreditation Programme, which we will continue to engage with next week.

Until next time, keep it country!

See to learn more about the programme. Applications close on February 7th.