APRIL was a month to savour for the class of 2022-’24 as we experienced the spring meet at Keeneland.

Having only experienced racing in the US at Turfway Park to date, it was an incredible eye-opening experience to go racing at the heart of horse country. The crowds that they are able to get in for afternoon racing on Wednesdays and Thursdays would make any racing authorities across the world jealous.

We saw some amazing displays, from Tapit Trice in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes to First Mission in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes, which was a standout moment for the Godolphin team who were crowned leading owners at the 15 day meet with six winners.

Outside of the three-year-olds, it was a privilege to see Breeders’ Cup champion Goodnight Olive win on her comeback in the Grade 1 Madison Stakes.

We also finished up our practical rotations at the beginning of May having spent time at some brilliant establishments such as Airdrie Stud, the Godolphin offices at Jonabell, Hunter Valley Farm, Johnny Burke’s Godolphin rehab barn at Keeneland and Godolphin’s foaling unit at Gainsborough to name but a few.

The excitement had all the time been building towards the main event of our US phase though, the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

This was a race that had been on my bucket list for years and, despite the late scratching of morning line favourite Forte, it did not disappoint. As a crowd of over 150,000 watched live on track, it was the Javier Castellano-ridden Mage who came out on top. Unfortunately we didn’t see a Triple Crown winner but we did experience one of the greatest days on the sporting calendar.

If that wasn’t enough for us, we got to witness Godolphin’s first ever Kentucky Oaks winner in Pretty Mischievous who came out on top in the main three-year-old fillies’ event on the Friday.

A massive thank you must go to the whole of the Godolphin USA team who kindly brought all 12 of us into the winner’s circle to experience one of the greatest winners in the operation’s history.

The celebrations seemed to continue all weekend for Team Godolphin as we saw Matareya take the top prize in the Grade 1 Derby City Distaff before the gift that keeps on giving, Cody’s Wish, put up a spectacular display in the Grade 1 Churchill Downs Stakes. It was a truly special moment to witness such a horse bring so much joy to so many people.

As the curtain came down on one of my favourite ever weekends of racing, we started our one-week farriery module at the Kentucky Horseshoeing School. Our mornings were spent learning about conformation and the anatomy of the hoof while our afternoons were spent on the practical side of things, learning how to trim feet, pasture roll and pull shoes off. It was a challenging but enjoyable week with Mitch Taylor being a very enthusiastic and entertaining teacher.

From there, we moved into our USA conference. Our conference topic for this year was based around coming up with new educational initiatives for the thoroughbred industry in four different states, namely Florida, California, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Our ideas were pitched to the Amplify Horse Racing team.

Amplify Horse Racing is a not-for-profit organisation that amplifies education and careers in the thoroughbred industry. Amplify was co-founded by two Flying Start graduates in Annise Montplaisir and Madison Scott in 2019. We all really enjoyed learning about the educational initiatives across the country as well as comparing some US programmes with other programmes across the globe such as the work equuip is doing in Ireland.

As the dust settled on our conference, each trainee headed off on the first of our three externships across the programme. I am lucky enough to be heading to Saratoga to spend four weeks with leading US trainer Bill Mott. Some of my fellow trainees are heading to Belmont Park in New York, Ocala in Florida, Fair Hill in Maryland. Some are staying around the Kentucky area.

I’m really looking forward to learning from Bill, who has been a leading trainer in the country for many years now, as well as experiencing a new jurisdiction of racing and training in New York.

As our time in the US draws to a close, I think it is fair to say that we have all really enjoyed our time here. It has been action-packed and eventful but incredibly exciting at the same time with all the hype around the Derby. Hopefully it is not the last I see of the Blue Grass and I will be back here in the not too distant future.

See godolphinflyingstart.com for more information on the programme.