Friday, July 2, 2010

More Carolyn

So you may have noticed I'm writing a lot about Carolyn Costigan this week. Yes, I'm a journalist and I'm supposed to be unbiased, but what can I say, I think she's awesome! Earlier this week, I posted part of an interview I did with Carolyn where we discussed the future of racing and social media. Below is the part of the interview where she talks about her experience with horses, Roan Inish, and her training techniques. Enjoy!

KNR: Can you tell me a little more about the training you did with Roan Inish leading up to the Oaks? A lot of people were concerned that she only had one seven furlong prep this year leading up to this race, but you didn’t seem concerned at all.

CC: No, because when I was in Ireland I was experiencing that firsthand. You’ll see horses that are trained into classic races and that’s because the trainer is doing the training, they’re not relying on races to put fitness into a horse, but they say that a race is the equivalent of having four or five fast works, so you’re getting to that fitness level quicker. I had had her out in California, so I’d started a base on her already. The Fury was too short for her, seven furlongs is too short. When she came out of it I was able to get a grasp on the level of fitness that it gave her, and if it didn’t give her enough fitness for what I needed her to be for the Oaks, then I would have run in the La Lorgnette. Horses are fragile creatures. A friend of mine that worked for me in California, she said that one of Wayne Lukas’s quotes is, “horses are like strawberries, they go bad overnight.” So when you have a good horse, you have to pick and choose your races. There’s no point in wasting a race on a race that was $150,000, when I wanted her to win a $500,000 race. And then it comes down to the confidence that you can do that, and that you aren’t worried about what other people are saying. I was given the confidence and the not worrying about other people by working for Jim (Bolger). He doesn’t give a hoot what anyone thinks. He does his own thing. When you work for somebody like that, it rubs off. So I was confident in my ability, and confident that I didn’t care what other people thought.

KNR: And she’s obviously come through on the two most important days, the Princess Elizabeth and the Oaks. It probably made a huge difference too with you being able to get on her everyday and be able to feel how fit she was and where she was at.

CC: Exactly. You don’t know that if you’re not on them, and you’re relying on the communication of your rider. I don’t have the numbers or the need for a top quality exercise rider at the moment, because I’m able to do that myself. But someday I’m going to need a good top quality exercise riders that’s able to communicate in a way that the two of us understand what we’re talking about. And that’s just finding the right person and paying them enough.

KNR: I remember you saying to Bill Tallon yesterday about how getting on your own horses was one of the most important lessons that you took away from Jim Bolger as well.

CC: Yes. He rode his horses up until a couple years ago. I mean, he’s 68 or 67 right now.

KNR: Can you tell me a little bit about why Roan Inish began her career in Ireland? I know you were over there at the time, but just exactly what the thought process behind that was?

CC: I knew that I would be coming to Canada to write my trainers exam, and that I would be having my first full season this year, and it wouldn’t do any harm to have one of my horses in the stable that I knew everything about, that wasn’t in training with a different trainer, and the filly was a yearling turning two, and my dad just said to me over the phone, “where do you think I should send this horse, to which trainer?” And I said quite honest, the only trainer that I think is worth any salt, worth their weight, in the world, is Jim (Bolger). He said, “alright, I’ll send her there, then you’ll know everything about her when you start training her.”

KNR: Of the horses that you currently have, did you have just her over there?

CC: Yes, just her. And she’s got lovely breeding, we own the dam, and we just thought if we could add something a little bit exotic to the mare’s page, ie. the horse wins some races in Ireland or Europe, you’re just doing something a bit more proactive for the broodmare’s pedigree.

KNR: Going back a bit, I wonder if you could explain to me a little about when you started getting involved with horses, at a young age, and then when you got into Thoroughbreds?

CC: I always loved horses, and I went to school with the idea that I would do pre med courses and become a vet, but my physics grades weren’t high enough. You probably know that becoming a veterinarian in Canada is probably the hardest course to get into.

CC: We got our first racehorse when I was probably 13. It was four years before we saw the inside of the winner’s circle. We’d go to the races at Hastings Park and we were the best dressed people there. But the horses were useless. So we learned the right way, because when you have the winners right away you think it’s easy, and it’s not an easy game. The lows can be long and painful, so you’ve gotta enjoy the wins. My parents are enjoying the Oaks win so much. We know what it’s like to be in a lull.

KNR: Who was the first really good horse that you worked around?

CC: I was with Arravale when she was being broken. I learned how to break yearlings at Windfields Farm in Oshawa. And she was one of the yearlings being broken at the time. The guy that was in charge of the yearlings there, his name was John Neville. He was an older Englishman. He broke the yearlings in a format that I would see again later when I was on Darley’s course, because he did it the English way, which is also the Irish way, and in some places in the world they like to do it a little quicker, and they take some shortcuts, and it doesn’t always work out. And I’m thankful that I learned the right way.

KNR: What age was it that you came to Windfields?

CC: Probably 2004.

KNR: How long did you work at Windfields before you did the National Stud?

CC: I went to Windfields, and I really hadn’t done too much hands on work with horses at that stage. I was kind of thrown into the deep end. They were one week away from the yearling sales here at Woodbine, and I was given a pitchfork and told, “muck out those six boxes, and keep up with us while we muck out.” I had a very rude awakening. And the following weekend we were at the sales, and my feet were covered in blisters after the first day. I remember I climbed into bed after the first day at the sales, and I was in tears. I thought, “I don’t know how I’m going to work the rest of the week at this sale.” But I did. Then I spent the winter at Windfields, and I had a great time. Because once you start working that hard and doing physical labour, then you have a new appreciation for the people who do that job, and you know how much work is involved, and a level of pride comes into it. And you understand what it is to show a yearling that the work has gone into that yearling, and what it is for the groom to lead up their horses to the races. This is their horse. This horse looks good because of me. I think it’s so important that you experience that first hand and know what those people go through when you’re employing them, and that they really care about their horses, they get attached to them, you know. You want the horses to do well for them, because they go through the highs and lows as well. 

1 comment:

  1. I was at the Queen's Plate this year and experienced the excitement and emotion of the day! A great day for horse racing in Canada with 'Her Majesty' present also.
    I am new to thoroughbred racing but agree we need to "sell" the sport. You write well and you care about the sport. Keep it up- you might be writing for the Sun instead of "What's his name" Larry