Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Little Bird Told Me...

For followers of this blog (thank you, thank you, thank you!), you may also like to check out my Twitter page. I am posting more regular updates there, and jumping over here when I have time.

While Tweeting is the topic, a quick word on social media: In a nutshell, I think it's awesome. For my university thesis I studied the effects of social media in marketing horse racing, but today I find it incredibly useful to maintain my contacts from all over the world. Right now, its most important use for me is staying in contact with my friends and family back home. With a simple upload of photos, status updates, or a tweet, I can share what I'm doing with hundreds of people.

Thank you Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, YouTube, Picasa, etc. etc. etc...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

One Month Down

It’s hard to believe I’ve been in Ireland for a month, but at the same time I have the feeling I’ve been here all my life. I have made some incredible friends and learned so much in such a short amount of time. Every day is a fairytale that I get to spend with people who are much like me, all with the desire to learn and help one another along. What more could one want?

Being just one month into two years, I have so much time ahead on Darley Flying Start, and I feel like I’ve already accomplished so much. Talks with people like Joe Osborne, Olly Tait, Jimmy Hyland, Charles Spiller, and veterinarians from UCD have helped me grow academically and intellectually. Visits’ to the Curragh, Leopardstown, Laytown, and various studs have opened my eyes to worlds that before only existed in dreams. Nights at Cross Keys, Cunninghams, and Tiger Lillies have been just plain fun!

I have learned a lot from my course mates, and I feel that I bring a lot to the group. I have already been able to put to use so much of what I learned in Canada, particularly from my days at Schonberg Farm.

Here are some of the interesting things we have done so far:

• Racing at the Curragh (Futurity Stakes, Moyglare Stud Stakes, National Stakes and Irish St. Leger)
• Racing at Leopardstown in the Kildangan Suite for the Irish Champion and Matron Stakes
• Beach racing at Laytown
• Courses at the Racing Academy and Centre of Education (RACE)
• Very interesting anatomy and physiology lectures, including musculoskeletal anatomy and equine reproduction
• Working with regally-bred yearlings in the Kildangan yards
• Vet rounds and rotations in the stallion yard
• Visiting Sheikh Mohammed’s various other Irish studs
• Pedigree discussions with Charles Spiller, who has been the brainchild of Darley pedigrees for 27 years
• Spending the afternoon in Dublin on our first weekend in Ireland
• Horse production assignments that have helped me learn a lot about horse selection and valuation.

And what to expect in the coming weeks:

• Attending the Goffs Orby sales with an agent
• Meeting John Ferguson
• Continuing anatomy and physiology courses at UCD
• Visiting Coolmore Stud and trainer John Oxx’s yard
• Spending a day in Galway as a tourist
• Weekend trip to France for the Arc
• And in just over a month, moving on to Newmarket. Hard to believe!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Canadian Goldmine, This Weekend at Woodbine

To anyone doubting the quality of Canadian racing, I ask you to please turn your attention to this weekend’s race cards at Woodbine.

On September 18 and 19, Woodbine will play host to five graded stakes, headlined by the $1 million Woodbine Mile (G1).

On Saturday, the two-year-olds will take the spotlight in the $200,000 Natalma Stakes (G3) for fillies, and the $250,000 Summer Stakes (G3), open to males and females. The next day, older females will face off in the Canadian (G2); turf-routers will take the stage in the $750,000 Northern Dancer (G1), and the program will wrap up with the Woodbine Mile (G1), which has drawn some of the best milers from Canada, the U.S., and Europe.

This weekend’s stakes program is worth $2.5 million excluding state-bred and Breeders’ Cup bonuses, which tack on another $590,000. All five stakes will be contested over Woodbine’s elite E.P. Taylor turf course, which I constantly contend is the best grass course in North America.

This year’s Mile weekend program has attracted star runners from Canada, the U.S., and Europe, including Grade 1 winners Marsh Side, Victor’s Cry, and Court Vision. World-renowned trainers like Neil Drysdale, Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, Eoin Harty, Rick Dutrow, and Dermot Weld, all of whom have become regular Woodbine shippers, will go for pieces of the purse pie.

While I would love to give you some tips for this weekend’s stakes, my handicapping skills are admittedly abysmal. For more on the dimensions of each of these races, I give you to my Blood-Horse buddies Jason Shandler and Jack Shinar:

Natalma and Summer Stakes

Canadian Stakes

Northern Dancer

Woodbine Mile

Woodbine was also the feature of this week's That Handicapping Show on For the picks of Blood-Horse writers Jason Shandler and Tom LaMarra as well as Tim Holland, click here.
As for personal preference, I will be most looking forward to the Northern Dancer Stakes this weekend. The Northern Dancer is part of Woodbine’s excellent summer turf route program, which each year brings back the top older runners in Canada, as well as some regular ship ins, like Marsh Side. These are the types of runners (distance on the turf) least desired at stud in North America, which is fine by the racing fan in me, because that means we get to watch them do battle year after year rather than head to the breeding shed; the true definition of competitive sport. Stalwarts of this program that will compete Sunday include Marsh Side, Windward Islands, and Spice Route.

As a quick aside, I would ask you to take a glance at the purses of the undercard races this weekend at Woodbine. We have maiden races for almost $70,000, allowances races for over $70,000, and some claiming events worth almost double their tag. Almost anyone can host a few expensive stakes, but this is the type of purse structure that keeps horsemen going day in and day out. These high purses contribute to attracting the leading runners from around the world, who come to Woodbine with their connections and inject more money into our industry. All of this creates a cyclical effect that results in high quality Canadian racing year after year.

For full entries, visit For more information about Woodbine, visit

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Irish National Stud

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Irish National Stud. In addition to being a stalwart at the top of the Irish (and global) Thoroughbred industry, the National Stud is a tourism hallmark in Ireland. I was surprised (and thoroughly impressed) to learn that the National Stud accomodates over 140,000 tourists per year.

The Flying Start tour began with a visit to the stallion yard, where we saw Art Connoisseur, Indian Haven, Jeremy, Verglas, and last but definitely not least, Invincible Spirit. Already a champion sire, Invincible Spirit certainly looked the part. He is an incredibly powerful and well-balanced horse, with no apparent flaw to my learning eye.

Invincible Spirit at Irish National Stud

We then headed off to see some mares and foals, but not before detouring through some beautiful woodlands complete with lakes, waterfalls, and stone huts:

After viewing some broodmares and foals, we got a great surprise: the entire Flying Start class was allowed to go into the paddock with Vintage Crop, the 1993 Melbourne Cup winner who now resides at the National Stud. This was a great treat, especially for our three Australian trainees. Vintage Crop was an absolute sweetheart, and between that and the beautiful shining sun, I'm sure we all would have been content to stay with him all day.

Nick, Leah, and Lindsay with Vintage Crop

Australian trainees Adrian, Nick, and Michael with Vintage Crop

Yours truly with Vintage Crop
Spoiling the Champ
After a stop by the National Stud museum, we were kindly treated to tea and desserts by the staff.

My visit to the Irish National Stud was very memorable, and I was very impressed by what the Stud is doing to promote horses and racing to the public. I hope to return again soon, and for everyone traveling to Ireland, it is a must see.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fun in the Sun at the Beach

Last week, I was fortunate to attend the once-yearly race meeting held in Laytown, Ireland. While the Emerald Isle is well equipped with exciting race meetings and festivals, Laytown is unique for one reason: the races are held on the beach.

Laytown racing emerged 140 years ago when it was held in conjunction with a rowing competition. Today, the races are organized when the tide is low, allowing a wide expanse of sandy beach to be converted to a makeshift racecourse. I, along with the rest of the Flying Starters, quickly learned that the Laytown meeting is a popular social event for Irish racing enthusiasts.

When we arrived at Laytown, we were met by a jovial atmosphere that included a large crowd, numerous food and beverage tents, and Irish music. When the rain cleared after the second race we were allowed to walk right on to the beach, and it was certainly something spectacular.

While the boys preferred to stay close to the action, us girls walked as far as could toward the water. We enjoyed taking photos and collecting Irish seashells. When a rainbow appeared in the sky above, we knew for sure we had struck gold.

The highlight of the day was watching a race trackside at the furlong pole. The compact sand made for a hoof-rattling surface, and I felt excitement race through my body as the horses charged past, close enough to reach out and touch.

I think it’s safe to say that a great day was had by all. My day at Laytown was certainly a day I’ll cherish for a long time. Check out these photos to understand why:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Beautiful Curragh

Driving from Kildangan Stud into County Kildare, there comes a point where the tall brush bordering the side roads recedes, offering a spectacular view of the Irish countryside. Nestled within the beautiful scenery is the Curragh Racecourse, the premier Thoroughbred track of Ireland.

Well accustomed to neat oval tracks in bustling cities, I was not prepared for my first glimpse of the Curragh. Spreading farther than the eye can see, the Curragh consists of numerous racing paths and training surfaces, from turf to synthetic and woodchip. In the distance, herds of sheep can be seen grazing lush Emerald pastures.

The Darley Flying Start students have now been fortunate enough to visit the Curragh on three occasions: once to watch training and twice for racing. Most recently, we were treated to a great card of racing on August 29, featuring the Group I Moyglare Stud Stakes. Misty For Me, a Coolmore-owned daughter of Galileo, won the feature race with favourites Memory and Laughing Lashes in her wake. Misty For Me put herself amongst the leaders for next year’s classics with the win.

On the undercard, another daughter of Galileo caught our attention. Lush Lashes, a Jim Bolger-trained three time group I winner, was making her first start in more than a year in the Dance Design Stakes. Unfortunately she could only manage fourth behind the Danehill Dancer filly Obama Rule. With that winner in mind I suggested that my American friends back Barack in the sixth race. The American president angle proved empty, with Barack finishing up the field. We were also pleased to see Astrophysical Jet, a daughter of Darley stallion Dubawi, win the Group 3 Goffs Flying Five Stakes.

Here are some photos from my visits to the Curragh:

The Flying Starters take in morning training at the Curragh

Beautiful paddock area

View from the stands

A large set heads to the gallops

Another training shot

The Home Team

During my travels to America and Ireland, it has become apparent that many people are unaware of the major influence of Canadian bloodlines on the Thoroughbred breed. Everyone knows about Northern Dancer, but many are surprised to hear that other influential Thoroughbreds like Smart Strike and Awesome Again were born, bred, raised, raced, or all of the above, in Canada.

I have decided to compile a list of some of the most influential Canadian-bred Thoroughbreds that would be recognized worldwide. If I have overlooked anyone significant please let me know. Thanks, and enjoy.

Awesome Again
Chief Bearhart
Dance Smartly
Deputy Minister
Glorious Song
La Lorgnette
La Voyageuse
Medaille D’Or
Northern Dancer
Runaway Groom
Saint Ballado
Silver Deputy
Sky Classic
Smart Strike
Sunny’s Halo
The Minstrel
Victoria Park
Victory Gallop
Vice Regent
With Approval