Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Life Updates

First of all, let me apologize for my absence over the last few weeks. A lot has been happening in the time since my last post, including but not limited to a major presentation in Ireland, a visit with the world’s greatest racehorse, the move to England, and a heartbreaking loss. Let’s break it down:

Accentuating the Positive

The 12 Flying Start trainees wrapped up our stint in Ireland with a conference where we each gave a speech highlighting a positive industry trend. A lot of work went into these presentations, and overall the event was a success. My topic was racing movies and documentaries, and how they can promote racing to a wide audience. I was a little nervous beforehand, but once I got in front of the audience, I had a great time giving the speech. I look forward to another chance at it later on in America.

Seeing Stars

On one of our final days in Ireland, we received a curious e-mail from Clodagh:

“Please meet in the boardroom tomorrow at 3 p.m. Wear your Flying Start jackets and your jodhpurs.”

Yes, this was very curious indeed. After having gone through the past ten weeks with our every move planned out and scheduled, this mysterious request caused a whirlwind among the trainees. What could possibly be happening? We put all of our little future leader noggins together to make an educated guess, and it turns out we were right: Clodagh had arranged a surprise visit for us to view Sea The Stars at High Highness the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud.

We looked at the horse for less than ten minutes, but it was an incredibly captivating ten minutes. As far as perfection comes, Sea the Stars is about as close as it gets. With his unbeaten 2009 championship season aside, Sea the Stars is a physical masterpiece. He stepped from the barn as if he owned it, and each time he moved past us flicked his tail carelessly in our direction as if to suggest we were wasting his time.

I don’t believe Sea the Stars is as well known or appreciated outside of Ireland as he should be. So for those who don’t know about his historic campaign, Google it. This race should also help get you excited:

“Perfection in equine form; a horse of a lifetime”


Hello, Newmarket

Our final few days in Ireland were a whirlwind of preparing for our presentations, finishing up in the yards, and packing for the move to England. After arriving home late from the conference, we were up before the sun the next day to catch our flight to England.

Those who have visited Newmarket would likely describe it as a small town, but on our first few days it may as well have been London or Paris. While I enjoyed my time in Ireland, the town of Kildangan did not offer enough to keep me amused, and I’m very pleased to be back in a somewhat urban setting.

While the town is small, our accommodations certainly are not. We have been fortunate enough to score a four-storey palace in the heart of the town. The 12 of us living together has created our own re-enactment of Big Brother. While the guys (six of whom are sharing rooms) struggle to adjust to one another’s sleeping habits, all of us have had to rise to the challenge of sharing a kitchen, sharing food, sharing a shower (not literally...I don’t think), and having a very finite amount of personal space. I’m proud to say there has been no “storming” thus far, and we even collaborated one night to cook a big meal for 12.

The girls have created some drama of our own in the town of Newmarket. To make a long story short, I would simply suggest that all drivers proceed with caution over the next month as the North Americans continue to adjust to driving stick, and on the “wrong” side of the road. While the guys can sometimes tease us for our lack of driving skills, all I have to say is that it is seriously trippy driving into what should be oncoming traffic!

Personal lives aside, we’ve had some great experiences thus far in Newmarket. We arrived to a tour of the mind-blowing Dalham studs and office, and a very pleasant day of racing at the Rowley Mile. On Monday morning we received our first Newmarket lecture from racing reporter James Willoughby. Many of us considered this the best lecture we have had so far on the Flying Start, and an exciting indication of what Newmarket might hold.

And it has certainly lived up to the bar that James set on our first day. We’ve had some great discussions with Olly Tait, Sam Bullard, Barney Curly, Lisa Hancock, James Crowhurst, and Geoff Lane. We have experienced great tours of the vast miles of Newmarket gallops, various trainers’ yards, and an exceptionally nice visit to Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Farm with Johnnie Peter-Hoblyn.

Newmarket has been a blast so far, and it’s a bit sad to think that we’re only here another four weeks. But with so much to look forward to in that time (especially the Tattersalls breeding stock sales), it’s hard to feel sad about time passing!

Breeders’ Cup Blues

In the ensuing days since the Breeders’ Cup, I have on numerous occasions opened my computer to begin a passionate blog entry about this year’s events, but on each occasion I have failed. As a writer, my first impulse is to pour out my emotions in words, but for once I don’t really know what to say.

Zenyatta’s loss was a disappointment, but at the same time, a success in its own right. For the first time, the mighty mare gave it her all, and proved to the world that she has always deserved to be ranked among top company.

This success is darkened by the fact that for the most part, the world doesn’t care. I think I have authority to speak about this, as I’m currently living with young racing enthusiasts from six different countries. Rather than celebrate her accomplishments and the fact that she gave racing in America incredible mainstream exposure, some people would prefer to cut her down, or argue why their own country’s heroes are better.

This frustrates me to no end. Athletes like Zenyatta do a lot for racing both within the industry and mainstream, and when we keep arguing about it, we eventually begin to undermine the accomplishments of the horse. In constantly arguing Zenyatta vs. (insert name here), eventually we just find ourselves bashing great horses for no fair or good reason, no matter what side we fall on. Why can’t we simply appreciate the accomplishments of all the great horses of the world?

Looking Ahead

Over the next few months I will be working on some ideas to improve Turf Beat. I have been spending some time thinking to myself and talking with others about what I want my purpose in the media to be, and what I need to be doing in the meantime to expose myself and put myself in a position for success. I would like for Turf Beat to have a focused identity that both plays to my strengths and offers reader what they want. I am hoping to have a specific plan by January, but in the meantime I will continue to update as much as possible.

Thanks again as always for reading,