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Castrating racehorses: A routine procedure not without its pitfalls

VETERINARYWeb Master
  A recent study published in the Equine Veterinary Journal assessed the routine procedure of gelding and the complications associated with this procedure.  The research was a retrospective study of horses castrated at the Sha Tin training complex in Hong Kong, between July 2007 and July 2012.    Hong Kong is a unique training and racing environment, and all horses training and racing there are imported, as there is no breeding in the region. Fillies are rarely imported. The majority of colts are castrated at some stage in their career, and open standing castration (OSC) is the method of choice by the vets of the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC). Until now, nobody has looked at the prevalence of complications following castration of horses at the HKJC. This recently published study aimed to describe the prevalence and severity of complications in the 30 days following castration.     Reasons for gelding a racehorse in training    Most trainers perceive geldings as easier to train than colts, and if the horse has not shown enough ability for a stud career to beckon, there is little to lose by gelding.  In Hong Kong, due to the unique environment the horses live in, there is an added incentive to geld these horses sooner rather than later. Once gelded, their management becomes significantly more straightforward.     Castration Method Options    Three surgical techniques are commonly used for equine castration: 1) open, in which the parietal tunic surrounding the testicle is incised and, usually, retained; 2) closed, where the portion of the parietal tunic surrounding the testis and distal spermatic cord is removed, and 3) half closed, where an incision is made through the exposed parietal tunic at the cranial end of the testis or distal end of the spermatic cord allowing the testis and part of the spermatic vasculature to be prolapsed through the incision prior to removal.     In most cases, racehorse castration is done standing via the open technique under local anesthetic, with sedation and pain relief as necessary. The testicles and spermatic cords are first injected with local anesthetic to numb the region. Once the tissues are totally desensitized, a slash incision is made into the scrotum. The testicle is exteriorized, and it is removed with a surgical instrument called an emasculator. The emasculator has a set of interlocking crushing blades with a cutting blade placed at the bottom of the array. Once the testicular cord is clamped in the emasculator the testicle will usually fall off, but the cord is retained within the interlocking crushing blades for approximately one to two minutes. This creates trauma to the tissues, which causes them to swell once the crush is released, reducing blood flow. The second effect of the emasculators is for the blood to be held in position long enough to begin the clotting process, which carries on once the clamp is removed.     An alternative method of castration is to anesthetize the horse and carry out the procedure with the horse on its back, as a completely sterile operation in an operating room. This has the advantage of minimal post-castration swelling as there is no infection in the area, which can be a common problem with standing open castrations.  In horses who are cryptorchids (ridglings), which is when there is only one descended testicle in the scrotum, standard open standing castration is contraindicated. These horses require either castration under general anesthetic or testicle removal under standing surgery via laparoscopy (inserting a camera and instruments into the abdomen to remove testicle via a surgical incision).       Complications of Castration    As with all intrusive surgical procedures, there is the potential for things to go wrong. While the castration procedure is relatively straightforward, post-operative complications including excessive edema of the scrotum and surrounding tissues, infection and fever, hemorrhage, lameness, hydrocele formation, peritonitis, eventration, penile paralysis, scirrhous cord formation, and death have been recognized.     With castrations done under general anesthetic, there are all the attendant risks of putting a 1000lb animal on its back and up again. All anesthesia carries a risk of death in the horse. This has been calculated as approximately 1% in equine practice, and can be as low as 0.5% in the major well-equipped equine hospitals. In addition to this, occasional cases show prolonged bleeding after the surgery, which results in significant swelling that sometimes has to be resolved by opening the scrotal sac.     For standing castrations, some of the problems encountered include prolonged bleeding, which can occur irrespective of the length of time the cord has been clamped for. This can become serious enough to require a further surgery to identify the bleeding vessels and tie them off, but thankfully this is rare. Another rare complication is herniation of intestines through the potential space left in the inguinal canal with removal of the testicle. The intestines can either get trapped under the skin producing severe colic, or worse still, dangle out of the abdomen and become contaminated. This presents a very serious risk to the horse’s survival and requires immediate surgery to attempt to clean the exposed bowel and return it to the abdomen. Fortunately this is extremely rare in the Thoroughbred.     However, the most common complication is infection at the site of the castration. This procedure leaves an open wound and obviously the horse can lie down in bedding full of urine and feces on the same day it has been castrated, therefore potentially contaminating the open surgical site. Unfortunately many racehorses’ ability to be turned out in a paddock is often controlled by the training environment they reside in. Infection post-castration, and the added expense and lost training days associated with it, is a bugbear for trainers and vets, and this study reviews a common problem encountered worldwide.    Hong Kong Study    The Hong Kong training complex provides full-time stabling and training facilities to approximately 1250 horses spread out among 24 licensed trainers. The Department of Veterinary Clinical Services (DVCS) at the HKJC is the sole provider of veterinary care for this population. All clinical records of horses in training at the HKJC are collated within the Veterinary Medical Information System (VMIS). For a horse to be eligible for inclusion in the study, two testicles had to have been removed via an open standing castration. Veterinary records of all the horses that had been castrated were examined and any cases that did not meet the criteria were excluded.     Data on complications that occurred in the 30 days following castration was extracted from the clinical notes in the VMIS. The data was reviewed and the severity of complication was categorized into one of the five groups below:     Group N     Group NEX     Group C1    Group C2    Group C3       No complications    No complications but received extended course of antimicrobials    Mild complications    Moderate complications       Severe Complications    (required urgent veterinary attention)       Between July 2007 and July 2012, 280 racehorses in training were castrated. A total of 30 horses were omitted from the study, as they did not meet the inclusion criteria: 24 horses were castrated using general anesthetic, of which six were cryptorchid surgeries.  Horses included in the study were in the care of 24 different trainers, with thirteen different veterinarians performing the castrations.     Post-castration complications     Forty percent (100/250) of the horses experienced no complications. Sixty-six horses (26.4%) were categorized as N and 34 horses (13.6%) as NEX. There was no statistically significant association between a horse having a post-castration complication and horse signalment or the month, season, or year of castration.     Of the 150 horses that experienced complications, 85 (56.7%) were categorized as mild, 57 (38.0%) as moderate, and eight (5.3%) as severe. Most of the horses with complications had a record of scrotal swelling (70.0%; 105 horses), followed by funiculitis (inflammation of spermatic cord) (36.7%; 55 horses), and seroma formation (build up of serum within scrotum) (24.7%; 37 horses).     Antimicrobial use     Details of post-surgery medications were unavailable for six horses; therefore, data was analysed for 244 horses. One horse did not receive first-line antimicrobials at the time of surgery and another did not receive first-line antimicrobials but received reserved antimicrobials (enrofloxacin and ceftiofur).     Of the 244 horses, 109 (44.7%) horses received an extended course of first-line antimicrobials (Trimethoprim – Sulfadiazine or Oxytetracycline) and/or a NSAID (phenylbutazone or flunixin) for pain relief.     An extended course of first-line antimicrobials and/or NSAID was used in 48% (41/85) of horses grouped as C1, 53% (30/57) in the C2 group, and 50% (4/8) in the C3 group. Reserved antimicrobials were used in 42% (36/85), 81% (46/57), and 38% (3/8) of C1, C2, and C3 complications, respectively. Enrofloxicin and ceftiofur were both used in 22 horses, regardless of complication category.     Return to racing     In total, five horses failed to return to galloping after OSC. Horses for which no complication was recorded returned to galloping on average 29 days after castration. The interval was 37 days for horses with complications. Twenty-four horses did not return to racing. Horses returned to racing on average 95.5 days post-castration respectively.     Bacterial culture and sensitivity     Eight horses had samples collected for culture and sensitivity. Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (TMPS) had been used prophylactically at the time of castration in seven of these and oxytetracycline in the other horse. Seventeen different bacterial isolates were cultured. Sensitivity testing showed that the bacteria cultured was resistant in vitro to commonly used front line anti-microbials oxytetracyclines, TMPS, gentamicin, metronidazole, and penicillin.  Bacteria cultured was sensitive to enrofloxacin in 13 out of 17 cases (76%) and all samples were sensitive to ceftiofur. In vitro, four of the six bacteria cultured were susceptible to the combination of gentamicin and penicillin.    Factors associated with complications    This retrospective study of clinical records from a closed population of horses found that 60% of all horses castrated in Hong Kong using the OSC technique suffered some type of complication within 30 days of the procedure. This is two-to-three times higher than has been reported in other studies utilizing survey-based data collection of veterinary clinical records. There are several possible explanations for the high prevalence of complications here.     It is conceivable that clinicians who undertook the procedures in this study had less ability or were less diligent in their practice than those involved in previous studies. This seems unlikely, as all the veterinarians who undertook these castrations were experienced and made every effort to practice to the highest standard.    Another possibility is that the surgical techniques practiced or the post-operative care were suboptimal. However, the OSC technique is relatively standard and varies little between locations, as does the post-operative care.     There may be factors associated with the environment, such as type of bedding, sand on exercise tracks, or climatic conditions, that predisposed to complications. The weather is hot and humid over the spring and summer in Hong Kong, which may be considered a risk factor for complications post-castration. However, analysis of the data revealed no association between month or season and rate of complication.     Another possibility is that the recording of ‘complication’ was more comprehensive here than in previous studies. A requirement to diligently maintain accurate clinical records together with daily attendance of stables by each veterinarian may have resulted in a greater proportion of horses with complications being recorded. This would be particularly pertinent with mild complications that may not have received veterinary attention in other populations.     While most of the complications were mild or moderate in nature, eight horses (3.2%) experienced complications that were graded as severe. The horses with mild to moderate complications were managed successfully with minimal intervention, including further antimicrobial and/or NSAID medication and wound drainage. The majority of horses with severe complications required hospital-level intervention. No horses castrated in Hong Kong over the five-year study period died due to complications associated with the OSC procedure.     In the cases where culture and sensitivity was performed, bacteria was identified that were resistant to a wide spectrum of antimicrobials, including those routinely used for prophylactic therapy during OSC. Ideally, antimicrobial therapy is based on findings from culture and sensitivity of bacteria involved. However, this approach requires delaying therapy at least 72 hours, and clinicians were cognizant that bacteria involved was most likely to be sensitive to enrofloxacin and ceftiofur. This is substantiated by the observation that these ‘reserved’ antimicrobials were effective at resolving infections, with or without culture and sensitivity results prior to treatment. Nevertheless, the use of antimicrobials, particularly those in the reserved category, needs to be protected.     While only 28% of horses with signs of infection had samples submitted for culture and sensitivity analysis, this study has identified potential patterns of antimicrobial resistance among bacteria involved in post-operative infection in this specific group of horses. The use of TMPS and oxytetracylines as first-line antimicrobials may be potentially contraindicated based on these limited results. Bacteria isolated showed greater sensitivity to a combination of penicillin and gentamicin than to TMPS and oxytetracyclines. In addition, this combination had a broadly similar in vitro sensitivity to enrofloxacin and ceftiofur.     Conclusion    This study is particularly useful, as the HKJC provides a unique opportunity to follow the outcome of horses after procedures like castration. However, the intensive housing of horses at the HKJC and the way they are managed means that the data should be interpreted with caution in relation to other locations. The prevalence of complications following OSC was high; however, the vast majority of complications were mild or moderate in nature. This study provides an opportunity to improve welfare and antimicrobial usage through an examination of existing OSC protocols in order to better inform future best practice.        Captions    Fig 1. Twenty-four hours after castration this horse has mild scrotal swelling, which would be classed as Group C1 in the Hong Kong study.       Fig 2.Fig 2. Tissues are prolapsing through the castration site - this severe castration complication requires immediate veterinary attention.

A recent study published in the Equine Veterinary Journal assessed the routine procedure of gelding and the complications associated with this procedure.  The research was a retrospective study of horses castrated at the Sha Tin training complex in Hong Kong, between July 2007 and July 2012.

Hong Kong is a unique training and racing environment, and all horses training and racing there are imported, as there is no breeding in the region. Fillies are rarely imported. The majority of colts are castrated at some stage in their career, and open standing castration (OSC) is the method of choice by the vets of the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC). Until now, nobody has looked at the prevalence of complications following castration of horses at the HKJC. This recently published study aimed to describe the prevalence and severity of complications in the 30 days following castration.

Reasons for gelding a racehorse in training

Most trainers perceive geldings as easier to train than colts, and if the horse has not shown enough ability for a stud career to beckon, there is little to lose by gelding.  In Hong Kong, due to the unique environment the horses live in, there is an added incentive to geld these horses sooner rather than later. Once gelded, their management becomes significantly more straightforward.

Castration Method Options

Three surgical techniques are commonly used for equine castration: 1) open, in which the parietal tunic surrounding the testicle is incised and, usually, retained; 2) closed, where the portion of the parietal tunic surrounding the testis and distal spermatic cord is removed, and 3) half closed, where an incision is made through the exposed parietal tunic at the cranial end of the testis or distal end of the spermatic cord allowing the testis and part of the spermatic vasculature to be prolapsed through the incision prior to removal.

 

In most cases, racehorse castration is done standing via the open technique under local anesthetic, with sedation and pain relief as necessary. The testicles and spermatic cords are first injected with local anesthetic to numb the region. Once the tissues are totally desensitized, a slash incision is made into the scrotum. The testicle is exteriorized, and it is removed with a surgical instrument called an emasculator. The emasculator has a set of interlocking crushing blades with a cutting blade placed at the bottom of the array. Once the testicular cord is clamped in the emasculator the testicle will usually fall off, but the cord is retained within the interlocking crushing blades for approximately one to two minutes. This creates trauma to the tissues, which causes them to swell once the crush is released, reducing blood flow. The second effect of the emasculators is for the blood to be held in position long enough to begin the clotting process, which carries on once the clamp is removed.

An alternative method of castration is to anesthetize the horse and carry out the procedure with the horse on its back, as a completely sterile operation in an operating room. This has the advantage of minimal post-castration swelling as there is no infection in the area, which can be a common problem with standing open castrations.  In horses who are cryptorchids (ridglings), which is when there is only one descended testicle in the scrotum, standard open standing castration is contraindicated. These horses require either castration under general anesthetic or testicle removal under standing surgery via laparoscopy (inserting a camera and instruments into the abdomen to remove testicle via a surgical incision).

Complications of Castration

As with all intrusive surgical procedures, there is the potential for things to go wrong. While the castration procedure is relatively straightforward, post-operative complications including excessive edema of the scrotum and surrounding tissues, infection and fever, hemorrhage, lameness, hydrocele formation, peritonitis, eventration, penile paralysis, scirrhous cord formation, and death have been recognized.

With castrations done under general anesthetic, there are all the attendant risks of putting a 1000lb animal on its back and up again. All anesthesia carries a risk of death in the horse. This has been calculated as approximately 1% in equine practice, and can be as low as 0.5% in the major well-equipped equine hospitals. In addition to this, occasional cases show prolonged bleeding after the surgery, which results in significant swelling that sometimes has to be resolved by opening the scrotal sac.

 Intestine is prolapsing through the castration site - this severe castration complication requires immediate veterinary attention.

Intestine is prolapsing through the castration site - this severe castration complication requires immediate veterinary attention.

For standing castrations, some of the problems encountered include prolonged bleeding, which can occur irrespective of the length of time the cord has been clamped for. This can become serious enough to require a further surgery to identify the bleeding vessels and tie them off, but thankfully this is rare. Another rare complication is herniation of intestines through the potential space left in the inguinal canal with removal of the testicle. The intestines can either get trapped under the skin producing severe colic, or worse still, dangle out of the abdomen and become contaminated. This presents a very serious risk to the horse’s survival and requires immediate surgery to attempt to clean the exposed bowel and return it to the abdomen. Fortunately this is extremely rare in the Thoroughbred.

 

However, the most common complication is infection at the site of the castration. This procedure leaves an open wound and obviously the horse can lie down in bedding full of urine and feces on the same day it has been castrated, therefore potentially contaminating the open surgical site. Unfortunately many racehorses’ ability to be turned out in a paddock is often controlled by the training environment they reside in. Infection post-castration, and the added expense and lost training days associated with it, is a bugbear for trainers and vets, and this study reviews a common problem encountered worldwide.

Hong Kong Study

 

The Hong Kong training complex provides full-time stabling and training facilities to approximately 1250 horses spread out among 24 licensed trainers. The Department of Veterinary Clinical Services (DVCS) at the HKJC is the sole provider of veterinary care for this population. All clinical records of horses in training at the HKJC are collated within the Veterinary Medical Information System (VMIS). For a horse to be eligible for inclusion in the study, two testicles had to have been removed via an open standing castration. Veterinary records of all the horses that had been castrated were examined and any cases that did not meet the criteria were excluded.

Data on complications that occurred in the 30 days following castration was extracted from the clinical notes in the VMIS. The data was reviewed and the severity of complication was categorized into one of the five groups below:

 

Between July 2007 and July 2012, 280 racehorses in training were castrated. A total of 30 horses were omitted from the study, as they did not meet the inclusion criteria: 24 horses were castrated using general anesthetic, of which six were cryptorchid surgeries.  Horses included in the study were in the care of 24 different trainers, with thirteen different veterinarians performing the castrations.

 

Twenty-four hours after castration, this horse has mild scrotal swelling, which would be classed as Group C1 in the Hong Kong study.

 

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Amateur Riders - More than just a tradition

RACINGWeb Master
  Courage, honour, elegance, and fair play. That is the list of values that underpin the ethos of the FEGENTRI – the International Federation of Gentleman and Lady Riders. They are values that Elie Hennau refers to regularly as he speaks with enthusiasm and pride about the organisation of which he is now president, and his own career as an amateur rider.    “I won the Amateur Riders’ Derby at Epsom in 1999 on a 25/1 shot and beat Ryan Moore who was second on one for his father. My whip did not comply with the British standards and I had to borrow one. It was Frankie Dettori who gave me his whip for the race so I beat Ryan using Frankie’s whip – this is probably the thing I’m most proud of in my whole life!”    Now 44, Hennau held down a full-time job whilst enjoying a 15-year spell in the saddle, during which time he rode in around 1000 races and partnered almost 100 winners. As a rider in the FEGENTRI series he met new friends, experienced different countries, and got a great thrill from the sport. Racing helped him grow, and now it’s time to give something back. “If I’m completely transparent then this wasn’t the best time in my life to take on this presidency as I already have too many things to do and this is an unpaid job. But I do it for the love of the sport. Maybe I was expecting to do this when I was a little older, but the opportunity was there and I wanted to give back to racing all of the great things racing gave to me.”    Created by a group of enthusiastic amateurs at St. Moritz in 1955, FEGENTRI has expanded and developed into an organisation whose membership currently consists of ‘clubs’ in 23 different countries across four continents and has a high-profile sponsor in Longines. The mission of the organisation is to promote international races for amateur riders and to organise the FEGENTRI World Championship. As Hennau explains, “We don’t organise the races as such, but we provide the riders for them and organise the championships. There are two world championships, one for gentleman riders and one for lady riders. This year there were 60 races across 40 different tracks in 15 different countries, and we had seven gentleman riders and 10 lady riders.”    Not every member sends a representative every year, and the idea is for the series to be contested by the best amateurs around the world, with each member currently able to send just one rider, either a male or female, to represent them. “There is a minimum of five wins required to ride in the series and every country can decide who they send, but normally they should be the champion. Ideally they should be the best and if not, they must be one of the best.”     Hennau regularly speaks about the emphasis on quality riders competing in the series. “I am not worried about quantity; I care about the quality. By that I mean the quality of riding ability, which is the first element, but also the quality of values.” He then explains the other key component of selection to race as part of FEGENTRI: “It is also important that the riders represent our values, and the message to our members is please send a rider that corresponds to our values of courage, honour, elegance, and fair play. It is only when a member has a rider of the right quality who holds the right values that they should be put forward.”    It’s by ensuring quality amateurs are in place to ride and through sticking to these values that Hennau can have confidence in the capabilities of riders taking part in FEGENTRI, and he is keen to press the point home to help ensure the series continues to thrive. “It’s a combination of having racing authorities that understand the need to keep this alive, of having local clubs that explain the series to their trainers, and going to those trainers to tell them that we need their help.” He is aware and understands that some trainers, especially in the major racing jurisdictions where the quality of horse is that much higher, may have some reservations about trusting an unknown rider to give their charge a safe ride that they are happy with. However, he believes that these reservations are misguided. “My message is that we have top quality riders. I want to let trainers know that the boys and girls riding in these races will be top-quality riders, comparable to the best amateur riders you could have in your own country”.    In some cases those assurances will not be enough to ensure a good entry for the FEGENTRI races, and in France it helped when the prize money on offer for the series was slightly higher than is usually offered for races of the same class. That idea is one Hennau would like to expand, but there can be no assurances on that front, so for now he hopes trainers will take him on his word that the riders are good enough. “It’s important that trainers put horses in these races and give these foreign riders a chance. We need to keep this thing alive, keep amateur racing alive and give it a chance. It is only for a few races a year in each country.”    It’s clear, even after a short conversation, that Elie Hennau is extremely passionate about the value of amateur riders to the sport generally and the way that FEGENTRI can highlight that value. “This international championship must be seen as a window. It is something for local amateur riders to look at and aim for. For example, the current champion for the ladies is a Belgian; she rides really, really well, and you can’t imagine the impact for the other Belgian amateur riders. I have seen it myself, they look up to her and find motivation to be better and to improve.”     Improving the FEGENTRI series is something Hennau strives for, but before building, solid foundations must be in place. “I think globally we are doing okay and we receive a lot of assistance from some countries and authorities, but I don’t think amateur racing is valued the same everywhere, and I think there is a job to be performed in making all racing authorities understand what amateur racing can bring.”    In Britain and Ireland the importance of amateurs to the sport, especially in Jumps racing, is clear to see, and with that in mind the president is keen to welcome back those two countries to the fold after they recently left the federation. “It was before I was president that they left and I am not sure of all the details, but FEGENTRI is about friendship and earlier this year we let a couple of the English riders ride in a race in Milan. They were so thankful and so happy and since then I have been speaking to the people in England a lot and I hope to have them and Ireland back very soon.”    The return of Britain and Ireland would certainly be a boost, but with or without them, plans are afoot for FEGENTRI to grow. “I was elected in March and have been looking at the regulations to help them evolve, not just to keep it alive but to broaden it on the racetrack, and I’m really enjoying it. We want to bring in some new ideas, like a grand slam and possibly growing the number of participants eligible from each country.”    The ‘grand slam’ is set to be Hennau’s big project. The FEGENTRI series has already added some prestige to its roster with a race taking place on the Prix De Diane card at Chantilly, something Hennau describes as “a really great opportunity for the amateurs.” It is an opportunity he wants to build on, and the creation of the grand slam is the way he plans to do it. The idea is for there to be six-to-10 races that make up the grand slam. These will be staged on Grade 1 tracks at some of the big meetings, providing an outstanding opportunity and experience for the riders, and coverage for the series sponsor. Explaining the idea further, Hennau says, “We need to think about the exact selection criteria but it will be boys and girls, the crème de la crème of amateurs riding in the same race.”    Hennau reports that the plan has found favour with the likes of Louis Romanet (chairman of the IFHA) and Brian Kavanagh (chief executive HRI / vice-chairman IFHA). “We have already done a lot of work on it and just need to fine-tune the details a little bit. Most of our members are completely behind the idea, and all will be once the fine-tuning is done. We then need to put it to the authorities and fit it into the racing calendar of 2019.”    With plans for the grand slam moving apace, Hennau is looking at further challenges to expand and enhance FEGENTRI, which now consists of only Flat races, by re-establishing a presence over the jumps.     He believes the general decline of Jumps racing outside of Britain, Ireland, and France has impacted the number of opportunities for amateur riders over obstacles, and it has become “a real struggle” to find jumping opportunities for amateurs outside of those countries. He wants to take on the challenge of trying to reverse that decline. “It’s a challenge because we want it to be a challenge. We could decide not to help the Jumps racing but we want to help as it’s in our DNA, and we will do everything we can to help Jumps racing.”  There are already talks underway to move FEGENTRI into Jumps racing, as Hennau explains. “This year we were approached by the Crystal Cup, which has races on all of the famous cross-country tracks across Europe, and we are planning to add FEGENTRI races at these prestigious courses as part of the Crystal Cup.” In addition, another partnership with a Jumps series is also in the pipeline. ‘The Gentleman’s League’ is a European jump championship for gentleman riders set up by Gonzague Cottreau, Maxim Denuault, Patrick Mullins, and Freddy Tett, and this is due to team up with FEGENTRI. “They have already organised a few races and I have talked to them quite a lot this year. We have agreed to help them host their races in the FEGENTRI and so we will be organising their championship next year.”    There’s little doubt that Elie Hennau has the drive to move FEGENTRI forward, and with progress on the horizon, it will soon be in evidence for all to see. For now, he seems happy with the progress being made but there is a long-term goal. “The dream would be to have an amateur race at the Olympic Games but that really is a dream because as we all know that would be very difficult. But it’s the dream, and if we could do it then it would be great for the sport to be seen on that platform.”

By Chris Dixon

Courage, honour, elegance, and fair play. That is the list of values that underpin the ethos of the Fegentri – the International Federation of Gentlemen and Lady Riders. They are values that Elie Hennau refers to regularly as he speaks with enthusiasm and pride about the organisation of which he is now president, and his own career as an amateur rider.

Elie Hennau 2017.JPG

 

“I won the Amateur Riders’ Derby at Epsom in 1999 on a 25/1 shot and beat Ryan Moore who was second on one for his father. My whip did not comply with the British standards and I had to borrow one. It was Frankie Dettori who gave me his whip for the race so I beat Ryan using Frankie’s whip – this is probably the thing I’m most proud of in my whole life!”

Now 44, Hennau held down a full-time job whilst enjoying a 15-year spell in the saddle, during which time he rode in around 1000 races and partnered almost 100 winners. As a rider in the Fegentri series he met new friends, experienced different countries, and got a great thrill from the sport. Racing helped him grow, and now it’s time to give something back. “If I’m completely transparent then this wasn’t the best time in my life to take on this presidency as I already have too many things to do and this is an unpaid job. But I do it for the love of the sport. Maybe I was expecting to do this when I was a little older, but the opportunity was there and I wanted to give back to racing all of the great things racing gave to me.”

Created by a group of enthusiastic amateurs at St. Moritz in 1955, Fegentri has expanded and developed into an organisation whose membership currently consists of ‘clubs’ in 23 different countries across four continents and has a high-profile sponsor in Longines. The mission of the organisation is to promote international races for amateur riders and to organise the Fegentri World Championship. As Hennau explains, “We don’t organise the races as such, but we provide the riders for them and organise the championships. There are two world championships, one for gentleman riders and one for lady riders. This year there were 60 races across 40 different tracks in 15 different countries, and we had seven gentleman riders and 10 lady riders.”

Not every member sends a representative every year, and the idea is for the series to be contested by the best amateurs around the world, with each member currently able to send just one rider, either a male or female, to represent them. “There is a minimum of five wins required to ride in the series and every country can decide who they send, but normally they should be the champion. Ideally they should be the best and if not, they must be one of the best.”

Hennau regularly speaks about the emphasis on quality riders competing in the series. “I am not worried about quantity; I care about the quality. By that I mean the quality of riding ability, which is the first element, but also the quality of values.” He then explains the other key component of selection to race as part of Fegentri: “It is also important that the riders represent our values, and the message to our members is, ‘Please send a rider that corresponds to our values of courage, honour, elegance, and fair play.’ It is only when a member has a rider of the right quality who holds the right values that they should be put forward.”

 Fegentri President briefing the Gentleman Riders in Madrid.

Fegentri President briefing the Gentleman Riders in Madrid.

It’s by ensuring quality amateurs are in place to ride and through sticking to these values that Hennau can have confidence in the capabilities of riders taking part in Fegentri, and he is keen to press the point home to help ensure the series continues to thrive. “It’s a combination of having racing authorities that understand the need to keep this alive, of having local clubs that explain the series to their trainers, and going to those trainers to tell them that we need their help.” He is aware and understands that some trainers, especially in the major racing jurisdictions where the quality of horse is that much higher, may have some reservations about trusting an unknown rider to give their charge a safe ride that they are happy with. However, he believes that these reservations are misguided. “My message is that we have top quality riders. I want to let trainers know that the boys and girls riding in these races will be top quality riders, comparable to the best amateur riders you could have in your own country.”

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Chantilly - Looking ahead to the next generation

INDUSTRYWeb Master
  Racehorses have been trained in Chantilly since anyone can remember. It would be fair to say that the horses are part of the fabric of the town, perhaps just as much so as the bobbin lace, which Chantilly was famous for in the 17th century.       Surrounded by forest and located some 30 kilometres from Paris, Chantilly is the iconic home of French racing and training. Managing the hectares of training grounds and the racecourse is no easy task, but the responsibility lies in the hands of Marin Le Cour Grandmaison and his boss Matthieu Vincent, who splits his time between Chantilly, Deauville, and Maisons-Laffitte. They see themselves as ambassadors for racing in Chantilly, evangelical about what the town has to offer and keen to expand the centre’s reach to up-and-coming young trainers.       Spending time in their company, it becomes clear that their primary focus is to give the trainers the tools they need to train horses better.        Take Montjeu, who according to Vincent was not only his favourite horse but quite a quirky customer to train. “The horse was difficult and John (Hammond) did a great job with him. We would have him working at the racecourse at 5am. One day Cash Asmussen came to the racecourse to ride but John didn’t want him to gallop, just trot. He wanted him trotting for 500 hundred metres. But after 20 metres Montjeu wanted to go. So John stopped him and we ended up opening the racecourse to repeat the exercise five or six times and eventually he relaxed. We would do that for any trainer and it wouldn’t make any difference to us if they wanted to do something special at 5pm in the evening, we are here to help our clients.”        Chantilly is home to 110 trainers and approximately 2500 horses, of which 250 are jumpers (National Hunt). “In 2010 we had 2400 flat horses and 600 jumpers here and the average trainer was maybe 60 years of age,” says Vincent.       “If we compare Chantilly and Newmarket, Newmarket is more of a dream for some owners because they have a lot of classic younger trainers -- that’s good, the young. We need to have younger trainers, we want to help the young trainers here. It used to be every trainer’s dream to train here. Now we have the provinces, look at Jean Claude Roget: in 2005 he started to have classic horses but he’s not from Chantilly. So some said, ‘Maybe you can be a good trainer anywhere in France.’”       Chantilly Racecourse used to open for 12 days a year, but with the advent of all-weather racing in 2012 that number has jumped to 45. “But we have less and less horses in training in Chantilly since 2012. The track has helped us retain horses. It helps the trainers. Twenty years ago it was so quiet here and horses were just walking and trotting, but now with the all-weather tracks we’re training every day.”       The all-weather track has proven to be a good investment for the local economy, partly funded by the town, which put in €1,500,000 of the €5,000,000 cost. The annual tax income runs into a healthy seven figure sum. On top of that, the town is home to 2000 workers whose income comes from the racing industry, with a staggering 50% of the workforce being stable staff or riders. Who knows what the shrinkage would have been like if the all-weather hadn’t happened.       Subtle changes are afoot amongst the training ranks in Chantilly; this year alone Criquette Head-Maarek, Elie Lellouche, and Francois Doumen have retired, and these trainers need replacing.         “There have been a lot of complications to come training in France. We need to do more to help the younger trainers set up. But the system is changing and now if a trainer wants to come here from abroad and doesn’t speak much French, they can train here -- as long as they have a good background. It used to be that they had to take the exam in French, but it’s not like that anymore,” enthuses Vincent. “You can come here to train for three months and then another three months but no more than that! You’ll then have to decide if you want to have a permanent licence here.”       The size of the training centre is big, about 2000 hectares, which works out at nearly 4500 acres. There are no less than 145 kilometres of natural silica sand tracks and 10 kilometres of all-weather gallops, with over 120 hectares of grass gallops for good measure.        It takes quite a team to manage this amount of land. In total, the centre employs 65 people to look after the training grounds, and another 15 people at the racecourse. They are split into five different teams with one team in charge of Les Aigles, one at Lamorlaye and Coye-La-Foret, one at the racecourse, and two teams which can be sent to any part of the estate where needed.        The majority of workers on each team are former riders themselves. Those on the morning shift are on hand from 5am to prepare the different tracks for the morning schedule. Different members of the team will work morning, day, or evening shifts. The emphasis on the day team is to tread in turf or renovate the gallops, and in the summer the evening team is responsible for watering 48 hours ahead when needed. Turf gallops are irrigated to give consistent good-to-soft ground.       It costs €90 a month per horse to be able to use the training grounds of Chantilly. This might be expensive for some, certainly when compared to the provinces, but where else offers the variety in facilities that Chantilly has?       But for the training centre to grow and expand, one can’t help but think that it would be an ideal place for a large vet clinic to be based. At the moment, many trainers send horses to Normandy or even England for treatment.       Some trainers will balk at the cost of training in what is effectively a housing suburb of Paris where the non-racing workforce make the daily commute into the capital city. But its geographical position does work in its favour, and having the principle French airport of Charles de Gaulle half an hour away can only be a plus if more international trainers choose to make Chantilly their home.

By Giles Anderson

Racehorses have been trained in Chantilly since anyone can remember. It would be fair to say that the horses are part of the fabric of the town, perhaps just as much so as the bobbin lace, which Chantilly was famous for in the 17th century.

Matthieu Vincent, Trainer Centre and Racecourse Director and Marin Le Cour Grandmaison, Assistant to the Director, have the responsibility of managing the racecourse and training grounds.

Surrounded by forest and located some 30 kilometres from Paris, Chantilly is the iconic home of French racing and training. Managing the hectares of training grounds and the racecourse is no easy task, but the responsibility lies in the hands of Marin Le Cour Grandmaison and his boss Matthieu Vincent, who splits his time between Chantilly, Deauville, and Maisons-Laffitte. They see themselves as ambassadors for racing in Chantilly, evangelical about what the town has to offer and keen to expand the centre’s reach to up-and-coming young trainers.

Site plan of Chantilly Training Grounds

Spending time in their company, it becomes clear that their primary focus is to give the trainers the tools they need to train horses better.

Take Montjeu, who according to Vincent was not only his favourite horse but quite a quirky customer to train. “The horse was difficult and John (Hammond) did a great job with him. We would have him working at the racecourse at 5am. One day Cash Asmussen came to the racecourse to ride but John didn’t want him to gallop, just trot. He wanted him trotting for 500 hundred metres. But after 20 metres Montjeu wanted to go. So John stopped him and we ended up opening the racecourse to repeat the exercise five or six times and eventually he relaxed. We would do that for any trainer and it wouldn’t make any difference to us if they wanted to do something special at 5pm in the evening, we are here to help our clients.”

Chantilly is home to 110 trainers and approximately 2500 horses, of which 250 are jumpers (National Hunt). “In 2010 we had 2400 flat horses and 600 jumpers here and the average trainer was maybe 60 years of age,” says Vincent.

“If we compare Chantilly and Newmarket, Newmarket is more of a dream for some owners because they have a lot of classic younger trainers -- that’s good, the young. We need to have younger trainers, we want to help the young trainers here. It used to be every trainer’s dream to train here. Now we have the provinces, look at Jean Claude Roget: in 2005 he started to have classic horses but he’s not from Chantilly. So some said, ‘Maybe you can be a good trainer anywhere in France.’”

Chantilly Racecourse used to open for 12 days a year, but with the advent of all-weather racing in 2012 that number has jumped to 45. “But we have less and less horses in training in Chantilly since 2012. The track has helped us retain horses. It helps the trainers. Twenty years ago it was so quiet here and horses were just walking and trotting, but now with the all-weather tracks we’re training every day.”

The all-weather track has proven to be a good investment for the local economy, partly funded by the town, which put in €1,500,000 of the €5,000,000 cost. The annual tax income runs into a healthy seven figure sum. On top of that, the town is home to 2000 workers whose income comes from the racing industry, with a staggering 50% of the workforce being stable staff or riders. Who knows what the shrinkage would have been like if the all-weather hadn’t happened.

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Lissa Oliver's Spring Sales Analysis

INDUSTRYWeb Master
  Are the elite sales horses being prepared for their big day in the ring or a career on the track?    A decade of Top Ten purchases at major breeze-up and NH store sales provide some clues       A question that has divided commercial breeders and racehorse trainers since Tattersalls first decided to auction thoroughbreds is the definition of The Big Day. For trainers, it is a major race at a major festival. Although every commercial breeder dreams of a high-profile winner, their big day is a major price at a major sale. Why else do we differentiate between commercial breeders and those who breed to race, lamenting the loss of the traditional owner-breeder at every dispersal sale?    If the outcome of the matings and sales preparation resulted in The Big Day for both parties, there would be no complaints, but as some have learned to their cost, the sales topper doesn’t always reach such dizzy heights again. The excitement and anticipation generated by the final knock-down figure builds to hype if and when the sales topper makes its racecourse debut, but can sometimes be followed by immediate disappointment and obscurity.    But is this always the case, and for all of the elite sales horses? And how does a big day in the sales ring affect the elite two-year-olds, prepared for the breeze-up sales that are often referred to as ready-to-run sales? Are the juveniles ready to run or, as some trainers suspect, over-boiled?    To see if any emerging pattern can shed light on these questions, I looked at the racecourse performances of the best-selling breeze-up juveniles and three-year-old National Hunt store horses from certain sales. I chose the period of 2005 to 2014 to obtain 10 years of data and to allow for the most recent of the graduates to reach their potential on the track, and I followed the careers of the 10 highest-priced lots sold (not unsold or bought in) at each selected sale. Because the Goresbridge Breeze-Up sale only began in 2006, a total of 490 horses were included from the five selected sales.    As most trainers earn a living by trading horses, career earnings often have little relevance on whether or not a purchase turned a profit. Many of the graduates here have gone on to long careers in Japan, Hong Kong, Dubai, Australia, or the USA, so their second-hand value is likely to have exceeded their original purchase price. In the case of the fillies, a residual paddock value also renders their career earnings redundant. However, the earnings on track do provide a measure of the ability of the individual and the longevity of career. A non-blacktype winner amassing more than €30,000 has undoubtedly been a top-class handicapper or a tough and consistent performer throughout a lengthy career.    What is quite shocking to see is that some British-trained horses who have both won and placed second during their career have amassed only €4,000 or less in earnings. This covers just eight weeks of training fees and is surely scant reward for a winning horse, particularly when in Ireland, for example, minimum prize money has risen from €6,000 to €10,000 and a single win could pay the bills for five months.    Regardless of whether a Flat breezer or National Hunt store horse can recover its purchase price, we can be sure that the store horse will at least recover its physical and mental well-being by the time its career begins. Many trainers of two-year-olds argue differently when it comes to the breeze-up graduates and so we must also examine the results to see if the preparation for these sales has any negative effect. Though times are not officially taken at European breeze-up sales, it can be assumed that the 10 highest-priced two-year-olds put in the most impressive gallop, so it will be of interest to see how this impacts, if at all, their immediate career.    National Hunt stores    As might be expected, given the advantage of maturity of a three-year-old store horse, there were significantly few unraced purchases. The Derby Sale saw only 8% fail to reach the racecourse, while the Land Rover sale boasted an even better 4% of unraced purchases from its Top Tens of the decade. Seventy percent of the Derby Sale horses became winners, compared to 59% from the Land Rover sale. When it comes to getting a day out at the races, owners chasing the choicest lots do well to shop at the NH store sales.    What was also noticeable was the significantly high number of elite store horses who recovered their purchase price on the racetrack. Bear in mind, too, that the most recent purchases are still young horses at the start of their career, so these figures can only improve. Of those only narrowly failing to give a full return on their investment was the ill-fated Wrath Of Titans, costing €150,000 at the Goffs Land Rover sale and earning €145,095 before his untimely death. At the Tattersalls Derby Sale, Mozoltov earned back €126,624 of the €130,000 he cost.    Nevertheless, it is interesting that the added maturity of the three-year-old store horses has, in the end, proven to be of very little benefit to buyers, other than providing them with a greater chance of actually having a runner.    There were no surprises among the top represented sires; the seven stallions with the highest number featuring in the Top Ten of the decade showing a strikingly high rate of those earning €100,000 or more and recovering their purchase price. Kalanisi may only have had four here, but all four won.    Breeze-Up Sales    With breeze-up sales, buyers could be expecting to recoup their investment by purchasing ready-made horses prepared to hit the racecourse, without the added expenses of idle time and pre-training required with store horses.    In common with Tattersalls Derby Sale for store horses, the Craven Sale produced a high percentage of winners, 69%, but this was counterbalanced by Goresbridge, with by far the lowest proportion of winners. The overall figure from the three breeze-up sales analysed was 56% winners. Rio De La Plata, bought at the Craven Sale for £170,000, was the only millionaire among the selected breeze-up graduates.    It appeared that the maturity of the store horse did result in more of the graduates reaching the racecourse, but in surprising contrast the number of unraced breeze-up graduates was 14%, and in fact Goresbridge produced the highest percentage of unraced graduates from all of the nine analysed sales. Goresbridge did, however, produce the highest percentage of the Flat horses to recover their sales price.    If there is no obvious benefit to the buyer in having more mature horses to choose from, is there a benefit to the trainer in receiving a horse already brought to a certain level of fitness? That is, of course, up to the individual trainer to decide, but the pure statistics show that, from the 10 highest-priced graduates from the three major breeze-up sales between 2006 and 2014, 14% failed to reach the racetrack, 60% raced as two-year-olds, and 26% managed to win as two-year-olds.    Quite a large number of the breeze-up graduates later won under National Hunt Rules and the results would suggest that there is as good a general mix of type among the breeze-ups, and these aren’t simply a source for precocious two-year-olds.    As to whether the breeze-up graduates are truly ready to run, 40% of the graduates did not start their careers until three-year-olds or older. Of those that raced as two-year-olds, the highest number of debuts were made in July, with August close behind. More started in September and October than in May and June, and 11% managed to win first time out at two.    Bucking this trend was the Goffs UK Breeze-Up, where 73% raced as two-year-olds, 33% won at two, 15% won on their two-year-old debut, and 10 of the graduates made their debut in May. Twice as many did not appear on the racecourse until July, however, and the sale produced the lowest proportion of blacktype winners and no Group One winner within the Top Ten highest-priced over the decade.    Of note when looking at the sires of the featured two-year-olds, Kodiac came out well, with all four of his winners winning as two-year-olds. Similarly, both of Dubawi’s and Approve’s winners were successful at two.    As we’ll see in our next issue, when it comes to future performance, the breeze-up sales are on a par with the yearling sales, but are not necessarily the place to go for guaranteed two-year-olds. They appear to be no more likely to make an early debut than a yearling and their career is likely to be just as long-term.

By Lissa Oliver

A question that has divided commercial breeders and racehorse trainers since Tattersalls first decided to auction thoroughbreds is the definition of The Big Day.

For trainers, it is a major race at a major festival. Although every commercial breeder dreams of a high-profile winner, their big day is a major price at a major sale. Why else do we differentiate between commercial breeders and those who breed to race, lamenting the loss of the traditional owner-breeder at every dispersal sale?

If the outcome of the matings and sales preparation resulted in The Big Day for both parties, there would be no complaints, but as some have learned to their cost, the sales topper doesn’t always reach such dizzy heights again. The excitement and anticipation generated by the final knock-down figure builds to hype if and when the sales topper makes its racecourse debut, but can sometimes be followed by immediate disappointment and obscurity.

GOFFS

But is this always the case, and for all of the elite sales horses? And how does a big day in the sales ring affect the elite two-year-olds, prepared for the breeze-up sales that are often referred to as ready-to-run sales? Are the juveniles ready to run or, as some trainers suspect, over-boiled?

To see if any emerging pattern can shed light on these questions, I looked at the racecourse performances of the best-selling breeze-up juveniles and three-year-old National Hunt store horses from certain sales. I chose the period of 2005 to 2014 to obtain 10 years of data and to allow for the most recent of the graduates to reach their potential on the track, and I followed the careers of the 10 highest-priced lots sold (not unsold or bought in) at each selected sale. Because the Goresbridge Breeze-Up sale only began in 2006, a total of 490 horses were included from the five selected sales.

As most trainers earn a living by trading horses, career earnings often have little relevance on whether or not a purchase turned a profit. Many of the graduates here have gone on to long careers in Japan, Hong Kong, Dubai, Australia, or the USA, so their second-hand value is likely to have exceeded their original purchase price. In the case of the fillies, a residual paddock value also renders their career earnings redundant. However, the earnings on track do provide a measure of the ability of the individual and the longevity of career. A non-blacktype winner amassing more than €30,000 has undoubtedly been a top-class handicapper or a tough and consistent performer throughout a lengthy career.

What is quite shocking to see is that some British-trained horses who have both won and placed second during their career have amassed only €4,000 or less in earnings. This covers just eight weeks of training fees and is surely scant reward for a winning horse, particularly when in Ireland, for example, minimum prize money has risen from €6,000 to €10,000 and a single win could pay the bills for five months.

Regardless of whether a Flat breezer or National Hunt store horse can recover its purchase price, we can be sure that the store horse will at least recover its physical and mental well-being by the time its career begins. Many trainers of two-year-olds argue differently when it comes to the breeze-up graduates and so we must also examine the results to see if the preparation for these sales has any negative effect. Though times are not officially taken at European breeze-up sales, it can be assumed that the 10 highest-priced two-year-olds put in the most impressive gallop, so it will be of interest to see how this impacts, if at all, their immediate career.

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Joseph O'Brien - King of the Hill

PROFILEWeb Master
  JOSEPH O’BRIEN    King of the Hill       By Alex Cairns       Lineage matters in racing. The entire thoroughbred endeavour is based on selective breeding aimed at producing quality and even ‘perfection.’ Of course, thoroughbred breeding isn’t an exact science, with humbly bred horses sometimes defying their roots and blue-bloods regularly failing to live up to the promise of their page. But pedigree still reigns as the most reliable gauge of innate ability in racehorses.        In centuries gone by, humans too were judged on their parentage and given a particular standing based less on aptitude than origin. These days our social structure tends to be more of a meritocracy, in which people are born equal and gain a position through achievement.       Being the grandson of a successful trainer, son of two successful trainers, and nephew of a successful trainer, those in the racing game might say Joseph O’Brien has the perfect pedigree for the job and will logically excel. At the same time, his background has afforded him a head start via a family owned yard and well-stocked address book. As we discovered in a recent interview, however, the soon-to-be-25-year-old takes nothing for granted and is determined that his operation will succeed on its own merits.       THE HILL    Severe snow and unseasonable cold had brought much of Britain and Ireland to a standstill in the week prior to our interview with Joseph O’Brien. Such conditions can prove a challenge even on the flattest, most accessible terrain. O’Brien’s yard, which operates under the banner of ‘Carriganog Racing,’ rests on the slopes of Owning Hill in County Kilkenny, a secluded location accessible only by small country roads.       This setting might be problematic in extreme weather, but it provides the foundation for a gallop that has proven its value in the training of several decades’ worth of winning racehorses. A steep uphill stretch of seven furlongs with a high hedge on one side, it was masterminded by Joseph’s grandfather Joseph Crowley. It then passed into the hands of Crowley’s daughter Annemarie. A certain Aidan O’Brien took the reins after marrying Annemarie, and then Annemarie’s sister Frances kept things in the family when the O’Briens moved to Coolmore’s famed training facility at Ballydoyle in 1996.        Stepping out of the crisp morning air into the yard office, Joseph reflects on his family’s longstanding relationship with this land. “Granddad originally came here and it was just fields. He had a few horses and started cantering them from the bottom of the hill to the top on a dogleg. Then Mum and Dad took over, then Frances. Over time it was a plough gallop, then artificial, but the layout is pretty much the same as it was 40 or 50 years ago. This office is actually where my bedroom used to be, though I don’t really remember living here as we moved over to Ballydoyle when I was four or five.”       With two trainers as parents, Joseph has been steeped in the profession from day one, making the training vocation a question of both nature and nurture. “All my life I’ve been in this environment and training was always my goal. There was no backup plan, as I don’t know anything else, to be honest. I was raised at Ballydoyle and worked there from as soon as I was able. I went to Jim Bolger’s for a week for work experience at school, but other than that I never really saw anyone else training except Dad.”       Being raised at Ballydoyle and having begun riding at the top level when still a teenager, Joseph has gathered experience far beyond his years. Has anything surprised him since beginning training full-time in 2016? “I was aware that it was a full-on job and had a fair idea of what was coming, but there have still been some challenging aspects, for example the management of so many people. Horses can always surprise you, but I like to keep things as simple as possible. Just have them healthy and fit and try to place them in the right races. So whether it’s a sprinter or a three-mile chaser, you can’t go too far wrong if you focus on those basics.”       Many trainers would agree that common sense and horse health are the founding principles of a successful training establishment, even if it can be difficult to stick to such an ethos. How does a young trainer starting out get an edge over established rivals? “The edge that I have is the facilities and the gallop. There have been a huge amount of winners trained out of here. And it’s a private facility, too, which is a huge asset. There aren’t really any other trainers around here and the gallop is very unusual. I couldn’t think of another like it in the world. And you can train anything up here. We do a similar routine with every horse, whether they’re Flat or National Hunt. On a normal day they’ll do five furlongs; on a work day they might go a bit further.”       Aidan O’Brien is often described as a “genius” due to his exceptional achievements as a trainer and almost otherworldly connection to the horse. But Joseph knows him as “Dad,” and as a man who has worked hard for his success. I wonder whether Joseph believes training skill is developed through learning and experience, or whether intangibles such as feel and instinct might play a part? “An awful lot of it is feel and has to do with the individual horse. What you do with one might not necessarily work for another, and it’s a question of knowing what to tweak in terms of routine or diet in order to eke out that little bit of improvement. There’s no science for that, even if vets’ reports and horses’ weights and bloods give us some hard evidence to base things on.       “We can have 200 horses through the yard over the year, but I see every horse canter every day and I talk to every rider about every horse every day. So I have a picture of each horse in my mind. Some take a lot of work, some take none. So a big part of it is actually knowing your own facilities as well as your horses. Whatever your facilities are, if you don’t know them well enough, you can’t get the best out of your horses.”       As we move towards the gallops, the full splendour of our surroundings is revealed, with rich farmland and snow-covered hills stretching to the horizon under dappled sunlight. Up ahead, the third of five lots circles calmly. A mix of Flat and National Hunt, the horses and their riders appear content in their routine as they await their daily instruction. “The real key to the operation is our great riders and staff on the ground. Once you get above a certain number of horses, you can’t do everything yourself and delegation becomes very important. Having people whom you can trust to do things as well as you would or better is absolutely vital, so we are very lucky in that respect.”       Like his father, Joseph interacts with all of his many staff by name and can recount the pedigree, form, and routine of any of the individual horses you might encounter at the yard. How is it possible to retain such a high volume of information? “I don’t really have anything else retained,” he quips. “You can ask my teachers at school and they’ll tell you that.”       INSIDE TRACK    While Joseph’s academic efforts might not have met with universal approval, his career as a horseman maintained the O’Brien-Crowley line’s record of high-achievement. First winning a bronze medal in eventing at the European Pony Championships in 2009, he went on to establish himself as a top-class jockey, winning two Irish Jockey Championships and 10 classics in seven years.       Asked what his greatest achievement in the saddle might have been, he offers a perhaps surprising answer. “Not many people tend to think of it, but I broke Mick Kinane’s record for the most winners ridden in a year in 2013, and that was a big one for me. Some people can ride a Group winner here or there and get on some good horses, but that record showed consistency. A lot of my winners came for Dad, but there were others had the Ballydoyle job before me, and a lot of my winners came for outside yards.”       For some jockeys, training is the only career they can envisage after riding, but not many have made it pay and even fewer have become established at elite level. One can speculate as to why this might be, but Joseph’s is a particular case and he tends to view his time in the saddle as an asset. “Especially in Ireland I would know all the tracks very well and I would know the different attributes that a horse would need for certain tracks. So it’s definitely an advantage.”       Does his riding experience affect how he interacts with jockeys? “I tend not to complicate things too much and like to think that I’m relatively easy to ride for. Most of the lads who ride for me know the horses and how I like them ridden, so I can generally leave it up to them to do the job. Some horses might need to be made use of or held up, but generally I’ll make it as uncomplicated as possible.”       Again, simplicity is the key. For this to be achieved, communication must run smoothly. In family life, this can tend to swing one of two ways. Thankfully for the O’Briens, it seems that they work well together, and Joseph’s siblings Sarah, Ana, and Donnacha all play some role in his operation. Will they continue to collaborate in years to come?       “Sarah is in her final year of veterinary at the minute. Donnacha and Ana were both riding for me, but Ana got a fall, unfortunately, and has been out for a while. They’re both based in Ballydoyle, but getting them to sit on a horse and give me some feedback is a great asset. Things change, of course, and you never know what might happen, but I’d like to think that we’d all continue to work together, as we all get on very well and we’re very close.”       In fact, the family connection goes deeper than some might realise. “JJ Slevin rides for us and he’s actually my cousin. He’s just a month older than me and we grew up together. I gave him his first win in a Grade 1 on Tower Bridge at Leopardstown during the Dublin Racing Festival. That was actually his first-ever ride in a Grade 1 so it was a great day for the family.”       Race riding is obviously a high-pressure job and made all the more difficult if one has to struggle with weight. Joseph may have had access to some of the finest horses in the world as a jockey and enjoyed some unforgettable moments, but graft, sweat, and stress were the day-to-day. “I don’t miss it,” he says emphatically. “Not one bit. I’ll ride out myself on a Sunday morning when we might be short a few staff. Or sometimes I’ll get on one that I want to get a feel for, but I don’t ride that much. I’ve done plenty.”       So how does a young trainer keep fit? “I don’t,” he answers with a smile. “Well, I play a bit of football with the lads and take the dogs for a walk. I’m on the go all day so the last thing I’m thinking about at the end of the day is going for a run. I’d rather just chill out and relax watching a good series on Netflix.”       FUTURE    Many would see Joseph as a logical successor to his father at Ballydoyle, even if Aidan is still well in his prime. This is far from Joseph’s mind, however, and he is focused on developing his own unique business. One of the attractions of his setup is that he trains for both Flat and National Hunt and has two schooling facilities on site. It could be thought that the more lucrative Flat game might come to hold sway over time, but Joseph has no plans to change his dual-purpose approach.        “I really love both codes and would always like to keep doing both. Of course, it means we don’t really have an off-season and it’s 365 days a year, but I enjoy the challenge of it and I am very lucky that we have good staff to keep us going year-round. Our two-year-olds are getting going now, the three-year-olds are preparing for spring campaigns, and we have horses running in the big National Hunt festivals. I love it and wouldn’t want it any other way.”       With owners such as JP McManus, Gigginstown, Lloyd Williams, and the China Horse Club already on the JP O’Brien roster, he is certainly well equipped for both codes. The door is always open to new clients however, both big and small, and a Joseph O’Brien website and ownership schemes will help increase outreach even further. “Our website is ready to be launched and we have a couple of syndicates for people to get involved in. We have great owners already, but we are always looking to improve and have room for more.”       Being just 24 years old, one might expect Joseph to be savvier than most when it comes to digital communication and social media, and he has indeed been making waves online in recent times. Photos and videos from his picturesque base regularly receive substantial interaction on Twitter, where a campaign to name a filly received more than 3,000 suggestions in just 24 hours. A Twitter poll with the top four of Joseph’s favourite suggestions received 9,224 votes, with Seldom Is Precious emerging as the winning name. “Digital communication is very important for clients and racing fans. For Twitter, I enjoy taking the pictures and videos of the horses when they’re working and schooling, and people seem to like it. The name campaign was very big and good fun.”       Really, Joseph doesn’t need to promote his operation. The reputation of his facility, his results, and simply his name are already massive draws, but he isn’t looking to cruise, he’s looking to hit the top. Does this mean he’ll be setting targets, something he always refused to do as a jockey? “No, I have the same approach and just do the best with every horse we have. Sometimes it’s a greater achievement to get a horse to win an ordinary handicap on the all-weather than it is to win a Group race with another.”       So with no targets, where does the motivation come from? “In this game you never feel like you’re flying. If you win a Group 1 today you may have had 10 losers the past week. So you can never let yourself feel like you have it cracked. For us, it’s always about improving our quality. No doubt about that. Not every horse can be a black-type horse, but our aim is to compete in the Group races and the Graded races, both at home or abroad.”        This ambitious international perspective paid off to spectacular effect in November when the Lloyd Williams-owned Rekindling won the Melbourne Cup at Flemington, notably denying Aidan O’Brien his first win in the race when Johannes Vermeer could only finish second to Joseph’s horse. “With the Melbourne Cup, we were lucky that Rekindling was the right type and everything fell into place. He travelled over nicely, settled in well, didn’t take much work to get fit down in Australia, and then got a good draw. Obviously we’d love to win more big international races like the Derby, the Arc, or the Grand National, but there’s no point pitching up if you don’t have the right animal.”       Winning races on the world’s biggest stages seems a good way of ensuring that the right animals will find their way to Joseph’s door with increasing regularity.       ONE DAY AT A TIME    Calm descends on the yard after a morning’s work well done. Horses munch on a generous carrot ration, dogs loll in the first warming rays of spring, and all seems settled and under control. Such has been the case for decades on Owning Hill. Yet behind the regular routine, something new is brewing.       Headline results have already proved that Joseph is more than his father’s son and, with both youth and experience in his favour, this could be the start of a career that will shape the sport for decades to come. Indeed, Joseph could potentially be sending out horses (and at the same time honing his craft) for 50 years or more. How does this make him feel? “It’s going to be a long 50 years,” he laughs. “I try to think about the rest of today and go from there.”       One day at a time, one winner at a time. Always building, always improving, and never complacent. This maturity and dedication cannot be bought or handed down. Beyond facilities and connections, it is these qualities that will seemingly ensure Joseph O’Brien’s success and entitle him to his position as King of the Hill.

By Alex Cairns

Lineage matters in racing. The entire thoroughbred endeavour is based on selective breeding aimed at producing quality and even ‘perfection.’ Of course, thoroughbred breeding isn’t an exact science, with humbly bred horses sometimes defying their roots and blue-bloods regularly failing to live up to the promise of their page. But pedigree still reigns as the most reliable gauge of innate ability in racehorses.

In centuries gone by, humans too were judged on their parentage and given a particular standing based less on aptitude than origin. These days our social structure tends to be more of a meritocracy, in which people are born equal and gain a position through achievement.

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Being the grandson of a successful trainer, son of two successful trainers, and nephew of a successful trainer, those in the racing game might say Joseph O’Brien has the perfect pedigree for the job and will logically excel.

At the same time, his background has afforded him a head start via a family owned yard and well-stocked address book. As we discovered in a recent interview, however, the soon-to-be-25-year-old takes nothing for granted and is determined that his operation will succeed on its own merits.

THE HILL

Severe snow and unseasonable cold had brought much of Britain and Ireland to a standstill in the week prior to our interview with Joseph O’Brien. Such conditions can prove a challenge even on the flattest, most accessible terrain. O’Brien’s yard, which operates under the banner of ‘Carriganog Racing,’ rests on the slopes of Owning Hill in County Kilkenny, a secluded location accessible only by small country roads.

This setting might be problematic in extreme weather, but it provides the foundation for a gallop that has proven its value in the training of several decades’ worth of winning racehorses. A steep uphill stretch of seven furlongs with a high hedge on one side, it was masterminded by Joseph’s grandfather Joseph Crowley. It then passed into the hands of Crowley’s daughter Annemarie. A certain Aidan O’Brien took the reins after marrying Annemarie, and then Annemarie’s sister Frances kept things in the family when the O’Briens moved to Coolmore’s famed training facility at Ballydoyle in 1996.

Stepping out of the crisp morning air into the yard office, Joseph reflects on his family’s longstanding relationship with this land. “Granddad originally came here and it was just fields. He had a few horses and started cantering them from the bottom of the hill to the top on a dogleg. Then Mum and Dad took over, then Frances. Over time it was a plough gallop, then artificial, but the layout is pretty much the same as it was 40 or 50 years ago. This office is actually where my bedroom used to be, though I don’t really remember living here as we moved over to Ballydoyle when I was four or five.”

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With two trainers as parents, Joseph has been steeped in the profession from day one, making the training vocation a question of both nature and nurture. “All my life I’ve been in this environment and training was always my goal. There was no backup plan, as I don’t know anything else, to be honest. I was raised at Ballydoyle and worked there from as soon as I was able. I went to Jim Bolger’s for a week for work experience at school, but other than that I never really saw anyone else training except Dad.”

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Trainer of the Quarter - Roger Teal

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Trainer Profile: Colin Tizzard

PROFILEWeb Master
  “He’ll win the King George, two years’ time, you wait and see!” Given that the speaker is Colin Tizzard, who has saddled the last two winners of the Grade 1 chase, the opinion carries weight, but a warm chuckle from him downplays the gravity of his statement.        Tizzard, his son Joe, and a group of owners are in jovial mood as they watch a pair of promising young novices school upsides at the trainer’s Venn Farm Stables in Dorset, south-west England.       Home to some of the most successful trainers, past and present, in National Hunt (Jumps) racing, the region has long been a hotbed for the sport and also for Point-to-Point (PTP) racing, a related category of amateur thoroughbred racing over fences which is often a starting point in the careers of National Hunt jockeys, trainers, and horses.       Tizzard is one of a number of trainers in the area who have a background in Point-to-Points and have made a successful transition to racing under Rules. His team has firmly established itself as one of the top 20 National Hunt stables in the country season in and season out, having started with two pointers to support his son’s embryonic riding career more than two decades ago, while also running the family dairy farming business.       The stable’s run of form has notably progressed from very good to excellent in the past three years. Last season was Tizzard’s best to date, when he finished third in the trainers’ championship to the two trainers who have dominated the British National Hunt scene for the past decade or so, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls.       So what has propelled Colin Tizzard to the highest echelons of the trainers’ table?       One can certainly trace the origins of the stable’s current form to the emergence of Cue Card, who has long been one of the cornerstones of the Tizzard string. Since beating the highly regarded Al Ferof to win the Champion Bumper on only his second start, Cue Card not only elevated the profile of the stable but reassured the team that they were heading in the right direction.       “Cue Card came along when we were just ticking along with 15-20 winners per year, and we thought we were flat out at that point, but he gave us the confidence that we could do it,” says Tizzard.       In the seven years since that memorable day at Cheltenham, the stable proved they could indeed do it, and across the board, with nearly 20 individual Graded or Listed winners. Everything came together in the 2016/17 season for the Tizzards: third place in the trainer rankings, 33% more runners than the previous season but with a near-identical winning strike rate, plus six individual Grade 1 winners. So, what next?       “We won £2.5 million last season, including Irish prize money, and it would be amazing if we could do that again,” enthuses Tizzard. “It is exciting; some of those four-year-olds we schooled this morning aren't just winners, they're potential Cheltenham horses.”       When asked how he would assess his chances of landing the trainers’ championship this season, he takes a typically practical view of his situation.       “No, I'm 50 horses short of what is needed to win a championship. But I could be better set for the spring festivals this season and I probably have a better crop of novice hurdlers this time around too.       “Thistlecrack and Native River are late starting, and Native River faces a tougher task this season than last year. He jumped the last nearly upsides and you would have bet money that he would have outstayed anything up that hill (in the Cheltenham Gold Cup), but he didn’t. Whether it was that our stable wasn't in the best form at the time or we had been to the well a few too many times with him, but for me the Gold Cup is the hardest race of the year. It tests horses, their wind, and tests the jockeys. It tests the owners and tests the trainers, too!”       However, while the established stable stars occupy a special place in the story of the rise of the Tizzards and remain key players in plans for this season, it's apparent that he is also planning and building for the future.       Among Tizzard’s string are 18 newly turned four-year-olds. Once Tizzard has gone through plans for the runners with his son, he points out a nice type whose dam is a sister to the 2017 French Champion Hurdle winner L’Ami Serge. This is just one example of how the stable’s rising profile has attracted new owners and brought increased strength to an already successful string.       Although Tizzard remains coy about absolute numbers, it’s fair to estimate that his string now runs to more than a 100. One of the signs of a well-organised stable is its ability to adapt to changing demands, but not at the expense of the results on the track, and this is perhaps where lessons Tizzard has learned in the family farming business, which runs alongside the training operation, have paid dividends.       Certainly, the family ties to the training and farming businesses remain strong. Tizzard has been a dairy farmer in his own right for more than three decades, with 500 head of cattle, and along with his brothers Alan and Michael, who have farms on neighbouring land, has followed in the footsteps of his parents. Leslie and Marjorie Tizzard started out as tenant farmers on the Venn estate in the post-war years, just down the road from where the majority of Tizzard's horses are stabled today.        Tizzard’s elder brother Robert is an owner-breeder who returned to the area after a career in London. Situated close to Venn Farm on the Somerset/Dorset county border, Robert’s house overlooks the paddocks that are home to his select band of broodmares as well as the arena where Colin Tizzard schools his jumpers.       Displaying his typical shrewdness, Tizzard’s move into training more than 20 years ago was very much informed by the farming business and what he was learning in his early years as a trainer.        “We are farmers and it (the farming side of the business) is very much our safety net. We have seen a lot of trainers in the position we are now, but then they're 25th next year, 50th the next, and then they're gone.       “The pressure really is on the younger trainers these days, those who have a few horses, rent a yard, and maybe have families to support. The only pressure I get is the pressure I put on myself, so to be in that position, we make sure the stable is first run as a business.        “Simply, anyone who has ever had a horse loves training them. If you had a hunter, a polo pony, a show pony or a gymkhana pony, whatever you've got, you think you can beat the next one and that's all we're doing here.”       This measured, straightforward philosophy meant that the Tizzards developed the training business steadily rather than dramatically in the early years.       “There was no masterplan. We had pointers when we were teenagers, so we would milk the cows and then ride the horses and I also rode as an amateur under Rules. Later, we and our children Joe and Kim would go hunting, and we did that for years. But we enjoyed the training as much as the riding and we made a start with some pointers, and it was just a natural progression as Joe’s riding career started. When the pointers started winning all the time, we thought we would take out a licence.       “Not long after that we put the gallop down and then Joe became first jockey to Paul Nicholls, so we didn't get Joe much for a while. Then, even when he wasn't with Paul, he would be off playing golf, so we never saw him!       “After Joe retired from riding, he has worked as hard as anyone and he's very much involved with the running of the farm as well as the training side. Joe lives on the farm, in the ‘love nest,’ but I probably shouldn't call it that! Joe and I both have entry books and we sit down together and he does it online. We have debates and then he has to come around to my way of thinking.       “Joe and Kim are partners in the business, rather than assistant trainers, and Kim drives 19 miles every morning to ride first lot, before anyone else, does three lots per day and then goes to the stable office to sort out a lot of the administration with my wife Pauline, including the weekend staff rotas.        “Pauline used to run our bed and breakfast business, but it came to the point where we didn't have time to do that, so we finished that and she still does a hell of a lot now, dealing with owners, dealing with racing colours, going to the races, making sure the VAT is right, and checks on everyone, and she checks on me.       “Joe’s the man who makes contact with new owners coming onto the market. I'm a farmer, I can't quite go over and do it like he can. He does attract new types of owners.       “By and large, Kim and Joe do everything I don’t and try and do everything I do!”       As Tizzard is talking, his mother Marjorie, now retired and who lives close by, calls into the yard. Tizzard strides over and embraces her warmly and says, “Make sure you get a photo. I owe her everything!”       A member of the family's fourth generation is also present in the yard, to ride ponies out before school. Freddie Gingell, Kim’s son, has ambitions to be a jockey and has been riding in PTP pony races with success this year, winning two races in the Charles Owen series, at Chepstow and Ascot. “Seeing Freddie win was one of the proudest moments of my life,” says Tizzard. “He's into everything in the yard.”       By necessity, Tizzard and the team have adapted to the growth of the training side of the operation, and the family business has now expanded to a staff of around 35, including part-time employees.       “We were short of staff and one year, Pauline and I were doing about 25 horses by ourselves on Christmas Day. We have a good team now from a number of different countries and ethnic backgrounds. Some are now naturalised British citizens. We heavily subsidise the accommodation and the pool money was good last season.”       The yard’s expansion required investment in facilities, and one of the biggest advances was the erection of an American-style barn at the main yard three years ago, with the majority of the horses now based there rather than at the bottom of the hill, near the main farmhouse, or in the various satellite yards dotted around the local village, Milborne Port.        “The barn’s well ventilated and airflow is important, so being up on the hill does help, and if you walk in there, you won't smell any ammonia,” says Tizzard. “We get the odd bug but with the prevailing south-west winds coming straight through, they don't hang around. As with the cattle, daylight is really important; it's needed for their ‘zen factor.’        The crossover from cattle farming extends to meeting the dietary requirements of the string, as Tizzard grows his own haylage. “We still end up with twice as much as we need. So, if we cut it one day and it rains the next, we use it on the farm and then the next bit for the horses.”       Tizzard's practical approach extends to how and on what he exercises his horses. “Things evolve all the time. I used to use the uphill gallop every day for every horses, but I now also use the deep sand three days a week. The combination of the hill and sand trains the whole body.”       The deep sand was imported at some expense from Ireland until Tizzard experimented with different grades and hit upon a cheaper alternative sourced from nearby Wareham on the Dorset coast.       As well as being an area rich in natural resources, Somerset and Dorset have long been home to some of the UK’s leading National Hunt trainers, including Harry Fry, Nicholls, David Pipe, and Philip Hobbs. Tizzard doesn't see the proximity of such powerful stables as an issue for concern.       “It's a very competitive area around here. There are lots of local trainers, and they’re all good trainers. There's fierce competition but plenty of respect. Going back a few years, the likes of Martin Pipe, Philip Hobbs, and Paul Nicholls brought the standard up around here, which is good for all of us.       “However, it means that we will probably head north for valuable races. All the big chases will be ultra-competitive for the next three to four months, which is partly why Hey Big Spender won the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle three times.”       As one who has built up a training yard from scratch into one that could be mounting a title bid in the coming seasons, what does Tizzard think of the challenges that face trainers today?       “Well I think that the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) are very good and are talking to trainers. We should maybe look after the prize money for the lower end races to provide for owners and trainers competing in those races, so we look after those at the ‘other end.’ That was me five years ago and it might be me in five years’ time.”       In discussing their current situation and training career to date, it's clear that the Tizzard team are not content to rest on their laurels, and their results in recent seasons have of course put Venn Farm on the radar of many owners. One such is long-time National Hunt fan and professional gambler Russ Watts, who was celebrating his 50th birthday on the day of his visit to the yard accompanied by his two sons, Sam and John.       Already a National Hunt owner for more than 10 years, Watts has an interest in The Russian Doyen, his first horse with Tizzard. “I first thought of having a horse with Colin some years ago, as he was then a local, rising trainer and I live around 30 minutes away. Later, a friend had a horse here and that led to me coming on board last year,” says Watts. “Colin’s open, honest, and good fun.”       Watts is one of the more locally based people to have joined the burgeoning list of owners at Venn Farm in recent years. The yard’s success means it is attracting notice from further afield, including from high-profile owners such as the late Ann and Alan Potts, whose Ann & Alan Potts Limited entity has multiple horses at Venn Farm, alongside those of longer-standing owners Jean Bishop and Brocade Racing.       The passing of Alan Potts in November, just a handful of months after the death of his wife Ann, came as a huge shock to the National Hunt racing scene in the UK and Ireland. Their familiar yellow, green, and red colours have been very much a fixture at the major meetings from the days of the top two-mile chaser Sizing Europe onwards, notably landing the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March with the Jessica Harrington-trained Sizing John.       The switching of some of the Potts’ Irish-trained horses to Tizzard’s yard in the autumn of 2016 was headline news in the racing press, but the results that followed warranted the faith of the prominent owners. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the arrangement were the circumstances in which Alan Potts and Tizzard first met.       “I was at Cheltenham, watching a race on the one of the TVs in the bar. This chap behind me told me,’Get out of the f***ing way.’ I looked around and said ‘I'm not in the way.’ He said, ‘Yes, you are, you’re still in the f***ing way.’ I said, ‘I'm sorry, but I would never stand in front of anybody.’ He said, ‘Well, you f***ing did.’ So I said, ‘Well, I'm sorry.’ Afterwards, someone told me it was Alan Potts, so I went back to him and said, ‘Sorry, Mr Potts, I won't do it again.’        “The next meeting I went to at Cheltenham, he was sat in the bar with a bottle of wine” -- and here Tizzard stretches out his arm -- “and he offers me a glass and says, ‘We didn't get off to the best of starts, did we?’ So I sat down with him.        “That was in the spring of (2016) and in October he rang up and asked if I could take 15 of his horses.”       Alan Potts’ death this year just ahead of the three-day meeting at Cheltenham was a shock for everyone, particularly as he had been due to visit Venn Farm that week. In accordance with the wishes of the Potts family, the entries ran, and the victory of Fox Norton in the Shloer Chase provided an emotional win for all concerned.       “I only knew Alan for 18 months,” remembers Tizzard. “He was a man that you wouldn’t forget. He wasn’t always easy, but he made things happen, so you can see why he achieved what he did, given where he started from. He left a lasting impression on me.”       The increased patronage of sizeable owners has undoubtedly helped to elevate Venn Farm to new heights, in tandem with the shrewd evolution of their stable and facilities.       Maybe it's an illustration of just how far the stable has come in recent years, in terms of the strength of its string and results, that while Tizzard had once talked of retirement in interviews as recently as five years ago, he is now quick to dispel the notion: “I have no plans for retirement. I'm enjoying it too much.”        With a string comprising multiple-Graded winners and brimming with potential talent for next season and beyond, it's not hard to see why.

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

“He’ll win the King George, two years’ time, you wait and see!” Given that the speaker is Colin Tizzard, who has saddled the last two winners of the Grade 1 chase, the opinion carries weight, but a warm chuckle from him downplays the gravity of his statement.

Tizzard, his son Joe, and a group of owners are in jovial mood as they watch a pair of promising young novices school upsides at the trainer’s Venn Farm Stables in Dorset, south-west England.

Home to some of the most successful trainers, past and present, in National Hunt (Jumps) racing, the region has long been a hotbed for the sport and also for Point-to-Point (PTP) racing, a related category of amateur thoroughbred racing over fences which is often a starting point in the careers of National Hunt jockeys, trainers, and horses.

Tizzard is one of a number of trainers in the area who have a background in Point-to-Points and have made a successful transition to racing under Rules. His team has firmly established itself as one of the top 20 National Hunt stables in the country season in and season out, having started with two pointers to support his son’s embryonic riding career more than two decades ago, while also running the family dairy farming business.

The stable’s run of form has notably progressed from very good to excellent in the past three years. Last season was Tizzard’s best to date, when he finished third in the trainers’ championship to the two trainers who have dominated the British National Hunt scene for the past decade or so, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls.

So what has propelled Colin Tizzard to the highest echelons of the trainers’ table?

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The Positive and Negative Effects of Oil in Equine Nutrition

NUTRITIONWeb Master
  Oil is a regular addition to modern racing diets, either by feeding a high oil-containing racing feed or through extra addition of liquid vegetable oil. Research over the years has shown that oil is palatable to horses and digested very well, and that there is little difference in digestibility between the main types of vegetable-based oils used. Oil that is integral to feed ingredients, such as that found in rice bran, linseed, naked oats, soya, etc., may have a marginally lower digestibility, as this will depend on how digestible the encapsulating matrix is to the horse. However, in the main both free oil and integral oil is well tolerated and digested in horses.         In a natural environment, horses can easily consume between 2-3% of their body weight as dry matter from pasture. Oil has always been a natural part of the horse's diet, as grass contains about 2-3%, which may seem low but can provide the equivalent of 200-400mls of oil per day. Other forages, such as hay, haylage, and chaff, will also contain oil at a similar level on a dry matter basis.         Horses can tolerate up to 20-25% of their total energy intake coming from oil, and this has been exploited successfully to help manage rhabdomyolysis related to exercise (exertional rhabdomyolysis syndrome, or ERS) or aberrant carbohydrate metabolism (Polysaccharide storage myopathy). [See Diet Example 1.]         However, the level of oil that individuals can tolerate in their diet will vary and is likely to be dependent on variations in enzymatic lipase activity and speed of passage through the small intestine.  It quickly becomes apparent if you have too much oil in the diet of a particular horse, as their droppings tend to become looser and they often develop a fairly unpleasant smell, which can be a sign to pull back on the oil inclusion.        There are many advantages to feeding additional oil within a racing ration, some of which relate to its extremely high energy content compared with carbohydrate.  When directly compared with oats on a weight-for-weight basis, oil delivers 70% more energy.  Other potential advantages depend on the chemical makeup of the oil, in terms of its constituent fatty acids. Oils are made up principally of triglycerides, which consist of three free fatty acids of varying types bound to a single glycerol. The relative proportions of the different free fatty acids contribute to the physical characteristics of an oil, for example, whether they are liquids or solids at room temperature and how they behave biochemically in the body. There are many different types of fatty acids, characterised by the carbon chain length of their core structure and the number and position of double bonds within this chain. Like amino acids, there are also dietary essential fatty acids, principally linoleic acid and linolenic acid, which must be provided, as they cannot be synthesised.  Fatty acids are grouped structurally into distinct families which behave in a similar fashion, which include the omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids. There are also medium chain fatty acids which are a further group of structurally different saturated fatty acids (with no double bonds).                 Diet Example 1 – High-oil ration for horse at risk of exertional rhabdomyolysis           % Oil    Oil Contribution    Hay fed at 8kg    2%    430g    Alfalfa fed at 2kg    2.5%    50g    8% oil racing feed fed at 6kg    10%    480g    Micronised linseed fed at 500g    40%    200g    Total       1160g       Total energy intake DE from diet approximately 162 MJ per day    Total energy intake from oil approximately 40 MJ/day    Contribution of oil to total energy intake of oil 25%    The racing feed is likely to deliver mostly omega-6 fatty acids, whereas the hay, alfalfa, and linseed will offer balancing omega-3 fatty acids.        Family Rivalry – The Omegas    The essential fatty acid linoleic acid belongs to the omega-6 family, while alpha linolenic acid belongs to the rival family of omega-3.  These essential fatty acids must be provided in the diet, as they cannot be synthesised by the body.  Each is the parent compound for an extended family of longer chain bioactive fatty acids, which can eventually be used to form hormone-like substances called eicosanoids. The eicosanoids, which include prostoglandins, prostacycline, thromboxanes, and leukotriens, can be derived from omega-6 or omega-3 and influence many physiological processes, including the immune response, inflammation, and blood coagulation. The formation of these eicosanoids from their omega-6 or omega-3 parents depends on how much is present in the body, as they are formed through competing common enzymatic pathways and this in turn is influenced by diet. Active competition between these two families of fatty acids ultimately influences their relative effects on these important body processes, and there is a balance to be struck.  There is little information on where that balance lies in horses, but suffice to say that most high-oil containing ingredients found in a racehorse’s concentrate diet are rich in the omega-6 fatty acids with a predominance of linoleic acid, with much less omega-3 fatty acids being present.         Pasture is a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid. In fact, data suggests that alpha linolenic acid makes up a large proportion of the oil in pasture and could be as high 50-70%. This has been highlighted by advocates of the organic movement and ‘clean eating’ lobby in human nutrition, who suggest that this higher intake of omega-3 by grass-fed cows transfers health benefits to both their meat and milk, compared to grain-fed animals. The benefits of a diet with a suitable omega-3:omega-6 ratio is more understood in human nutrition than in horses, with research suggesting health benefits to the respiratory system, immunity, mental health, and skeletal integrity, presumably being brought about by balancing the pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects of these two fatty acid families. I find it very interesting how nature often provides what seems to work, and by moving horses in training farther away from their natural diet, we have inadvertently shifted towards a diet that is richer in omega-6 fatty acids and potentially more pro-inflammatory. It is important to remember that inflammation is an important part of the healing process and so it should not be regarded as a complete negative.  Whilst the omega-3 fatty acid content of hay and haylage is lower than pasture, it still delivers a significant level of omega-3 fatty acid in the form of linolenic acid, helping to offset the omega-6 fatty acids which predominate within the concentrate feed. This yet again highlights the need for a high level of forage/access to pasture to be maintained for horses in training.          The use of linseed meal has recently increased both as an ingredient in proprietary horse feed and as a standalone supplement for top dressing.  As can be seen from Table 1, linseed has one of the highest omega-3: omega-6 ratios. Equally, rapeseed oil or canola oil has an increased omega-3 content compared to corn or soya oil.          Oily fish    Although alpha linolenic acid is a precursor of the longer chain, more bioactive omega-3s, eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), the efficiency of conversion is quite low, estimated to be only 5-10% in other species. Whilst the contribution of alpha linolenic acid may have some benefit, other ingredients that provide a more concentrated source of either or both EPA and DHA are becoming more widely used.  Ingredients such as micro-encapsulated and deodorised fish oils – e.g. tuna or salmon oil – as well as green-lipped mussel have been used in small amounts as a rich source of DHA and EPA. However, the fishy smell can be off-putting and there is the whole moral question of whether herbivores should be eating fish.   Plant sources of DHA in the form of algae (similar in makeup to what fish eat in their diet) are now more commonly seen in equine products, primarily supplements.         There is little data in horses on the optimum ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. In humans it is suggested that a ratio nearer to 1:1 is healthier, although a Western diet can be 1:10-15. The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 seems to be as important as the absolute level of omega-3 present in the diet.  This may also depend on the type of omega-3 delivered, given the inefficient conversion of linolenic acid to DHA and EPA.         There are a few studies that have looked at the efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids in horses.  A preliminary study using ponies with sweet itch suggested a beneficial effect of linseed / flax on this inflammatory skin condition when fed at a level equivalent to 500g for a 500kg horse daily. Encouraging results have also been reported for the effect of supplementation with a combination of EPA and DHA on arthritic horses with a significantly lower concentration of white blood cells in synovial fluid being present and lower plasma levels of PGE2 (an inflammatory prostaglandin) in horses supplemented with a pelleted product providing 15g of EPA and 20g of DHA for 90 days, compared to a non-supplemented control group. This follows on from work carried out that suggests an increase in stride length in horses supplemented with EPA and DHA.       In humans, there is also some evidence to support a protective role for omega-3 fatty acids in asthma, a condition that is not unlike recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) in horses, although the results are not indisputable. A supplementation study with omega-3 fatty acids in horses, however, did not significantly alter clinical indicators of pulmonary function, although the white blood cell counts in epithelial lung-lining fluid were reduced in the omega-3 supplemented horses. This may suggest an effect of supplementation on pulmonary inflammation.       A supplement containing both omega-3 fatty acids and additional vitamins perhaps unsurprisingly delivered a change in the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio in plasma, but more significantly, it delayed the characteristic fall in red blood cell membrane fluidity seen during exercise because of splenic contraction and increased viscosity, which is important to maintain unfettered blood flow and reduce pressure in small blood vessels.          Medium-chain fatty acids    Oils such as coconut and palm oil contain a high proportion of medium-chain fatty acids (C6 – C10). Copra is a feed ingredient that is now more widely available for horses, and it is made from the white parts or flesh of the coconut.  Characteristically, it has a low non-structural carbohydrate content (NSC) and is particularly low in starch, making it an attractive feed ingredient. It typically has an oil content of about 8-10% and this oil is saturated, making it less likely to go rancid during storage.       Medium-chain fatty acids are absorbed from the intestines more quickly and with less breakdown and re-assimilation needed compared to long-chain fatty acids. Medium-chain fatty acids are interesting as a fuel source, as they don’t depend on L-carnitine for their transport into the mitochondria, which is the powerhouse of the cell. It has been proposed that this simplified absorption from the gut and transport within muscle cells may offer a potential advantage for performance, and early research suggested this may be the case. However, follow-up studies failed to reproduce these results, so any beneficial effect on performance remains controversial.         Oil production.    There are a number methods of production, including solvent extraction and cold pressing, used to deliver vegetable-based oils. The former involves the use of solvents such as hexane and a variety of intensive processing to extract the maximum amount of oil from the oilseed to produce an oil that is light coloured, not highly flavoured, and can withstand oxidation. In contrast, cold-pressed oils undergo a much less intensive low-temperature process and yield less oil, but may retain more of the minor nutrients, contain less trans fatty acids, and retain more of the natural flavour. There is obviously a cost implication of the different methods of processing and there has been no work done to date to suggest any benefit or disadvantage to either type for horses thus far.       Due to the high propensity for oxidation of oils, particularly those with a high polyunsaturated nature, they will usually contain natural antioxidants in the form of vitamin E-like substances, which may benefit the horse.  Equally though, the current advice when adding oil the diet is to add a further 100iu of vitamin E for every 100ml of oil added.       In summary, a racing diet supplemented with oil has many nutritional and practical advantages. Oil offers an energy-dense feed ingredient that is devoid of simple carbohydrate and starch. Whilst there is currently insufficient information on the requirements of horses for omega-3 fatty acids and the optimum ratio compared to omega-6, there is a balance to be struck. The predominance of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid in pasture and forages offers further rationale for maintaining a high-forage-to-concentrate ratio in all racing diets.  

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

Oil is a regular addition to modern racing diets, either by feeding a high oil-containing racing feed or through extra addition of liquid vegetable oil. Research over the years has shown that oil is palatable to horses and digested very well, and that there is little difference in digestibility between the main types of vegetable-based oils used.

Oil that is integral to feed ingredients, such as that found in rice bran, linseed, naked oats, soya, etc., may have a marginally lower digestibility, as this will depend on how digestible the encapsulating matrix is to the horse. However, in the main both free oil and integral oil is well tolerated and digested in horses.  

In a natural environment, horses can easily consume between 2-3% of their body weight as dry matter from pasture. Oil has always been a natural part of the horse's diet, as grass contains about 2-3%, which may seem low but can provide the equivalent of 200-400mls of oil per day. Other forages, such as hay, haylage, and chaff, will also contain oil at a similar level on a dry matter basis.  

Horses can tolerate up to 20-25% of their total energy intake coming from oil, and this has been exploited successfully....

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Back to School: Dressage as a Training Tool

TRAININGWeb Master
  To those not familiar with the idea, or indeed not familiar with the intricacies of managing the mind and body of the young thoroughbred, it might seem peculiar to take an animal bred for generations and engineered over centuries to display nothing short of super equine speeds, gargantuan leaps, and feats of middle-distance endurance, and to then turn it to the steadiest, most controlled, poised equestrian discipline. As mad a thing to do as this might seem at the end of such a horse’s career, to delve into it a day or so each week, or perhaps to go for an out-of-season dressage “staycation,” could seem just plain bizarre.     So why are we hearing more and more about the speedy souls that inhabit the world of horseracing sneaking out of the realms of the snaffle bit, flat saddle, jeans, and Cuban heel to indulge jodhpurs, curb chains, extremely high cantles, and Spanish topped-boots?    Well, it might not be as bizarre as it sounds. Three generations ago it was hard to find a trainer who hadn’t enjoyed some formal equitation training, most likely through the armed forces, but that was also an age where there was still some form of reliance upon the horse for anything as fundamental as travel, so there was simply a greater and more widespread understanding of the horse across the board. Many would have also known how to drive as well as ride simply from necessity. Later we will speak to one of the very few young trainers to have actively pursued driving, itself now a sport with an element of dressage.     Fewer and fewer trainers with each passing generation have a formal education in the fundamentals of classical riding, and it is perhaps only natural that in the face of such a decline there will be those that look to find an advantage in redressing this balance. Of course, there are always trainers who come to horseracing from more conventionally classical disciplines, many of them hugely successful regardless of code, country, or surface, and these exceptions prove as interesting as those who seek the help of specialist dressage instructors or riders to enhance the complex set of skills that have led to their success.     Think back half a century and one might have expected to see a lot more of the training ranks having acted as officers in cavalry regiments, a noted school of equitation in itself. The evergreen Big Orange is nurtured by such an officer, Michael Bell, also an accomplished amateur rider. Major Dick Hern left the army to train as a riding instructor at the fabled Porlock Vale Equitation School before training the gold medal winning British Olympic Equestrian Team of 1952, ultimately starting his stellar training career in 1958. This multidisciplinary approach is nothing new.    There are numerous examples of riders crossing over from eventing or show jumping to train racehorses with great success: Harvey Smith, Henrietta Knight, Michael Matz, Jessica Harrington, and Noel Williams come to mind, and Mark Todd even made the move for a while. The successes of another discipline certainly sets them apart in terms of outside perception, yet we can, as is ever the case in this sport of exceptions, find as many if not more trainers of note who do not hail from a successful standpoint in another discipline. Indeed, some greats did not come into training through a classical or competitive riding background in the slightest.    In human sport words like “cross training,” “core strength” and “yogalates” are so often used for the least expected sports. Cricketers lifting weights, prop forwards taking to the yoga mat, and Olympic sailors even taking instruction in dancing have all been reported, and it is well understood that, while not seeking excellence in these supplementary disciplines, there is a benefit from occasionally spending a session or two performing drills outside the mainstay of what is directly required on Saturday afternoon.     In the same respect, a horse is unlikely to lose significant fitness by being schooled once a week. The use of different muscle groups offers a strength beyond that which is normally tested, a change of routine perhaps beneficial for the psyche. However, Yogi Breisner, former world-class performance manager to the British Eventing team, is at pains to point out that “in general the standard of horsemanship among trainers in the British Isles is very good. Most horses benefit from routine and have a very good introduction to the saddle with a good education starting in between long reins, and it is important to remember that all conditioning and strength work be carried out specifically with the end purpose in mind, working on the muscle groups most important for competition.”     Emily Graham has a unique viewpoint being a trained McTimoney animal therapist, former assistant trainer to the hugely successful Henry Candy, and dressage rider who has spent time as an exercise rider for Andrew Balding. Graham now treats a range of horses and offers some valuable and educated input. “The most common problem I encounter is lower neck pain -- predominantly thoracic and cervical trapezius muscular pain and lower back pain/lumbosacral pain, which can ultimately affect performance.” This isn’t merely limited to the lower neck, though: “These signs, when they become chronic, can be an early warning that lower back pain is the prelude to a potential career-halting injury. Concluding that lameness caused by repetitive strain can originate from back pain!        “This can be caused by the horses not using their back muscles or engaging their hindquarters correctly whilst being exercised.  In other equestrian disciplines this would be called a poor self-carriage resulting in a horse that is on the forehand and not using their body to the optimum.”       “I think any horse could benefit from adding some dressage to their programme and by dressage, I mean the widest sense: The art of riding and training a horse in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility, and balance. Even simple stretches after exercise to help reduce the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles; for example, carrot stretches would also really help.”        Graham states that the aim of this is to help change the way a horse carries itself, not drastically but “working the horse a little differently, with the emphasis being on suppleness through the back and flexibility through the neck and a better-engaged hind quarter, transferring more weight to the horse’s hindquarters to take the pressure off the forehand!”       The British Racing School, with the support of the British Horseracing Authority, have engaged in a programme to help trainers educate even experienced riders by visiting yards as, Yogi Breisner explains. “The first step is to develop an independent seat. This allows the horse to move without hindrance. The rider’s centre of balance will be above the stirrups, hands neutral. Once this has been achieved we look to build upon this so that the rider can use their body weight, legs, and hands to influence the horse and help them overcome the shortcomings of the horse.”       In a similar vein, Godolphin’s pre-training programme in Newmarket has recently engaged Malcolm Holthausen, a dressage rider of international renown, to assist in the second phase of developing young horses who have recently been broken in. Pre-training manager Kate Grimwade is excited by this new development, saying, “Hopefully it will help the horses and the riders. It’s a different style of riding and we’re trying to teach the horses to be soft in their mouths, stretch through their backs, and learn to have leg on their sides as opposed to riders having their stirrups pulled up. “       This is easier said than done, as riders in a racing yard need three very different seats in the course of their work: riding long while warming up, carrying out roadwork and riding to/from the gallops; short while cantering or breezing, using the knees to keep the body still; and a lower position off the bridle when a rider can push at the final stages of a piece of work or race. However, each position is taught, on the same principles of riding with an independent seat.        While Breisner is not an out-and-out protagonist for all horses being schooled by a dressage rider regularly, he says that “it might marginally help one or two horses in a large stable and is certainly worth considering for individual horses, especially when returning to fitness after a break.”  Breisner suggests that a good rider, trotting at a sensible pace with the horse encouraged to a positive position, offers a good means to the end of a horse being schooled to be “rideable,” responsive to aids, and, importantly, to work on its straightness. “A young horse, even before it has been influenced by riders, will naturally tend to be skewed one way or another….when trotting too fast, a horse will take on a flat action and concave shape, the opposite to a canter which is a rounded action and outline. Trotting too fast is not something positive.”        Training aids and devices will always divide opinion and are a subject matter in themselves, but we have seen a growth in the use of devices like draw reins, the market harborough martingale, de Gogue, German martingale, chambon, etc. Whether one is pro, con, or ambivalent, the increasing growth in use of these suggests an awakening among our horsemen to help horses to carry out at least some of their training in a manner that is more focused on carriage and balance than building speed or stamina. Particularly at the trot, it is evident that the intention is to help develop a more productive carriage and encourage muscles to build into a more developed topline. This is certainly more aesthetically pleasing and it is no surprise that numerous leading consignors at the sales take a similar approach when preparing yearlings. As far as whether it is faster, the debate will rage on with little conclusive evidence and, as is often the case, for every proponent there will be a polar opposite opinion.       So what about using some form of schooling or cross training as a change, break, or just something other than the track? This is certainly something that Pat Owens (see European Trainer, Issue 59, October-December 2017, for more information) has carried out, having transformed the very headstrong 2013 Windsor Castle Stakes winner Extortionist as he rose from two to three years old, while NZ event rider Tim Rusbridge forms an important cog in the machinations of Qatar Racing’s operations, where his particular skillset is valued.        A continent away last year in the US, the Bob Baffert-trained Collected shocked the racing world when taking the scalp of stablemate Arrogate in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic before running a gallant second to the exceptional Gun Runner in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar. Marette Farrell, a key member of Collected’s owner Speedway Stables’ buying and management team, explains:    “Collected came from a really good consignor at the two-year-old sales. Despite an excellent preparation he was overtraining with Bob, who called us after the Preakness Stakes and raised the concern that he was just doing too much, too aggressive, he couldn’t even stand still.    “We sent him down to Mal McGuire in Kentucky who has always done a lot of work for me. After giving him a complete break due to some slight bone bruising, Mal set to work with him. Some aspects of this were more conventional than others, such as desensitising him with a flag, coupling him to a donkey, and then one day, ridden in a western saddle. I went to see him doing half passes in the arena, engaging his rear end in a way I hadn’t previously seen.    “He went back to Bob a different horse, which was evident in his results.”     When asked if she will now send Collected back for a tune-up or recap, Farrell has no doubts. “Definitely. I think this will add to longevity on the track. They’re always just turning left, this redresses the balance. In an age where a lot of people are only focussed on the end product and getting there as quickly as possible, a lot of this has become a lost art.”    Longevity is also something that Graham feels could be assisted by adding even a little dressage into the mix. “If even a small amount of extra attention was given to ridden exercises whilst warming the horses up and cooling down, this could add to the strength and conditioning of the equine athlete and further improve performance and strength in the muscles. Most importantly, risk of injury could be reduced.” This sentiment is also mirrored by Kate Grimwade, who states that “being more balanced should help with injury prevention if they are picking up their feet properly.”       Joking (and donkeys) aside, this might just sum the whole thing up, and if all racehorses had the occasion to be a little more “collected” through educating riders, receiving some cross training, and embracing lessons from other disciplines while still keeping our feet on the ground, we might just start to make a change for the better. The resounding intention, whoever we spoke with, is that welfare could only be the beneficiary of improving riders and offering a variety of exercise, either frequently or as a break, for horses.       

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

To those not familiar with the idea, or indeed not familiar with the intricacies of managing the mind and body of the young thoroughbred, it might seem peculiar to take an animal bred for generations and engineered over centuries to display nothing short of super equine speeds, gargantuan leaps, and feats of middle-distance endurance, and to then turn it to the steadiest, most controlled, poised equestrian discipline. As mad a thing to do as this might seem at the end of such a horse’s career, to delve into it a day or so each week, or perhaps to go for an out-of-season dressage “staycation,” could seem just plain bizarre.

So why are we hearing more and more about the speedy souls that inhabit the world of horseracing sneaking out of the realms of the snaffle bit, flat saddle, jeans, and Cuban heel to indulge jodhpurs, curb chains, extremely high cantles, and Spanish topped-boots?

Well, it might not be as bizarre as it sounds. Three generations ago it was hard to find a trainer who hadn’t enjoyed some formal equitation training, most likely through the armed forces, but that was also an age where there was still some form of reliance upon the horse for anything as fundamental as travel, so there was simply a greater and more widespread understanding of the horse across the board. Many would have also known how to drive as well as ride simply from necessity. Later we will speak to one of the very few young trainers to have actively pursued driving, itself now a sport with an element of dressage.

Fewer and fewer trainers with each passing generation have a formal education in the fundamentals of classical riding, and it is perhaps only natural that in the face of such a decline there will be those that look to find an advantage in redressing this balance. Of course, there are always trainers who come to horseracing from more conventionally classical disciplines, many of them hugely successful regardless of code, country, or surface, and these exceptions prove as interesting as those who seek the help of specialist dressage instructors or riders to enhance the complex set of skills that have led to their success...

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Horseracing in South Korea: A GLOBAL VISION

INDUSTRYWeb Master

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

On the evening of 19th January 2017, something special happened in Dubai. To the casual spectator it might have seemed like any other horse race, but to viewers in Korea, the 1200m District One Handicap at Meydan was a watershed moment in their nation’s sporting history. Because the winner of this race was Main Stay, a four-year-old colt trained by Kim Young Kwan and the first Korean-trained horse to win at a significant international meeting since thoroughbred horse racing was established in South Korea almost 100 years ago. What is more, the winner carried the (KOR) suffix in the racecard, underlining the fact that the country is now capable of producing internationally competitive thoroughbreds.

Yet as Main Stay crossed the line on that fateful night, even switched-on racing enthusiasts and professionals with a broad international perspective may have asked, “So they race in Korea?”

Indeed, this otherwise significant nation’s racing industry remains relatively unknown across the globe. Recent developments have brought Korean racing into the spotlight however, and notable domestic and international expansion projects put in place by the Korea Racing Authority (KRA) could soon see it established as an influential player on the global racing scene....

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Starting Up: Where in the EU can New Trainers Get the Best Start?

BUSINESSWeb Master

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

In the previous issue of European Trainer (Issue 59, October-December 2017),  the Trainers’ Daily Rates Survey was summarised, while Europe’s best training centres were also featured. From the former we learned that only 38% of trainers derive their sole income from training, yet this doesn’t deter hopefuls from taking out their first licence. So, where is the best place to set up a new yard to tip the balance in your favour?

Just over half of European trainers keep between 10-50 horses; fewer than 10% have more, and it is generally not considered to be economically viable to train fewer than 30 horses. The average daily rate per horse charged by a trainer is €43, which would provide a weekly revenue of €9,030 for a 30-horse yard.

Comparing daily rate to staff wages, there is little benefit to be found in starting up in one country versus another. The EU minimum wage maintains a constant across the board although the stable staff associations of some countries, such as Ireland, do ensure that a higher rate is paid. Therefore, anywhere from 50-90% of the daily rate charged will go to staff. A shortage of good riders and experienced staff is currently being endured throughout Europe, so, again, a new trainer is free to choose any location...

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The On-going Effort to Minimise the Rate and Impact of Fractures

VETERINARYWeb Master

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

In thoroughbred racing, musculoskeletal injury is a major safety concern and is the leading reason for days lost to training.  Musculoskeletal injury is the greatest reason for horse turnover in racing stables, with financial implications for the owner and the racing industry. Injuries, particularly on race day, have an impact on public perception of racing.  

Upper limb and pelvis fractures are less common than lower limb fractures, but they can lead to fatalities. Reducing the overall prevalence of fractures is critical and, at the very least, improving the rate of detection of fractures in their early stages so the horse can be withdrawn from racing with a recoverable injury will be a big step forwards in racehorse welfare. Currently, we lack information on the outcomes following fracture, and an article recently published in the Equine Veterinary Journal (EVJ) from the veterinary team at the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) addressed this important knowledge gap.

Hong Kong Fracture Outcome Study

The HKJC veterinary team is in a unique position to carry out this work because their centralised and computerised database of clinical records, together with racing and retirement records, allows them to document follow-up, which is all but impossible elsewhere in the world. Dr Leah McGlinchey, working with vets in Hong Kong and researchers from the Royal Veterinary College, London, reviewed clinical records from 2003 to 2014 to identify racehorses that suffered a fracture or fractures to the bones of the upper limb or the pelvis during training or racing, confirmed by nuclear scintigraphy, radiography, ultrasonography, or autopsy....

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Getting to Grips with Strangles: Working Together to Break the Strangles-hold

VETERINARYWeb Master

READ OF THE WEEK - CLICK THE IMAGE TO READ ONLINE NOW!

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

Strangles, caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus equi, is one of the most frequently identified infectious diseases of horses worldwide. More than 600 outbreaks of Strangles are diagnosed in the UK each year. Infected horses typically develop fever followed by abscesses in the lymph nodes of their head and neck.

These abscesses are painful and the affected horses will often lose their appetites and become depressed. Some horses can be badly affected during an outbreak and the disease kills around one in a hundred animals. The bacteria can spread quickly through yards via contaminated drinking water, food, tack, equipment and people. Some outbreaks can involve all of the horses on a yard and all outbreaks require movement restrictions that usually remain in force for over two months. Consequently, Strangles is responsible for considerable economic and welfare cost. This article will provide an update on the progress being made towards eradicating Strangles and highlight what we can each do to keep our horses safe.

An age-old problem:

Strangles was first described in 1251 by Jordanus Rufus, a knight of Emperor Fredrick II. The disease was seen as inevitable and better for horses to fall ill sooner rather than later to get the disease over and done with. In 1811 Napoléon, Emperor of France, wrote a letter to request that the 543 horses being sent to his army should be “at least 60 months of age and should already have recovered from Strangles” so that they would be less likely to fall ill from this disease on the battlefront. More than 200 years later, many people still believe that it is inevitable that their horse will suffer from Strangles sooner or later. However, we understand so much more about the disease today and really can significantly reduce the risk of horses falling ill...

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Staff Focus – You are Only as Good as Your Team

Staff & EducationWeb Master

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

A major challenge facing trainers throughout Europe is the attraction and retention of skilled riders and grooms. Trainers are competing with many other industries, and fewer people favour the type of work offered in a racing yard, which means that trainers need to be more innovative and proactive when it comes to staff management, retention, and recruitment.

Entries for the Lycetts Team Champion Award in Britain closed on 1st December, but for those who didn’t enter, and for trainers in the rest of Europe, it is not too late to examine the aim behind the inaugural award and use the judging criteria to establish a team of excellence in your own yard.

The idea behind the Lycetts Team Champion Award is to reward the stables with good employment practices in place creating the best team ethos, and it is an initiative that will hopefully combat the long-term stable staff crisis affecting many yards. The award is judged on the methods trainers use to attract and retain staff, plus the safe working practices employed. The winning team receives an item of infrastructure or equipment that will improve working life within the yard.

It is hoped that the stories emerging from the award will publicly celebrate the benefits of teamwork and demonstrate that racehorse trainers provide rewarding and well-supported jobs, and this is an ethos that can be easily extended beyond the award itself...

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Licensing and Integrity - The Subject of the Latest EMHF Seminar

INDUSTRYWeb Master

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

The word ‘integrity’ must be one of the most commonly used in the output of racing authorities and, in our world, it carries a very particular meaning. Sure, it encompasses the normal definition of ‘adherence to moral and ethical principles’ but, with us, what we’re mostly talking about is the ‘straightness’ of how our sport is run and of those involved.

The latest in the EMHF’s seminar programme, hosted and delivered by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and Newbury Racecourse, took integrity as its subject and majored on the processes and criteria by which trainers, jockeys, and others are licensed in Britain, and the structures in place to combat race-fixing and unfair betting practices on horseraces.

The BHA was an appropriate host, since delegates could benefit from the conclusions reached following a major integrity review that British racing’s governing body had undertaken, aimed at improving “confidence amongst participants and the racing and betting public.” The review confirmed that measures to combat race-fixing and doping remained of paramount importance.

Within the BHA’s remit, integrity is certainly given high priority. The very first item under ‘Things we do’ in its latest annual report reads: “Keeping racing fair and clean: We aim to maintain the integrity of British racing by supporting participants to comply with the rules and dealing appropriately and effectively with rule breaches.”

The sheer scale and cost of the infrastructure that is committed to this aim, in a major racing nation such as Britain, may surprise readers. The staff complement of the BHA’s Integrity and Regulatory Departments numbers over 100. Within this total, the 40 or so who make up the field force teams of clerks of the scales, starters, judges, and inspectors of courses are outnumbered by those covering areas such as intelligence (collection, assessment, development), racing & betting analysis, investigations, licensing and registration, stable inspections, anti-doping and equine welfare integrity....

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Part I: The Thoroughbred Trainer in the Digital Age

BUSINESSWeb Master

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

This is the first article in a two-part series on social media for thoroughbred trainers. It examines social media usage and issues faced by trainers who wish to promote their business online. Part II will focus on broader industry issues and how trainers may use social media to affect positive change and ensure the future of the sport.

In less than 15 years, social media has changed the way we meet, work, shop, communicate, consume news and entertainment, find romance, and more. Few aspects of our lives have been left untouched by this remarkable phenomenon. Social media has made a limited group of people incredibly wealthy, empowered others to create new businesses or expand existing ones, and made various individuals famous or infamous.

Simply defined, social media consists of online networks that allow users to connect, create, communicate, and share in virtual communities. And we cannot seem to get enough.

• 73% of Europeans use some type of social media.

• 41.7% of Europeans use Facebook, the most popular social media platform.

• Many Europeans, including three-quarters of Facebook users, log onto social media sites as part of their daily routine.

• Most European social media users utilize more than one social media platform.

• The growth of social media is likely to remain steady for years to come.

As a trainer, you may be one of the hundreds of millions of Europeans who is familiar with the ins and outs of social media. You may be an occasional, routine, or even heavy user.

Alternatively, you may be a hold-out who is too busy or privacy-oriented. Regardless of your personal opinion of social media, it is worthwhile to step back and examine how social media may assist in expanding your training business, or, alternatively, present potential risks including both civil liability and criminal violations.

As a trainer, unless you have a full roster of owners, it is wise to have a social media presence to promote your business. Consider the many positives:

Getting Found.....

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Trainer of the Quarter - Jessica Harrington

TRM AWARDSWeb Master
  Trainer Jessica Harrington has maintained an excellent run of form under both codes through 2017, including in the most recent quarter, which included a Listed success on the Flat at Great Yarmouth; winning seasonal debuts for two of the stable’s leading lights, Sizing John and Jezki; and a close second at Ascot’s Champions meeting for Torcedor.     On the back of winning three Gold Cups at the end of last season, the winning return of Sizing John in the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase pleased Harrington enormously. She said, “I was delighted with Sizing John. You never know what mark those three races might have left and he’s in great form.”     So how does Harrington rate 2017 overall, given the spread and level of success through the year?    “This year has been unbelievable, since January, really. We had Sizing John winning three Gold Cups and Our Duke in the Irish Grand National, Rock The World and Supa Sundae winning at Cheltenham, then Supa Sundae only just being beaten at Aintree, when stepped up in trip, and Punchestown was fantastic.”     Harrington is no stranger to the winners’ enclosure at the major Jumps meetings in Ireland and Britain, but there has been a marked improvement in the form of the Commonstown Stable’s Flat string.     “We made a good start early in the Flat season, and this year has been our most successful on the Flat,” says Harrington. The stable’s flagbearer on the Flat this year has been Torcedor, who joined Harrington from David Wachman ahead of the season and raced with distinction in the top stayers’ races.    The gelding will be charting new territory for connections in the spring.     “A highlight was Torcedor’s second to Order Of St George at Ascot last time and we’re aiming for the Dubai World Cup. I’ve had a runner over there before, about five years ago, but this will be another level.”    Harrington singles out the addition of a second gallop, over seven furlongs, as a factor that has helped her team. “This made a big difference as previously I would have to go over to The Curragh, but I can now train mainly from home.”    Torcedor’s Group 3 win in the Vintage Crop Stakes was one of eight black type victories on the Flat for Harrington in 2017, and the stable’s overall form has strengthened their strings for both codes. “We’re pretty even between Jumpers and Flat horses, but our results have led people to send us more horses. We have some more quality and I probably have 30-35 yearlings for 2018, with some more coming in.”

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

Trainer Jessica Harrington has maintained an excellent run of form under both codes through 2017, including in the most recent quarter, which included a Listed success on the Flat at Great Yarmouth; winning seasonal debuts for two of the stable’s leading lights, Sizing John and Jezki; and a close second at Ascot’s Champions meeting for Torcedor.

On the back of winning three Gold Cups at the end of last season, the winning return of Sizing John in the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase pleased Harrington enormously. She said, “I was delighted with Sizing John. You never know what mark those three races might have left and he’s in great form.”

So how does Harrington rate 2017 overall, given the spread and level of success through the year?

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NEW: 'Hindsight' - Clive Brittain

HINDSIGHTWeb Master
  Hindsight - Clive Brittain         In a training career spanning more than 40 years, Clive Brittain and his Carlburg Stables in Newmarket became synonymous with high-profile success in Britain and on the international racing scene.       Clive’s lengthy resume of top-flight wins includes six British Classics and overseas triumphs in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Japan Cup, achieved by horses such as the legendary Pebbles, User Friendly, Jupiter Island and Warrsan.        Two years on from his retirement, Clive reflects on the pivotal moments and people in his amazing career.         During your time with Sir Noel Murless, you were part of the move from Beckhampton Stables to Newmarket, which has been your home for more than 60 years. What are your memories of working for Sir Noel Murless and what changes have you seen in Newmarket in this time?       “Sir Noel was a very good boss, a very fair man, and never changed. I started out as an apprentice jockey, but I made a very good stable man and went with Sir Noel and the team to Warren Place. At the time, the stable held around 70 horses, which was a lot in those days, as most of established trainers would have around 50 horses with Geoffrey Brooke possibly having around 60, most of which were two-year-olds.        “Sir Noel later became the first trainer to have more than 100 horses, but numbers today for the larger trainers are typically well over 150 horses per trainer. We later had 160 horses between two yards, Carlburg and one at Stetchworth, on Bill Gredley’s estate, of around 30 boxes.”         You achieved notable success with long-priced runners in the big races (such as Terimon's second in the 1989 Derby at 500/1). What do you think of the BHA's recent decision to put a minimum qualifying rating of 80 on contenders for the Group 1 races for three-year-olds and upwards?       “To put a limit on ratings you are taking a big risk. A lot of my big winners at home and abroad wouldn’t have qualified!        “You have to be careful as you do have owners spending big money, but you also must never exclude the other owners from the top table. It is still supposed to be a sport, after all. These races are the pinnacle for horse, trainer and owner. If you can afford to pay the entry fee, there should be no restriction.        “I was often accused of running horses out of their class, but I proved on more than one occasion that the horses justified their inclusion. You can’t ultimately assess a horse’s ability until they have finished racing.”        “I trained for some great owners, such as Marcus Lemos, who owned Azerof and Julius Mariner, who bred and initially owned Pebbles. Sheikh Mohammed came on board and I had a lot of success for Arab owners.”         40 years separate your first and last Group 1 winners (Averof, 1974 St James's Palace Stakes, and Rizeema, 2014 Coronation Stakes). What developments in training technique came along during your career, and which did you feel were the most beneficial?       “One of the biggest advances for Newmarket as a whole was the introduction of the all-weather gallops. These massively cut down the injury rate, particularly the Al Bahathri, which I think once we all got used to it, halved the injury rate.”         You were always reputed to be the first trainer to have his string on Newmarket Heath every morning. Was there a particular reason for this?        “Well, this goes back to the days before the all-weather gallops. I always wanted to be the first trainer on the gallops, before 6am, when the ground is freshest. I also chose Tuesday and Friday as my gallop days, as most other trainers worked on Wednesday and Saturdays. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, horses would end up queuing at the bottom of the gallops, which then meant they became frustrated and more stressed.”         As one who became a trainer after time served as an apprentice jockey and then stable lad, what are your thoughts on the current staffing shortage in the racing industry?       “Any job needs a bit of backbone. I treated my job as my life and I put in what I expected to get out. There do seem to be some people coming into the industry, through a racing school, yet don’t know about what they should be getting into a horse, and are going to the races as ‘ready-made jockeys’. You can’t do that.”       “It’s not a 9-5 job. Racing should be a passion for staff; our horses won a lot of best-turned-out awards.        “As a trainer, I made a few changes and we were one of the first yards to start sending out three lots, but also gave staff every other weekend off, rather than one weekend in three as was the norm at the time.       “Evening stables always take time but we always tried to avoid wasting time. One of my habits was to take a packet of Polo mints around with me, so I could more quickly find the horses who were out of sorts; if there was something wrong, the horse didn’t come for the Polo.”        You’re regarded as something of a pioneer for British trainers when it came to having runners at major overseas meetings. Were you aware that you were blazing a trail for British trainers in those early days?       “John Dunlop and Paul Cole were certainly among the first British trainers to go overseas, beyond Europe, which to me seemed the right thing to so, as the prize money was very good. This was something I noticed as a stable lad when attending races in Paris.        “A lot of the races used to be invitationals, so it was crazy to overlook them. Sir Henry Cecil wouldn’t run abroad for a long time, but when he did, he was soon converted.       “Travelling is now a lot easier than it used to be and the staff on flights are very good. If I had a horse now, I wouldn’t hesitate. After one disappointment with an overseas runner, we learned that it was best to keep everything simple and the same for the horse, particularly their eating routine, so feed and watering times were kept the same. Even a two-day interruption to the eating rhythm could cause trouble.”         Of all your achievements as a trainer, which were the most satisfying and why?       “The Breeders’ Cup Turf and Japan Cup are certainly up there. Even finishing second in the Kentucky Derby with Bold Arrangement. On breeding he should have been 1000/1, but nearly won! I did feel some pride in flying the flag for the country, and the money’s there, but the prestige far outweighs the money.        “Pebbles was very flighty and got upset very easily. She would be accompanied everywhere by Come On The Blues. Our head lad Jock Brown got on with her very well and would know exactly at what pace to go with her in her work. She wasn’t the soundest, either, and probably swam more miles than she galloped.       “It was with horses like Pebbles that all the little things you have learned over the years come into play, all of which essentially combine to take the stress out of training.”           Who has been the biggest influence on your career?       “It was while working for Sir Noel that I met my wife, Maureen, who was at that time his secretary. Maureen knows everything about breeding and with my brawn and her brains, the combination worked a treat when I was training.        “Maureen is now in a care home, Oaklands, just down the road in Bottisham, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff there. They’re so good and would make the perfect stable lad or lass, given the care and respect they show their residents.        “Sir Noel could undoubtedly get the best out of a horse, and was very good with fillies. Just as he influenced my career, I can draw parallels between the late Michael Jarvis and Roger Varian, who bought Carlburg from me. In fact, Michael and I once had a long chat about Roger and we both saw the potential that he has realised.”        Which horse, past or present, who you have liked to train?       “St Paddy, who I rode at home. He was a horse who pulled like a train and I managed to get him settled and relaxed. To see him win the Derby gave me a great deal of pleasure.”     
 

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Gallery

In a training career spanning more than 40 years, Clive Brittain and his Carlburg Stables in Newmarket became synonymous with high-profile success in Britain and on the international racing scene.

Clive’s lengthy resume of top-flight wins includes six British Classics and overseas triumphs in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Japan Cup, achieved by horses such as the legendary Pebbles, User Friendly, Jupiter Island and Warrsan.

Two years on from his retirement, Clive reflects on the pivotal moments and people in his amazing career.

During your time with Sir Noel Murless, you were part of the move from Beckhampton Stables to Newmarket, which has been your home for more than 60 years. What are your memories of working for Sir Noel Murless and what changes have you seen in Newmarket in this time?

“Sir Noel was a very good boss, a very fair man, and never changed. I started out as an apprentice jockey, but I made a very good stable man and went with Sir Noel and the team to Warren Place. At the time, the stable held around 70 horses, which was a lot in those days, as most of established trainers would have around 50 horses with Geoffrey Brooke possibly having around 60, most of which were two-year-olds.

“Sir Noel later became the first trainer to have more than 100 horses, but numbers today for the larger trainers are typically well over 150 horses per trainer. We later had 160 horses between two yards, Carlburg and one at Stetchworth, on Bill Gredley’s estate, of around 30 boxes.”

You achieved notable success with long-priced runners in the big races (such as Terimon's second in the 1989 Derby at 500/1). What do you think of the BHA's recent decision to put a minimum qualifying rating of 80 on contenders for the Group 1 races for three-year-olds and upwards?

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EMHF - Our concern for horse welfare takes a myriad of forms

INDUSTRYWeb Master
  OUR CONCERN FOR HORSE WELFARE TAKES A MYRIAD OF FORMS    In the wake of the now infamous incident in which jockey Davy Russell was seen to strike his horse on the head prior to the start of a race, the marked difference between the media reaction in Ireland (more forgiving) and that in Britain (more damning) was commented upon. Just one example of the wide variation, as between European countries, in public opinion on horse welfare, and animal welfare more widely. In some regions, the ‘volume level’ of discussion of such matters is turned up high; not so in others.    In a sport with no global Rules Book, it would be strange if these cultural differences were not reflected to some extent in the practices and regulations of individual Racing Authorities. And sure enough, they are. Indeed, what a country’s Rules of Racing says about its culture would make for a fascinating study. One could make a crude start by marking up, on a map of Europe, the number of whip strikes allowed in a race by the various countries. Very broadly, it would resemble a climatic map of the continent, with higher numbers accepted in the hotter south, reducing as one travels north until reaching the point of zero tolerance in Norway.     Skim through the Rules Book in any of our countries and you will find a plethora which promote the welfare of our racehorses. In many cases, that aim is indeed their sole purpose. These Rules and procedures fall into many categories – from the horse-care component of the course which a trainer must pass in order to be granted a licence, to the requirement for a minimum number of vet’s to be present before a race meeting can take place, to enforced stand-down periods following the administration of certain veterinary interventions, to the mandatory abandonment of jump racing when the ground is designated ‘Hard’ – the list goes on and on.    And while explanations and a rationale can often be found for a given country having adopted one particular policy over others, in many cases, this would seem to be the result merely of historical happenstance, without any burning underlying principle. I found it an interesting exercise taking a random selection of five European racing nations – Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Spain and Sweden - and comparing their Rules in a number of specific areas chosen by the German Direktorium’s Racing Director and EMHF Executive Council member, Rudiger Schmanns.    For example, consider first their Rules relating to two-year-olds. Restrictions on the distances over which 2yo’s are asked to race are universal. But in Spain 2yo’s cannot reappear on the racetrack within five days of their last run and in Germany juveniles may not run more than 8 times and there is also a special whip that must be used – shorter than the normal crop, at <40cms. In Czech Republic, the same whip is used as in races for older horses, but a lower maximum number of strikes (4) applies. And in Sweden, the whip cannot be used at all on a 2yo, except for correction on the shoulder (a restriction which applies, unusually, to jump races, also).     Let us turn to more general Rules, not limited to 2yo’s. While the need for a starting stalls test in advance of a horse’s debut outing is universal, Sweden goes further, requiring all horses to take part in a qualification race.    When it comes to flu vaccinations, a high degree of commonality is evident, although Germany is an outlier in insisting on boosters being administered to its home-trained horses no more than nine months apart, as opposed to annually. In Sweden, a horse may not race within four days of a vaccination – in Germany and Czech Republic the moratorium is one week long.     How quickly may horses turn out to race again? In Czech Republic or Germany, there must be at least one clear day between outings. In Sweden, two clear days are required. In Spain, no horse may be declared in a race until any race in which it has previously been declared has been run – which normally guarantees a gap of at least four days. And Jumpers in Germany must run no more than twice within any 12-day period.    Germany is also unique amongst this group in setting an age limit for racehorses (15 years old). It also caps the number of times horses may race: a general limit of 25 times in the current year, plus, for jumpers only, a maximum of 10 outings for 3yo’s and of 12 outings within any 12-month period for older horses.    Tubing is outlawed in all these countries except Ireland, where the only stipulation is that the operation cannot have been performed within a week of the horse running.    All these Racing Authorities forbid the racing of pregnant mares beyond 120 days – but the Czech Rules go further: pregnant mares are not allowed to run at all.    Ireland, Sweden and Spain ban horses which have been subject to a neurectomy.    In Ireland and Spain, if a horse has received an intra-articular administration of a corticosteroid, it must be stood down for a fortnight. While in Germany, Sweden and Czech Republic, this applies to any intra-articular administration. Ireland extends this principle to such events as respiratory infection, coughing, illness, stress, injury – all attract a time period during which the horse cannot run.    The German and Czech Rules require horses to be shod on all four feet; the Swedish also, but only for races on Turf. In Spain, for certified veterinary reasons, a horse may remain unshod behind. Ireland has no requirements as to which feet must be shod.    All the countries other than Ireland have signed up to Article 32 of the International Agreement, which now prevents horses which have fallen to be re-mounted with the intention of continuing in the race. (An exception did apply in Czech Republic for the Velka Pardubicka, where the rider has been allowed to re-mount once only, but this is to be withdrawn).    The EMHF recognises European trainers’ concerns at all the subtle differences in the Rules which confront them when they race internationally and it was a subject discussed at our Executive Council Meeting, as described below.     But, while the inconsistency of approach is very evident, so, too, is the fact that never has concern for the health and welfare of the Thoroughbred been more central to the agenda of racing’s administrators. The racing world is on a journey and we share a direction of travel. There may be differences in how many times one can strike a horse, but every change in the Rules – and there have been many of late – has seen a reduction in this number, never an increase.     Take Ireland as but one example of this sharpening focus. Here, plans are in train to develop a Horse Welfare Strategy, in conjunction with stakeholders, which will cover racehorse aftercare; to introduce a fatal injury post-mortem programme to identify accurately the injuries that are occurring and feed this information into an injury prevention programme; and to introduce assessment of horses by use of a ‘Racehorse Welfare Index’.    And this heightened concern for welfare is being driven from the top. The EMHF’s parent body, the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), has just made available to its member Racing Authorities around the globe a series of ‘Principles of Good Practice’ drawn up by its Horse Welfare Committee. These guidance documents fall under headings such as the monitoring of racing injuries and fatalities, activities to minimise injury and optimise horse welfare, veterinary emergency care procedures, the aftercare of racehorses and the use of the whip.    Such concern need not be seen as wholly altruistic. At the individual level, a healthy racehorse will perform best for its connections; more generally, as the IFHA recognises “the health and welfare of racehorses, in all stages of life, (are) fundamental to the long-term viability of the sport.”       EMHF EXECUTIVE COUNCIL MEET IN JERSEY    Last year, Jonathan Perree, Stewards’ Secretary at the Channel Islands Racing and Hunt Club – a role akin to Racing Director in many racing jurisdictions - was elected onto the EMHF’s Executive Council, alongside representatives from Ireland, France, Britain, Germany, Turkey, Morocco, Sweden and Czech Republic. This year, the Channel Islands played host to our annual Executive Council Meeting, receiving delegates the day prior to ‘The Clarendon’, their August Bank Holiday fixture at the picturesque Les Landes racecourse, which stands on an elevated spot in the North-West corner of Jersey.     The relationship between the weather on the island and the size of the crowd apparently traces a U-curve: too dismal, and people will stay indoors, but too glorious, and the lure of the beach often wins out.  All the more pleasing, then, that, on this most perfect of summer afternoons, the crowds did turn out in decent numbers. In addition to a hurdle race and three other flat events, they witnessed a strong weight-carrying performance in the £3,750 Clarendon Handicap from locally-trained Black Night, who effortlessly humped 10st 12lbs round the mile and a half trip, having previously been beaten just 8.5 lengths in a Deauville Group III. Black Night was expertly called home by regular Les Landes commentator, Mark Johnson, who engagingly bills himself as the ‘voice of the Jersey, Kentucky and Epsom Derby’.    From how many tracks around the world, I mused, can racegoers gaze out over several islands (including Guernsey, Herm and Sark) and indeed to another country (the French mainland is but a few kilometres distant)? Not only that…but Marilyn Monroe turned up as well.    The Executive Council Meeting the next day covered much ground, from new applications for membership to commitments to good governance – on all of which, more in a future edition. Rarely these days does a meeting go by without the ‘B word’, and Brexit once again featured in Jersey. It has been heartening how the whole of the European and Mediterranean racing community has come together to insist that there must be no diminution of the levels of movement we all currently enjoy when travelling Thoroughbreds to, from or through the UK – as happens tens of thousands of times each year. Ease of movement throughout Europe is largely taken for granted – no veterinary inspections, no customs papers, no border delays – and the profound disruption which a ‘hard Brexit’ could bring would ripple across the whole Continent. The EMHF, national administrators and breeders are on the case.    Among the outcomes from the meeting was a commitment on the subject discussed above – the Rules of Racing. I have been aware that this is a matter close to the hearts of European trainers since attending the European Trainers’ Federation’s General Assembly the year before last, when the call was made for consistency. More recently, the subject has been raised with key European regulators by the ETF’s Chairman, Guy Heymans, who has selected a number of  practical areas which can cause trainers confusion when sending a horse abroad, such as the country’s entry and declaration regime, rules on headgear, starting stalls procedures, parades, doping control practices and shoeing restrictions.       In Jersey, the Executive Council agreed that the EMHF should look to establish a Rules Committee, as its second Standing Committee alongside its European Union Committee.       There is, of course, broad – probably universal - support for harmonisation of racing’s Rules. But while that call is easily made, selecting the one specific policy on which to harmonise, from amongst the different approaches adopted in the various European countries, is more challenging. Here, the European Trainers’ Federation can play a useful role. Should the ETF come forward in favour of the way a Rule has been drawn up in a particular country or countries, perhaps on the grounds that, in trainers’ professional view, that is best for the smooth running of the race or for the horses’ welfare, then this would be a powerful message from a key stakeholder group which should carry weight with Racing Authorities.      It is important to realise that each country’s Racing Authority is autonomous – the EMHF can encourage, but not dictate. Where differences in the Rules remain, it is important that trainers and others racing internationally within Europe have access to as clear a picture as possible of the Rules that apply in the jurisdictions they visit. The information should be easily found and clearly understood. And, while it works towards achieving the nirvana of identical Rules, this is an important ‘second prize’ for a Rules Committee to pursue.        EUROPEAN BEACH RACING ASSOCIATION: OFF AND RUNNING AT PLESTIN-LES-GREVES    The beautiful Breton bay at Plestin-les-Greves provided the backdrop for a magical day’s racing when representatives of six of Europe’s seven beach racetracks gathered together for the first time. A personal highlight was the opportunity to track the runners, at a distance of but a few feet, in a customised minibus, with a row of seats set laterally for optimum viewing, la Manche glistening behind. The impression was rather like those sequences now common in wildlife documentaries, where the camera flies alongside the geese! I have been fortunate enough to have raced in nearly 30 countries around the world, but this experience was one I will not forget.    Many of the delegates were meeting each other for the first time, and much of the discussion at the following day’s inaugural meeting of the European Beach Racing Association, held in the Tourist Office at the centre of the little town, was devoted to exchanging views and experiences of running – to rigorous standards - pop-up race-meetings on strands of sand. The occasion generated considerable interest from touristic and municipal authorities in this region of Brittany. Already significant to the local economy, there was general recognition that, were beach racing to be better branded, and a recognisable European beach racing circuit and season more widely identified, great benefit could derive to the businesses surrounding each of the seven tracks.    

Paull Khan - News from the EMHF

 

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Gallery

In the wake of the now infamous incident in which jockey Davy Russell was seen to strike his horse on the head prior to the start of a race, the marked difference between the media reaction in Ireland (more forgiving) and that in Britain (more damning) was commented upon.

Just one example of the wide variation, as between European countries, in public opinion on horse welfare, and animal welfare more widely. In some regions, the ‘volume level’ of discussion of such matters is turned up high; not so in others.

In a sport with no global Rules Book, it would be strange if these cultural differences were not reflected to some extent in the practices and regulations of individual Racing Authorities. And sure enough, they are. Indeed, what a country’s Rules of Racing says about its culture would make for a fascinating study. One could make a crude start by marking up, on a map of Europe, the number of whip strikes allowed in a race by the various countries. Very broadly, it would resemble a climatic map of the continent, with higher numbers accepted in the hotter south, reducing as one travels north until reaching the point of zero tolerance in Norway.

Skim through the Rules Book in any of our countries and you will find a plethora which promote the welfare of our racehorses. In many cases, that aim is indeed their sole purpose. These Rules and procedures fall into many categories – from the horse-care component of the course which a trainer must pass in order to be granted a licence, to the requirement for a minimum number of vet’s to be present before a race meeting can take place, to enforced stand-down periods following the administration of certain veterinary interventions, to the mandatory abandonment of jump racing when the ground is designated ‘Hard’ – the list goes on and on.

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A report from the Merial - Performance Horse CPD and Raceday at Gowran Park

VETERINARYWeb Master

Becky James BSc, MSc - Haygain

 

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Vets from all over Ireland congregated at Gowran Park racecourse in July for a continuing professional development event on the Performance Horse. The event, organised by European Trainer Magazine and Merial Animal Health, was the second in a series of veterinary CPD events for 2017 and featured a panel of expert speakers. The event was co-sponsored by Haygain and Connolly’s RED MILLS. 

Managing Inflammatory Airway Disease – Dr Emmanuelle Van Erck-Westergren

The first speaker Dr Van Erck-Westergren was due to fly in from Brussels on the morning of the event, so when her flight was cancelled at the last minute there was a moment of concern for the organisers but they arranged to bring her into the room via a video link so all was not lost!

Using her experience in practice at the Equine Sports Medicine Practice in Belgium, Dr Van Erck explained the importance of vets helping clients to manage the environment of the horses to prevent and manage Inflammatory Airway Disease (IAD). She described managing the horse’s environment to reduce exposure to noxious inhalable particles and improve hygiene and ventilation in the stable as the cornerstone to the success of treating IAD.

Important considerations for the environment include building design, bedding, stable activities and most critically, the forage, as this is in the horse’s breathing zone. Dr Van Erck explained that hay remains an important source of forage for horses but it is also a major source of dust and contaminants. Soaking hay is a cheap way of reducing airborne dust but it promotes bacterial proliferation and leaches out the nutritional value so well-made haylage or preferably steamed hay should only be fed to horses with IAD.

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