Starting out - the latest from Gavin Hernon

Zyzzyva on the left and Beeswax on the right.

Zyzzyva on the left and Beeswax on the right.

2019 has been good to us thus far. I was delighted to see Zyzzyva and Beeswax both recently make the Chantilly winners enclosure, getting us out of an annoying bout of seconditis. Finishing second place is so very bittersweet for me. On the one hand the horse is well and has put in a good performance, on the other... well, it’s not first. If all our seconds had won, then we would have well passed our target of 10 winners for our first year; however, as my mother rightly said, “better second than second last” and I am truly over the moon with how our horses have been performing over the last few months. Our 14 runners since January 1 have tallied as 3 winners, 6 seconds, a third and 4 not hitting the frame.

As the flat season beckons in earnest, excitement has been building over the past few weeks as we assemble an exciting team of horses. In total, we anticipate having just over 20 horses for the season with a 50/50 split between older horses and juveniles. I am extremely grateful for the amount of people who have been willing to take a chance on a fresh face and I aim to reward every one of them by training their horses to run to the best of their ability.

This is without doubt my favourite time of year as we start to turn the screws on the older horses and the juveniles progress through their bone density training programme. The latter plays a significant part of our juvenile training programme and we commenced the programme mid January.

Training juveniles for bone density simultaneously conditions a horse’s lungs to the pressures they will encounter at race speed and prepares them very early on in their education for the mental pressures put on them whereby fast work becomes part of routine.

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I had always been intrigued by the workings done on this by Dr John Fisher at Fair Hill in Maryland as well as the subsequent findings of studies done by David Nunamaker at the New Bolton Clinic in Pennsylvania and I strongly recommend reading up on it:  bit.ly/buckedshins

The spread of equine flu has been cause for much concern over the past number of weeks, and it got worryingly close to our training centre when two yards were tested with positives just two miles away in Lamorlaye last week. We are doing all we can to not only boost our horses’ immune systems, but also to increase our biosecurity measures to give our horses every chance of not coming into contact with the virus. It did shock me to see English runners be allowed to run on French soil when their own racing authority deemed them unfit to run. That was an unfathomable logic.

Going forward, a big part of my attention will be on the health of my business as a whole.

Starting out in one of the biggest training centres on the continent brings its professional and financial pressures. We started out with a penetrative pricing model and will continue to operate as such for the 2019 season. Using some of the best raw materials on offer and having an excellent team of staff makes for very skinny margins at the end of the month. The fact that we have been winning races and showing results is by no means a bonus for our work, but a necessity.

January saw us delve into the world of claiming for the first time. Freiheit won her claimer well in Pornichet and was claimed for over €15,000. There is some excellent money that can be made even at this level of racing in France, her owners taking home €21,000 on the day.

We also dipped our toe into the other side of the claiming pool, purchasing an exceptionally well-bred Siyouni filly from the family of Bright Sky, named Siyoulater.

I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am for my excellent team! I feel we have found the perfect balance of youthful energy and wise experience. Regardless of age or experience, they all share a common vein in the fact that they simply love and enjoy horses. They make me very proud as they continue to do an excellent job. I strongly believe happy staff make happy horses, and happy horses win races. It takes as much care and attention matching morning riders to horses as it does matching jockeys. These people are essentially shaping your horses. To make a mistake and cause a personality clash in the morning could cost you dearly in the afternoon.

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