Travelling Stateside - The trainer's perspective

  Running Horses in America The Trainer’s Perspective       By Alex Cairns    In recent years, international travel has become much more accessible and people now regularly embark on journeys previously the reserve of a few trail-blazing adventurers. The same is true for racehorses, whose handlers can today chart careers based on a rich international programme that offers opportunities year-round. For European trainers, America is perhaps the most readily accessible intercontinental option, with fewer regulations to be negotiated than in Asia or Australia. The relatively reduced distance from Europe to the US also provides an incentive, especially if running in the east of the country.  Ed Dunlop has been travelling horses to some of the world’s far-flung reaches for almost 20 years now and has consistently demonstrated his ability to get it right thanks to the success of horses such as Lailani, Ouija Board, Snow Fairy, and Red Cadeaux.   WHY AMERICA?      There are lucrative and prestigious opportunities for all types of horses in America, notably in the Breeders’ Cup or the Fall Meet at Keeneland in Kentucky. Dunlop may have been steeped in racing from his earliest age thanks to the exploits of his now sadly departed father John, but sending horses to the US was a learning curve nonetheless. “One of my earliest experiences and successes in America was with a filly called Lailani. She won the Irish Oaks in July 2001 before we sent her to Belmont in New York for the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Stakes in September of the same year. She won that too, but then ran badly in the Breeders’ Cup Fillies and Mares, again at Belmont. I learnt a lot from her actually because we left her there after the Flower Bowl and I think that affected her performance. This helped us adapt our approach with Ouija Board, who provided us with some our biggest days in America, winning two Breeders’ Cup Fillies and Mares in 2004 and 2005.”     In 2001, a trip to the east coast of America still represented a serious logistical challenge and financial outlay for European runners, so one can understand Dunlop’s decision not to ship Lailani home between runs. Today, however, advances in transport and reductions in cost make flying visits a viable option. “If you look at someone like Aidan O’Brien, who is probably the most accomplished trainer in the world these days when it comes to travelling horses, he flies them in and out as if they were just travelling to the races down the road in a horsebox. That seems to be the best approach, though isn’t always possible depending on the destination.”      PREPARATIONS      So scaling up the same practices employed for running a horse a few miles down the road can be a winning formula, but any international campaign will nonetheless require a certain amount of preparation and planning. How should a horse be prepared for international travel? And how might running in the US compare to Asia or Australia? “Travelling horses to America tends to be a lot more simple, as there aren’t lengthy quarantines to be negotiated for us on the UK end. When we send horses to America they are travelled fit, put in the barn and kept there apart from for exercise. Then they run and come home soon after. From our experience, travelling to Australia or Japan is a lot more complicated, as both countries have very tough rules and normally around a month in quarantine is required. These regulations also affect what you can take feed-wise, so that has to be taken into account.”  Sheer geography can also have a strong influence on where might be best for European trainers to launch an international campaign. “Travelling from the UK to America is not such a huge distance, if we’re talking about the east coast anyway, so that makes it all the easier. The further you fly a horse then the greater the cost, the more susceptible they are to travel sickness, and the more chance there is of incident along the way.”      THE JOURNEY      Economy Class or Business Class? Anyone who has flown long haul will know the travel experience and level of service are strongly affected by budget and provider. The same is true when travelling horses. “The different classes available allow for different palette space allocations and service options. The more room you can have for your horses the better it is, so that they can get their heads down and move more naturally during transport. We normally work with Luck Greayer Horse Transport, who have UK bases in Newmarket and Lambourn. They have excellent people who travel with the horses for us and are enormously important in the success of any number of horses travelling around the world. We speak with them and tell them our dates, then they get everything sorted in terms of transport, palette space, getting stables organised on the other end, and getting them home.”     The services of reputable shipping companies with a proven track record can greatly ease the logistical and administrative burden of running a horse abroad. All this can be in vain, however, if the horse is excessively stressed by unfamiliar surroundings or its own particular preferences and quirks are not provided for during transit. This intimate knowledge of each individual animal and how to deal with the particular challenges of travel can only come from trusted and experienced staff, but recent changes to security regulations mean that horses’ grooms are now often unable to remain with their horses at all times during transit. “We have two of our people who travel with the horses, but rules now sometimes limit their access due to the space available on the plane. The shipping companies provide their own grooms and they do everything they can, but it’s not quite the same. Our travelling head lad Robin Trevor-Jones has been around the world with almost all of our travelling horses and has been absolutely integral to their success. Red Cadeaux, for example, would go into quarantine for Australia, then on to Hong Kong, and then occasionally to Japan, so Robin and the horse would be away for three to four months. That level of dedication and trust are invaluable, even for shorter trips.”      RISKS & RETURN      Having shaken up a horse’s routine during travel, settling into a new environment is the next challenge to be negotiated. ‘How a horse acclimatises really depends on the individual, how they travelled, if they manage to stay healthy. We test them on arrival to make sure everything’s in order with regard to their bloods. Some horses take it well and others don’t, but there are no fixed rules. We’ve had horses who didn’t bat an eyelid over the whole thing and others that just couldn’t handle it. We tend to have our horses fully prepared for when they arrive at their destination, so we don’t have to do a huge amount of work with them there, but this obviously depends on how far you’re travelling and what quarantine requirements there are. For America, it’s all relatively simple as long as they travel, eat, and relax.’’     Racehorses by their nature are always subject to accident and injury, be it in the stable, the paddock, in transit, or at the races. Longer journeys can of course increase the likelihood of incident, however. So does the return from such ambitious plans tend to outweigh the risk? “Travel sickness, training problems, difficult ground conditions, training or racing injuries, and injuries in transit are unavoidable risks of international travel, but you face a lot of these risks even in day-to-day training and racing. The risk is obviously quite strong, but the reward is potentially great when you’re running for huge prize money in very prestigious races. You also have to remember that a lot of horses would be going to America on one-way tickets. Trainers send them over, run them, and then sell them on over there. So that’s something a lot of trainers will have in mind when taking horses abroad.’’     As the lucrative US autumn racing programme approaches, trainers across Europe will be hoping their charges can emulate the international exploits of Ed Dunlop’s Lailani and Ouija Board. In a world now much smaller than it was just 20 years ago, such American dreams now seem all the more accessible in reality.

By Alex Cairns

In recent years, international travel has become much more accessible and people now regularly embark on journeys previously the reserve of a few trail-blazing adventurers. The same is true for racehorses, whose handlers can today chart careers based on a rich international programme that offers opportunities year-round. For European trainers, America is perhaps the most readily accessible intercontinental option, with fewer regulations to be negotiated than in Asia or Australia. The relatively reduced distance from Europe to the US also provides an incentive, especially if running in the east of the country.

Ed Dunlop has been travelling horses to some of the world’s far-flung reaches for almost 20 years now and has consistently demonstrated his ability to get it right thanks to the success of horses such as Lailani, Ouija Board, Snow Fairy, and Red Cadeaux.

WHY AMERICA?

Ed Dunlop’s experience of running Lailani in the US in 2001 benefitted his subsequent runners.

There are lucrative and prestigious opportunities for all types of horses in America, notably in the Breeders’ Cup or the Fall Meet at Keeneland in Kentucky. Dunlop may have been steeped in racing from his earliest age thanks to the exploits of his now sadly departed father John, but sending horses to the US was a learning curve nonetheless. “One of my earliest experiences and successes in America was with a filly called Lailani. She won the Irish Oaks in July 2001 before we sent her to Belmont in New York for the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Stakes in September of the same year. She won that too, but then ran badly in the Breeders’ Cup Fillies and Mares, again at Belmont. I learnt a lot from her actually because we left her there after the Flower Bowl and I think that affected her performance. This helped us adapt our approach with Ouija Board, who provided us with some our biggest days in America, winning two Breeders’ Cup Fillies and Mares in 2004 and 2005.”

In 2001, a trip to the east coast of America still represented a serious logistical challenge and financial outlay for European runners, so one can understand Dunlop’s decision not to ship Lailani home between runs. Today, however, advances in transport and reductions in cost make flying visits a viable option. “If you look at someone like Aidan O’Brien, who is probably the most accomplished trainer in the world these days when it comes to travelling horses, he flies them in and out as if they were just travelling to the races down the road in a horsebox. That seems to be the best approach, though isn’t always possible depending on the destination.”


PREPARATIONS

Ouija Board, a dual winner and runner-up in the Filly & Mare Turf in three visits to the Breeders’ Cup.

So scaling up the same practices employed for running a horse a few miles down the road can be a winning formula, but any international campaign will nonetheless require a certain amount of preparation and planning. How should a horse be prepared for international travel? And how might running in the US compare to Asia or Australia? “Travelling horses to America tends to be a lot more simple, as there aren’t lengthy quarantines to be negotiated for us on the UK end. When we send horses to America they are travelled fit, put in the barn and kept there apart from for exercise. Then they run and come home soon after. From our experience, travelling to Australia or Japan is a lot more complicated, as both countries have very tough rules and normally around a month in quarantine is required. These regulations also affect what you can take feed-wise, so that has to be taken into account.”

Sheer geography can also have a strong influence on where might be best for European trainers to launch an international campaign. “Travelling from the UK to America is not such a huge distance, if we’re talking about the east coast anyway, so that makes it all the easier. The further you fly a horse then the greater the cost, the more susceptible they are to travel sickness, and the more chance there is of incident along the way.”

TO READ MORE --

BUY THIS ISSUE IN PRINT OR DOWNLOAD -

October - December 2018, issue 63 (PRINT)
6.95
Quantity:
Purchase in print

WHY NOT SUBSCRIBE?

DON'T MISS OUT AND SUBSCRIBE TO RECEIVE THE NEXT FOUR ISSUES!

Print & Online subscription
24.95 every 12 months
Add to Cart

Understanding concussion and protection

How Equine Influenza viruses mutate

0