Godolphin Flying Start – Dutchy Down Under

Naomi Tukker is spending three weeks with racing.com as part of the two-year Godolphin Flying Start Program. Naomi explains how the program works and details some of her experiences as part of it.

This journey started nine years ago when, as a 16-year-old, I had the pleasure of visiting Newmarket, the National Stud and the local gallops. Watching the horses go through their paces on Warren Hill I quickly developed a desire for a career in the horse racing industry.

Today, this dream is becoming a reality thanks to one of the most prominent racing supporters in the world: His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.

I am lucky enough to be taking part in Godolphin Flying Start – a two-year, full-time international management and leadership training program.

Three months ago the Godolphin Flying Start trainees set foot on Australian soil, after a seven-month stint in the USA.

For two years, we wake up in different beds on a monthly basis, quite often wondering how we got there, realising the enormity of the opportunity we have been given.

Throughout every phase of the program the trainees must ask themselves the same question: how can we be of benefit? As future employees of the industry, how can we help create a sustainable racing industry looking after the equine and human stars?

We jetted into Australia, home to kangaroos, vast plains and, of course, the Melbourne Cup, the team fully embracing the culture.

Our first stop was the Hunter Valley and, despite encountering an array of dangerous wildlife, it was an amazing experience. Working for the likes of Arrowfield and Yarraman Park – leaders of the breeding industry – provided a highlight of the program.

One day we were foal wrestling, the next driving to Sydney to visit the first lady of racing, Gai Waterhouse, at Royal Randwick. In the wee hours of the morning we listened intently as she explained her hugely successful training regime.

Our last group outing in Australia was the Melbourne Cup Carnival and we unanimously concluded that the Australians – Melburnians – know how to host a racing carnival!

From boutique marquees to highly-competitive fields, any foreigner attending their first major race day Down Under will be pleasantly surprised. The top live coverage, including helicopter shots outlining running positions, combined with large fields and a party atmosphere, are an easy sell.

The Victoria Racing Club’s success is evident in the numbers:

• Flemington hosted 91,194 racegoers on Derby Day 2018;

• In spite of the weather, 83,471 spectators saw Cross Counter post a blistering 11.20-second last-200-metre split to win Melbourne Cup on the Tuesday;

• Oaks Day had a crowd of 61,355; and

• 67,567 people flocked to the track on Stakes Day.

In total, 303,587 people attend the four-day carnival. In comparison, Royal Ascot, Europe’s jewel in the crown of racing, takes place over five consecutive days and posted a total attendance of 301,818.

Nothing is more rewarding than seeing Godolphin post victory after victory, culminating in a record 30th Group 1 win of the year and a first-ever Melbourne Cup with Cross Counter.

Forty-one years earlier, the filly Hatta ignited a spark that would burn for decades, being HH Sheikh Mohammed’s first-ever winner.

However, some might argue the success of his racing organisation pales into insignificance compared to the work he is doing to secure the longevity of the thoroughbred racing industry. With the Godolphin Flying Start program he is developing and nurturing youngsters that mirror his passion for racing, effectively providing the thoroughbred industry with well-educated and experienced individuals that are keen to make a difference.

The next port of call for the Godolphin Flying Start trainees will be the Hong Kong International Races, an easy stop on the way home for most of the international crew.

Similarly to Australia, Hong Kong boasts a solid prizemoney structure, providing great incentive for international raiders who come over each year in search of victory over the domestic heavyweights.

In a month’s time we say farewell to Australia but one thing is certain: the goodbye might only be temporary, as the willingness and encouragement of the Australian racing culture towards their younger participants will secure the future of the industry for many decades to come.

From Racing.com November 13th 2018