Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott Racing

My time with Gai and Adrian started with a bang – after a short time at trackwork on Monday morning, I was off to the Hunter Valley for yearling inspections. A few hours later I was standing alongside Gai, watching some of the finest yearlings Australia has to offer parade in front of me. How did I get so lucky?

I am on the Godolphin Flying Start program, a two year scholarship awarded by Sheikh Mohammed that aims to develop racing’s next generation. The course takes you to Ireland, England, America, Australia and Dubai to learn about the racing world – Adrian Bott (Co-Trainer), Emma Pearce (Racing Manager), and Chris Armstrong (Human Resources & Senior Foreman) are among the course’s graduates. We do several external work placements during our time on Flying Start, and I was fortunate enough to be placed with Gai and Adrian for three weeks.

The first four days of my placement were spent in the Hunter Valley, tagging along for yearling inspections with Gai, Julian Blaxland, and Lea Stracey. The experience was unreal. I have been in the Hunter Valley for the past three months working on studs, but getting the opportunity to visit nearly 20 farms and inspect around 300 yearlings gave me a new perspective on the region and the Australian horse.

Inspections at Newgate Stud

All the horses we viewed are in prep for Magic Millions in January. Getting a feel for the Australian type was a major takeaway from the trip for me – they are stronger, speedier, more precocious animals than what is typical back home in America. Strong forearms, strength in gaskin, and length hip to hock are hugely desirable here, which naturally fits with the style and speed of racing. Over the course of the week, I was better able to tune my eye to pick up on what was expected and commercial here as compared to home.

Our many hosts were fabulous – I could not mention one without leaving out another. We were privileged to phenomenal hospitality and accommodating stud staff throughout the course of the week, making it for an incredibly enjoyable and smooth trip all around. The biggest treat of the visit, however, was getting to view horses alongside Gai and soak up all the knowledge I could.

Fortunately for me, Gai dictates her notes on each yearling and is a natural teacher, allowing me to hear her thoughts on many of the horses. Later transcribing the notes gave me a keen feel for traits she desires in a racehorse and how she ranked each individual – a wonderful reflective exercise. Aside from having an obviously sharp eye and feel for a horse, Gai’s power of observation was phenomenal. Whether there was a slight swelling, stabby action or dull coat, she missed nothing. There was much to learn by watching her as inspecting the horses.

Going from stud to stud allowed me to meet many people in the Hunter and compare horse condition and quality between farms. This was a massive learning experience in and of itself – the differences between some of the farms was surprisingly pronounced and gave me a chance to see the type a stud is breeding. After seeing several of a sire’s progeny, particular traits they are throwing began to standout. This is my first time in Australia and I am not particularly familiar with many of the stallions, so this was a fantastic learning experience.

A special thank you to the lovely people at Yarraman, Coolmore, and Corumbene for opening homes to us. And of course, to Gai, Julian, and Lea for being so inclusive and answering my many questions. It was four of the best days of learning I have ever had, not to mention being spoiled by tremendous people. I am looking forward to the Magic Millions sale all the more after viewing much of the catalogue, and cannot wait to see what the rest of my time with the stable has to hold.