Katelyn Butler Reflects On Her Time At Tulloch Lodge

A wonderful blog from Katelyn Butler as she joined the team before departing for an opportunity of a lifetime, the Godolphin Flying Start.

In May 2017, I received a phone call that has changed my life. This phone call was to inform me of the unbelievably amazing news that I had been selected to be a part of the Godolphin Flying Start program for 2017-2019. In discussing what I would need to do to prepare for the program, it was recommended that I travel to Sydney and work for a top racing stable for the two months before the program commences in August. Immediately I thought of a racing stable that not only had a legend of Australian racing at its helm in Gai Waterhouse, but also three graduates of the Flying Start currently in significant positions within the company. After a quick call to my incredible boss and mentor, Brian Gorman (General Manager, Swettenham Stud), the wheels were set in motion through his connection to co-trainer Adrian Bott.

Within two weeks, I had packed my bags, said my goodbyes and made the move to Sydney. Starting work at 3am on the 1st of June, I immediately got to work and haven’t looked back since. The first week was a huge change for me, not only in adjusting to the very early starts but also, after having worked at Swettenham Stud for the last two and a half years, I was back to being the new kid on the block and learning the ropes all over again in a new stable. I am so grateful for my time working under foreman Mel Norton in the beautiful Desert War stables located at Randwick racecourse. Within a few days I had researched the pedigrees and form of every horse in the yard and was fascinated by the caliber of horses I was working with. From the spectacular dual Group 1 winner’s Global Glamour, Ugo Fuscolo and NZ Group 1 placed two-year-old Joyfilly to unraced bluebloods such as a half-sister to Champion filly Shamrocker, this one yard was overflowing with incredible horses. At the end of my first week, I helped load the QLD carnival contenders from the Desert War stable, in My True Love and Prompt Response, on to the truck. I subsequently thoroughly enjoyed cheering home both fillies to quinella the Group 2 Dane Ripper Stakes on the 10th of June.

Another horse that really joined the staff together and made us all so very proud, was the stable’s war horse Supply And Demand. This wonderful gelding was stabled at Desert War, and won at Rosehill during my first week. He then took us on a ride which saw him win again two weeks later at the same venue before getting on the truck to the Sunshine Coast to dominate in the Caloundra Cup, before coming back to NSW and showing so much determination and will to win when fighting off all challenges in the Grafton Cup on the 13th of July. What a ride he took us on! Full credit must go to the brilliant training performance by Gai, Adrian and the team, to have this lovely gelding continue to step up to each challenge and deliver the goods. I may no longer be a part of the team but I will be cheering for this champion when he returns in the Spring.

Throughout my time at GWR, there were several moments that really captured my love of the thoroughbred industry. One such moment was the day I decided to give riding at the beach a chance. Having never ridden track work, I was originally hesitant to take the opportunity, but on one very cold morning in June I was given the privilege of riding Group 1 placed gelding Dee I Cee at the stunning horse beach at Botany Bay. Not only is this outing a wonderful addition to the training routine of many of the horses in work, it is also a terrific outlet for them when considering the horses are located in the heart of suburban Sydney. Wading through the water on the back of a very talented racehorse as the sunrise breaks on the horizon is one of the most stunning sights I have ever witnessed. With the planes landing at Sydney airport around a hundred meters or so from the beach, the experience is truly breath-taking and spectacular. By riding horses such as Dee I Cee, the lovely stakes placed filly Slumber Party and blueblood Long Time Ago, I not only fulfilled my dream of riding a racehorse but also saw my confidence when riding increase significantly. Being able to ride a horse such as Long Time Ago at the beach and then cheer her home to win impressively first up just a few days later at Canterbury was another highlight during my time at GWR. After working part time in a racing stable for many years as a teenager, I was delighted to be back working with such elite athletes that were trained to the minute. Working so closely with the horses and then being able to attend the races was another highlight that I very much enjoyed throughout my time at GWR.

The first half of my stay at GWR consisted of me working in Desert War during morning track work, where I cared for the horses, swam horses in the equine pool, saddled and unsaddled them, hosed them off, riding at the beach and other duties around the barn. I was also lucky enough to work in the office of an afternoon writing updates for the yearlings that were in work and progressing through what for some were their first or second preparations at Randwick racecourse. It was not long before I had the honour of meeting Gai upon her return from Europe. Her arrival signaled a new change for my role as a member of the GWR team. I will forever be grateful of her openness and generosity to teach the next generation of industry workers. If you are willing and determined, Gai is an incredible mentor to young people coming up through the ranks. By the next morning, I found myself in the tower at 5am in the midst of a very busy morning of gallops, in awe of the operation before me.

Something that really struck me when it came to watching the horses at track work, was seeing how well Gai and Adrian work with their riders and jockeys in changing up routines and gear in order to individually improve each horse’s behavior and progress. By having the riders come to the tower to receive their instructions for the horse they are on, the trainers are able to see the horse, assess it and decide on the work the horse will do. For a stable that has around 150 horses in training, every horse is treated as an individual and trained accordingly. My role allowed me to assist Gai and Adrian in the tower by passing on instructions to foremen, keeping an eye on where certain horses were on the gallop tracks and recording the work each horse was doing, the rider onboard and the sectionals the horse clocked. After the gallops were completed, the riders and jockeys came up to the tower to discuss each gallop with Gai and Adrian. This was a terrific experience for me to hear the insight that the riders give when commenting on how each horse galloped. Being able to listen to the team discuss how a horse was progressing while I took notes that I then used to write track flashes and updates for each horse to be sent to the owners. Working in the office throughout the day allowed me to see a large operation work effectively to keep the owners updated and happy. I was very impressed with how dedicated Gai and Adrian are to ensuring that the ownership experience of racing a horse with the GWR is positive and fun no matter the result on race day.

After finishing up on my last day I decided to head into the track one last time to help saddle up in the stalls before heading to the beach. Riding the stable champion, Group 1 placed and multiple stakes winner Ecuador, I was able to enjoy this incredible experience as my final memory of my time working at Gai Waterhouse Racing. Throughout my time at GWR, riding at the beach became a major highlight and is an experience I will cherish for years to come.

I was so appreciative of the guidance and wisdom Gai and Adrian were willing to give to me. Heading into the Godolphin Flying Start, Gai implored me to be assertive and confident in myself, my demeanor and my attitude. Being able to work closely with the First Lady of Racing and a true legend of the Thoroughbred racing industry, I was inspired by her infectious enthusiasm, charisma and attention to detail that certainly sets her ahead of the pack. While encouraging me to be determined and grab every opportunity by both hands, Gai was an amazing role model and mentor to me and I will forever be grateful to her. Being able to also work closely with Flying Start graduates Adrian Bott and Emma Pearce was an amazing learning curve and experience for me. Not only were they kind enough to discuss their personal experiences of being in the program with me, but also give advice and guidance as to what I should expect and take full advantage of in the next two years. The opportunities and guidance given to young motivated industry participants when working for GWR, is a life changing experience for those willing to work for it. Working at Gai Waterhouse Racing has been more than I could have imagined. In just two months I feel I have learnt and grown so much and I could not be heading into my next adventure more prepared.



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