My Experience at Gai’s

A lovely reflection of Charlotte O’Connell's experience at Gai Waterhouse Racing since arriving three weeks ago. I always find it interesting to see what some pick up that others may not. Each individual takes away something different from their experience here at GWR and my gosh hasn't Charlotte caught right on to the Australian way of racing.

I grew up riding in Pony Club and always had a desire to be around horses, regardless of discipline. I have my roots in show jumping and dressage and worked my way through the disciplines of eventing, and polo before finding myself immersed in the world of racing and thoroughbreds.

Working the horse Kasaqui from Argentina before the Arlington Million
Working the horse Kasaqui from Argentina before the Arlington Million

I started riding thoroughbreds at Juddmonte Farms during the breaking/pre-training season of 2013. I absolutely loved my time there during the fall and was given an opportunity to stay on full time and ride in their training barn, home of the pre-training and layup horses. After a few years at Juddmonte, I was all ready to start riding at a proper racecourse. I started working at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky for Argentinian trainer, Ignacio Correas IV. He was starting to build his own stable after leaving his post as head trainer at Sagamore Farm in Maryland. Ignacio had some impressive horses and gave me the opportunity to travel throughout the country as their regular work rider.

''After 6 months with Ignacio, I moved to Florida for the winter to work as an Assistant Trainer for Arnaud Delacour; long-time assistant to Christophe Clement. I took the position in the hopes of assuming more responsibilities and gaining more experience but I felt as though I was stuck and was not improving or moving up in the industry. It was at this time that I started looking for a new experience. I was in luck, and came upon an ad looking for a work rider for Gai Waterhouse.

Despite not being in the racing industry for very long, I still had heard the name Gai Waterhouse and knew she was a legend in her own right. I responded to the ad right away and less than a month later, I was sorting my affairs and booking a flight to Australia. I came to Australia to learn about a different way of training and to learn how such a successful operation runs on a daily basis.''

Galloping out after a breeze at Tampa Bay Downs
Galloping out after a breeze at Tampa Bay Downs

The first two weeks were a challenge in many ways, from learning how to navigate a new city to understanding the daily routine of the yards. Everything is completely different here from what I am used to in the United States. From the design of the yards to the way they tack up a horse, it was all a new way of doing things.

Australia is primarily turf racing whereas America tends to focus more on dirt racing. As such, the daily training surfaces vary significantly. Most American horses only train on the dirt. Even as turf runners, unless they are in a big Stakes race, they are often not even allowed to work over the turf courses. Gai’s horses based at Randwick have the advantage of working over a wide variety of surfaces. They have the harder surface of the trotting track, the deeper sand track, a dirt course as well as two or three turf courses used primarily for breezing. In addition to maintaining the training courses, Randwick also has an equine pool, several walking machines, sand rolling boxes, and a beach just a short drive from the racecourse. Gai takes full advantage of all of these amenities and it provides physical and mental stimulation for both the horses and the riders.

Despite only being here for a few short weeks, I feel as though I have been given learning opportunities that I could have only dreamed of. Working for Gai has been an opportunity of a lifetime and I only hope that I am able to absorb and practice all of the knowledge that she is so generous to impart.
 


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