Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott Racing

'It Takes A Team': Emma Reeves TDN AusNZ Q&A

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  2. TDN AusNZ are currently running a series that is sponsored by the Godolphin Stud And Stable Staff Awards called 'It Takes A Team'.

    The series highlights all of the various roles in our great industry and how each person got started. Our very own Racing Manager Emma Reeves was asked to be a part of this, and we hope you enjoy her interview below. 
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  4. 1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in the industry?
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I was born and bred in Newmarket, England so I suppose you could say that working in horse racing was inevitable though growing up I wasn’t quite so convinced. I have always loved the horses themselves and the racing, but my parents trained about 30 horses and did it pretty tough. I get pretty irate when people tell me we’re cruel to the animals as I vividly remember doing a quick turn under a cold shower before going to school but we had a boiler up the end of the yard to ensure the horses had warm soapy water when being washed down. I’m about as far as one can be from a hard luck story but we treated our horses like royalty, and rightly so!

Both of my parents were jockeys, and so was my brother. Although I love riding, I never had the desire to do it competitively. I would go to the races with my mum who was an amateur jockey. Back then amateur racing was incredibly glamourous and the top trainers in Europe would have no qualms targeting those races with high quality colts. My mum was completely dedicated, almost obsessive, and as a result she was Champion Amateur Jockey multiple times. I would say that this is where my drive stems from.

Young Emma with her Mum, Lydia Pearce, and brother Simon.
 

I always loved school and my parents were very careful not to push me into horse racing and instead let me find my own way. I don’t remember University being optional. We had classes where everyone had to apply and I remember quite simply thinking, ‘my favourite subjects are science, maths and sport. Exeter University has an excellent reputation and they offer a Bachelor of Science in Human Bioscience.’ And that was that. It was here that things changed for me in quite a major way. I would sit in the laboratory and just couldn’t see that being my life. I started to research careers in racing that would be more suited to me than jockey or trainer. I’m one of those people who likes to be fully informed and although I had worked part time in different jobs in the industry, I was eager to learn more. I applied for the BHA Graduate Scheme and Godolphin Flying Start, truly never believing I’d get a look in with the latter. Godolphin Flying Start is the absolute gold standard program worldwide so I had to go that way when I was offered both, and I have so much to thank Sheikh Mohammed for. If it wasn’t for him and his vision there’s no way I’d be where I am today. If we don’t have a runner in a race, I always quietly cheer Godolphin on.

It was the Australian phase of the program where I met Gai. We had already been to the races in Sydney and I was completely taken aback by the vibrancy of the industry here. Combining that with Gai and her passion, her energy and desire to constantly evolve and improve… I was completely sold the moment I met her.

Emma and her fellow Godolphin Flying Start trainees with Gai
 
  1. 2. What is your role now and what does it involve?
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Nearly eight years ago, when I first started working for Gai, I didn’t have a specific role. I showed up with my suitcases, dropped them off at a B ‘n’ B, had a quick shower and went straight to the Randwick trials. I am sure I wasn’t looking my best after a 24 hour flight but I started meeting the owners and saw how involved they were compared to other countries. I would go to trackwork in the mornings and throw myself into absolutely everything I could in the office. In my first few weeks Bruce Slade left his role as Gai’s Racing Manager so there was a clear opening in sales. I was fraught with fear and remember telling Gai I’m no Bruce Slade. She said, “You need to find your own way of getting to the same result. You’ll either sink or swim and we’ll soon find out.” That’s one of my favourite things about Gai. She’s always pushing you out of your comfort zone and she completely removes the fear of failure.

I headed up the sales team for a couple of years before our race programmer decided to move on and I immediately knew that was my perfect niche. Organisation, spreadsheets, deadlines, there’s nothing better. Gai wasn’t enamoured with the idea initially as she saw me as a front of house person rather than back of house, but I pleaded for a chance and with a little help from Bloodstock Agent, Marette Farrell, who was in Australia for the sales at the time, Gai agreed to a trial period and thankfully we haven’t looked back since. I’ll always be appreciative of Marette for that.

Adrian, Marette Farrell, Lea Stracey, Gai & Emma at Magic Millions
 

The main aspect of my role is the placing of the horses, strategy and booking of the jockeys. Gai and Adrian have certain rules, based on statistics, which they abide by. It’s my job to offer options and seek opportunities that may not have fitted perfectly, but a race may have come up particularly weak and have extended nominations. Ultimately it’s down to Gai and Adrian because it could be the perfect race on paper, but it’s imperative that we’re guided by each individual horse. It may have gone off its feed and needs a little longer between runs, it may be working more dourly and be looking for further. It can be frustrating when you find that so called ‘perfect race’ but if the horse isn’t spot on, it won’t be winning. There’s a lot that goes into getting to this point. My spreadsheets look pretty intimidating but I need to get the timing right so the horses spell for the right amount of time, start pre-training and return to the stables on a specific date. I’ll look back at successful pathways over the past 10 years that horses took towards the major races and try to replicate them, or at least make sure that the timing is right so they have the opportunity to follow the same path. I keep an eye on the gear horses wear in the mornings and suggestions made by the riders, I lodge the nominations, acceptances and scratchings, and I distribute all of this information to the entire team including foremen, farriers, vets, physios and office staff. I also oversee the communications and provide support for the sales team.

  1. 3. What excites you most about this new role?
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There is no better feeling than really putting your neck on the line and pushing for a race that may not have been the original plan, but it just looks winnable. The very good horses practically program themselves so it’s usually the not so talented ones, and when that comes off and they win, I get the greatest thrill.

  1. 4. What does a normal day look like for you?
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I start at 6am and my first deadline is scratchings at 7.30am, followed by acceptances at 9am and nominations at 11am. I like starting early because it’s quiet and I can prepare everything for the day ahead. Gai and Adrian will call the office anywhere between 6.01am and 8.45am, and their time is precious so it’s important to be prepared. Weekly I also interview Gai and Adrian about our runners for the weekend ahead. I complete a number of tasks between deadlines, like race planning and analysis, checking stewards reports, reviewing the stable’s performance, looking over extended noms, creating trial lists, writing vet notes etc. Once my deadlines are over I focus on owner communications, jockey bookings, distributing information to our team and everything in between. I aim to leave at 3pm though 4pm is much more realistic. I love walking home, which takes me about 40 minutes, as I put a podcast on and in that time I can think about, or learn something new. Even if it is total rubbish. Most of my friends work in racing, my family work in racing and my husband is a keen enthusiast so those 40 minutes each day really help me to switch off and relax.

Emma and her husband Richard pictured with jockey Keagan Latham prior to their first ever runner as owners, Soviet.
 

On Saturdays I usually go racing then Gai and I go through the programming every Saturday evening. I send Adrian an email and it just gives them 48 hours to discuss the options and assess each horse and how it has pulled up. I am therefore usually in quite a good position on Monday morning to act upon their thoughts. Every other Sunday we open our stables to the owners to enable them to come and see their horses, as well as catch up with us and fellow owners, so that tends to round out my week.

  1. 5. Do you have any mentors who have helped you along the way?
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Absolutely. I’ve already mentioned Gai, my mum and Marette Farrell. Another, who wouldn’t know it, is Martin Pipe. My dad grew up with him and they were jump jockeys together so I have been fortunate enough to meet Martin on numerous occasions. I even worked in his son David’s laboratory when I was at university. Similar to Gai, Martin is a visionary and I love listening to him. I probably do more talking than listening as he sits you down in his kitchen with a cup of tea, pulls out a pen and paper and starts quizzing you. He’s always keen to hear how others do things so he can better himself and I really respect that. It gives you such insight into his genius mind and he’s incredibly generous when it comes to giving his time. I would love for Gai to meet Martin as I see so many similarities between them.

Martin Pipe and Emma 

 

  1. 6. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking to make their start in the industry?
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It’s no different to any other industry. If you work hard and give your all, opportunities will arise. You may have to be patient but that makes it all the more satisfying. Learn as much as you can, and don’t be afraid to apply for that perfect job or training program, people will always respect you for having a go. You never know what it might lead to.

  1. 7. What is your favourite time of year in the industry?

Sydney’s Autumn Carnival. Gai has won two Golden Slippers in my time with her so my greatest memories are centred around this time of year.

Vancouver wins the 2015 Golden Slipper 
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Farnan wins the 2020 Golden Slipper 

 

 

  1. 8. What are you looking forward to most once travel opens up again?

Being able to see my family and friends in the U.K.

 

 
 

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'It Takes A Team': Emma Reeves TDN AusNZ Q&A

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