Tuesday 5 April 2016

We Are 350

Hello everyone, I'm back again!
I thought this would be a good platform to share a piece that Harriet wrote for the Racing Post young writers competition. Her piece didn't get into the final, so we will make the most of it! 
Harriet recently joined the team at Saint Wendred's as my admin assistant. I guess I should do a blog post just about her:) Soon, I promise..........
Tonight I hope you enjoy reading her work:

We are 350                                Harriet Jones (10-02-1994)
It is only natural that history of anything or anyone is gradually lost and diluted over time.
The reality is that it takes the current generation to care about the past in order to preserve the tales to be told in years to come. This year, the Jockey Club Racecourses are bringing the history of our sport into the forefront as 2016 marks the 350th anniversary year of racing in England as we know it today.

The prestige of Newmarket as the headquarters of worldwide thoroughbred racing and breeding is nothing new, it has been known as the ‘home of racing’ since records began here. It was in 1666 that spring and autumn fixtures became annual events on what is now known as the ‘Rowley Mile’ racecourse.

Although the fundamentals of horse racing have remained the same during these 350 years, it is incredible to take a step back and think about the modernization that has occurred. Trainers are now entering and declaring their runners down to the last minute on specialist online systems. It’s astonishing how 350 years ago before any electricity, telephones or even railways it was possible to even begin to organize a race fixture.

It makes you wonder what King James I, (the founder of racing in Newmarket) would think of the many Newmarket equine residents being transported by plane to Dubai for the winter!
With each dawn on the Heath people come to admire the many riders and trainers going about their diligent routines. Whether they realize it or not, each one of them, along with everyone in the town's many racing offices, still have their part to play in the advancement of the ‘Sport of Kings’.
The common continuation over the centauries for those passionate about our sport is the innate feeling of excitement in the potential of what our racehorses could go on to achieve- that unnamed yearling walking past in the same hoof prints as his ancestors may have the potential to become the next Hyperion, Eclipse or Frankel. However, it is the distractions of our fast paced lives nowadays that leave us little time to think about the foundations of our headquarters and the development of racing here throughout history.

I was pleased to discover recently that there are still people in Newmarket exploring and incorporating the past here into their lives and using it for future chapters of Newmarket history. Of all of the many stables in the town, you wouldn’t think that a stable that was named in 2015 would carry such a historical name linking to an almost forgotten story.

It is one of the newest trainers to join the ranks of Newmarket, German born Mrs. Ilka Gansera-Leveque who decided to look into the archives before naming her new stable.
‘Saint Wendreds’ is a stable half way along the Hamilton Road, and was originally the main yard of the stable ‘Seven Springs’ before being split into two last year.
Renowned trainer Bill O’Gorman built ‘Seven Springs’ in 1990 as his new base. As well as constructing his new yard, and training over 200 runners with a 25% strike rate that year, he too managed to find time to do the research into providing his new yard a purposeful name.
‘Seven Springs’ was named after the seven springs of Newmarket and Exning, thought to have existed long before people ever settled in Newmarket. What remains of the springs now lies in the woodland behind Hamilton Stables, occupied by trainer Michael Wigham.

When moving into her new premises, Ilka was intent on seeking out a similarly unique, thoughtful and most importantly meaningful name for the ex ‘Seven Springs’ property. The most central of the ancient seven springs had a little more symbolism to the town than the others and was named in honor of the 7th centaury princess and nun ‘Saint Wendreda’.
The water from Saint Wendred’s well was used by the saint for its healing properties. Legend has it that Saint Wendreda was capable of performing miracles using the holy water by using it to heal both people and animals long before Newmarket was ever synonymous with horses and racing.
Over time, the importance of Saint Wendred’s well with horse racing grew, archives show that some jockeys would take their horses there before an important race, not just for a drink of water to hydrate them, but also because of its religious association to luck and healing.
As a practicing vet as well as a racehorse trainer, maybe it was fate that Ilka, a little known but incredibly passionate trainer came to train in the central courtyard of stables in the ‘Seven Springs’ yard.
Inspired by this, Ilka has named her stable ‘Saint Wendreds’ as an abbreviation of the name of the lady saint whose story has nearly been forgotten to time.
With different trainers coming and going every season it is hard to keep up with all of the different names and faces, but with the symbolic titles of ‘Seven Springs’ and ‘Saint Wendreds’, these two stables will hopefully remain with their thoughtfully given names to carry on the legend for years to come.

This year brings a new chapter to racing in Newmarket and to the town centre as a whole; 'Palace House Stables’, part of the original stables to the royal Palace House is being restored and modernized as part of a £16 million redevelopment project to become a National Heritage Centre for horse racing and sporting art.

Whilst we now have a whole world of ‘virtual’ horse racing and online gambling to contend with, the pastime of a day at the races and a fascination with perfecting the thoroughbred racehorse as an athlete is something that will continue to captivate people from royalty to working class familiesfor many more generations.

When racing returns to Newmarket for the Craven meeting this April, think about how far this small town and our sport has come, let’s raise a glass for the first 350 years, and here’s to another great 350!

Friday 19 February 2016

Where are they now?

Back to blogging! Boy has the time flown by........

There are so many topics to write about, I always try to give it a current spin. 
One subject that we will always have to think about is: what happens to all the racehorses after their career? The good ones go to the breeding shed of course  but what about the geldings or the slow ones? 
I think the racing industry has a collective responsibility, a moral obligation to deal with this issue. Some racing jurisdictions are better organised than others. There are charities and rehoming centres etc.  The media always does a good job reporting about some high profile success stories, which is great.
The reality that us trainers are faced with is that more often than not the buck stops with the trainer. This can be a heavy burden to say the least.

Last year we retired a filly. Before she went to her new home and rider we taught her all the "Riding Horse ABCs" at my yard in Newmarket. We have a decent size school, with some poles etc. Different saddle, different type of mounting (no more legs up), the filly took to it and LOVED her new job. We were able to make the transition as smooth as possible for her. Thoroughbreds are so willing and intelligent, all they need is to be given the chance and they repay you. The proof is in the pictures below :) 



Thursday 14 January 2016

Equine Transformers

The great thing about working with young horses , is the change that takes place in front of your very own eyes. It's so rewarding. When you are caught up in the day to day reality of running a racing operation you don't always have a camera to hand or think of taking pictures all the time. Below I have some iPhone snapshots that actually do capture the phenomenon that I'm talking about.

The above picture was taken on Nov 12th 2015, the very day we picked this yearling filly up from her owner/breeder. Straight from the field as you can see :)

And below you now see her, "Cambridge Favorite", in a picture taken on January 11th 2016. It's horses like this that make the winter weather bearable . Such a little pro and tons to look forward to!

Sunday 3 January 2016

May the Force be with YOU

With horses like Storm Troupour and Force of Destiny under our care , Saint Wendred's is  sporting a Star Wars theme these days.

In weather like todays you definitely need grit , determination and some "Force" on your side. This weekend we spent a lot of time at Chelmsford racecourse ticking all the boxes, a very important exercise for our upcoming debutants. 
Yesterday Shirocco Cloud worked form the gate , and today Force of Destiny (in the pictures)  came for a day out and a racecourse gallop. It was a big learning curve and this dress rehearsal helped our protégées to mature . 
Now, let's see how they come out of their works and before you know it will be time to make the first entries for 2016!