Friday, May. 24, 2024

Introducing Kali Francois, Who Is Racing Toward New Challenges Down Under

“No. No way, no how. What exactly is the point of running around in circles when I could be doing something MUCH cooler, like riding through cross-country and show jump courses, and run around in circles at a (slightly) slower pace in the dressage ring? Racing, in all actuality, looks boring, and is not the sport for me. Pointless. Just, no.”

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“No. No way, no how. What exactly is the point of running around in circles when I could be doing something MUCH cooler, like riding through cross-country and show jump courses, and run around in circles at a (slightly) slower pace in the dressage ring? Racing, in all actuality, looks boring, and is not the sport for me. Pointless. Just, no.”

This was my opinion on racing about five years ago, and many of those reading probably have the same thoughts as I did. I get it. I was that person, who was not only not intrigued, but extremely skeptical about the horse racing industry.

I believed the rumors, that most people in horse racing in fact weren’t horsemen at all, getting my information from general tones of learning associations and disciplines I have been involved with through my young riding years. My negative outlook had me, at one point, despising racing.

But, of course, it’s funny how things like “life experiences” and life in general can completely change your viewpoint, throwing it in your face in the long run. I still stood my mental ground prior to attending the North American Racing Academy under the instruction of Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron.

Then, one by one, several of my theories began to change, thanks to the school and Chris. I had the honor of interning at Todd Pletcher’s barn, and coming to Todd’s solidly changed my entire prejudice against the sport. The semester internship turned into working for Todd for a little over 2 ½ years.


Galloping We Miss Artie for Todd Pletcher. Photo by Loretta Lusteg

I have met some of the nicest people through the crew, have learned so much from them all during this time, and still do today. I cannot say enough positive things about Todd’s stable. Easy to say that this show girl is now converted, and if you shut out an experience with horse racing, you’re truly missing out!

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As if life couldn’t have been exciting enough lately, I never could have guessed that I would be writing to you from Sydney, Australia, as I take another opportunity to gain experience both in the saddle and on the ground working for “The Lady Trainer,” Gai Waterhouse (for the record, she’s a doll! Check out her Gai TV episodes on YouTube)!

I found myself on this side of the world by becoming curious on how things run over there and finding an opportunity ironically through Boyd Martin and his Aussie racing contacts. In addition, this is an excellent next step in my training to advance my riding on the track.

I’m pretty fresh off the plane from Sydney, but have started to settle into a routine. I expected to be hearing Aussie accents all morning, every morning, however I hear a mix of Irish, English, Scottish, Indian, Asian, French, and even American accents! That’s been more than enough to keep up with (apologies to all of the Irishmen that have to repeat themselves), but all have been welcoming and delightful to work with!

I find it interesting that so many foreigners have come to work for Gai and have been noticing a trend in the growing industry in young men and horsewomen, finding out that a number of them have done so much international work experience. Other great examples are other Chronicle bloggers like Emily Wagner Miles, Kirstin Alexander, and Marina Royston (best of luck to these ladies!), and any top 10 competitor in your respective discipline, as well as Darley’s Flying Start Program in racing.

Why go to another country if you’re already doing pretty well in your homeland country? Why start over?

Travel in general brings change to you, which is what we all need in life at one point or another! And speaking in equine sport terms, every sport is run differently in every country. Now, think of how many trainers there are per country and how each one of them operates differently. That in itself is a mass of numbers as far as learning little tricks and coming across all different types of horses.

Somewhere down the line, you’ll run across a horse where one of those tricks will be the only trigger that will get that horse to move that switch to “on” or “off.” Learning is the result of getting out of your comfort zone and changing, which is usually a good thing. Time to get out of the comfort zone!

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A more in-depth update to come soon.

Chat later,

Kali

Aspiring jockey and former eventer Kali Francois grew up in Marinette, Wis. Not only is she a HB Pony Club Graduate, but was also involved in 4-H and AQHA, with multiple Grand Champion and Top Ten titles at the state and national level, including representing Wisconsin at the AQHYA Youth World Show. In 2010 she was a working student for Phillip Dutton before graduating from the North American Racing Academy in 2012. She spent the next couple of years working for Todd Pletcher at Saratoga, Belmont, and southern Florida. 

This winter she moved to Australia to continue her next step in training to become a professional jockey in America. She is Down Unda to gain experience and opportunities working for world-renowned trainer Gai Waterhouse. She hopes to come back with plenty of experience to continue the possibility of being a safe, successful jockey. This is a new experience for an apprentice to travel overseas, so be ready for some surprises!

You can also follow Kali on Twitter at @MissFrancois2u. 

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