Saturday, May. 25, 2024

Proving The Clichés True

Cliché #1: “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

I have been at Gai’s for two months now, working at Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney but it feels like its just been two weeks. To say I’ve been having fantastic learning opportunities is an understatement.

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Cliché #1: “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

I have been at Gai’s for two months now, working at Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney but it feels like its just been two weeks. To say I’ve been having fantastic learning opportunities is an understatement.

Not only have I been learning how the racing is done over here, but through conversations with colleagues all around the world I’ve also learned to embrace the differences and similarities between us. In this industry, you never stop learning until you’re six feet under, and the key lesson I’ve learnt is that taking a step back and enjoying what you do is a definitive part in the game and is the most important component to any type of success.

My day at the barn starts at 3:00 a.m., cleaning out a couple of stalls and tending to other morning chores. Everybody is a part of this process, even some of the stable apprentices. Not that they haven’t done this before, but somebody hand a pitchfork to an apprentice in America and please record their reaction, then send it to me so I can have a smile.

I’m on my first horse a little after 4:00, and I won’t be done riding until 8:30. The operation schedule of Gai’s and Todd’s in the mornings are polar opposites, so each morning is different, but I get on no less than seven horses a day here; there are about 145 horses in training at the Randwick facility referred to as Tulloch Lodge. Another great opportunity is that due to the different system in which Gai operates, I get to ride gallops every morning (American term: breezing, pace work; non-racer translation: short interval works, similar to racing speed), which has been the biggest factor in my education in the saddle over here by far.

After a workout, I return to the Desert War stable (she has five separate barns, all named after a great runner of hers) at noon and stick around for about 2 1/2 hours getting chores done. This includes walking horses by hand, swimming horses by hand in the pool, dressing (grooming, rub downs) and giving the horses treatments.

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Frespanol loving the pool

When the weather is nice, a highlight in the afternoon is taking them to a local beach and swimming with them in the water! This includes two possibilities, one involves riding them in the water, and the other is where you’re just there to literally hang on them while they swim for you. I’ve had the cool opportunity to try both. Swimming and possibly getting tan legs? Sign me up.

I’ve also had the chance to take a couple of horses to the races, which is something I haven’t taken a crack at back home. Over here, typical track riders are jack-of-all-trades, whereas in America the jobs are more or less specialized.

Cliché #2: “Swallow Your Pride”

A whole lot of learning has happened within these past two months that I’ve spent here, too much to cover in this article. Once again, the greatest thing about Gai’s crew is that it’s full of riders with many different styles and people who are willing to help you out with literally any question that comes to mind. The result is there is a great camaraderie here.

Coming from the event/show world, I mistakenly thought there wasn’t a great amount of technicality when actually riding racehorses around in circles, but I was wrong (again)! The biggest factor in coming to mind when learning a new style, the way horses ride, heck, even going in a different direction around the track, is just best to admit to know nothing and start from there. Pride is life’s biggest disability.

There’s always something to learn from everybody, even if it is something minute. There are many races out there won by a nose and learning how to get that nose in front makes all the difference!  

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As I continue my Australian education I wanted to give a nod to those I’m learning from, particularly Gai and the team for the win in the Magic Millions Cup in Queensland on the weekend with a huge run by Spurtonic! In addition, I also wanted to congratulate Todd and the team on their Eclipse award for Outstanding Trainer throughout the year 2014! Now back to “class”…

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 read all of Kali’s blogs here. You can also follow Kali on Twitter at @MissFrancois2u. 

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