Blog 2 – Michael Andrews
The course began for the large majority of us on the Sunday night before the start of the scheme. The British Racing School, who looked after us amazingly throughout those two weeks, put on a welcome drinks event as a chance for us to meet both the two co-ordinators (Cath and Peter) as well as each other. We all agree, both at the time and in hindsight, that Peter and Cath are real gems.
Meeting everyone else on the course, socialising all day and all night, was awesome. Everyone comes from such different backgrounds and their love of racing likewise. A significant portion did equine degrees and had real hands-on knowledge, whilst some were betting-centric and were less confident with horses and others did sports journalism degrees. We even had an Oxford University grad!
Although the sleep deprivation kicked in as soon as the second day, I think almost all of us would say that the two-week course was definitely the best part of the graduate scheme. The lectures, trips and yard visits organised by the BHA were an incredible insight into every aspect of the racing industry. No matter how much you thought you knew about the industry, there was something new to learn.
Every day was different, with lectures from companies such as Weatherbys, the ROA and numerous departments within the BHA, consistently intermingled with lectures on marketing, bloodstock and journalism. We also became a little infamous for asking a constant barrage of questions, but every speaker was happy to answer – even the cheekier ones. Talks from former jockey, Dale Gibson, ITV presenter and ex-grad himself, Ed Chamberlin, as well as RUK presenter, Nick Luck, were just some of the highlights.
On other days, we were up at the crack of dawn to visit yards (Ed Dunlop and Mark Prescott), studs (including the National Stud and Darley) and historic centres, such as the Jockey Club Rooms and Palace House. We were also fortunate that Cath and Peter would even land us invites to extra evening activities, including the Cheveley Park stallion parade and a talk from Lanwades Stud.
On the final two days we went to the Newmarket July meeting, not only to watch Alpha Centauri reign supreme, but to shadow four of the BHA’s on-course teams: judge, clerk of the scales, starter and vet. Everything about their role was explained in great detail and I know I personally learnt a lot from the experience.
The end of the Newmarket fortnight is quite a sad goodbye – as everyone now headed their separate ways to placements across the country – and after two intense weeks you get quite comfortable talking about racing 24/7! The social side of the course should not be understated; we’d be around each other from 8am to midnight most evenings. We played football – incidentally one night with jockey Cieren Fallon – and, since the World Cup was on as well, bonded over both the penalty win over Colombia and the loss to Croatia. The course would be nothing without the day-to-day activities, but it is certainly made by the great mates you make too.
Since the course has finished, eight of us even went to Irish Champions Weekend in September to visit the two Irish grads on the course and see Roaring Lion vanquish Saxon Warrior once more.