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Spring Champions are Made in Winter

Ever wondered exactly what goes into preparing a young horse for their racing career? A few weeks ago I introduced you to a horse trained by Henry Dwyer – a So You Think x Alana’s Dream two year old filly (view that post here). Whilst she doesn't have an official stable nickname, for the sake of this story I'll refer to her as Lani. I've been following Lani through her educational process over the last 12 months as she heads towards the races for the first time...

*Image courtesy of Inglis / Three Bridges Thoroughbreds

At the 2016 February Inglis Melbourne Premier Sale, Princess Park purchased Lot 136. With an impressive pedigree on both sides of the family (her father So You Think won the 2009 and 2010 Cox Plates before taking on the world), this yearling was one of the most athletic looking fillies at the sale. We weren't the only ones who thought this girl was a standout, and there was a bidding war to ensure she came home with us!

From the Oaklands Junction sale complex, Lani headed to Princess Park’s Nagambie base where she spent three months settling into her new home, growing and enjoying paddock life. In June 2016, she then commenced her first round of breaking-in and education. After spending 7 weeks learning how to be handled and ridden, she had a short week's break before heading into Henry Dwyer's Caulfield stables for her first taste of what a racing career entails. During this time with Henry, Lani was tested out and put through her paces. Unfortunately after a few weeks there she went shinsore (a common 'growing pains' ailment in young horses) and went back to Princess Park for another 3 month spell. You can read more about shinsoreness and other ailments in my The Guide: Anatomy post.

Pending a horse’s breeding and personality, it is during these first few preparations of the work / rest cycle where a trainer can gauge the type of racehorse they have on their hands. Does she thrive off a big workload or does she need to be taken along a little easier? Has she got the sprint needed to run over short distances or is she more of a middle to long distance runner? Will she be able to get to the races early in her career or will she need a longer amount of time to mature and grasp what she needs to do to become a racehorse?

In early December 2016, the staff at Princess Park brought Lani back out of the paddock. She commenced a 4 week pre-training schedule of daily bush and track rides coupled with treadmill work to build up her fitness before heading into Henry’s Caulfield stables again. After 4 weeks there doing both track and pool work, it was back up the highway to Princess Park for another 3 week spell. Her preparation then started again with another month of pre-training before the filly headed back to Caulfield in mid-May.

Since her return to Caulfield last month, Henry has been working to increase her fitness and educate her on how to race. Similar to human athletes and coaches, Henry has to manage her fitness routine to ensure she does not get worn out too soon. It's also not just a case of getting her fitness levels right. She must be taught how to jump from the barriers, settle into a race, keep on the same path, respond to the jockey's commands, then sprint home at the end (a horse's ability to accelerate is called their 'turn of foot').

Lani had a jump out (a short practice race) last Tuesday 20th. Jockey Chris Symons was careful not to let her over-race as Henry has found she has a habit of wanting to run 100 miles an hour from the get-go. Henry was happy with her performance and she pulled up from it well. Following on from the jump out, she tightened up and lost a bit of weight so Henry gave her an easy week of swimming and cantering off the pony to allow her body sufficient recovery time.

Name suggestions for Lani have been voted on by all owners and the registration process is currently underway with Racing Australia. The owners are looking forward to seeing her progression, with another jump out planned in the next week or two.

Her pedigree says she may be able to make it to the VRC Oaks during the upcoming Spring, but as we know all too well in racing, anything can happen between now and then. We won't be jumping the gun and Henry will be playing it by ear!

Stay tuned as I continue to follow Lani's progress towards her first raceday appearance.

*Images L to R: Enjoying paddock life. Working off the pony last week.

Images courtesy of Princess Park and Henry Dwyer.

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