It takes six hours door to door from my yard in Chantilly to Park Paddocks in Newmarket. I go there in the hope of coming away with a nice race filly for 2019.
Despite the friendly company of one of my mentors, Nicolas Clement, I can't help but feel that this is six hours of time that could be spent working through the huge workload that comes with running a racing yard.
It's been an eventful first four months in the training ranks, and I'm hugely indebted to my team to be able to say we've had four winners from just eight runners. I appreciate this is a strike rate that no trainer can maintain in the long term, but it's compensation for hard work from the team and for now it's a powerful marketing tool. When recently seeking advice from Andre Fabre regarding the start up plans I had in place, he advised me that the only marketing any trainer needs is winners.
I'm very much a goal-oriented person. For nearly five years, Nicolas Clement has been telling me that if I'm to meet my own high expectations I need to have at least 10 winners in my first 12 months. Just four months later, I feel we are on track but I'm tinkering with the idea of moving the goalposts.
December is set to be our busiest month to date on the track. With an intended runner in a couple of the remaining Listed races in the French racing calendar, I know what I want for Christmas.
Black-type is on my mind already. It’s the holy grail of this industry. It’s what we all dream of. It is so difficult to achieve but I know I have horses capable of it. As I stand on the side of the gallop waiting to see my string, there is no doubt in my mind that I will be disappointed if we fail to win a black-type race by this time next year.
Now that the stable has grown, getting systems and organisational structures in place has become more important.
I think if any of my past employers were to spend a morning with us, they would all see that parts of their training methods have left a lasting impression. Jim Bolger and Graham Motion in particular would both have cause to call it copyright.
Of course there have been setbacks and disappointments, but I've learned that you can't dwell on them. Repercussion missed his end of year target of the Prix Luthier (LR). The news wasn't overly surprising given he had been running since the Lincoln in March. The horse that took me to Arc day in my first year and gave me two wins at Chantilly will have a well deserved break on grass and will be back to 100% again for the 2019 season.
Nevertheless, making that type of phone call to an owner is a gut-wrenching feeling that I don't think I will ever get used to. Before now, I have only ever had to worry about the horse in this situation.
You have to move on, find the next opportunity; prevent the next setback from happening. Dwelling on these matters breeds negativity, inefficiency and serves no purpose to man or horse.
We took a huge risk setting up with just three horses in the middle of the season. I knew a good start leading into the European sales season was my best shot of gaining traction. Similarly, I was acutely aware that if I had nothing to show for it, I would struggle to attract investment. With current forecasts looking to be at 20 horses for the 2019 season, I feel the risk taken is starting to reap its rewards.
Rather surprisingly, I have close to 50 CVs sitting in a drawer in my office from people looking for work. No signs of the staff crisis in Chantilly it would seem. This has allowed me to be selective and form a hard working team of excellent riders who bond well.
We have signed Flavien Masse, who has ridden 55 winners, as our apprentice. Flavien served as an apprentice to Criquette-Head for a number of years.
The sales season has been hectic. Despite knowing my yard is in the excellent hands of my assistant John Donguy in my absence, I'm anxious to get back the moment I leave. It is at home where things need to go right first and foremost.
I have tried to get on sales grounds to assist current owners with their purchases as well as trying to meet as many potential owners as I can. I found this to be quite an alien concept at the start. Of course I had been used to trying to sell myself as an aspiring trainer, but the entire dynamic has changed. I don't have anybody paying me a wage anymore. Get this wrong, and there are consequences.
It was satisfying to see recent purchase Mutarabby win so impressively on his first French start in a competitive conditions race at Deauville. He wasn't at 100%, yet his performance showed that he is capable of at least Listed level and given his turn of foot, his stamina and his love of good ground, there is a race in Melbourne already on my mind should he progress in the manner I'm hoping.
2018 has been very good to me. We have a lot to look forward to next year and It is with great anticipation that my team and I batten down the hatches with plenty of dreams to keep us warm during the winter months.