2017 Winning Wednesday – Special Edition – Flying to the Everest

Emma’s Flying Start & Steve’s Diva- English

Saturday 14th October 2017 will add another milestone in the long history of Australian Thoroughbred Racing. For many this day will be remembered for a number of varying reasons, but for one lucky stable it will be remembered as their horse winning the inaugural running of the richest race on turf- not only in Australia but GLOBALLY! With the total prize pool being a very lucrative $10 million dollars with $5.2 million going to the winner.

The race consists of 12 slots and these have been filled by 12 very smart equine champions, each earning their spot on their own merits. Of the 12, 4 of the contenders are female (Mares & Fillies) so to some it will be the ultimate battle of the sexes.

Thoroughbred Events Australia was fortunate enough to get up close and personal with one of the main contenders. Not only getting to know more about the horse herself as her name and record speaks for itself but we also got to know the people behind the scenes that we usually wouldn’t hear from.

Our Winning Wednesday interviewees do a lot of behind the scenes work with the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott runner- ENGLISH. This week we get to know about the Flying Start that launched Emma Pearce (Racing Manager) into one of the most successful stables in Australian. Along with English’s favourite man (although she may not be his favourite lady) – Steve O’Halloran (Trackwork Rider & Servant)


Guys thank you so much for having us and what a beauty she is.

Now enough has been said about English so let’s get to know you both.

Emma Pearce- Racing Manager for Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott

How & Why did you get into Racing?

I grew up in Newmarket, England, so unsurprisingly I’ve loved horseracing from a very young age. My mum trains about 20 horses now but throughout my childhood she was an amateur jockey so my favourite memories are of us travelling around the country by car, horse float or helicopter, she did it all, to the different race meetings to watch her ride. Training in the UK is very different to Australia, the prize money is very minimal so it is hard to make a living and I think it was seeing my parents work every hour of every day, and giving up most of their own luxuries, drove me to focus heavily on my education.

In my early teens I remember saying to my mum, I love horseracing but if I work hard I can have a successful career and just own them. I think mum was quite delighted by this but then I vividly remember sitting in a laboratory at Exeter University looking through a microscope at shapes that I am sure they told me was bacteria or something and I knew then that I couldn’t do that for the rest of my life.

Godolphin Flying Start was a program that I knew a fair bit about and I knew it could open more doors for me than simply taking over my family’s business, which I was adamant I would never do, so knowing it was a long shot, I applied. I was also preparing to apply for a Masters in Forensic Science but had I not gotten onto Godolphin Flying Start, I don’t honestly believe I would have gone ahead with it. The reality was horseracing had always been my passion and always would be, I just needed to find my niche.

Who have you worked for in the past and what roles?

I worked for the sales company, Tattersalls, in Newmarket during school holidays and would drive the horse float, lead up (or strap horses in Australian terms) and saddle up on race day for my parents. I used to absolutely love programming the horses for my mum because it felt like the one factual thing that you could control.

Mum would tell me there’s a race for every horse so if I got the most suitable race conditions, the rest was up to her.

While I was at university I worked in jumps trainer, David Pipe’s laboratory. David’s father Martin was Champion Jumps Trainer 15 times and there’s so much about him that reminds me of Gai from his work ethic, to his spontaneity and ability to think outside the box, to his emphasis on having the fittest horse in the race, to his constant desire to learn from others. When I go home each year I try to make a trip down to the West Country with my dad, who used to work with Martin when they were both starting out as jump jockeys, and every year Martin sits me down in his kitchen with a cup of tea and quizzes me on working in Australia. It usually comprises of feed composition, training techniques, how horses are bedded, fed, veterinary practices, the gear the horses wear, when, why, the list goes on. He makes notes on every single word that comes out of my mouth. It is the highest-pressure test I have ever sat in my life. In saying that Martin is very giving too. He showed me his 20+ years’ worth of blood and lung wash analysis and is adamant that should you not fall within certain ranges, you will not perform. As a budding scientist at the time, this combination of science and horses provided me with some of the best mornings I can remember during my three years at university.

About a month after I graduated university I began Godolphin Flying Start where I had the pleasure of working with some of the greatest minds in the industry from across the world and this was when my eyes were opened to Australia’s thriving racing industry. I was immediately hooked and when I met Gai, that was it, I was moving to Australia. I started working for Gai, alongside Adrian, in 2013 and haven’t looked back since

How did you come to be Racing Manager for Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott?

During Godolphin Flying Start I was given the opportunity to complete a work placement in each of the five countries we visited with a person or company of my choosing. After we visited Gai’s stable and spent a morning at track work with her I knew that was where I had to do my Australian placement.

Upon completion, Gai told me there would be a job for me should I wish to move to Australia when I graduated from the program and I think it took me all of two seconds to figure out that I would be taking her up on the offer. Within a week of my arrival her Racing Manager moved into syndication so I became Assistant Racing Manager and three years later Adrian became co-trainer opening up the Racing Manager role.

I’ve been incredibly lucky really. I’ve worked very hard but I have been in the right place at the right time and Gai has always been my biggest supporter, affording me life-changing opportunities.

Some people may not be familiar with the role of Racing Manager, tell us more about what your role involves?

My favourite thing about my role is that no two days are the same. My main focus is the programming of the horses as well as communication with the owners. I start at 6am out in the Trainer’s  Tower in the middle of Randwick Racecourse. We bring each of the jockeys and track work riders up and talk through each of their gallops and I make notes.

This is when Gai, Adrian and I can bounce ideas of each other and those who have ridden the horses that morning. This could be suitable races, gear, training techniques etc. At about 7.30am I head to the office, which is only about a 10 minute walk away, and go through the nominations and acceptances with Gai and Adrian before sharing that information with our vet, foremen and farrier. The rest of my day is spent putting together programs for horses, booking jockeys, identifying the most winnable races, making pre-race phone calls to owners, selling shares in yearlings and everything in between.

I am a huge fan of spreadsheets so my working day is generally centered around my spreadsheets.

What is the best part of your role? And if there is a worse part?

The best part of my role is getting a lowly rated horse to win a race, the good horses program themselves but finding a winnable maiden or class 1 in Sydney is much more thrilling than it may sound. Increasing a horse’s value or earning more prize money for our owners via careful placement is extremely rewarding.

The worst part of my role is the fear of missing something. I have always been a bit of a perfectionist so human error is extremely scary to me. I have four different alarms that go off at different points during the day to remind about deadlines and I live my life via reminders on my phone. My memory is average at best so that’s how I combat it.

What is your role in the journey to The Everest with English?

Her track work is consistently excellent, almost every jockey in the country wants to ride her and her owners, the Kelly family, are extremely well informed as they own Newhaven Park Stud. All of this makes my job very easy with regards to English.

What makes English a special horse?

English’s turn of foot (ability to sprint quickly) is phenomenal, as many people will have seen last Saturday in the Premiere Stakes. Her sectionals were blistering that day. She is one of few horses that has the capability to sprint at the start and the finish which makes her incredibly versatile.

How was she selected to represent the Stable out of all of Gai’s horses?

In her very first racing campaign as a 2-year-old English won the Reisling before running second to Vancouver by less than a length in the Golden Slipper. In just her second racing preparation she won the Group 1 All Aged Stakes against the boys and she has won two Challenge Stakes.

When they created a 1200 metre race at Randwick Racecourse worth $10 million, it had her name written all over it. She is already a Group 1 winner so why not prove that she is the best sprinter in the country by winning The Everest?

If English does win, what would that mean to you and why?

I get such a thrill from seeing our horses win having been a small part of the process in getting them to that point so I am well and truly on the very same ride as the owners.

How will you celebrate the win?

I have no doubt that there will be an almighty celebration at The Doncaster Hotel, about 100 metres from the racecourse, which the Kelly family own.

Now over to you Steve, you are fortunate enough in seeing this lovely lady on a daily basis, tell us more about this special mare (that you see more than your wife).

Steve O’Halloran’s “ English” Rider & Servant

What is English like to look after?

She’s not really a people person, she likes to keep to herself and doesn’t like too much fuss. In the mornings I will check her legs, make sure she has eaten up and is happy but then just leave her alone until it’s time for her to go out and work.

Tell us about her personality, does she have any specific mannerisms?

She’s not the type of horse that you can spend 20 minutes grooming, some horses love that, and she doesn’t. She knows she is a racehorse and doesn’t like to be pampered, she’ll tell you in no uncertain terms when enough is enough. When she’s out on the track she is all business, she is just very independent.

What is she like after she has won a race?

She walks back to the tie up stalls like she owns the place, you can tell she is full of confidence and very proud of herself. The photographers get the best photos of her after she has won, she seems to revel in the attention

Do you think she knows the difference between a normal race and preparing for The Everest?

She takes every race as it comes but she certainly knows when it is race day. She is calm when we arrive at the races but as the race approaches she’s ready for action.

What will the big day involve with making sure English is ready to run the race of her life?

When she arrives at the races she will relax in her stall for about 5 minutes and then I’ll start walking her as this is when she is happiest at the races, she hates standing still. This is often for up to two hours before Gai and Adrian saddle her up. The crankier she is at this point, the better, this is when she always runs her best races. I think she is giving herself a pre-game pep talk like a coach would to get the adrenaline pumping through the players.

What would it mean to you if she wins and why?

I am only a small piece of her preparation towards the race, it would mean a huge amount to Gai, Adrian, her owners and the entire stable. It is a huge effort from the team to even get her a spot in the race so to win would be the icing on the cake. Everyone will remember the first winner of The Everest so it will be a proud moment for all of us.

If she does, how will you celebrate?

I will celebrate with Gai, Adrian, the staff and her owners over a few beers. I am sure that Gai and Adrian will give me the following week off so I can continue the celebration…

With not long to go until the big race that has attracted so much media attention, Thoroughbred Events Australia wishes English and all connections including Newhaven Park (breeder/owners) all the best with their mare and the climb to the Everest. We will definitely be cheering home English.



We had to get in on the Act


Interview by Kylie Johnson

Photos taken by Thoroughbred Events Australia.

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