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2nd March 2006

Bright Future Off to a Flying Start        by Lissa Oliver


The Darley Flying Start management training programme is the brainchild of Sheik Mohammed Rashid Al Maktoum, helping to develop future leaders of the bloodstock industry. It provides twelve lucky students each year with a unique opportunity to take their talents around the globe and avail of some of the finest minds within the industry. Fully-funded by Sheik Mohammed, Flying Start enables students to study at the highest level, regardless of their background.

The two year course takes in stud residencies in Newmarket, Kentucky, Dubai, Australia and Ireland. The cost to Sheik Mohammed is high, but the training and experience for the twelve students is invaluable and the rewards extend throughout the bloodstock industry, ensuring that the future looks bright when off to such a Flying Start.

Founded in 2003, Flying Start’s initial students included Australians Henry Field and Stuart Boman, as well as students from Japan, Germany, Malaysia, Britain, Ireland and the USA. Henry found the diversity of students to be as rich and rewarding as the subjects covered. As he pointed out, no matter what difficulty he encountered there was always someone to call upon for assistance. For Stuart, the opportunity to experience for the first time life on a farm and living in a rural setting was deeply rewarding. He also gained much from his first visit to a foals sale, at Newmarket in the UK.

The group begin the two year course in August at Kildangan Stud in Ireland, spending their mornings breaking young horses and their afternoons attending lectures on veterinary, pedigrees, transport, management, farriery and communications. The course subjects are geared towards producing experts in horse production, with full hands-on skills; as well as management skills, including finance and accounts, legal issues, information technology and human resources.

In October, they move on to Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket, Britain; then it’s off to Kentucky, Australia and Dubai, before returning to Ireland and finally Britain once more for their well-deserved graduation. It may sound like the horseman’s holiday of a lifetime, but current student Craig Rounsefell will soon tell you otherwise. There is little time for play; indeed, precious little time to cram in all the necessary study involved in working towards the excellence required for that final graduation.

Craig, 24 and hailing from Brisbane, was the only Australian candidate accepted for this year’s Flying Start. To even get this far is a considerable achievement and the CVs of the twelve youngsters, from seven different countries, make for impressive reading. Craig studied at Queensland University, working with Gai Waterhouse during his student years. Naturally he didn’t simply walk into such a position and already had a wealth of experience.

“I spent many of my school holidays while growing up working for Terry Catip at Misty Downs Farm at Warwick, preparing yearlings, taking racehorses to the track and working with mares and foals. On completion of my Secondary Education in 2000 I decided to take a year off before commencing University and was fortunate to be able to spend my Gap Year coaching sport at the Duke of York’s Royal Military School in Dover, England,” Craig explains.

“During my first break I went to Ireland and whilst visiting the Curragh racetrack mentioned that I would like to get some holiday work. This led to my working for Irish trainer, John Oxx, for the two longer holiday breaks during that year. This was a most interesting and informative time for me as Mr Oxx was extremely generous with his time and imparting his knowledge. On returning to Australia in 2002, I commenced a Bachelor of Commerce at Queensland University and worked for Gai Waterhouse in her stables both in Brisbane and Sydney during the holidays.”
“In 2004 and 2005 I worked with Mrs. Waterhouse at the Australasian yearling sales and was fortunate to spend time with George Smith, who is highly regarded by those in the industry for his knowledge of the thoroughbred. Upon completion of my Degree I moved to Sydney to work full time for Mrs. Waterhouse, who has been extremely supportive. My working days were divided between the stables and the office.”

As might be expected, Craig is no stranger to racing. “My Great Grandfather Reinhold A. A. Roghan was a jockey. He rode Master Bernie to win the 1899 Queensland Derby and the 1900 Queensland St Leger. Reinhold’s father (my Great Great Grandfather) trained Master Bernie.” On the maternal side of Craig’s illustrious pedigree, his Grandfather Gordon V. Kavanagh was an amateur jockey in the 1930’s and 1940’s, riding throughout Queensland. “In 1931, he rode against champion professional jockeys, George Moore and Neville Sellwood, at a race meeting in Charters Towers,” Craig recalls. “He also trained racehorses which raced in Central Queensland, his most successful being Ellie’s Way which won 16 races. He was also a very experienced stockman and had a particular gift in the area of breaking in horses. My father, John Rounsefell, has had a life long interest in thoroughbreds, both in the breeding and racing aspects, as well as working in the industry by specialising in thoroughbred insurance.”

Of course, given such a background it was only natural that Craig would want to pursue a similar career. “Throughout both school and university a lot of my friends wanted to become teachers, accountants, lawyers and the like, although ever since I first set eyes on a racehorse I knew where my heart lay. It’s in my blood and there is no doubt my parents have been my biggest supporters. If I am able to combine my professional career and this passion then I think I will be one of the lucky ones.”

Securing a place with Flying Start has certainly helped in that good fortune. “I was fortunate enough to spend the 2005 Goffs Million Yearling Sale in Ireland with internationally renowned bloodstock agent Charlie Gordon-Watson. Being able to spend this time with Mr. Gordon-Watson was both very informative and invaluable. The course also involves many challenging assignments including the completion of an Equine Science course from the University of Limerick. We continually have to prove that we are learning from the tasks we are undertaking and have to follow up all practical assignments with written ones detailing our understanding of the tasks.”

As Craig points out, “Darley Flying Start is a once in a lifetime experience that is only possible through the generosity and foresight of Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. By working with likeminded people and being taught by the world’s best throughout such a comprehensive course, it places us in such a unique position to chase our career dreams.”

Craig’s story will no doubt encourage many aspiring youngsters to apply for a place on next year’s Flying Start programme. What advice can he offer young hopefuls?

“Everyone on the course comes from such diverse backgrounds and cultures which adds to the Flying Start experience. It has definitely been a great help to have both an academic and practical background as there is a mixture of both hands on and theoretical work covered.” But Craig has the best advice of all to impart, for which he is a living example.

“Work hard, dare to dream and believe in yourself.”

With grateful thanks to
Racetrack Magazine