Three prominent Betfair Hollywood Park trainers – Mike Mitchell, Eoin Harty and John Shirreffs – are participants during the Spring/Summer meet in Darley Flying Start, an international intern program for the racing industry.
Started nine years ago by Sheikh Mohmmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Flying Start selects 12 applicants each year to partake in the two-year program. Aspirants are selected from a worldwide pool of ambitious young adults in their mid-to-late 20‘s.
Two of the 12 have been assigned to trainers at Betfair Hollywood Park and are scheduled to stay for one month. Jack Davison is working with Eoin Harty while Tony Tian is learning under John Shirreffs. Both students are staying in the home of Mitchell and his wife, Denise.
Accommodations are just one of the provisions for the interns. They are also given health insurance, laptops, transportation, flights and visas, and most importantly a full scholarship. The one thing they must bring to the table is a strong desire for personal development.
“Jack (Davison) is going to get a crash course over the next month,” said Eoin Harty. “I’ve had kids in this program before and it’s just like life, you have to really want it to make something of yourself. This is an excellent opportunity to see what they’re made of.”
Harty indicated that no area of horsemanship is off limits. “He’s going to be my assistant slave for the next month,” the trainer kidded. “He’s going to get a chance to see how the entire stable runs; from hot walking, galloping, schooling, taking them to the gate and reading the condition book.”
Mitchell’s son-in-law, Craig Rounsefell, whose nickname is Boomer, was an intern in the program several years ago and now heads Boomer Bloodstock. Trainer Dan Blacker, who won his first race at Betfair Hollywood Park last Dec. 18 with Hameildaeme, also is a former participant.
“It’s worked out real well so far,” said Denise Mitchell. “They (Jack and Tony) have known each other since the orientation period, so there wasn’t any social awkwardness. They share a car to the track from our home in the South Bay. They’ve already spent time in Lexington, Kentucky and Ireland. In August, it will be one year since they joined the program. They’ll get a month off after Hollywood Park and then they’re off to Hunter Valley, Australia.”
Harty knows the importance of the experience to the young men and the hectic pace they’ll have to keep, but is keeping a lighthearted approach. “Jack’s been here two days and he hasn’t quit yet,” quipped the Irish-born trainer.
AMAZOMBIE COMING BACK STRONG; TRIPLE BEND NEXT LIKELY OBJECTIVE
When it comes to discussing Amazombie, last year’s champion sprinter, Bill Spawr starts slowly, but the tempo quickly increases and he finds it difficult to rein in his exuberance.
If all goes as planned, the 6-year-old California bred will take the exact same path as last year when he captured the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs, using the Triple Bend, Bing Crosby, and Ancient Title as springboards.
“I’m probably 75-80 per cent sure he’ll go in the Triple Bend (Grade I $250,000 Triple Bend Handicap June 30th),” proclaimed Spawr. His last race (Grade II Churchill Downs Stakes May 5th), the trip and all, really tired him out. But he’s back to normal now. He tried to run off this morning, which he’s never done. He’s really sharp now.
“If I have any doubt at all, just the slightest doubt, I’ll wait for the Bing Crosby because I have to win the Ancient Title. That’s my goal. The Breeders’ Cup, you have to be lucky to win that, but I have to win the Ancient Title because it’s a ‘Win and You’re In.’ It’s a huge, huge difference. I didn’t believe how important it is until I won it last year.”
Sizing up this year’s competition, Spawr wasn’t shy. When asked about Roman Threat’s decisive victory in Monday’s Los Angeles Handicap, the trainer replied “Bring him on. We already beat him easy.” Though the official chart shows Amazombie defeating Roman Threat by three-quarters of a length April 7th, Spawr said the margin is deceiving.
“Did you see my rider (Mike Smith), he could have opened up any time he wanted. Did you see Shackleford run? He defeated all the ‘world beaters” on the East coast (in the Met Mile May 28th). Shackleford will never run against us going six or six and a half furlongs because he wouldn’t have a shot. He’s not going to run that short because he’s going to catch horses like The Factor, who’s going to go (a half mile in) 43 (seconds). He can’t do that.
“Take nothing away from that horse, he’s a good horse. We would have liked to win the race the other day (when second to Shackleford in the Churchill Downs Stakes), but things didn’t go right. I know that and the people with the horse know that. But we were pleased to run second to that horse. They were five or six in front of the others and some of them have already come back to win.
“We probably had our best day of the year Monday when Shackleford won that race and Roman Threat won the Los Angeles. It more than flatters us.”
Amazombie breezed three furlongs in 36 flat May 28th, his first official drill since returning from Kentucky. ”I feel so confident in the horse,’’ said Spawr. “I think he’s even stronger than last year. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
CLOSING STRIDES—Mario Gutierrez, who went from obscurity to world prominence after guiding I’ll Have Another to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, is scheduled to be a guest on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” Thursday night, June 7th. The show airs at 12:30 a.m. on NBC………Birthday wishes to John Shirreffs, who turns 67 Friday…….Hunch players cashed a nice exacta on Monday’s Memorial Day card when Called to Serve and Patriot’s Voyage ran one-two. The $1 return for the 4-3 combination was $23.80…….Congratulations to apprentice Vinnie Bednar, who won his first Betfair Hollywood Park race in Monday’s fourth race aboard Miles Long Gone at $12.20. The 20-year-old bug boy came back two races later to score a $17.20 surprise with Charlie’sboywins…..Monday’s 50-cent Players’ Pick Five produced the second largest payoff since the wager was inaugurated a year ago at Betfair Hollywood Park. Two tickets, both purchased through ADW accounts, each collected a $117,578.60 jackpot……….Tom Quigley, owner and publisher of The Horseplayer Magazine, will be Kurt Hoover’s guest Saturday on the Inside Scoop seminar, which begins at 12 Noon at the Paddock Tote Board…… Santa Barbara based reggae Band Rebelution headlines this week’s Friday Night Concert Series. Admission is $10 before 8:30 and $20 after. Race fans are invited to play the Horses and Homers contest every Sunday for a chance to share in the $600 prize. For official rules and details, go to www.betfairhollywoodpark.com …….From an original field of 1,729 contestants, nine are still alive in the Show Me the Money contest as the sixth week of racing begins.
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