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19 February 2021

Amy Buckley had just started in racing before joining the Godolphin Flying Start programme and undertaking a whistle stop educational tour across global racing. Work experience in Newmarket sowed the seeds that brought her back to join racing’s workforce – a vocation she recommends to all.

Sitting in Newmarket on a rainy Thursday afternoon watching the coverage of the racing at Meydan, it’s hard to believe that we were there two years ago. In a pre-pandemic world, on the Godolphin Flying Start with 11 other men and women, we were living every racing enthusiast’s dream.

For anyone who may be unfamiliar with the Godolphin Flying Start, it is an international two-year graduate programme joining a dozen far-flung people to work and learn in the global horseracing industry. From 2017 to 2019, I enjoyed and benefitted from two of the most informative and educational years of my professional and personal life.

First leg a home fixture

The programme starts in my own country, Ireland, before moving on to the UK. The long-distance travel then starts as we visit the USA, Australia and finally Dubai. It is such a shame that for the current group their travel plans will have been interrupted by the bigger issue of COVID-19. Our group was fortunate enough to enjoy the full extent of this once-in-a lifetime opportunity. From my perspective, it was fascinating to learn how much the sport of horseracing can differ between jurisdictions. This is true even between States when considering the USA. Although prize money in Ireland is slightly better than here in the UK, there are more opportunities and races in general in this country.

Prize money in both these countries pales by comparison to the other countries where we were based. Then there is the turf versus dirt question. In Ireland, the UK and Australia the racing season centres around running on turf, while in America and Dubai dirt racing is of equal if not greater standing. Similarly, there is a stark difference in the support for National Hunt racing in Ireland and the UK, that just does not travel overseas. The Cheltenham Racing Festival in March is just as exciting, if not more to the regular punter, than any major day on the Flat season calendar. In the USA, Australia and Dubai, Flat racing is by far the more popular code. This programme offered all the sport’s varieties and the opportunity of first-hand experience, and to learn from the best in the industry.

Coming full circle

I would encourage any young person looking to further their education and to develop a career in horseracing to consider the Godolphin Flying Start programme. Being immersed in roles in our host countries was what made the opportunity so unique. While in the UK, I spent a month with Flat trainers Simon and Ed Crisford in Newmarket just as they had taken up residence in their new yard. It was an enjoyable and educational month, centred around one of the best weeks on the racing calendar – Royal Ascot. Just over 18 months later, I am back at the yard working for the Gainsborough Thoroughbreds team and looking forward to the new Flat season. Two years ago, I spent my Thursday nights at Meydan, absorbing the racing and culture that Dubai has to offer. Now, I cheer our Dubai-based team on from the UK, full of anticipation and excitement as we wait to see what the 2021 season has in store.

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