Stages of survival

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. These are the stages of grief. Disbelief, alcohol, depression, bargaining, acceptance. These are the stages of a racehorse trainer going through the first years of business. Three months ago, I was absolutely sure I was going to have a great summer season and that business was taking off. By the beginning of September, I was considering whether I need to hang up my saddle for good. My string has dwindled to almost nothing and I am not well-armed for a fall/winter season. Two of my two-year-olds will not run this year – El Camino Real is just not ready, and Well Shuffled injured his suspensory ligament. Rendition, bought at the breeze-ups, still has a chance to see a racecourse this year, but she is growing like a mushroom and we have to take it slowly. Blessing Belle is still healing from her accident this summer; Skid Solo moved down south, where he hasn’t done much and may soon be back; Rapsodie turned out to be a bleeder, and no one could have imagined what turned out to be wrong with Hard Way.

So. That leaves us with George, Brazil, Turfani, Piccolo Blue, Timelord and Rendition. George has been disappointing, but like Turfani has ulcer issues and is now being treated, so I think we can still hope. Turfani wrenched her back while winning in Deauville, but is on the mend and should run in Craon at the end of the month. Piccolo Blue has some back ankle issues that we’re treating, but also should run by early October. Brazil is working gangbusters and desperately needs a race, but can’t get in because she has no performance so far. And Timelord, thankfully, is doing very well.

Frustrating? You can’t imagine. But I have found that I have good friends in times of crisis, and even better owners. Jean-Paul Gallorini, who has been my friend and mentor for many years (and has a herd of 20 golden horse statues awarded for his years as top trainer in France) has pointed out many times that what I’ve been able to do with the horses I have has been miraculous. He should know about miracles – he is known for them himself. He also knows about tenacity. He has succeeded because of both. It’s good to have somebody like that who believes in you. And I have a core group of owners who have become friends. They have remained faithful and patient, and it is because of them that I will pull this together and make it work.

I am optimistic – I have to be. I lost that for a week or so, but I have clawed back and am determined to go forward. We still have horses that can and will win – however miraculous that might turn out to be. The objective is, of course, to upgrade, and I am pushing hard to do that. It’s the season for yearling sales and the October horses-in-training sale at Newmarket is around the corner. I’m launching a full-court press to find investors.

On an upbeat note, we will have a special guest in the yard starting on Monday. Shamalgan, who is trained in the Czech Republic for a Russian owner, will be moving in after he runs the Prix Niel on Sunday and staying until he runs either in the Arc or the Group 2 Prix Dollar the day before the Arc. It will probably be a few years before I have a horse this good myself, so at least we can enjoy having one around for a couple of weeks. Maybe my horses can absorb some ability by osmosis…

0 Replies to “Stages of survival”

  1. I agree with your mentor M. Gallorini. When I first found your blog and read about your somewhat unorthodox route into training horses I was very impressed at how well you have been doing in a very competitive market.

    Perhaps it is because you have not really been at this for long that you don’t realize just how well you have actually done so far. A temporary (and it will turn out to be temporary) setback like you have just been enduring is expected in any business, especially one like horse racing. It will all come together, and on the days that it doesn’t quite work, remember – you are still at the track, still around horses and still in Paris. Not that bad really. Keep smiling. The days always seem better when one does that too.

  2. Gina,

    What you’ve accomplished since being on French turf is already quite something. Although I have to admit I don’t know much about training horses myself, I’m starting to get used to blood lines, bloodstock and all this stuff, and I can point at dozens of trainers less successful than you are with much more “investor support” from some of the top spenders at yearlings sales.
    I can tell you’re doing the right things, picking the races with discipline to find the right path for each of your horses. Turfani’s win was no fluke, Timelord’s consistency is no fluke either. History is full of trainers who have a bad spell for whatever reason and who come back stronger.

    And while I saw you the other day in Longchamp on Moulin day with a few guests of yours, I promised to myself that whenever I will be able to afford my own racehorse (or part of it), your stable will for sure be the first one I’ll turn to. You personify XXIst century racing Gina, I believe, unlike many other better-known racing people.

    Wish you all the best and a successful H2 of 2010.

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