I awoke in time to catch the the last 50 runs required by England to win the test at Headingly. I am not really a cricket watcher but any sporting contest where there was so much at stake is great theatre, and win they did. I can’t get over how tense I was, probably because of our neighbours’ involvement, coaching the English side. 

Good on you Baz, you went there to change the English team’s approach to the and change it you have. You are only coaching white ball contests and I believe the team has won 11 out of 14 of the contested tests under your leadership.

This led me to ponder the examples of inspired coaches: Razor Robertson’s Crusaders, Steve Hansen’s All Blacks, enemy the Warriors seem to be responding, then what about Wayne Smith’s remarkable transformation of our Black Ferns and so on?

This led me to asking the question: ‘Can a horse trainer reverse the form of our runners? What separates the best from the average when you are training an animal that can’t communicate?’ I read where the late Colin Hayes once said it’s 90% commonsense and hard work and, importantly, 10% instinct. I wonder what role instinct plays in coaching our high-performing athletes. I believe it certainly does. Now instinct is the intangible that separates the best from the good.

In racing we are now experiencing larger stables, some in the hundreds. No doubt those with those numbers are supported by very capable lieutenants, the difficulty if instinct plays a role is the ability to communicate in a manner that is understandable.

We have had and still have a spread of trainers, we try to support those who support us. As a result of the amount we spend, we think we are entitled to an opinion, trainers are a hard-working, rare breed who generally, on receipt of the horse we have bred and retained or have purchased for $500k, take ownership. It is often comical to see remarkably successful businessmen (people) entrust their recent expensive purchase to be trained when from the fall of the hammer the horse disappears, the new owner comforts themselves knowing they have insured the their new love so apart from the next twelve months of agistment, vet accounts, breaking in, pre-training, they wouldn’t know it’s alive. When the horse finally presents at barrier trials, the excitement is insurmountable. The now not new owner is surprised at his inability to identify his purchase, he or she has changed so much. To be fair, this embarrassment is avoided by the big trainer. He or she will be, like the owner, delighted at the horse’s development when it has now finally reached the stable.

The disappointing jump-out is when our trainers display why we gave them the horse, that intangible, that mystery that we can’t see, that INSTINCT will confidently predict the eight length deficit of the day will be forgotten when that so-far hidden talent bursts into life.

With many similar first timers there for the day, if the jump-out is one of the earlier events a quick half a coffee will see our trainer disappear, the later jump outs will be shared over a beverage when hopefully the intangibles are even more positive.

So, you can see selecting a trainer is just as difficult as selecting the horse was. Established trainers have results to promote, the reason you join them. However, we are still entitled as owners to dissect their performances. The mystery is how do we differentiate between a good storyteller and the genuine instinct – then does it matter?

Well, like top coaches, with top athletes (our Group horses) there is something that just sifts the oats from the chaff. Call it what you like, look for it and hope you find it – it’s all part of the pieces we need to knit together. It is fun though, so stick with it.



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