Thank you very much for your question and I must say that I have been in France having fun with two horses that seemed to go into the starting stalls without any problem. The issue was that each of them refused to leave the starting stall when the gates flew open and the race was on. That can cause any owner to choke on his mint julep or in France it might be champagne. Watching your horse give the field twelve or fourteen lengths before choosing to leave the starting stall is a death knell to the best of racehorses. One of the horses I worked with gave the field fourteen lengths and then actually won the race. That’s how talented this young horse is.
He was entered back against much tougher company after calling in an expert to deal with him. He gave the next group of opponents another fourteen lengths and finished third beaten by only two lengths. These were high level competitors and one would have to ask just how good is this horse? I worked with him for ten days and it is my hope that he will get adequate human assistance before his next start which is scheduled for early July. It is a mile and one half race with a purse well over a half million US dollars. When I left France he was flying out of the starting gates. I almost feel that he was too keen following ten sessions of my work with him.
The problem, as I see it, is that this young horse was ultra sensitive to the touch and the rails inside the starting stall were simply too invasive. As Thoroughbreds set their feet for the start, they will generally spread wide behind and then push off like a rocket. As they leave the stall at top speed, their stifles are burned by the rails that jut out into the stall. This is not an uncommon occurrence and it requires innovation so as to protect the area of the flanks and the stifles as the horse leaves. I say that they protective blanket that I use was invented by a horse called Prince of Darkness. He was in training in Newmarket, England when they called me in to get him right.
Sir Mark Prescott was the trainer and I must say I knew absolutely nothing about the phenomenon of rail sensitivity. I would feel guilty about this except that no one else in the world knew anything about it either. I am sure the problem existed, but I think that everybody took the position that it was just a stubborn horse and had nothing to do with the rails. I worked for about a week with Prince of Darkness before realizing what his issues were. Once I had the protective blanket on him, the problem was over. We went straight to the races at Warwick in England where he was extremely successful in a field of 26 horses and the blanket now circles the globe.
So this is what I was doing in France and I will be happy to report on the ongoing progress of the two horses that are incidentally by the same sire, interesting, eh? Perhaps I can include their names and those of the connections, but I think we better wait to see what the outcome of my work actually amounts to. Let me tell you that France is no longer the country of good food, but they certainly know how to make out a huge bill for a dab of chicken with some sauce poured over it. I’m looking forward to more work in France, but next time I will insist upon a kitchen in my hotel room. One can actually buy food at a grocery store for a relatively reasonable price.
During the course of my stay, I met some wonderful people who were very helpful. They rescued me from my inability to navigate the pitfalls of Charles de Gaulle airport. It is a chaotic tangle of roadways that even the natives can’t fathom. My driver parked at 2E, an airline terminal and walked with me to the Sheraton in the middle of the airport. He asked at the reception desk, “Where do you park for the Sheraton Hotel?” and the answer was, “Wherever you want and then you walk to the hotel.” He said, “What about the bags?” And then they said, “The bags have wheels on them, don’t they?” Actually they did, but we could have used one of those push trolleys.
It is a different world out there, but I have to tell you that Chantilly is heaven for horses. There is one training gallop through the trees that is over two miles long on the straight.There are about 50 training gallops through the forest in the Chantilly area. It is natural sand and for thousands of years the leaves have worked their way into the soil to the extent that it has produced a surface like the finest protective mattress that a horse could train on. It rained heavily while I was there, but the incredible footing was never a problem to train over. Every horseman should make the trip to learn about this natural utopia for horses. It is phenomenal.