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KATE Grimwade was appointed assistant trainer at Flemington to James Cummings almost 12 months ago and, while the work at Godolphin’s historic Carbine Lodge stables is demanding, the rewards are immense. Since her appointment there has been one reason after another to celebrate. It all began for Kate when the imported Pivotal horse Avilius (GB) won the VRC The Bart Cummings-Gr.3 at the beginning of October. Four weeks later at Australia’s most prestigious race meeting, Victoria Derby Day at Flemington, Rainier, Osborne Bulls and Best of Days came out of the Melbourne stables to score.
Then, on the first Tuesday in November, the Charlie Appleby-trained Cross Counter (Teofilo) carried the royal blue colours of Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolpin to victory in the VRC Melbourne Cup-Gr.1.
“The driving factor in taking up the position was working for James in a team that was obviously going places,” Kate said. “I virtually hit the ground running when I arrived at Flemington.
“Hartnell, who I’d worked with at Godolphin in Newmarket five years earlier, was in the stable and Avilius, who I’d spent a lot of time with previously, came down from Warwick Farm and won The Bart Cummings. The highlight of the spring was having the three winners from the Melbourne stables on Derby day. It was a real dream result and a day I’ll never forget. Then, of course, came the Melbourne Cup with Cross Counter, who I’d worked closely with at home.”
The joy ride continued for the stable into the new-year when Exhilarates, by Snitzel, produced a whirlwind finish to snatch victory in the Magic Millions Two Year-Old Classic at the Gold Coast. By then Godolphin was having its most successful season in Australia, but more Red Letter Days were on the horizon.
Outsider Kiamichi, by Sidestep, scored a surprise win in the $3.5m Golden Slipper Stakes-Gr.1 from stable mate Microphone, with the MRC Blue Diamond Stakes-Gr.1 heroine Lyre, trained by Anthony Freedman, completing the trifecta for Sheikh Mohammed.
Microphone, by Exceed and Excel, registered his Gr.1 victory in the ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes, while Avilius scored twice at the elite level during the autumn. Others such as Alizee, Bivouac, Flit, Home of the Brave, Multaja and Hartnell, a grand old campaigner, have performed with distinction.
“I think the two year-old success we’ve had through the Melbourne yard is something I am most proud of,” Kate said. “We’ve had an amazing crop of two year-olds, but to have three of the stakes winners coming out of the Melbourne yard has been a real thrill. I was fortunate enough to watch the horses work at Warwick Farm on the Tuesday morning before the Golden Slipper, which was brilliant the way everything turned out. I think Microphone then going on to win the Sires’ Produce, coming out of the Melbourne yard, was an even bigger thrill than Derby Day, it was huge.”
Now an energising force for the stable, the fact that Kate has fitted into the scene so readily comes as no surprise because it seems to have been her destiny since childhood. Her father Joe, with the support of her mother Lyndsey, rose from relatively humble beginnings to become one of the most respected and distinguished identities in the English thoroughbred breeding industry. When Kate was born in Somerset, in the west of England, her father had the Blackdown Stud, for national hunt horses, near the small market town of Wellington.
“I remember that from the age of four I was up foaling mares with my Mum,” she said. Then in 1987, when she was five years old, the Grimwades moved to Newmarket following the appointment of Joe as manager of the National Stud.
“When we moved from a point-to-point yard at Somerset, which was pretty rough and ready, to the National Stud it was quite a transition I can tell you. Being on the National Stud I wasn’t allowed my own pony unfortunately, but every morning I was working in the yards, teasing mares, foaling down mares, taking mares on walk-outs and I literally spent every second I wasn’t at school doing something.
“I was always very much on the stud side of things and it wasn’t until later that I was really exposed to the racing and training side. Although I did well at school I always knew that I wanted to work with the horses, so I left at 16.”
After a decade at the National Stud, during an era when the likes of Be My Chief, Celtic Swing, First Trump, Keen, Rock City and Suave Dancer were on the roster, Joe was appointed manager of the Royal Studs in Sandringham.
“With Dad working for the Queen, I went to work for the military as a civilian groom of the Kings Troop and the Royal Household Cavalry,” Kate said. “I also helped out on the Queen’s private yard, sometimes going riding with the Queen and looking after her horses at Windsor Castle.
“The Queen is always very good to her staff and was kind enough to give me a few thoroughbreds coming off the track to re-train as riding horses. It was amazing to be able to spend time with the Queen and to get to know her and to listen to her talking about horses. Her depth of knowledge was incredible and she could talk about pedigrees going back five generations.
There was no way you were going to pull the wool over her eyes.”
When two years on Kate decided she definitely wanted to be involved in thoroughbreds she entered the Irish National Stud course. Introduced in 1971 the course aims at educating young people for a career in the industry and has long been regarded as an exceptional training ground. Among the stallions standing at the stud was the Damister horse Celtic Swing, the sire of the much-revered sprinter Takeover Target, whose 21 wins included the Royal Ascot King’s Stand Stakes-Gr.2.
“Celtic Swing was my favourite horse while I was there,” Kate says. “I adored him because I had known him as a foal at the English National Stud. Probably the most significant horse I worked with while I was at the Irish National Stud was Urban Sea, who is the dam of Galileo, Sea the Stars and another high-class horse in My Typhoon. Urban Sea was there as a broodmare and working with her was a great experience as you can still see her influence coming through in a lot of ways.”
After completing the six-month breeding course in 2002 Kate returned to the Irish National Stud the following year to run the foaling unit. “We foaled down more than 300 mares, which was the busiest foaling season in Ireland at the time, and I think Europe also,” she said. It was while at the Irish National Stud that Kate learned of the two-year, full-time Management and Leadership training program titled the Darley (now Godolphin) Flying Start course being initiated by Sheikh Mohammed.
“Being on the first intake I was one of the guinea pigs or pioneers, whichever way you want to look at it. In retrospect it is quite an honour, as so many graduates of the course have continued to become significant figures in the thoroughbred industry. It has an amazing list of alumni.”
The course Kate undertook started in Ireland and continued on to England in the latter part of 2003. It then went on to Kentucky at the beginning of 2004 and in August of that year she “touched down” in Sydney for the first time.“We were primarily based at Kelvinside, because at that stage it was Sheikh Mohammed’s only property in Australia,” she said. “It was at the very, very beginning and actually one of my first jobs was helping with the fencing of all the paddocks at Kelvinside.
I also had a couple of weeks working for Arrowfield doing their yearling preparations, which was a great learning experience.” From Australia the program took the students to Dubai in January of 2005. “While we were in Dubai we had placements with all the racing administrations making up the UAE and spent several weeks with different trainers to get an overall picture of what was happening.”
Those in the program also acted as stewards at the Dubai World Cup meeting. The feature event was won by the talented Devil His Due (USA) mare Roses In May and, as Kate recalls, Australia’s Danehill (USA) horse Elvstroem won the Dubai Duty Free-Gr.1 for trainer Tony Vasil and jockey Nash Rawiller.
On graduating from the Darley Flying Start program in July Kate secured a position as assistant to Darley’s bloodstock adviser John Ferguson, who was based at Newmarket. During her six months in that capacity Kate was responsible for conducting John’s research before sales at Tattersalls, Goffs and Keeneland, as well as assisting with stallion research and broodmare analysis.
“Besides going to the sales I was very much focussed on pedigrees. The number of horses we were seeing was amazing. I remember one day at Keeneland we looked at a total of 280 yearlings, which was an enormous amount of horses to look at and I think that year we spent more than $US50m at Keeneland.”
With the lure of Australia proving powerful, Kate returned “down under” in January 2006 to fulfil the role, at Kelvinside, of yearling manager for Sheikh Mohammed. “I found I was missing the Australian culture, the friends, the weather, the racing and I felt there was more of Australia to discover. The Kelvinside operation was still completely commercial then and we sold pretty well everything we bred as yearlings.”
Amongst the draft was the filly by Elusive Quality (USA) from the QTC Queensland Derby-Gr.1-winning Danehill mare Camarena, who sold to the Woodlands Stud Syndicate for $900,000. Racing as Camarilla she won the ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes-Gr.1 and MRC Blue Diamond Prelude-Gr.3 and went on to produce, to Exceed And Excel, Guelph, who captured at Blue Diamond Prelude, ATC Sires’ Produce and Champagne Stakes-Gr.1 for Sheikh Mohammed.
“It was a great thrill to be involved in that,” Kate said. “Then in 2008 Sheikh Mohammed bought the Woodlands Stud Syndicate from the Inghams, vastly expanding his operation here.”
As negotiations for the purchase were being conducted Kate moved back to England to accept a position as assistant stud manager at Tweenhills Stud at Hartpury in Gloucestershire.
“I was actually head hunted by David Redvers as he had said to me a few years before that he would like me to work at Tweenhills and it suited me at the time to take up the position. It was very interesting, being part of a small stud that had to battle to make ends meet, after being with Godolphin at the other end of the spectrum.
“It was eye-opening to watch the way David selected yearlings that were in a very different bracket to what I’d seen with John Ferguson. He was buying less fancily bred horses, but he made up for that by having a great eye for a horse and being able to pick an athlete. It was probably the first time I had exposure to working with someone on such a strict budget and seeing how they coped with that.”
David, who Kate describes as having “exceptional” ability, has in more recent times been on a spectacular upward spiral in his role as manager for Qatar Racing, who won the VRC Melbourne Cup-Gr.1 in 2011 and MRC Caulfield Cup in 2012 with Dunaden.
Additionally Tweenhills has been taken over by Qatar Racing and this year stood the highly prized Cartier Horse of the Year Roaring Lions (USA), by Kittens Joy. However, as the fortunes of David Redvers and Tweenhills were about to blossom, Kate again came back to Australia to become racing manager for Hall of Fame trainer Gai Waterhouse at Randwick.
“I was missing Australia greatly and there was an advert in The Racing Post about the job,” she said. “A friend of mine persuaded me to apply and I rang Gai. She told me if I gave up smoking I could work for her and I gave up smoking.
“Once I’d given up smoking, I got on a plane, landed at the Gold Coast Magic Millions in January of 2009 and began working for Gai straight away at the yearling sale. Gai and Denise Martin’s Star Thoroughbreds were, at that time, the biggest buyers by a long way and between them I think we bought 56 yearlings at the sale.”
It was Kate’s “first full-time job in a racing yard” and she appreciated the privilege of working with the stars in the Tulloch Lodge stables in that period. Foremost amongst them was the More Than Ready (USA) mare More Joyous, the winner of eight Gr.1 and more than $4.5m and the 2008 STC Golden Slipper Stakes-Gr.1 and AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes-Gr.1 winner Sebring,
a son of Vinery shuttler More Than Ready (USA).
Also being prepared by Gai were the Encosta de Lago colts Manhattan Rain, who won the AJC Sires Produce and in 2009 ran second to So You Think in the MVRC Cox Plate-Gr.1, and VRC Ascot Vale Stakes-Gr.1 hero Northern Meteor. Kate was also involved in buying Descarado, by High Chaparral, and Herculian Prince, by Yamanin Vital, as tried horses from New Zealand.
Descarado subsequently won the MRC Caulfield Cup-Gr.1 in 2010 and Caulfield Stakes-Gr.1 in 2011, while Herculian Prince greeted the judge in the AJC The Metropolitan-Gr.1 and STC Kingston Town Stakes-Gr.3 in 2010. “Robbie Waterhouse was very heavily involved in those purchases,” Kate said. “After they passed his and Gai’s tests it was my job to try and find people to become shareholders in them. It wasn’t hard because you were virtually selling Gai, but it was a new avenue for me. I was used to having 300 horses and one owner to going to having 300 owners in one horse. Learning how she made racing such an enjoyable thing for everybody was another great experience.”
In August of 2010 Kate elected to return to the UK, where she became responsible for Darley’s Hamilton Hill pre-training facility at Newmarket where horses were broken-in and pre-trained for Godolphin and Darley. “I didn’t really know what I was going to do back in England,” she said. “I was in touch with John Ferguson just when he was looking for someone to run the pre-training operation. It was a huge complex with a massive turnover of horses.”
During her eight years at Hamilton Hill “countless” winners at the elite level, including the Santa Anita Breeders Cup Juvenile-Gr.1 star Outstrip, by Exceed And Excel, had their early education under Kate’s guidance. The others included the likes of Hartnell, Avilius and Cross Counter, who Australian racegoers are now well and truly familiar with.
“We were allowed to take the horses up to full work so we got to know them very well,” she said. “ It was probably more than the pre-training yards do in Australia. They were ready-to-run when they left, which was an amazing experience to get to see animals of such quality going to that level.
“I hadn’t given a thought to coming back to Australia when I saw an internal posting about the position running the satellite yard at Flemington for James. Now I am really loving being in Melbourne, being part of the racing community down here and enjoying the stellar season we’ve been having.” n