Horse and greyhound racing are often heavily associated and they are two sports which share a number of similarities. The concept of being the first past the post is shared by these two disciplines and speed is absolutely essential. Both of these sports are hugely popular betting events and their meetings continue to attract thousands of spectators and fans to stadiums around the world on a daily basis.
Trainers are also an important part of the process, with many of these experienced hands dedicating their lives to ensuring their string of dogs or horses are race-ready whilst plotting the best way of scooping the lucrative prizes on offer. We take a look at whether comparisons can be made between the two sets of trainers and if any similar techniques and methods are used in both spheres.
Greyhound trainers are extremely dedicated to their profession and the majority have many decades of experience under their belt. The dogs are naturally fit and they possess an innate ability to chase. This makes the trainers’ job slightly easier. They must ensure their dogs are race-fit, healthy and mentally stimulated. Daily routines include walking, running and even the occasional swim.
Trainers will regularly trial their dogs at courses around the UK and this helps acclimatise their charges to the individual track and also enables them to become accustomed to racing alongside other competitors. These trials are also used to determine the ability of each dog and will indicate the level of race at which it should be entered going forward.
Greyhounds tend to race once every 5-8 days, which means greyhound trainers can’t afford to drop their standards and dogs must be kept race-ready at all times. This is a quick turnaround and these animals often require a suitable diet and regular massages to ensure they aren’t suffering from fatigue. Each trainer will have various methods and the recovery process is likely to depend on the dog’s age and size.
Each trainer will have a team of staff who will carry out their orders whilst they oversee the operation and search for greyhound racing opportunities and suitable contests for their inmates.
Horse racing trainers
Just like with greyhounds, training horses is far from straightforward and plenty of dedication is required. Extremely regimented days are not uncommon and long hours are par for the course. Days start extremely early and although each yard is likely to have many stable staff on hand to help feed and clean them, it’s the trainer who is responsible for monitoring the overall welfare of each horse.
In the UK, the majority of trainers fall into one of two camps – National Hunt or Flat. The former will school their horses over both smaller and larger obstacles on an almost-daily basis. These trainers will also work on stamina and are likely to ensure their stable stars are able to tackle undulating courses in preparation for the likes of Cheltenham and Carlisle. Flat trainers will need to ensure their charges work on speed and can show a good turn of foot. Some yards specialise in horses taking to the racecourse for the first time and many of them will take their youngsters to nearby tracks which helps them acclimatise and settle, and theoretically aids their chances of getting off to a good start on their debut.
Distance work is absolutely imperative and savvy trainers will target their horses at specific races. Those who are entered into longer contests (two miles for example) will work on stamina during the build-up to the race and trainers will need to ensure that their competitor is in top form and has been schooled over the longer trip.
Finally, there are hundreds of different races taking place each week in the UK and the calendar is released months in advance. Trainers must carefully manage their horses’ schedules and one of the key aspects of their profession is being able to spot perfect opportunities for their charges. Every handler wants to pick up the prize money and the ability to spot a winnable race and find the perfect event is one of the most underrated skills amongst the training fraternity. Joseph O’Brien is one of the youngest trainers in Ireland and he stresses the importance of keeping horses “fit, healthy and placed in the right races”.
The minutiae of training both greyhounds and horses can be the difference between success and failure but there are many differences between the two professions. Both disciplines require meticulous preparation – although, there are a greater number of things to take into consideration for horse racing trainers. Each horse will have an obvious preference – for example, a horse may not enjoy slow ground and this must be factored into the decision-making process. The going can change overnight and studying the weather forecast is yet another part of the job. Trainers will always have the option to withdraw their horse from a race if the ground is deemed unsuitable.
Greyhound trainers will need to pick the right races for their dogs but with 12-race cards a regular occurrence, these opportunities are generally more forthcoming. Some horse racing trainers can often school their horse for upwards of ten months before they re-appear at a racecourse. This takes great dedication, patience and belief.
Trainers must also work closely with jockeys and ensure that clear instructions are issued pre-race. This is an extra layer of preparation which is not required in the greyhound training process. Booking the right pilot for the job is imperative and utilising claimers (who are given an allowance) is an additional consideration, particularly if they’ve have been given a difficult handicap rating.
There are many similarities which can be made between the pair, with the most obvious comparison being the need to keep all competitors fit and healthy. The ability to spot the perfect opportunity is also something which is shared between the two professions. Knowing the sport inside-out is absolutely key. Both sets of trainers will be expected to work long days and rarely take holidays, with dedication to the sport an absolute must.
Finding the best training regimes for the individual animal is an element which is shared by both camps and knowing when a horse and greyhound’s wellbeing is of concern is another underrated skill which must be taken seriously.
Ensuring the horse or greyhound in question has the stamina and speed to compete over the correct distance is something which is shared across the disciplines and this is yet another similarity between both sports.
There are many contrasting elements to training horses and greyhounds but there is also plenty of cross-over between the pair. Both sports remain extremely popular and although trainers should take the majority of the credit for saddling a winner, it is often the dedication of the yard as a whole which is responsible for the majority of those successes.