10 August 2016, USA ~ Marketing some of the top Thoroughbred stallions in the world, planning events for 250 -10,000 people, working with powerful sponsors to broaden the scope, entertainment factor and prize money of top-sponsored race days, and planning media events that will excite International viewers and the press – these are a few of the projects that occupy Rachael Gowland on a daily basis.
In Rachael’s Words
“I was born and brought up in North Yorkshire in the North of England. I went to boarding schools from a young age. It is not unusual for people to go to boarding schools here in the UK. It teaches you to stand on your own two feet, makes you very independent, and gives you a good sense of yourself at a young age. I first went away when I was 8 to Queen Mary’s School, then at 12, I went to Harrogate Ladies College in Yorkshire. Then, I earned a Master’s degree in Geography at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland; I studied Geography as I wanted to study volcanos, but my math was not good enough!
I was not sure what I wanted to do next. As I could cook, I started working for a catering company in London, but shortly moved back to Yorkshire as I did not like the city lifestyle – I’m a country girl at heart – I then worked for a catering company in Yorkshire.
One day I was in a local pub with some girlfriends bemoaning my lack of career and direction. Someone in earshot came over and told me that Mark Johnston, one of the biggest race trainers in the North of England (he is a Classic winning Thoroughbred trainer), was looking for someone to work in their office in Middleham (the Newmarket of the North of England). My uncle had owned race horses, I had ridden ever since I was young, but did not know much horse racing.
The very next day I made an appointment. They put me to work for the afternoon in the office, and they took me on. For my first job in racing, I was an afternoon assistant; I recorded race results of their horses, typed up vet visits in the books, went through sales catalogues to mark-up timings on the pedigree pages. I began work at 2 pm and finished at 7 pm, 6 days a week. This was my ideal job as I’m really bad in the mornings. I worked for Mark for a year. Mark and Deirdre Johnston have been so supportive throughout my career. I am still in touch with them now. When I got the job working for Shadwell, they were over the moon for me. They have been a massive inspiration and support.
After working at Mark’s, I worked for a year with Amanda Perrett, a racehorse trainer in Sussex. Her father was Guy Harwood, who trained Dancing Brave, winner of the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe, and many other good horses. (Amanda took over the training barn in 1996).
Always Looking Forward
I heard about a course at the National Stud at Newmarket. It was a 6 month residential course on Thoroughbred Stud Practice & Management. The work is done outside with horses during the day with lectures in the evening. At the end of that course, I won the Tim Dunlop Memorial Award as the highest rated student on the course, and I was offered a job at the National Stud running their papers and checking pedigrees. I was there for seven years and I saw it through the transition from being owned by a Government institution to owned by the Jockey Club. During that time I started off as the Stud secretary, then took on stallion nominations, stallion marketing, tours of the National Stud (which is open to the public) and finally added the coffee shop. I had my hands full. At the end of my time at The National Stud I was awarded a Pride of Racing Award by Racing Welfare for being an “up and coming” member of the UK Bloodstock industry.
Just as my interest was starting to trail off in my work at The National Stud, the job came up with Shadwell to sell their Thoroughbred nominations. I applied and met with Richard Lancaster. When I came out of my first interview and rang my boyfriend, I told him I was nervous when I went in, but now really nervous as I really wanted to work at Shadwell!
I did get a second interview and they offered me the job. My first day I watched Gr.1 hope MUKHADRAM being beaten by a whisker at Royal Ascot. and I wondered if this was a bad omen. Actually he won a Group 1 the year after, and he was my first stallion to market for Shadwell and has been very popular.
This from Shadwell news article at the time:
Richard Lancaster, Shadwell’s stud director, commented: “Mukhadram is a group I winner in the U.K. and has defeated a total of 49 stakes winners to date including 24 individual group I winners. He will also be the first son of Shamardal to stand in the U.K. With his sire experiencing a real purple patch with 20 stakes winners in 2014 alone, Sheikh Hamdan felt now was the right time to retire him to stud. A fee has not yet been set for him, but our intention is to pitch him very fairly to attract the maximum number of mares and give him the best possible start to his stallion career.”
The one thing that I did not have a great deal of experience with was events and race sponsorships. Within six weeks I was asked to put on a Shadwell-sponsored day at Deauville for 250 people with lunch. I had no idea what I was doing. At the end of it, Angus Gold, Shadwell’s Racing Manager, gave me a thumbs up and said, ‘You would never know that you have not done this before.’ That gave me confidence.
The Shadwell Team are very good. I admire them. I think Sheikh Hamdan is very conscious of potential and making certain that what we do is for the greater good of the sport. I also really admire that the DIAR Committee have great ideas themselves, are willing to listen to great ideas, and are keen innovators as well. They don’t just react but take a step back and look at an issue.
After that race day at Deauville, I felt a lot more comfortable but it wasn’t until I’d done my first Shadwell Day at Newmarket, in September of each year, that I really knew the importance of a well-executed, high-profile event.
I’d seen Dubai Day at Newbury, but it was a bit of a lost soul with no real focus. After that first Dubai Day I attended as part of Shadwell, I sat down with Mirza and we talked about the promotions and races. He asked me, ‘What do you think? Can you give this something new?’
Shadwell is a huge sponsor. I realized that in Arabian racing it is very important to connect things. The sponsors are pivotal to the racing. Sponsors can dictate dates, locations, and conditions. We have a lot of power. I did not appreciate when we started off how much power we have, but now realizing that it can be used for the good of all.
We started to get a handle on Dubai Day. As Mirza got to know me a bit better, he asked me to come out to Dubai, and come out to Rome … and we spent a lot of time talking to Richard Lancaster, who has a massive background in Arabian racing, and we developed ideas. Richard, Mirza, Abdulla, and the DIAR committee, we are pioneers in developing these programs. Why waste all these sponsorships around Europe when we can use them to build up to this one day that covers everything from grass-roots racing to the higher levels?
Dubai International Arabian Races
Dubai International Arabian Races has spent a great deal of effort to get Italy into racing. They had sponsored races in Italy for a long time, and saw a lot of potential there. We got together with a few of the Arabian breeders at lunch at the Capanelle racecourse and they knew what they wanted to do but did not know how to get there. We got in touch with IFAHR, supported the right races, and brought in (along with Sheikh Mansoor’s team) the status that was needed in order to improve Italy’s Arabian racing, help it gain membership to IFAHR and stage its first ever international stakes race in May 2016. This is an achievement we are really proud to be a part of.
Equally, the Sheikh Mansoor Conference in Rome of this year was a brilliant strategic move which put Italy right on the map as far as Arabian racing is concerned. It proves how powerful and successful sponsors are in promoting and developing Arabian racing.
This year for the Newbury DIAR day, for the first time Italy is competing and Sweden has brought six horses. I am so proud of our collective achievement and to get those 26 International declarations for Dubai Day. We have achieved in three years exactly what we wanted to achieve. All we have left is to get the USA to come race their horses here at Dubai Day and stay for the summer!
Other Sponsors of Arabian Racing
From our point of view, we welcome any and all support for Arabian racing. We do try to compliment rather than compete. We would like IFAHR to take a stronger role in this regard. Everyone who sponsors Arabian racing has put something substantial into the pot; the Royal Cavalry of Oman, Sheikh Mansoor and the Sheikha Fatima Festival, Qatar’s contribution to have an Arabian race on the Arc de Triomphe weekend and at Glorious Goodwood. The Million and over prize money available is huge, but for me, I still think the Arabian Kahala Classic race on Dubai World Cup night is the pinnacle of the Arabian racing dates.
The Racing in Europe and the UK is Strong
The racing in Europe and UK has a great deal of potential to develop and prosper. It would be a massive compliment to the program if the US could join the party a bit more, be a larger representation in IFAHR, and be mindful of the positioning of their major races so that people could plan for them and work up to them. The sponsors and benefactors are extremely generous. Organizations such as IFHAR need to create environments where people can have sensible conversations about the improvement of the sport.
The Future of DIAR Day
We hope to continue to develop and establish more International runners and to expand the role of our Sponsors throughout the programs.
Rachael’s Shadwell job titles include: Marketing Manager at Shadwell Stud (UK), Norfolk. Responsible for international marketing, PR and sponsorship accounts for Shadwell Estate Company Ltd and Dubai International Arabian Races. Management of events, branding, PR as well as on-line presence including website development, social media feeds and print media advertising. Current projects include sponsorship and stallion management in UK, France, Italy, and global sponsorship on behalf of DIAR.