Mark Newnham is Gai’s 2ic. He is a trainer in waiting and a ripping bloke to boot. Next year he is hosting a tour to the Kentucky Derby. I am going to try get on it (hopefully Mark needs a minister of entertainment!), and I urge anyone who can go to go. Here is Gai and Mark describing the trip…
For 18 years, almost daily, in fact… absolutely daily! I have worked closely with Mark Newnham. Mark rode his first race for me in 1996 and since, there is barely a position within Tulloch Lodge that he has not occupied. After Mark hung up the race saddle, he worked exclusively as my most trusted trackwork rider. He then became a stable foreman (while still riding trackwork), and over the last little while Mark has graduated to become my assistant trainer. Since 1996 there is not a Group One winner that has passed through Tulloch Lodge that Mark has not had a major impact on. Grand Armee, Pierro, Fiorente just to name a few. Mark has looked after them all and has had a major impact in their success. The young man certainly knows his racing.
Needless to say, there is probably no one else who you would rather lead you through the United States. What does this have to do with racing you may ask? Well Mark is leading a tour together with Ambassador Travel to the 2015 Kentucky Derby. In Australia we have the Melbourne Cup and the Golden Slipper, in England they have the Epsom Derby and the Grand National; France has the Arc, Japan has the Japan Cup and Dubai has the World Cup. The Kentucky Derby is America’s greatest race. It is the race that stops the United States. The race, which is a 10 furlong test of stamina for three-year-olds, takes place in what the Americans refer to as ‘the horse capital of the world.’ The race itself is run and won at the famous Churchill Downs, but in the lead up to the race, Mark will take you to Lexington to visit the rolling hills that dominate this part of the world. Here you will find world famous stud farms including the iconic Three Chimneys.
The race itself produces champions that after they win, generally become champion sires. In T.J.’s day horses like Secretariat, Northern Dancer and Seattle Slew won the race. All three of these stallions were immortal champions on the track, and went onto great things in the breeding barn. Secretariat would be listed in the top five greatest thoroughbreds of all-time to run anywhere in the world. What is rarely mentioned is that Secretariat at stud, sired 1990 Melbourne Cup winner Kingston Rule. Kingston Rule still holds the record for the fastest Cup ever run. Still today when I am trawling through the pedigree pages of the hundreds of yearlings that I inspect every year, rarely do I not see Northern Dancer listed, sometimes on both sides of the pedigree page. Northern Dancer is a generation defining stallion and his rise to fame started with victory in the Kentucky Derby. In recent years horses like Big Brown and Fusaichi Pegasus have won the great race. Both these stallions have had success in Australia, with the progeny of Big Brown getting better and better as we speak.
Mark will take you on a trip that brings together the best of what American racing has to offer with a dash of historic precedent thrown in. There is no more exciting ten furlong race in the world than the Kentucky Derby, and with Mark’s knowledge of the industry, his determination to achieve and his ability to entertain the masses, this will be a trip for the ages.
I will now pass the pen to Mark to detail the finer points of his tour. Have a blast. Gai xxx
It is regarded as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sport” and is the pinnacle of the North American racing calendar. The Kentucky Derby is one of the most iconic races and sporting events in the world and 2015 marks the 141st running of this time honoured event. It is my pleasure to extend you a warm invitation to join me on the 2015 Kentucky Derby Racing Tour.
Gai Waterhouse Racing is very proud to be involved with Ambassador Travel – Australia’s leading provider of thoroughbred racing tours.
For this tour we will have the pleasure of enjoying the many scenic highlights on offer throughout the United States as well as some of the most spectacular thoroughbred racing North America has to offer.
To begin we travel to Los Angeles to experience a day of racing at Santa Anita Park which is the host track for the 2015 Breeders Cup. I have visited Santa Anita on a previous occasion and also know one of the leading trainers there and so I am very much looking forward to returning. Upon arrival our tour will enjoy a sumptuous lunch in the clubhouse restaurant situated in the historic art deco style grandstand overlooking the track. With its beautiful backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Santa Anita is one of the most picturesque racetracks in the world.
We then travel to Las Vegas, “The Entertainment Capitol of the World”, where we will have ample free time to try our luck in the casinos, get pampered in the world class day spas, shop til we drop at the premium outlets or perhaps take in one of the many world class shows on offer along the Las Vegas Strip. My wife Donna will be coming on the tour also and she is very well versed on the best shopping in Las Vegas and will be more than happy to assist those in search of a bargain.
Our tour will then make its way to horse country, Lexington Kentucky, which is situated in the magnificent Bluegrass Region and frequently referred to as “Thoroughbred City” or “Horse Capital of the World” This beautiful region is made up of gently rolling terrain, fertile soil and has extremely favourable weather conditions thus making it the perfect environment for breeding and training champion thoroughbreds.
We are currently making arrangements to visit some of the world renowned stud farms whilst we are in the area, including Three Chimneys, Ashford (Coolmore) and Jonabell (Darley) which are home to some of the most famous and successful stallions’ ever seen including Big Brown, Fusaichi Pegasus and Thunder Gulch, all of whom have stood in Australia in recent seasons. Lonhro stood a couple of seasons in the US at Darley and is of course the sire of Gai’s best horse in Pierro.
Traditionally around Derby time these stud farms are not usually open to the general public however thanks to the solid relationship that Gai Waterhouse Racing has formed with some of these farms, we are fortunate enough to not only gain access inside, but take a tour through the grounds and observe the current crop of champion stallions that are standing.
Another unique experience our tour will enjoy is a relaxing breakfast at Keeneland Racecourse whilst watching morning track work before embarking on a sightseeing tour of Lexington and a stop at one of Kentucky’s famous Bourbon Distilleries to sample “America’s Official Native Spirit”.
Of course the main event is the “Run for the Roses” – The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs; which is one of the oldest and most famous races in the United States and the first leg of the American Triple Crown. It is the US equivalent of our Melbourne Cup as it is the only horse race that attracts attention outside the racing community.
We will enjoy excellent reserved seating above the winning post and an unforgettable day at this memorable event. Take the opportunity to soak up the party atmosphere whilst soaking up the traditional Derby drink, the mint julep.
Choice is the key on this tour and apart from designing your own itinerary around the Kentucky Derby; you will also be able to choose from a variety of optional day tours as well as having the option to extend on to some of the many other exciting destinations that North America has to offer with the assistance of one of Ambassador Travel’s experienced consultants.
I look forward to welcoming you on to what will be a most memorable tour.
For more information please contact
And now for some great Kentucky Derby wins…
War Admiral 1937
Seattle Slew 1977
Good luck and stay tuned.