Shea's Say - Managing Expectations

May 25, 2015

Managing owner expectations is one of the ongoing challenges of being a horse trainer. At the best of times you're keeping the lid on a promising horse, explaining to connections after a win not to get carried away when inside you're already thinking ahead or even getting a little excited yourself. The danger is that you set the bar too high and the horse doesn't measure up.

But sadly at the worst of times trainers have to make the call that a horse simply won't make the grade. It's a tough call to make but you have to weigh up the impact of cutting losses and explaining that not every horse has the ability to win races against pushing on and hoping for a turnaround at the risk of wasting owners money.

Last night I had to make another sort of call, and one that thankfully I haven't had to make too often.

I train a very promising young stayer called Thrill Keeper which I had planned to run over 2000m at Cranbourne on Friday night. I was exceptionally confident the horse would break its maiden and progress to city staying races.

But after a powerful gallop yesterday our chiropractor Michael Bryant noticed some heat in one of the horse's legs. After a scan we discovered a hole in his suspensory branch.

I spent the next few hours ringing every owner to tell them we'd gone from being on the cusp of a win to now looking at 6-12 months on the sidelines.

Some were heartbroken, frustrated, lost for words. Others had been there before but were still stunned by the news. It doesn't matter how good your horse is, most owners fall in love with them to some degree and bad news is always hard to take.

Today my filly Novel Dancer runs at Seymour in a Benchmark 70 Hcp as I try and get her back to winning confidence after an aborted Spring campaign and give some good news to a group of owners that have also ridden the racing rollercoaster.

Like Apollo's Choice, she won her first two starts by big margins before placing in the Group 3 Quezette Stakes won by Sabbatini last spring. But we went from dreaming of a run in the Group 1 Thousand Guineas to looking at the horse in the paddock when we realised that she struggled on firm ground. She failed to let down in two runs following the Quezette on Good ground and I had to explain to the group that if I didn't stop her preparation we ran the risk of damaging the filly's confidence or worse, her long term health and soundness.

It was a bitter pill for all of us to swallow but at the end of the day it was the right thing to do by the horse. Everyone wants a Group 1 runner and although the owners were disappointed that their chance might have slipped by, they soon realised that chasing that dream should never come at the expense of the horse.

Hopefully today she can return to the winner's circle and turn around what has been a tough week for the stable.

Shea

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