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The Hawk flies the coup for the trip of a lifetime

January 12, 2012

Racing in the modern era is an international sport.

Sky Channel and TVN bring the world’s best races into our living rooms, our sprinters travel to England every June to tackle Royal Ascot while Europe’s stayers have become a hallmark of the Melbourne Cup each year.

As a racing fan I have been brought up in an age where racing in different jurisdictions has become increasingly intertwined. I’ve always watched Royal Ascot, the Epsom Derby, the Grand National from afar, imagining what it would be like to one day attend these amazing, historic meetings.

In 2012, I will finally get the opportunity.

Tomorrow, I embark on a six month study trip to Europe. I will be spending a semester at the University of Limerick on Ireland, undertaking subjects which will contribute to my Australian journalism degree.

It may be a trip made possible by my studies, but if my plans come to fruition, it will also be the racing junket of a lifetime. As part of the experience, I have already begun planning the many race meetings I want to attend.

As a parochial Australian, it is the lure of Royal Ascot that looms as the highlight.

I have seen Black Caviar and Hay List clash before, most notably in the T J Smith Stakes at Randwick, while I’ve been privileged to see Sepoy take out the Golden Slipper and the Manikato Stakes. But a potential clash between Australia’s three star sprinters, especially against the best from around the world, in either the King’s Stand Stakes or the Golden Jubilee Stakes will be a race for the ages.

Other possible runners at the Royal meeting include Helmet, Atlantic Jewel, Dunaden, Foxwedge and So You Think, meaning it could be a historic carnival from an Australian viewpoint.

In the mind of the traditional British racegoer, the world’s best race is the English Derby at Epsom. Run over the classic distance of 2400m, the honour roll of winners reads like a who’s who of English racing. In the last fifty years winners have included Sea Bird, Sir Ivor, Nijisky, Mill Reef, Shirley Heights, Shergar, Quest for Fame, Galileo, High Chaparral, Authorized, Sea the Stars and Workforce. I look forward to being at Epsom on the first weekend in June to see another historic running of the great race.

Before that, the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket will be a great opportunity to see the best milers of the generation. It is highly doubtful that we’ll see as extraordinary a race as last year, when Frankel led at a blistering pace and maintained the gallop from start to finish. Still, it will be a chance to see horses who will dominate our breeding industry in the future.

While the 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby are races for the purists, it is the Grand National at Aintree, near Liverpool, which captures the attention of England. I believe it is a better race to watch on television because it is difficult to see across the racecourse at Aintree. Nevertheless, it will be great to experience the atmosphere.

Also, from a jumps perspective, I look forward to going to the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I’m not a huge jumps fan, but I am a massive fan ofjumps hero Kauto Star. The galloper seems to have been going around forever, and his incredible longevity has made him one of the most popular gallopers to grace Britain’s racetracks. I will be cheering him on as he attempts to win his third Gold Cup, after victories in 2007 and 2009.

Outside of Britain, it is the Dubai World Cup which interests and excites me. Their racecouse Meydan represents the opulence of the city, and while the feature race may have lost its lustre in recent years, the other Group 1s on the card have gone from strength to strength. It is another chance to see some of the world’s best racehorses in action.

Above all that, though, it is the opportunity to see the world’s best horse Frankel in action that may rank as a once in a lifetime circumstance. Already, the son of Galileo is on the verge of joining the all time greats. He returns in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, and I hope to be trackside.

But it is not only racedays which hold my interest. Other aspects of the racing industry, including training complexes, breeding operations and related services, are on the agenda too.

In particular, I look forward to going behind the scenes in Ireland. I’m hoping to see Coolmore’s mammoth breeding set up, as well as their huge Ballydoyle racing operation. I want to get to the Irish National Stud, near The Curragh, where trailblazing 1993 Melbourne Cup winner Vintage Crop (now aged 25) lives in retirement.

Over in England, I’ll be making a pilgrimage to racing’s Mecca. Newmarket is the birthplace of thoroughbred racing, and there is said to be no greater training complex in the world. I plan to speak to trainers while I am there. I would also like to spend some time with Racing Post, which I believe to be the best racing news service in the world.

I also hope to see racecourses in France, particularly Chantilly and Longchamp.

It may seem like a lot to fit in to six months, but an oppotunity like this cannot be missed.

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