Horse Racing

Their Striped Sword: Dan Blacker

Last year, we conducted a popular Q&A series called ‘Smaller but Still Super’, in which we featured veteran coaches who built a competitive racing cage with relatively small amount (click here to view the archive). This year, we’ll be highlighting coaches who were once beginner coaches, but now have a few years of experience and are looking to make a name for themselves as they grow the barn. We’ll talk about the challenges that come with being single, advice for coaches starting out on their own, how the upcoming youth coach class is different from previous generations, etc.

Dan Blacker said he always knew he wanted to be a coach. His first job was with British diving championship coach Nicky Henderson and he spent his school holidays hanging out in his native England and France. But it wasn’t until a trip to America on the Godolphin Flying Start program that he fell in love with the racetrack lifestyle.

As part of the Flying Start program, the rider took time to learn from Richard Mandella and he returned to work for the Hall of Fame coach in 2007.

After working under Mandella for two years, Blacker spent two years with Tom Albertrani on the East Coast. In 2011, he jumped at the opportunity to set up his own stable.

Since then, Blacker has made a name for himself in the training ranks in California. Last year, he not only hit 100 career wins, but also celebrated his best season with 16 wins of the year and over $880,000 in earnings.

Blacker’s name has long been associated with his top earner Hit the Road (Medaglia d’Oro). After perusing the unsold ring in Book 1 of Keeneland’s September 2018 Sale, Hit the Road was picked up by Blacker and his partner Craig (Boomer) Rounsefell for $160,000. Hit the Road brought Blacker to his first Breeders’ Cup at the age of two and then gave him his first Class I win at the age of 3 at the Frank E. Kilroe Mile S in 2021.

How did you finally get into going out alone?

Jamie Lloyd, a UK blood supply agent is currently training in California and he will be returning to the UK. He asked me if I wanted to start a business, but I wasn’t sure if I was financially ready. But Jamie gave me several owners and I started with three horses.

I met Gary Stevens when I was working for Jonathan Pease in France. When I first started, Gary had just finished practicing. I asked if I could borrow some equipment. He told me to go to this container in Sierra Madra and get whatever I needed. I opened it up and took two saddles, some webbing, everything I needed, and brought it back to Hollywood Park. I went to get the first three horses from Jamie, then found the two keepers and asked if they wanted to work for me. I don’t have a lot of money, but fortunately I have some friends who have helped me move forward.

We built it from there and now 10 years later we have 30 horses.

Blacker spent a lot of time with future superhero Into Mischief during his time with Richard Mandella | horse photo

What was the biggest challenge in the first few years when you started?

The first big challenge was going from assistant to head coach. As an assistant, you always have an idea of ​​how you want to do things when you are the boss. You take part of the routine from the people you work with and then build your own, unique to you. So you have this idea in mind, but then when you take the plunge, it’s a big difference when you don’t have that person to ask what to do. You are the one who has to make the decision for everything and in the end if something goes wrong you are the one who has to answer it to the owner. You never really deal with the owner when you’re the assistant, but when you’re out on your own, suddenly you have to take on all this responsibility. There are a lot of things you don’t think about when you’re an assistant that you now have to do every day.

You have to learn how to wear many hats. You have to be a good communicator, a good horseman and you have to be good at finance. I started my business with no real background in running a business and I had to learn by doing. I opened a QuickBooks program and started learning.

Is there anything industry-wide should do to make it easier for instructors to get started?

That is what is truly unique about America. It’s one of the best places for young coaches to get started without major financial backing. Back home in England, it’s hard to be a coach. You need a lot of financial support because you need your own yard. Here you can have three horses and three stalls and you go.

In general, I think young people in the US are given opportunities much more easily, especially compared to my hometown in the UK. I think Americans in general are a lot more open to giving opportunities to young people if you can prove that you work hard and are passionate about what you do. You don’t need a famous last name and it doesn’t matter what you look like. If you have a little success, people will give you a chance.

I think finance is the hardest point. Running a business in any industry takes a lot of planning. I really cherished it from the beginning and it would be great if there were some guidance on how to set up a viable business.

What do you think makes your stability or your training style unique?

We really focus on the individual routine for each horse when training and feeding.

We place great emphasis on communication. We send weekly updates. We film every workout and send workout reports. Most of my owners are not locals, so it’s great that they can see the works. I think that’s one of the most important. That is why we are here. If I can get owners to be more involved in the preparation of their horses for the race, I think I’m doing my job. The more you get them involved, the more I think they like it and the more likely it is that they will become longtime owners.

I like to think that in terms of horse training, I can train any kind of horse. I know I speak with a British accent but ironically, my stats are actually a bit better on the ground just because we had a decent horse race recently. I worked for Richard Mandella and he won Class I races at all distances on all surfaces. I hope that one day I can get close to his record.

Hit the Road gives Blacker his first Class I win in the 2021 Frank E. Kilroe Mile | Benoit

What was the main takeaway from your time working for Richard Mandella?

There are so many different things I learned from him that I still think about today. He’s the best horseman I’ve ever met.

The main thing is to pay attention to detail and really focus on each horse. Training a horse is more than just what they are doing on the track. That’s their whole life – the way they behave in the barn, the way they behave in the grazing yard, the way they eat. The entire life of a horse can affect the outcome of a race.

As Mandella’s assistant, we spent all our time in the barn watching how they behaved. It’s about all the little things that I don’t think a lot of people think about. Winning or losing is sometimes just a matter of time, so for Mandella it was about trying to tweak these horses and their habits to gain every kind of advantage.

What does this upcoming generation of teachers do better or differently than previous generations?

The obvious one is communication. There is a lot more emphasis on communication these days.

In terms of training, I think horse training has evolved in every part of the world. There’s a lot of talk about horses racing less often than they used to. I think it’s a combination of different things when playing. It is possible that the breed was bred over generations to run faster, and it is possible that the breed has become more difficult to keep to the sound. But more likely, with more statistics and numbers analyzed these days, trainers were able to see that the horses ran better with more time between races. When you space out races more, horses tend to run bigger and have better records. If you’re up against a coach who has a gap in his races, you’re at a disadvantage.

Not always so. You can get a good running horse every two weeks. But overall statistically, I think trainers have learned over the years that horses run a much larger race as the races spread out. It’s hard to compete with people who do it unless you’re doing the same thing, so I think that’s just how the styles of training have evolved over the years.

Can you tell us a little bit about Keeneland file Did you do with Boomer Bloodstock? Will we see those people again this year?

I am truly indebted to Vicky Leonard and Boomer for all of that [Craig Rounsefell]. They came up with the idea and I just went along. I was a bit skeptical at first because I’m not one to jump in front of the camera. But when we started, I realized that what they were trying to achieve was amazing and it was crazy that we got so much positive feedback from it. A lot of people came and said how much they loved the videos. If it can shed some light on the process we go through when buying horses, then I think we’re doing our job. Boomer actually does his homework before finishing it and in the videos you can see how much effort he put in. Then I got some calls and people wanted to join, so I think we definitely got some new partners from there.

Who is your favorite horse that you have trained?

It’s a pretty easy thing—Get on the road (More than getting ready).

He had some minor injuries after last year’s Pegasus game so we gave him a break. He came back and was a bit frustrated, but after his last race one of his splints became inflamed so we’ve been going easy on him lately. This will be his last training year. Hopefully we’ll get him back to the races against Del Mar this summer.

I truly believe he deserves to be shot as a stallion. He’s got a great lineage, he’s precocious and he’s always had a great mind. As a trainer, those are the types of horses I want to train. He’s had a rough racing career, but that’s largely due to the pandemic. He really has everything I would hope for in a racehorse. He was very competitive and he won a bet race in second, third and fourth place. I hope it has a chance to become a stallion as it has all the traits you would look for in a racehorse.

Is there a rising horse in your stable that we should know about?

A horse named ArrowtheGreat (Pride). He finished second last summer at Del Mar. After a small issue we brought him back and he was a bit let down here last month, but was really sick after the race. He is a really nice horse and I have high hopes for him in the second half of the year. He will be back at his desk next week.

We have some exciting 2-year-olds coming up, including a toddler good magic. We’ve heard good reports about him from Ocala.

If you’re not at the racetrack, what can you be found doing?

I have three daughters. I spend a lot of time with them. They are all active in softball and soccer.

What’s your favorite restaurant to go to after winning?

My wife [TVG host Christina Blacker] And I love going out and trying new places. There’s a good one in Pasadena, a new Italian place called Piccolo. But all of you Breeders’ Cup participants, don’t take my place.


News7F: Update the world's latest breaking news online of the day, breaking news, politics, society today, international mainstream news .Updated news 24/7: Entertainment, the World everyday world. Hot news, images, video clips that are updated quickly and reliably

Related Articles

Back to top button