• Tara Armstrong


    From a Kimono to a Stetson in twelve months - I reflected as I finished another successful evening's racing at Navan. Last year I was suitably dressed for the Yosakoi Festival and tonight we were in cowboy mode for another popular themed race day. These experiences are thanks to the work experience opportunities afforded from CAFRE and their associations where I studied for my Honours Degree in Equine Management and more recently HRI. 

    When Kate O'Sullivan offered me the Navan Internship I had the preconception of a total focus on racecourse management and marketing. However I was delighted to learn that the internship programme encompasses a very comprehensive overview of many aspects of racing such as integrity, marketing, media, track management and betting. In addition to daily racecourse life HRI have also arranged numerous industry visits. This has meant seldom are two working days the same; the HRI intern ethos is clearly variety is the spice of life!

    The Navan team of Peter, Amy, Donal and Vincent, may be small in number but make up for this with their highly energised and enthusiastic approach to the racecourse's progression, with the office camaraderie obvious to me on my first day. Since starting everyone has shown me great patience and good humour in answering the numerous questions that arise on a daily basis whilst I work through Peter's agenda. With such a good working atmosphere the day is never long.

    This week together with my race day preparation responsibilities, Kate organised a group industry visit to Kildangan Stud on Tuesday. This was an inspirational day. After a stud tour, there were presentations from Joe Osborne, Clodagh Kavanagh and Gerry Duffy describing their roles and aspirations within Darley. The attention to detail in Kildangan was clearly meticulous not only for the equine inhabitants but also for the Darley Flying Start trainees. This unique international management training programme was instigated after HE Sheikh Mohammed followed on from his personal view that "nothing is more important than people" by asking the question of his advisors "how can we nurture the next generation of Thoroughbred industry leaders?" Joe and Clodagh recently celebrated ten years of the programme such has been its success. Given the facilities we were shown at Kildangan, it is an appropriate headquarters for the development of management excellence within the global thoroughbred industry. 118 graduates have significantly furthered their career prospects through the aptly named Flying Start programme. To date I have had the privilege of working with two of these during time spent in France and Japan. Michael Buckley, now Manager of Paca Paca Farm in Hokkaido and Francis Graffard, a successful up and coming trainer in Chantilly.

    Now in my 5th week I have experienced two race days, assisted in the organisation of conferences hosted in the facilities on non-race days and worked on the web site and social media platforms. Part of my next brief is to carry out market research on the profile of our current racegoer to Navan to use this to attract more and to develop race days that meet and exceed the consumers' expectations.

    I have learnt from the Navan team's approach that racing and bloodstock is no longer just an agribusiness, but one of multi-facets, hospitality, sport, trading and tourism.  Funds are such that there cannot be a specialist in each and the operational style has to be one of multitasking.

    Peter's previous management experience in Tote Ireland has given me an insight into the world of betting and has been the topic of many discussions since starting. As Ireland's betting arrangements would appear to differ greatly to the Japanese and French Industries. Having seen the significant benefit of the pari-mutuel systems within these countries in terms of facilities, prize-money and premiums during my time spent there I can't help feeling that this may be what Ireland is missing. 

    It has been a pleasure to work with Navan team and they have given me an invaluable insight into racecourse development, progression and the importance of innovation to attract new customers. Going forward I would like to become involved in the media and I feel placements such as the HRI Internship are a fantastic way to get a broad working knowledge of different aspects of the industry to lay solid foundations for the future.


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