Welcome to TDNAusNZ’s ‘It Takes A Team’, brought to you in conjunction with Thoroughbred Industry Careers. Here we highlight and celebrate some of the heroes of our industry. The strappers, riders, stud-workers and people behind the scenes of our champions. The people who are up late into the night foaling or up at the crack of dawn to trackwork, working tirelessly to keep the industry running.
Today we talk to a graduate of the Godolphin Flying Start program, who has used all of the contacts and experiences offered to him through the course to gain a leg up in the industry. Dane Robinson is the Racing Manager of Highclere Racing and attributes the success in his career so far to the Flying Start course and the mentors he has met along the way.
Dane Robinson - Highclere Racing Manager
TDN: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get started in the industry?
Dane: I grew up in a family of horse men and women on the South Coast of NSW. My grandfather Kevin Robinson and father Terry have been training for decades. Pop was a legend in his day in harness racing and along with the help of his family, steered the stable towards thoroughbreds in the 90’s, before his passing in 2005. Dad still trains thoroughbreds out of his Shoalhaven Heads property where we have access to Seven Mile Beach to work the horses. In my opinion, it’s one of the world’s best surfaces and environments to train a racehorse.
While sport and school took priority, I got involved doing weekend stable shifts and took every opportunity to be at the races with either Dad or my uncle Robert Price, who trains with my cousin Luke out of Kembla Grange.
Once I finished my Finance degree at Wollongong University, I landed a job with Gai Waterhouse in her finance department and was fortunate to be part of the team during Fiorente’s Melbourne Cup and Overreach’s Golden Slipper victories. From there I was lucky enough to score a spot on the Godolphin Flying Start Program which give me world-wide experience, education and contacts in the breeding and racing industry; and that ultimately led me to Harry Herbert and Highclere.
TDN: How did the Godolphin Flying Start Program help you to get established within the industry?
Dane: Flying Start accelerated my establishment in the thoroughbred industry by at least 5 years or so and has given me further experience, confidence and industry contacts. To this day I continue to draw on the experiences and relationships built over the two-year program and will do so throughout the remainder of my career.
Sheikh Mohammed will be remembered for many things but his vision to establish the Godolphin Flying Start Program will be one of his greatest contributions to the international thoroughbred industry. The opportunities are endless for graduates, and I would encourage any young person who wants a career in the thoroughbred industry to start building their CV towards gaining a place on the program, because it really is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity.
The Highclere Racing team, Harry Herbert, Dane Robinson and John Warren
TDN: How long have you been the racing manager at Highclere Racing?
Dane: I started with Highclere in 2016 upon graduation from Godolphin Flying Start and I am now coming towards completing my third year with the team where my main focus has always been on the Australian arm of the business.
TDN: You’ve spent a lot of time travelling between Europe and Australia, do you find big differences to the way things are run in Australia compared to overseas?
We’ve tried to maintain the model in Australia in line with what has worked well for Highclere in the Northern Hemisphere for the last 25 years when purchasing yearlings and tried horses. Although in saying that, we are in a fortunate position to be entrenched in the UK and Europe which is gives us the opportunity to buy and bring classy stayers just under the handicap to take on the lucrative Cups races in Australia. We focus on utilising the knowledge and relationships of the team on the ground in the UK to source these stayers early and bring them Down Under. We’ve had some success already with Group 1 winner Opinion and Group 2 winner Libran. Both horses have earned over $2 million between the both of them!
Dane (left) at Royal Ascot
TDN: What’s the toughest aspect of your job?
Dane: Breaking bad news to share owners never gets any easier and we’ve been unfortunate to have lost a couple of lovely horses in the last 12 months due to accidental injury.
TDN: And what about the best?
Dane: Winning races and sharing the joy and excitement with the share owners is by far the best aspect of the job and is obviously what we’re in this business for.
Dane (far right) with a winning Fui San and some very happy Highclere owners
TDN: And what about your favourite International sale?
Dane: The Saratoga Yearling Sale in upstate New York holds fond memories and is a must for anyone who hasn’t been as fortunate to attend!
TDN: Do you have any advice for anyone looking to take up a similar career path to you?
Dane: I’ve learned to appreciate the role of having close mentors in this business. I’m always taken aback by how quickly and open people are to providing sound advice in the industry. So, I’d say not to be afraid of asking for advice and seeking a mentor/s that you look up to, to be a source of ongoing guidance. And have patience, things don’t happen overnight but if you’re determined and patient enough, positive things will happen.
Dane (left) back to his home ground at Seven Mile Beach