Darley Flying Start Program Marks 10 Years

The class of 2012-14 got a send-off to Australia at a dinner in Lexington July 15.

The first Darley Flying Start program graduates can be considered trailblazers, but Clodagh Kavanagh believes it didn't stop there.

"This year is our 10th anniversary," said Kavanagh, who has managed student programs for Darley since 2003. "You could call the first group pioneers, but I feel that every year we have pioneers. They are taking on something new and taking a risk.

"They are entering an unusual industry and career in general, and they have a passion for the industry."

The 10-year reunion was held at Kildangan Stud in Ireland June 30 in conjunction with the graduation of 2011-13 trainees. On July 16 at Coles 735 Main in Lexington, the class of 2012-14 celebrated its send-off to Australia with about 50 industry participants.

Kavanagh, who is based in Ireland, was on hand for the Lexington dinner, at which Darley Flying Start coordinator Tammy Masterson was recognized for helping the students during their stay in Central Kentucky.

The 12 members of the class of 2012-14 are Colin Brennan, Conor Crawford, Natalie Heitz, Tessa Hetherington, Diana Hobbs, Erik Johnson, Amandine Lefevre, Anthony O'Donnell, Emily Scott, Stephen Thorne, Bo Wang, and Camilla Whishaw.

Kavanagh said part of the course for the current class was a crisis management exercise that dealt primarily with immigration, currently a major topic in the United States and at Thoroughbred breeding farms.

"They got a chance to think on their feet," Kavanagh said. "We always try to expose them to difficult situations and pressure."

As for the overall program, it deals with horse management, business management, and gaining a deeper understanding of the Thoroughbred industry in various countries while based at Sheikh Mohammed's breeding farms. So far there have been 106 graduates, and almost 100 have jobs in the industry.

"You need a critical mass of people to have an impact," said Kavanagh, a University College Dublin graduate with an agriculture science degree and diploma in leadership. "The quality is starting to show through.

"The whole thing about leadership is leading change. The students aren't afraid to let their opinions be heard. The nice thing is they have global knowledge, and hopefully that can lead to change in the industry."