Friday, October 30, 2015

Will Golden Horn Make History at the Breeders Cup? Meet His Farrier, Ed O'Shaughnessy

Newmarket, England farrier Ed O'Shaughnessy looks like he's about to share a bottle of champagne with his #1 customer, champion three-year-old Thoroughbred Golden Horn, trained by Ed's client, John Gosden. Earlier this month, Golden Horn became only the seventh horse in the long history of British racing to win both the English Derby and the French Arc. And today, Golden Horn will run in Ed's shoes in the Breeders Cup Longines Turf to make history by winning the third great turf race, in a third country. British farrier supplier Stromshom Supplies presented the bottle of champagne to Ed, who was their "plater of the year" for 2014.

It's Breeders Cup day. Click around the Internet and you can see the races through the eyes of the breeders, the jockeys, the trainers, the owners, the bettors, and everyone else with a stake in the world championship race day.

Here's a chance to look at one of the world's top horses through its shoes, as told by his farrier.

Golden Horn is the greatest unknown horse in America this weekend. He is widely regarded as the top horse in Europe. The beautiful big bay colt shipped to Kentucky from Newmarket, England, where he is trained at Clarehaven Stables in Newmarket by a trainer who knows his way to the winner's circle at the Breeders Cup: John Gosden.

And in the past ten years, three of Gosden's horses have marched to the winner's circle wearing shoes crafted by Irish farrier Ed O'Shaughnessy, AWCF. But this fall, something special happened in Gosden's stable. Golden Horn first won the highly-esteemed English Derby at Epsom. Then he crossed the Channel and won the grueling Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe outside Paris at Longchamp, defeating two-time winner filly and French folk hero horse, Treve. He's won seven of eight lifetime starts.

Now, Golden Horn has crossed the Atlantic. If he can win the G1 Breeders Cup Longines Turf, he'll have won the biggest races on grass in three countries, something that I don't think any horse has done.

So let's meet his farrier, and learn more about this horse.

Ed and Will O'Shaughnessy are fixtures on the international farrier competition circuit. They compete on the Irish team at events like the Stoneleigh International Team Competition, and are veterans of the old World Championship at the Calgary Stampede. When the news broke that Ed shoes Golden Horn, it seemed like a chance to show that competition farriers do more than go to contests; many of them run ambitious businesses and work hard for top trainers on top horses.

Golden Horn is only three, but has already raced against, and beaten, older horses. His jockey lately has been Frankie Dettori. Farrier Ed O'Shaughnessy says that the colt goes through his aluminum raceplates in about two weeks, which is  faster than a typical racehorse. Trainer John Gosden allows Ed to shoe the horse when he needs it, not by a date on the calendar.

About Golden Horn and John Gosden

"I started working for John Gosden in 2006 when he returned to Newmarket. Since then I have shod some amazing horses for him which won many Group 1 and classic races for him.

"In 2008, his Raven's Pass (USA) won the Breeders Cup Classic and, on the same day, Donativum won the Juvenile Turf.

"In 2009, his Pounced won the Juvenile Turf.

"When I was in America, I did research all the different shoeing styles there, but with our horses, I decided to keep it simple. I keep the shoeing on the international horses similar to the way we shoe horses at home in the UK.

"I am very lucky that the trainer, John Gosden, lets me shoe the horses in the style I believe best and as often as I think is necessary.

"Golden Horn is pretty straight forward. He's a playful character. He wears out his aluminum plates quickly, in ten to 14 days, so I'm extremely careful when shoeing him to preserve his walls and soles.

"In the photo, the wraps on his feet were still on from when he flew back from France after the Arc; they were on to protect him and his plates on the flight.

"Golden Horn is a very special horse. He has everything going for him, with great presence, the dashing good looks, the amazing talent, and a great name to top it all off.

"Because of Golden Horn, John Gosden and all who work at Clarehaven, I have two amazing memories which I will cherish forever. The first was at the Epsom Derby this year. I stood at the finishing post with my wife, Lisa, when Golden Horn flew past his stablemate Jack Hobbs to give us a first and second in the English Derby.

"The second great memory was in France at the Arc last month. I was stood with Lisa again, close to the finish line at the Longchamp racecourse. We were next to the French mare Treve's groom, when Golden Horn flew past the post at blistering speed.

"It was as if time froze for two seconds while everyone caught their breath. People didn't quite know what had happened. As soon as it sunk in, Longchamp erupted with applause. There were tears of joy and sadness. Golden Horn made his own history and I am so pleased to have been a tiny part of it. (He won both the English Derby and the Arc, the biggest race in France in the same.) It’s a history which I can look back on, when I'm old and enjoy the happy memories again."

Ed greeted Golden Horn when he returned to Clarehaven from France after winning the Arc. Notice how the horse's hooves are taped. This is often done to racehorses when they are shipped to protect them from chipping or loosening shoes and raising clinches. Golden Horn is re-shod often because he wears out his plates quickly. Care must be taken to preserve his walls, since they are re-nailed often. (photo courtesy of Ed O'Shaughnessy)

About Farrier Ed O'Shaughnessy 

"I’m part of the farriery business founded by my brother, Will, and myself; we are based in Newmarket, England. We employ two qualified farriers and five apprentices and we have a secretary, Vanessa, managing our office.

"We specialize in Thoroughbreds from foals to racehorses; we do a wide range of corrective and therapeutic shoeing. Will shoes for Newmarket Equine Hospital (NEH). He also shod Ouija Board, who won the Breeders Cup Fillies and Mare Turf twice, in 2004 and 2006, and was second in 2005. Another of his was Red Cadeaux, who is in Australia now to run in the Melbourne Cup next week. 

"We are a pretty unique farriery business where we both hot and cold shoe and also hand-make many of our own therapeutic shoes for specified cases. 

"Both Will and I have achieved the higher level examination of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, the Associate (AWCF).

This is NOT Golden Horn's foot. Ed O'Shaughnessy provided this as an example of a Thoroughbred hoof in Newmarket that he shoes, for comparison with typical  Thoroughbred feet seen elsewhere. (photo courtesy of Ed O'Shaughnessy)

"I spent a while in America, where I saw the vast stud farms and the racetrack in Kentucky. I went to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, where I spent a short time with Dr. Scott Morrison. There I saw many different techniques and different ideas on shoeing. I have some fond memories from there, but that's another story!

"In my opinion, the trimming of the feet is most important to achieve balance and an ideal hoof pastern axis (where possible) and removing any dorsal flares without weakening the integrity of the wall, as race horses can reach speeds up to 40 mph as they bear all their weight on one hoof in the gallop. Keeping the heel buttress straight and strong is so important for Thoroughbreds.

"Steel shoes and aluminum racing plates have improved drastically, with wider sections and with solid heels.

"I like to use a wide steel training shoe, which has coarser nail holes. When fitted correctly, they preserve the wall thickness, which in turn keeps the feet strong and offers more support to the feet and limbs."


Thanks, Ed.

If anyone needed a reason to tune in early and watch a race besides the Classic, now you have one. Post time to see Golden Horn run in the Breeders Cup Longines Turf will be 4:50 p.m. ET on Saturday.

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