HomeHorse RacingDalham Hall's Byrne on Winning the '23 Stud Staff Award

Dalham Hall’s Byrne on Winning the ’23 Stud Staff Award

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Bethan Byrne from Dalham Hall in Newmarket collected the Stud Staff prize at last week’s Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards at York Racecourse. Here, she tells Racing Post about her role and journey to it.

Racing Post: What first ignited your interest in breeding and racing?

Bethan Byrne: It’s all down to my parent’s involvement in the industry as they had some horses in training in the early 1980s when I was still at school. I have been told they made a trip to Newmarket from home in south Wales with some local friends who already had some horses in training and were clearly bitten by the bug as later that year they invested in a couple of yearlings at Tattersalls. So, I have many happy memories of traveling around the country to different racecourses during school holidays when growing up—some successful, which always made the trip home with the trophy that much quicker, some not quite so quickly after a disappointing run, heading home empty-handed. 

Over the years, the love of horseracing expanded into breeding and as the broodmare band grew we always moved house in order to accommodate the increasing numbers. The horses always came first in our household and so while we were at one stage living in a stone bungalow with no central heating, the horses were happily housed in a brand new American-style barn with automatic water—not forgetting the heat lamps for the newly born foals in addition to paddocks divided by newly put up traditional paddock and rail fencing. 

A turning point came when my parents bought Llwyn Cecil Farm in 1999—which became Usk Valley Stud—a successful stud farm and sales consignor which was subsequently sold and bloodstock dispersed when my father passed away in 2017 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a couple of years earlier.

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RP: Any work experience or jobs before joining Darley/Godolphin?

BB: After finishing the BHB Graduate Development Programme in 2000, I joined Tattersalls later that year following my work placement with them. I was based in the bloodstock office, working on sales catalog production and during the sales was behind the sales desk collecting the relevant paperwork under the watchful eye of Liz Wood, who still manages the sales desk at Tattersalls. 

I remained there for nearly five years before a brief spell working back at home on the stud preparing yearlings for the sales at Tattersalls, which gave me quite a different view of things from quite literally the other side of the counter as I was the one handing in the paperwork this time round. After that, I joined Darley to cover a colleague’s maternity leave and basically never left. 

I also did a stint in what was the original National Horse Racing Museum on Newmarket High Street, collating and indexing old glass negatives of racehorses and their jockeys. While not everybody’s cup of tea I am sure, I was in my element surrounded by the history of the sport I love.

RP: You’ll have spoken about this a few times recently, but for our readers would you mind summarising your role at Dalham Hall Stud.

BB: I wear many hats, so to speak, in my role at Dalham Hall Stud. Primarily I work for Sam Bullard, director of stallions, and so manage his diary, and correspondence, update our Horse Management System following stud visits when he views Darley-sired progeny, be it foals or yearlings, and also update the system regarding nomination sales. Another aspect of my job is my involvement in the administration of the nomination sales contracting process, sending them out, logging them back in, and working closely with the stud office to ensure they are returned before the mare arrives at Dalham for covering. 

One part of my role I particularly look forward to every year is showing Newmarket local primary schools and other equine groups around Dalham Hall on a stud tour. In addition, I am the Godolphin Flying Start UK coordinator and manage all aspects of their stay and their busy course calendar in Newmarket, including a study tour of Lambourn from the end of October/November until their departure before Christmas each year.

Photo: Courtesy of Racing Post

Bethan Byrne

RP: If you had to pinpoint one aspect of your job you especially enjoy, what would that be?

BB: I really enjoy hosting visits from the local primary schools and equine groups where we show them the stallions and have a behind-the-scenes tour of the stud so the pupils understand what goes on. The highlight every time is when the pupils are able to get up close and personal with the mares and foals on the stud—the look on their faces is simply pure joy to watch. If they leave knowing that bit more about the breeding and racing world than when they arrived, that is a job well done in my book.

RP: What did it mean to make the final three in the Stud Staff category at this year’s Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards, and then to take home first prize? 

BB: I honestly felt like a winner from the very beginning when my colleague Dawn Laidlaw, head of nominations, told me she had entered me, but to be successful through the interviewing stages and selected as one of the final three was just amazing. On the evening it was a real mixture of nerves and excitement, but on being presented with the beautiful trophy, I felt incredibly proud and simply overjoyed. I must say that I am very lucky to work with a great team of people in the office and the wider company as a whole, and I wouldn’t have had the success without them.

RP: Who was with you at York Racecourse to celebrate on the night?

BB: My husband and my mum were there and also my boss Sam Bullard, and a team of friends and colleagues from Godolphin. However, Dawn Laidlaw, who put me forward, sadly could not make it to join in the celebrations due to last-minute train travel issues, which was the only downside to a wonderful evening.

RP: Did you get the day off on Tuesday or was it straight back to it?

BB: I was very lucky and had the day off and just had to make sure I was back in Newmarket in time to collect my two daughters from school. I have to admit that a leisurely breakfast after a swim in the hotel pool was simply heaven and so I certainly made the most of it as I cannot see that happening again anytime soon!

RP: These awards are about much more than money…that said, any plans for your well-earned £5,000 first prize? 

BB: Most of it will ultimately go on a family holiday. However, saying that, as this money is a totally unforeseen bonus it feels right that I will also donate some of it to charity, namely Pancreatic Cancer UK, which is a charity naturally close to my heart. I will also donate to Horseback UK, as last year Jay Hare from the organization came to Dalham Hall and gave the most inspiring talk I have probably ever heard—so do check out the website to find out about all the amazing work it does—and a local community project. With what’s left I’ll treat myself to a little something.

Singspiel at Darley
Photo: Edward Whitaker/Racing Post

Singspiel at Darley

RP: Do you have a particular soft spot for any Darley sires or Godolphin racehorses, past or present?

BB: On the present sires front I would say that, as I work particularly closely with the Watership Down Stud team regarding Too Darn Hot , he would be my pick. It is a really exciting year for him with his first 2-year-old runners, and with all the positive news we are hearing about his progeny, it is most encouraging. On the past stallion front I had a soft spot for Singspiel as he was my favorite stallion when I first joined Darley—which goes to show how long I have been here!

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