By Ben Massam
Peter Brette has been around many gifted horses in his life, but 12 years ago the native of England was undoubtedly in the midst of the biggest whirlwind of his career. Brette was the exercise rider aboard the undefeated Barbaro (Dynaformer) in the lead-up to his GI Kentucky Derby bid, and when the colt dashed home an authoritative 6 1/2-length winner in the Run For the Roses, it was Brette who stood as an assistant alongside trainer Michael Matz to welcome him in to the winner’s circle. Two weeks later, under much less sunny circumstances, it was again Brette who stood on the track searching for answers as Barbaro was pulled up in the early stages of the GI Preakness S. with a devastating injury to his right hind leg.
Over the years, Brette proved instrumental in the development of a number of Matz’s stable stars, including
GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Round Pond (Awesome Again) and GI Belmont S. hero Union Rags (Dixie Union). It was a different path than Brette envisioned when he originally moved to the United States to work in breaking and training at Vinery in 2004 after a stint as a jockey/trainer in Dubai, but one that allowed him to leave a decidedly favorable impression upon the horses and humans he worked alongside.
In 2018, Brette is set to begin the next chapter of his life, returning to work in breaking and training as the new head trainer at Roy Lerman’s Lambholm South facility in Ocala. Lerman said he has been thrilled with the amount of positive feedback he has received about Brette in recent weeks.
“Peter has wide experience with high-quality horses, wide experience with owners who have those kind of horses, and he understands what results they expect form those kind of horses,” Lerman said. “He has tremendous respect from trainers throughout the racing community who only have collateral contact with him…When people who I haven’t asked offer opinions about somebody and they’re so sterling in their view of the person, I’ve never run into this in my entire life. It makes it very exciting for me.”
Brette said he shares Lerman’s enthusiasm as he prepares to settle in and assume his newest role.
“I’m very excited, it’s a new chapter in my life,” said Brette, now 52 years old. “My son is about to start high school. We want to be in one place at one time. The opportunity to work at Lambholm came up, and it seemed like a great opportunity–so we decided to give it a go.”
Brette said that his time working with Matz–and working with horses such as Barbaro–taught him the importance of focusing on everyday details. With positive relationships established across the industry, the trainer is hopeful he can achieve at the highest level at Lambholm.
“Being around horses every day, it’s always one big learning curve,” Brette said. “To be associated with such great horses–that’s the pinnacle you want. You want to strive to have those type of horses in the barn. That’s why you get up at 4:00 in the morning, because those are the horses you want to work with. At Lambholm, that’s going to give me the starting point in terms of where we want to go. We’d like to attract really nice owners. I’ve been very fortunate to be around some really good owners and hopefully we’ll get a chance to get some of the babies in and some of the lay-ups in and move forward that way.”
Lerman suggested the greatest edge Brette brings to the table is a modern perspective on how to manage the expectations of present-day owners in an industry that is becoming increasingly consolidated. Nevertheless, Lambholm remains a relatively small-scale operation–which necessitates a hands-on approach.
“We’ve always had what now would be called a boutique operation,” Lerman said. “Just like at the racetrack, some operations have hundreds of horses, and we’ve always had no more than 125 or 150. The boutique nature of the operation really affords the opportunity for an individual to know a lot more about each horse.”