Donworth Joins The Chantilly Training Ranks

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Tim Donworth | Emma Berry

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Among the current top ten trainers in France are two graduates of the Godolphin Flying Start course: Francis Graffard and Jerome Reynier. These are big footsteps in which to follow for the latest former Flying Start student to try his hand at training, and what sets Tim Donworth apart is that France is not his native country.

He was, however, born to a life with horses. The 27-year-old grew up on Round Hill Stud in Co Limerick, which is owned by his parents Bobby and Honora and has also been the birthplace of plenty of decent Thoroughbreds down the years, including dual Group 1 winner Rizeena (Ire) and the stallions Puissance De Lune (Ire) and Bow Creek (Ire).

“I'd be nowhere only for Round Hill, but I never really wanted to be a breeder,” says the Irishman, who will be up and running as a trainer in Chantilly from the start of September.

“I knew I could never be as good as my mum and dad at it, so I wanted to do my own thing and make my own name. When I got it out of my head that I was going to be a jockey, I always wanted to train. I always knew Ireland would be very hard as it's dominated by a couple of stables and it's just highly competitive. Training in France is, I suppose, a good example of how you just don't know where life is going to take you.”

A former point-to-point rider, Donworth's initial major racing foray outside Ireland was to the Newmarket stable of William Haggas, where he was pupil assistant alongside Michael Kent Jr, who is now training in partnership back home in Australia with Mick Price. While there he was lured to apply for the Flying Start apprenticeship and, having been accepted, he later completed a placement with another former Flying Starter-turned-trainer, Tom Morley. On completion of his course, Donworth was initially offered a job back in the United States assisting French ex-pat Christophe Clement, but fate intervened in the form of Clement's elder brother Nicolas, the doyen of the Chantilly training fraternity, who poached him to be his own assistant.

“Christophe had said he didn't need me until the spring when New York, Florida, and Keeneland are all in operation at the one time,” Donworth explains. “So I was very keen to do it, but I had four months without anything to do. Christophe organised for me to go to Chantilly for some more experience and then I guess after four or five months, Nicolas took it upon himself to try and nick me. So I never went back.”

One brother's loss then was another's gain, but Donworth clearly appreciated learning not just from one of the masters of the French scene, but also the chance to try to master the French language. In Chantilly, one can get by on a bit of Franglaise, but it was a different story when the Irishman headed south-west to broaden his experience with Jean-Claude Rouget in Pau.

“I couldn't speak French when I arrived. So it was a massive challenge and I love a challenge,” says Donworth. “I decided to stay and then when I went to Pau, I found I was speaking French all day every day because nobody spoke English, and with Mr Rouget I only ever had a relationship in French. So it got good thankfully, and now it's a sufficient level to run a business in the country.”

The aspiring trainer's year-long stint with Rouget was split between Pau and Deauville, and it is in the latter where Donworth has been hard at work recently, attempting to recruit youngsters to his stable from the yearling sales. For his solo business venture, he has returned to familiar territory in Chantilly and will be renting a portion of Clement's yard.

“I will have around 20 boxes to start with and hopefully with the room to expand as well,” he says. “I have 10 horses ready to come in and then I will probably have another three or four yearlings. I claimed a horse about two or three weeks ago that will run in October. I have another owner that is very into claimers, so I was lucky to find him. Then I have a 2-year-old for someone else that will be running straight away. I'm very lucky in that I had a background involved in breeding. So I was always going to sales, always meeting people.”

Donworth will of course be able to rely on some support from his parents, who were at the Arqana sale on the lookout for yearlings with French premiums, and he has also been sent a horse by long-term family friend Kirsten Rausing, who is currently enjoying a tremendous season with her homebred runners.

“She's a brilliant woman. She's been a massive support and always been good for advice my whole life,” says Donworth of the owner of Lanwades Stud.

He is also appreciative of the support shown to him by his former boss, with whom he will be involved in a new Franco-Irish racing club.

He adds, “Nicolas is head of the Trainers' Federation for a reason, because he's always been a man to get things done. He's a very well-respected trainer who won an Arc when he was probably younger than me. He knows what he's doing and he's always had a very good reputation for helping young people, just like Christophe in the States. Between Nicolas and Christophe, they've had some top-class people pass through their hands, so I guess I'm lucky to be part of that Clement family fraternity.”

Donworth continues, “I was his assistant for two years and I don't want people to be confused and think that we are training together. We're very separate operations, but at the same time, Nicolas has been a bit of a role model for me. So I'm delighted to be in his yard, delighted to have him there for advice if I ever needed it.

“Nicolas is setting up a racing club and he's been very kind to say he's going to give me half of the horses. I think the plan is to buy four to six horses. For an owner buying into it, it's a good mixture because you have someone with an awful lot of experience. Then you have a young guy who's very ambitious. I want to take over the world, whether I can do it or not, nobody knows, but we'll give it a go.”

Donworth may have long-term plans for world domination but he is keeping his immediate expectations in check as he prepares to send out his first runners.

He says, “I think when you start in September, the goal is next year, really, but it would be lovely just to have a couple of runners this year, and if I could win a race or two before Christmas, brilliant.”

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