Name: Lewis Lesbirel
Current Job Title: Communications Manager - Triple Crown Syndications
How did you get into the industry?
I applied for as much racing-related work experience as possible while completing my degree. This came in handy when I applied for the BHA Graduate Development Programme towards the end of my final year at university. I was lucky enough to be accepted onto that programme and I can't speak highly enough of both the experiences it provides and the people who run it. It's a fantastic introduction to the industry.
What was your first job in racing?
My first full-time position was a journalist at ANZ Bloodstock News and the Racing Post. I loved my time there and learnt plenty.
First racing memory?
My Dad is a big racing fan and used to take me along to Plumpton races as a young child. I only have vague memories of that, but my first clear memories are from 2008. I remember running around Primary School asking people whether they thought Kauto Star or Denman would win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Unsurprisingly, absolutely no one cared. Later that year I remember being shocked when Henrythenavigator beat the hot favourite New Approach in the 2000 Guineas, having 'studied the form' that morning.
Who do you most admire in racing and why?
I think racing is full of extraordinary people with great stories to tell, but coming from a racing journalist background I would have to say Lizzie Jelfs. Not only is she an excellent presenter, she is also a superb judge. I would love to work with her in the future.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
I'd say Mark Scully, former Bloodstock Editor at the Racing Post. He gave me my first full-time job and has been a fantastic mentor. He's a top man and I know he's always at the end of the phone should I need advice on something.
What can racing do to attract more people?
A lot. The thoroughbred is incredible, athletic and beautiful. I don't think we make enough use of just how impressive and aesthetically pleasing they are. I think we could do a better job of bringing people, and young people in particular, closer to the horse and the stars of our sport, then it is all about giving them an experience they will never forget. I also think we could learn from other sports and promote our biggest clashes better. Football has local rivalries, boxing has big grudge matches - I know our sport is different and far less predictable, but when horses come from overseas for a big race, or when we have two or three star horses doing battle in races throughout the season, I think we could do a better job of promoting/marketing that to a wider audience.
If there was one thing you could change about racing / bloodstock in Australia, what would it be and why?
A small minority tend to ruin it for the majority when it comes to integrity and we must strive for a clean sport. I would also look to improve the work-life balance of racing's industry participants. Although it appears to be less of an issue in Australia, retention of stable staff is a major problem back home in the UK and that ultimately comes down to unreasonable working hours, below par working/living conditions and substandard pay. Again that is a sweeping statement and of course doesn't apply to all stables, but I do feel racing staff are sometimes exploited in the sense that they will put up with the above because of their love for horses. That's not to say that trainers, jockeys etc don't put in the hours as well, because of course they do, it is just that the financial rewards, particularly at the top end, make that commitment more justifiable.
If you didn't work in racing, what would you be doing?
I'm a huge football fan (can't bring myself to call it soccer) and sports fan in general, so I would probably have tried to go down the football journalism/communications route and see where it took me.
Favourite racehorse of all time?
Ami Desbois. My family has a 5% share in him, so effectively we own one hair each, but he has given us some unforgettable days on the racecourse. Thinking more with the head than the heart, I'd say Zarkava. She was a hugely talented filly that has gone on to do the job as a broodmare. I just wish we got to see more of her on the track before she retired to stud.