There are over 400 racehorse trainers licensed by the British Horseracing Authority, so it shouldn't be a surprise when one comes across a new name. Although every trainer will tell you there's no money in training horses; the churn ratio of trainers exiting the sport has remained at around 10% each year for 40 years. Yet as one door closes on a career concluding, another opens for an ambitious newcomer eager to fill the gaps.
Ilka Gansera-Leveque is one such newcomer. German-born Ilka cut her teeth as an amateur rider with champion trainer Bruno Schütz in her homeland, graduating to an apprenticeship for 3 years, before spending some time with horse whisperer Monty Roberts in the USA. Schütz was a winner of the German Derby at Hamburg no less than four times before his death in 2000.
She returned to this country to qualify as a veterinarian, one of just two such who are trainers (the other is Mark Johnston - say no more). After a spell with Rossdales in Newmarket, she set up on her own, pre-training, breaking and training her own small string on the Hamilton Road in 2012.
It hasn't been an overnight success, but the bedrock of this sport comprises horsemen and women whose lives are dedicated to the well-being of their bloodstock, and who immerse themselves in the improvement of the stock in their charge. When husband Stephane returned to Newmarket to set about training Arabians, it was time to follow.
Runners over obstacles have been few and far between in a yard with no more than 20 inmates, and Southwell is hardly Ascot, but a first for this season - and last - when she extended her licence to both codes, was something of a milestone in today's 3m handicap hurdle as Just Once repaid the faith with a 3/4l victory. A lucky 13th ever runner under National Hunt rules.
Let's hope for Ilka's sake he doesn't live up to his name.
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