08/05/2011 10:57AM

Fort Erie: Delay for education well worth it for Schoenberger


FORT ERIE, Ontario – Trainer Sorrel Schoenberger, 31, sent her first two starters to the post four years ago, but then received an offer she couldn’t turn down and put her training career on hold.

Schoenberger’s mother, Julie, was searching the Internet and came across an extensive Thoroughbred scholarship program. In short order, Schoenberger completed an application.

In 2008, she received word of her selection, packed her bags, and headed to Kildangan Stud Farm in Ireland to begin the two-year program.

The Darley Stud Flying Start scholarship program was started by Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. It is an all-expenses-paid, worldwide two-year training program involving every aspect of the Thoroughbred industry.

Darley accepts 12 trainees annually and then provides them with a broad range of education, including university-level courses coupled with hands-on experience.

“We began our training in Ireland at Darley Stud and at Dublin University,” Schoenberger said. “Then it was on to Newmarket, England.

“I cannot say enough about the professionalism involved. It is an excellent in-depth program presented by some of the best trainers, teachers, and managers in the business.”

In addition to Ireland and England, Schoenberger’s scholarship included training in Australia, Dubai, New Zealand, and the United States.

“We covered breeding, anatomy, nutrition, veterinary work, finance, marketing, training, and management, just to name a few subjects,” she said.

Raised on a Thoroughbred farm in British Columbia, Schoenberger knew that Thoroughbreds would play a major role in her life. Working with her stepfather, Robert White, her hands-on involvement with Thoroughbreds was well under way before she turned 20.

“Both mom and dad are horse lovers,” Schoenberger said. “Besides farming, they are involved in both the breeding side and the training aspect of the business. We have stood three different studs, and runners in my barn today came from our breeding operation.

“Dad is active in the training of Thoroughbreds, and I welcomed the chance to work with him. He is my mentor and teacher. In my mind, I was still in the learning stage of grooming, training, and galloping when fate knocked on the door.”

In 2010, on her return to Canada, Schoenberger chose to work with trainer Carolyn Costigan at Woodbine and experienced an exciting moment in June when the stable’s Roan Inish won the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks.

This year, Schoenberger decided to manage her own small stable at the Fort and currently has five runners in the shed row.

“We have a few homebreds in the barn by our stud, Bright Valour, plus we claimed a runner this spring,” Schoenberger said.

Schoenberger said she is enjoying life at Fort Erie.

“It is nice to have both dirt and turf surfaces, and the one-mile oval is a big plus. This track provides a perfect atmosphere for training horses, and it is enhanced by the personal interest and friendship of my fellow Fort Erie horsemen.”

To date, Schoenberger has a 2-0-3 record from 16 starts as the 2011 meeting begins its second half.

◗ Leading the Fort Erie trainer standings is Ross Armata with 12 wins, followed closely by Layne Giliforte and John Simms, both with 11 scores. Sam Di Pasquale has started only 18 runners to date, but has 10 wins and an outstanding 55 percent mark.

◗ The new condition book outlined a small drop in purses beginning this month. The 3 percent cut is related, in part, to a drop in revenues from the Fort Erie slots.

“Although our purse account remains in a healthy position, we felt that it would be prudent to take this action now, slow the rate of spending from the purse account, and stay ahead of the situation as the season continues, “ said Jim Thibert, a spokesman for the consortium that has leased the track through 2012.