Kiwi Candidates Join Darley Flying Start

Media Release - Friday May 27

Godolphin has selected a dozen up-and-comers from around the world for the 2022-2024 edition of its Flying Start programme, including New Zealanders Liam Cunningham and Annabel Adams.

The Kiwi pair will be joined by 10 others from Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Beginning in August at Kildangan Stud in County Kildare, Ireland, the two-year programme gives trainees the opportunity to learn and experience management operations and leadership in the global thoroughbred industry with phases in Ireland, the UK, the USA, Australia, and Dubai.

Lian Cunningham. Photo: Trish Dunell

The course is accredited by University College Dublin Michael Smurfit Business School as a Graduate Certificate in Management. Over half of Godolphin Flying Start graduates have gone on to become managers, CEOs, or business founders, and they are based across five continents, working in media, racing, breeding, bloodstock, sales, consultancy, veterinary and marketing.

The Flying Start invitation brought years of hard work to fruition for 23-year-old Cunningham.

“The Flying Start programme is a massive opportunity for any young, aspiring person in our game, to travel around the world for two years, working with and learning from the best,” he said.


“It was a no-brainer, really – from the time that I found out about the course, it was a goal that I had set for myself.

“It’s massively exciting. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and any young, aspiring person would do their utmost to be part of it.

“The support and congratulations that I’ve received from various people has been immense. It really gives you a perspective on how big the Flying Start programme is. It’s followed all around the world, from Ireland to Kentucky and Australia and New Zealand, and the acknowledgement from people all around the world has been huge.”

Cunningham has had a quality grounding in the thoroughbred industry, being a son of Curraghmore’s Gordon Cunningham.

“I was born into the industry, growing up on my father’s farm in the heart of the Waikato and plying my trade there through school holidays,” he said.

“Then I went off and started an agricultural commerce degree at Massey University, and after I finished that, I worked for Te Akau Racing over in Matamata for a year learning more about the racing side of our industry.”

The Matamata training centre has also been instrumental to the development of Adams, who originally hails from the South Island but currently works for trainers Stephen Autridge and Kris Shailer.

Annabel Adams. Photo: Race Images South

“My family’s been involved in racing for generations – both sides of the family have owned or trained horses, and my grandfather was a harness racing trainer,” the 23-year-old said.

“The way I got into thoroughbreds was through a good family friend, who introduced me to Tony and Lyn Prendergast.

“I started working for them and riding work around school holidays and university. Once I finished uni, I went on to be their stable foreman, and then I decided to venture north, where the racing is a little bit stronger.

“I came up to Stephen and Kris, and I’ve been with them for a year now. They’ve been great, and I’ve had a heap of support all the way through, so I’ve been really lucky. You’ve got to be a people person in this game.

“Flying Start is such an amazing opportunity, I’m really excited about it. In a way, Kris Shailer sort of inspired me to try putting in an application – I have a degree in commerce and agriculture, and he said to me one morning as a joke, ‘You’re about the only person working in this joint who has a degree.’

“He’s given me a bit of motivation to try to do something with that and put my hand up for an opportunity like this.” NZ Racing Desk

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