Five minutes with Levi Kavanagh

Flemington-based horse trainer Levi Kavanagh

Five minutes with Levi Kavanagh

Levi Kavanagh shares his passion and provides insight into his day-to-day life as a Flemington based horse trainer.

My job is...

My day job is a racehorse trainer. It is sort of like being the coach of a sports team where your main aim is to recruit your team and get them fit and ready to achieve their best results on the turf. However a trainer is not just a horseman educating horses and getting them fit, there is so much more involved. First of all you run a business so you need to employ the right team to keep your systems in place. Then you have to find the best horses and market them to the right clients to get involved. Once you have the clients and the team, then you have to manage the horses to be able to present them the best you can whilst placing them in the most suitable races. Some people describe it as an art, others a balancing act.

The best part of my job is...

Working day in and day out with horses is the best part of the job. They are such amazing and intelligent animals. There is no bigger thrill than to be able to watch a horse progress through a preparation to achieve a goal that I have set for them. Winning races is always the most exciting part of the job.

A challenging part of my job is...

Managing owners’ expectations can be challenging. We all want to compete at metropolitan level and have a fast, successful racehorse. However, some horses make much better pleasure-riding horses than they do race horses. Perseverance is the key as is a positive attitude.

I love my job because...

There are many reasons why I bounce out of bed at 3am every morning. The horses excite me, my team empowers me, my clients support me and my family encourages me to strive to be successful at the highest level.

My favourite moment in my career is...

So far it has been winning my first stakes race at my home track. Kentucky Breeze won the last race of the 2017 Flemington Spring Carnival at only his second start. It was my second season of training and I had purchased him at the sales the previous year. It was a really big buzz.

My career background is...

Having grown up in a racing family I started my training apprenticeship at a very young age. I used to help out my father with the horses before I started school and continued beyond high school. In school holidays I would work for Magic Millions Sales learning the bloodstock side of the industry and following around various vets and agents to learn as much as I could. After that I took some time off to complete a Commerce double degree in Corporate Finance and Marketing at the University of Adelaide. I had my sights set on being an investment banker at the time and moved to London to work in that profession. However, racing was in my blood and I returned to Australia two years later to assist my father with the expansion of his stable to Flemington. In 2016 I started training horses myself with the support of the family business which we continue to operate today.

I am setting my sights on...

Winning my first Group 1 race is certainly my present aim. In my short training career I have already experienced success at stakes level as well as winning the $500,000 Inglis Dash earlier this year. My team is starting to grow and there are some quality athletes coming through that can hopefully succeed at Group 1 level.

Someone who I admire is... 

My father Mark Kavanagh. He is allergic to horses but loves them immensely and started out in racing as a jumps jockey. He began training a small team in Mount Gambier and with the help of my mother Isobel, was able to progress his team to open an Adelaide Stable where he trained his first Group 1 winner in the Adelaide Derby. His astute eye for bloodstock allowed him to purchase some great horses which elevated him to open a stable at Flemington. So far he has trained 21 Group 1 winners including a winner of a Blue Diamond, a Cox Plate and of course, the race that stops the nation.

My favourite racing moment is...

I cannot go past Shocking winning the 2009 Melbourne Cup. I was assistant trainer to my father and we had to win the Lexus on Derby Day to gain a start in the Cup. The whole experience was amazing as were the celebrations.  

A horse I have loved or admired is... 

Atlantic Jewel was a champion who unfortunately did not reach her full potential due to injury. In spite of that, she was able to win 10 of her 11 starts including four Group 1 races. She was very durable and able to sprint to win at 1100m but was also able to stretch out to win over longer distances out to 2000m. She was one of the best that I have seen.

I like the sport of racing because...

Racing is a sport where everyone can be involved. There are very low barriers to entry. A person can purchase a share in a horse and that horse could go on to become a champion. Unlike other sports, a person does not have to be chosen to take part, be wealthy or train hard to be a part of the action.

My job was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic because...

Racing was not shut down at all in Victoria, however we had to work very hard to keep the show on. Many precautions were taken which meant that extra time and resources were invested into keeping participants safe. As a result our workload increased throughout this period. We did what was needed to continue to give our horses the best care and to keep our staff employed. We were very thankful that we could continue to race.

We overcame the challenges of the pandemic by...

The team at the stables were dynamic in changing our routines to best incorporate the precautions that were implemented. We also increased our owner communications as they were not allowed to visit the stables or come to the races. Aside from phone calls and emails we decided to produce more videos about the horses in our care to keep owners informed.

In my spare time I like to...

Racing is a business that can consume you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Although my workload is quite heavy, when I get some spare time I like to spend it with my family and friends as well as travel. Aside from horses I also have a keen interest in cars.

The racing industry in Australia is...

One of the best in the world at the present time. It is exciting, lucrative and accessible. If you are not already involved in racing a horse and have a desire to be, now is as good a time as any. It is affordable and can be the best fun that you can imagine. I must warn you though, it can also be addictive.