Friday, August 29, 2014

Davis’ Wilson bonds with thoroughbreds


February 24, 2011 |

James Bond has nothing on Michael Wilson.

Both are other-worldly handsome, personable and extremely intelligent. They globe-hop to places like Paris, Dubai, London and Australia. They mingle with sheikhs and heads of state. They’re seen at Ascot, the Melbourne Cup, the Kentucky Derby, each surrounded by folks who want to get close, to know more.

The differences? Nobody shoots at Wilson. He doesn’t drive an Aston Martin (yet) and those cool toys Q gives James don’t exist in Michael’s world.

Other differences? Bond is fiction. Michael Wilson — a Davis High and UC Davis graduate — is real. And getting REALER all the time.

You see, Wilson is in the final months of a two-year program that could see him become one of the saviors of West Coast thoroughbred racing.

Wilson, 25, earned a Darley Fast Start internship in 2009 and since then has been learning the world of horse racing from conception to winner’s circle.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai is Wilson’s benefactor. One of the world’s wealthiest men has spent much of the past decade underpinning the sport of kings from his Godolphin Stables, which not surprisingly stretch around the world.

His Darley program annually takes a dozen of the top, young equine minds in the world and schools them 24/7 in everything from track management to animal husbandry to lining up clients. Training horses, however, is the foundation of Darley Fast Start.

If you checked in here before last year’s Kentucky Derby, you know our former Blue Devil is drinking in every aspect of this once-most-popular sport in the United States. (In the 1950s, more people went to the track nationwide than attended any other pro sport.)

But now entries are flagging. Golden Gate Fields often struggles to build five- and six-horse races. Attendance is WAAAAY down (thank you, economy and simulcasting) and ownership is a mystery to most sports enthusiasts (remember that sport of kings thing?).

That said, Sheikh Mohammed understands a healthy global sport means that the U.S. must buy in and thrive. Wilson knows that, too. And with guys like our Michael Wilson, the future has a shining light.

Wilson will return to training upon graduation from Darley in July. He left shed row and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert to join the sheikh’s school. Baffert told me last summer that Wilson “is one of those can’t-miss guys.” Wow. This coming from arguably the nation’s No. 1 saddler.

“The best lesson I’ve learned on the course is that there isn’t one way to train a horse,” Wilson said this week, via e-mail from Dubai. “I’ve always believed this and felt that you have to tailor a horse’s training program to the individual horse.”

And guess what? There’s ANOTHER Davis tie to Wilson’s fast track — swim coach Pete Motekaitis.

“I learned (about) training athletes as individuals early in my swimming career from coach Motekaitis. None of the swimmers on my team trained exactly the same. Day-by-day he would tailor the workout to each swimmer … and the results spoke for themselves (eight consecutive CIF section championships).”

Wilson says Motekaitis’ concepts apply with horses. In fact, over the past 30 years, water therapy and aquatic training have snuck into equine conditioning.

While Motekaitis (who returns to DHS this spring to assist boys swim guru Tracy Stapleton) always had the horses in the past, Wilson hopes some dandy thoroughbreds materialize for him in the future.

“I have a few ideas about the guys I’d like to work for, but at this point I haven’t decided anything,” Wilson continues. “My plans are still the same — and haven’t changed over my time on the course. I still hope to be out on my own, training within the next two or three years …

“…Unless I get lucky and somebody comes up to me and offers me a barn full of 20 horses right after (I graduate).”

One thing is sure in this industry of chance: This summer those established trainers will stumble all over each other for James Bond’s, er, Michael Wilson’s services.

— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at or (530) 747-8047. Comment on this column at



Bruce Gallaudet

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Saving Putah Creek: a quiet concert at sunset

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Mr. Dolcini goes to Washington

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Winton to be feted for her many years of community work

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Davis Innovation Center team fields questions

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Researchers solve mystery of Death Valley’s moving rocks

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    California extends review of $25B delta plan

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Assembly approves statewide ban on plastic bags

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Celebrate the Senior Center at Sept. 9 luncheon

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Equestrian eventing competition slated

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Dinner, auction benefit Yolo County CASA

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Forum explores local mental health services

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Solar-cooking workshop set at Food Co-op

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Kids can sign up for a library card and get a free book

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Explorit Science Center: Volunteers supercharge summer camp

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Tee off for Davis’ continued prosperity

    By Lily Holmes | From Page: A4

    Bodega Marine Laboratory hosts open house

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Local group charts a year’s worth of beauty in flowers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Free blood pressure screenings offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Name Droppers: UCD honors two of its own

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

    Books, conversation and poetry at Logos

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7



    Let’s sell the MRAP on eBay

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    Seeing both sides of ‘tank’

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    What if we need MRAP?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    How could tank be helpful?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: C2

    Don’t sentence our police to death

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: C2, 1 Comment

    Will Davis see river water?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    Travel buddy is getting too fat

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5



    Forget the score; focus on the energy brought by Aggies

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    Returning seniors, new faces lead promising DHS links squad

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devil golfers return from Scotland with smiles on their faces

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devils scrimmage with Sac

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD-Stanford: the clock is down to counting the minutes

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    Wire briefs: Aces cruise past Cats at Raley

    By Wire and staff reports | From Page: B6

    Sports briefs: DHS girls fall by the slimmest of net margins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6 | Gallery





    ‘The November Man’: Who can be trusted?

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    B Street’s ‘The Ladies Foursome’ is aces

    By Bev Sykes | From Page: A9 | Gallery



    Technology makes a great car better

    By Ali Arsham | From Page: C1 | Gallery



    Elaine Dracia Greenberg

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Margarita Elizondo

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4