First Nations Youths Get Leg Up Into Horse Racing Industry

By Julieanne Horsman

When horses have been a part of your life for a long time, it is easy to take them for granted. But for underprivileged youths from the suburban fringes of Sydney, the tickle of a horse gobbling up a carrot from their palm or the comfort of a soft, warm muzzle against their cheek is something they can only dream of. Team Thoroughbred NSW is out to change that with the Wanyuwa program.

Run in partnership with renowned Aboriginal service provider KARI Foundation, Wanyuwa aims to give young people an introduction to horses, a taste of the wide variety of career opportunities on offer in the racing industry and an overview of the study options available through Team Thoroughbred NSW Training Academy, all in a safe and caring environment.

“There are hundreds of different jobs within the Thoroughbred racing industry that can take you across the country and around the world, but you can’t chase these opportunities if you don’t know they are there,” Team Thoroughbred NSW Rehoming Co-ordinator LaToyah James said. “Sometimes all it takes is a single pat to ignite a passion for life and we are eager to facilitate that.”

Watching horses in action at the Hawkesbury trials was a highlight of the Wanyuwa program.

Nine brave participants aged between 16 and 22 signed up for the first session of Wanyuwa. Some had never even touched a horse before but were keen to make the most of the opportunity to learn and discover. Supported by five KARI mentors, the first stop was Hawkesbury Racecourse for a behind-the-scenes look at the trials.

On arrival the group was greeted by LaToyah James and Team Thoroughbred NSW Training Academy’s Workplace Trainer and Assessor, Daniel Power who gave an overview of a career as a stablehand, trackwork rider or jockey. They were then driven out onto the track and took up prime position next to the barriers. The participants watched intently as the horses were loaded in and delighted in the excitement as they took off.

“For someone who is fit, agile and enjoys working outdoors, a career as a stablehand or barrier attendant could be highly appealing,” Miss James said.

Next up was a look inside a horse transport truck, followed by a tour of the race day stalls and a chat with some jockeys and stablehands. Then it was off to Bart’s Farm at nearby Castlereagh to learn about equine welfare and life after racing.

The team after watching a riding demonstration at Bart’s Farm.

Racing NSW operates a world-leading equine welfare program which includes providing a safety net for retired NSW racehorses and Thoroughbreds who didn’t make the track to ensure they always have a quality home to go to. They are cared for, retrained and rehomed at several farms across the state and Bart’s Farm is the Sydney facility.

The Wanyuwa group watched a lunging and riding demonstration, learned about the rehoming process, picked up tack used for training and riding horses, heard stories about the legendary Bart Cummings and went on a walking tour of Bart’s Farm but the magic happened when it came time to feed the horses. Kilograms of carrots and apples were handed out, participants picked their favourite horse and gingerly offered up the treats. Some were a little hesitant at first but within minutes there were smiles and pats all around.

“Seeing their faces light up as they interacted positively with the horses really made my day,” Miss James said.

At the end of the day, everyone received certificates and four of the participants indicated they would like to take the next step towards a career with horses.

“My Favourite thing was going to Bart’s Farm and looking at how they treat the retired racehorses, and how they set them up for their next homes,” participant Jazmine O’Rourke said.

“I loved getting the opportunity to feed the horses,” participant Luke Wooden said.

“It was Interesting learning all the employment opportunities in the racing industry, the horse’s life in racing and what happens after racing at Bart’s farm. The information provided by the racing staff was also very interesting,” participant Chris Jones Cerssiman said.

“I really enjoyed getting to know the horses’ routine and their day to day activities,” participant Maya-Rose Kinder said.

The group chatted under the big old Jacaranda trees until it was time to go, and as the minibus drove out the gates, the Team Thoroughbred staff felt a little pang of sadness. They had an unforgettable day sharing their passion with the Wanyuwa program and hoped they would see the participants again.

“Ultimately our goal is to guide anyone who is interested into a fulfilling career but even if they just had a good time with the horses, we’re more than happy with that.”

The quickest way to become Happy Clapper’s best friend is to feed him treats.

Happy Clapper’s Homecoming

By Julieanne Horsman

Mapping out each racehorse’s retirement plan is an important responsibility of every trainer, but when the horse is a three-time Group 1 winner who has been a stable favourite for more than seven years, the process becomes a lot more challenging. Trainer Pat Webster called time on Happy Clapper’s racing career in April 2020 with a record of 12 wins, 18 places and earnings of more than $7million. There was no shortage of people eager to adopt the champion gelding, but Pat and owner Michael Thomas wanted to be certain he would have a wonderful home for the rest of his life, so they decided to retire him into the care of Racing NSW’s equine welfare and rehoming division, Team Thoroughbred NSW.

“We considered a few options but settled on Team Thoroughbred NSW because we knew he would be looked after and loved forever,” Mr Webster said. “He’s got his own place in the history books as the only horse to have ever won The Doncaster, The Epsom and The Villiers and he deserves to be celebrated.”

Team Thoroughbred NSW provides a safety net for retired NSW racehorses and those who did not make the track. If they do not have a quality home to go to at any point in their lives, regardless of performance, they can be given to Team Thoroughbred NSW to be cared for, retrained and rehomed. However, unlike most of the horses at Team Thoroughbred NSW’s farms, Happy Clapper is not available for adoption. Instead, he has been given an important role as an ambassador for life after racing, and on day one of The Star Championships he completed his first major assignment.

Looking every bit the champion the public had come to know and love, Happy Clapper stepped out into the Theatre Of The Horse at Royal Randwick ahead of the 2021 Doncaster field. Fans filled every space, cheering and snapping photographs and videos of the people’s horse. There was a touch of déjà vu about Happy Clapper’s presence, with the gelding having paraded around the same circuit ahead of the 2018 Doncaster – a race he went on to win by two lengths. When it was time, Happy Clapper led the 20 Doncaster runners into the tunnel, under the grandstand and out onto the course proper. Despite it being his first trip back to Randwick since his final race, Happy Clapper was well behaved and lapped up the attention.

Team Thoroughbred staff members Clare Edlund and Jeff Brasch lead Happy Clapper towards the track. Picture – Lisa Grimm.

While former Trainer Pat Webster would have loved to have been there for the occasion, he had to settle for watching it on television from Newcastle Racecourse. Now retired from the training ranks, he continues to work in the industry as Racing NSW’s Jockey Coach and Mentor, Drug And Alcohol Counsellor and Racing Mates Ambassador.

“That’s my thrill now,” Pat said. “Seeing the apprentice jockeys perform well, especially if they have had to overcome challenges to get there. I lost the drive to keep training after Happy Clapper retired. When he was in the stable it was like flying to work on a magic carpet. Once he was gone, it was like driving a b-double in peak hour.

“Happy Clapper took us on an incredible journey and he will always hold a special place in my heart. It filled me with pride to see him looking 10/10 as he led the Doncaster field out. I’m so glad the public can continue to appreciate him.”

These days Happy Clapper is enjoying a much slower paced life at Bart’s Farm, a stunning 137-acre facility on the banks of the Nepean River at Castlereagh, designed and formerly owned by the legendary Bart Cummings. He lives with close to 100 other Thoroughbreds, including his best friend, dual TAB Everest winner, Redzel. Every morning they are brought into the barn to have breakfast before a light workout either in the round yard or on the treadmill. They are then shampooed, dried and returned to their paddock to enjoy the sun. Team Thoroughbred NSW Stablehand, Clare Edlund, is their main carer and travels with them wherever they go.

“Once in a blue moon you find a horse that you just click with and they make a positive impact on your day every day,” Miss Edlund said.  “I’m extremely lucky I have two horses that do that for me. They are complete opposites but complement each other so well and are my yin and yang.”

Both Happy Clapper and Redzel fans can looking forward to seeing them at the races again during Spring, as well as at other community events.