By Abby Delucyk
Racing is second nature to 23yr old Sophie Brown. Not even the 3:30am wake ups in the cold or the stress of balancing her full-time role with her own dressage training can take away from Sophie’s love for racing. It’s no wonder she is a trusted junior foreman for Mark Newnham Racing.
Sophie’s love for the racing industry was born through her father who was a professional bookmaker and form analyst with nearly 30 years of experience in the racing industry, being a former racehorse owner himself of ‘Let’s Hurry’. “I clearly remember when I was younger and dad would work from home, I would sit in his office and be like ‘I want to do that (Strapping)’.”
Her love for horses didn’t just stop at the track. “My mum always tells me this story that when I was really young, we went to a show which had pony rides there and I just pointed and said I want to do that”. This led to Sophie constantly begging for a horse. At the age of 8, Sophie started at Vivienne Lander Horse Riding School in which she progressed to get her first thoroughbred ‘Arnie’ at 13 who was a whopping 16.3hh chestnut and then another thoroughbred ‘Wilbur’.
“I would spend every afternoon at the riding school, just helping wherever I could. On the weekend, my mum would drop me off in the morning and wouldn’t come back until the sun had set.”
Sophie then went on to attend the prestigious New England Girls School in Armidale, in which her riding skills developed as she rode all kinds of thoroughbreds within the school term. It was around this time Sophie acquired another OTTB ‘Frankie’ as she realised that show jumping just wasn’t the discipline for her. “Up until I was 14, I was a keen showjumper but one day I rode a horse that was more trained for dressage, and I instantly feel in love with it. Dressage is a lot more complicated than it seems as you really have to practice, with it being more of a test”.
With Sophie finding her niche in dressage, she went on to progress to advanced dressage lessons with her recent addition of a warmblood ‘Dino’, honing her dressage skills at clinics led by Olympic legend Heath Ryan. Sophie has recently undertaken a new challenge of training a young 5yo warmblood ‘Bella’ to be a future ribbon – winning dressage horse.
It was towards the end of 2018 where Sophie became highly interested in pursuing a career in the racing industry. This career choice started when she was offered a job as a stable hand for a small trainer in Orange who only had 6 horses to manage, with this smaller environment allowing her to learn the ropes of working with racehorses and travel around rural NSW. Unfortunately, due to the small number of horses, Sophie was forced out of her job 2 years later and relocated to the Hawkesbury region, leaving her to print off flyers and send off ads in seek of employment. A bite came back from Mark Newnham himself, who met her at a Hawkesbury race meeting days later to offer her the position of a stable hand. “I always wanted to go somewhere where the trainers are hands on and can learn from them personally, which Mark is like. He always takes the time to check in with his staff and spends time training you.” With her love of her job allowing her to push past the stark early morning wake ups, Sophie quickly progressed to becoming a Junior Foreman for Mark Newnham, taking up the initiative of travelling with his racehorses to places such as Melbourne and Queensland for race meetings. “I feel so honoured knowing that Mark trusts me enough that he can rely on me to travel with his horses to different race meetings. It’s a big step in my career”.
Her career has also allowed her to be a part of the journey of successful races horses such as tacking up Seven Veils which went on to win a Group 2 race and qualified for the $5 million Golden Slipper. “I feel like a such a proud mum when any horse wins a race, even a maiden start at Hawkesbury. You see them when they arrive as little yearlings to winning racehorses, it’s like they become your children”.
Between balancing her dressage training and her full-time job as a Junior Foreman, Sophie is also completing her Cert III in Stable Hand with Team Thoroughbred’s Training Academy. “I think it is worth it for someone who is just coming into the racing industry as it allows you to brush up on your skills and learn the things you need to know before you progress further into your career”.
With this qualification behind her, Sophie aims to eventually become a foreman. It’s her long-term ambition to be a trainer herself with the goal being a small stable of a few racehorses. Career aspirations aside, Sophie also has a promising dressage future with the potential of competing ‘Bella’ soon to become a dressage champion. “Working in the racing industry has given me much more confidence to have a younger horse and bring them through as you witness their progression
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