By Abby Delucyk
The legacy of the Ryan name continues to live on with respected horseman Gerald Ryan passing on the baton to upcoming trainer and son, Blake Ryan.
With no choice in the matter, Blake’s first memories of life were at the racetrack. “I think we went to the races more than we did school. My first memory of the races was being at the stand at the top of the straight at the 1991 Melbourne Cup which Let’s Elope won. It was incredible. Mum also took us out of school to go and watch the major races at the local TAB.”
As the offspring of a multiple Group 1 winning trainer, Blake remembers fondly poking around the stables before and after school or loitering around John Hawkes’ Stables in Victoria when his dad was training there. “It was these times that I didn’t think I was learning anything and just mucking around but now I look back and I was gaining so much knowledge.
“I think it’s good to have someone like that as your father as someone to learn off and gives you a leg up in this industry. Once you work out what you want to do, they teach you what not to do.”
His introduction into the industry came in the form of race calling with a young Blake being found by the track recording his race callings on a tape recorder at the ripe age of 8. “As a young bloke I really got into race calling by starting off with barrier trials for the Gold Coast Turf Club when dad was training there”, Ryan said. His break came when he became the TV director for the newly created TVN, in which he directed sports television and found success behind the microphone.
After leaving TVN in 2012, Blake was eager to get back in the saddle and live out his childhood dream of becoming a jockey just like his Group 1 winning father and grandfather, Les Coles. Blake scratched the ‘itch’ of being a jockey by making his debut in the Cootamundra picnic races on Armidales Pride which was trained by Leslie Bryant. His time in the saddle lasted 2 and a half years, with Blake riding 30 winners from 150 rides before his size restricted his chance of riding professionally.
With his jockey and media ambitions completed, Ryan decided to venture out into the world of racehorse training on his own accord. “I came to the decision one day that it was something I wanted to do but was definitely scary as I had 2 young children and covid lockdowns started happening. The thing I was scared about the most was doing my license interview even with people there that I’ve known for 15 years.”
Kick starting his career in the racing industry, Blake never felt the typical pressure associated with taking after his father in an industry that he is so highly regarded in. “He gave me no false evidence that being a trainer would be easy. He watches every runner and gives his opinion on each, being able to give advice at 7pm or 4am.” Not knowing any different due to witnessing his father’s efforts, Blake has been trained from a young age to cope with the tiring hours and stresses of the job as he ensures “If you don’t do the work, you won’t succeed.”
His first success came in the form of his first runner ‘Devine Future’ who was gifted to him by his father and co-trainer Sterling Alexiou. Through Blake’s training, this previously unplaced 5yo mare won her maiden at Orange and ended up concluding her career having won 2 races with 6 placings.
However, Blake’s proudest moment was in May 2021 when ‘Momack’ gave him his first city win at Rosehill Gardens in the midway. “Each winner has their own story which you get a kick out of for what its taken them to get this way.”
Starting out with 1 horse and 5 pretrained ones gifted by John O’Shea, Ryan has grown faster than he anticipated. “We have grown so much that we now have 35 horses on the books with 6 staff and international clients.”
Now, Blake has ventured out to lease a new 5-acre property which includes 26 boxes, a horse walker, and an equine pool as well as completing his Certificate IV in Racing (Racehorse Trainer). “I just wanted to build the quality of the stable and get results for people to see. We just need 1 good horse to walk in and we will be ok.
“The best advice dad has given me is ‘Don’t think it’s going to come easy and if you work hard enough in life, the success will come’.”