Dianne’s Heartwarming Journey with Fields of Oxley

By Samara Smith

When Dianne decided to purchase a retired Thoroughbred in 2022, she had a simple goal: to provide a home for a horse in need.

Fields of Oxley, a former racehorse and Team Thoroughbred graduate, has since become a beloved member of her family.

“I purchased him because I wanted to help out a horse that needed a home,” Dianne said.

“I also wanted to have honest information and feedback from who I was purchasing from.”

Although Dianne grew up around horses, she had never owned an ex-racehorse.

Since rehoming Fields of Oxley, she has quickly become a retired Thoroughbred racehorse convert.                                            

“They’ve got a really good base to work from,” Dianne said.

“He goes on the float fine, picks up his feet fine, you can put the saddle on him, do the girth up, put the bridle on, all those basic things that a new horse wouldn’t have are really well instilled in him.” she said.

Fields of Oxley has made great progress in his retraining, adjusting from life as a racehorse to life as a pleasure horse.

“He’s been so interesting, being an ex-racehorse,” Dianne said.

He’s learnt to go out for a ride on his own because obviously he’s always been around other horses and I have also transitioned him to barefoot.”

Feilds of Oxley is certainly enjoying retirement.

The black gelding enjoys regular trail rides with Dianne and is also ridden by her granddaughter when she visits.

“He’s just a great, easy horse to have around,” Dianne said.

“He’s perfect for my teenage granddaughter. She loves him.”

Dianne said Fields of Oxley has been the perfect addition to her family.

“I’d definitely go back again to get another Thoroughbred when I have the time and a spare spot.”

Future Looks Bright For Jayla

By Abby Delucyk

Jayla, at the tender age of 17, has taken on the challenge of retraining the racehorse, Classic Bright, transitioning him from the racetrack to the world of eventing.

The journey began when Terry Evans, a respected trainer in Tuncurry, was seeking a good home for Classic Bright. Jayla, with a keen eye and a passion for horses, eagerly stepped up to the plate. Since August 2023, Jayla and Classic have set out on their retraining journey together, already competing at Taree Show and having outings to Pony Club.

“I think his personality is what makes him so special! He has a sweet kind face and is a placid horse, with no intention of hurting you,” Jayla gushes.

Growing up in a family of horse lovers, Jayla learned the ropes of retraining from her mum and aunties who are seasoned riders. “I love starting from the ground to make a connection with the horse and working from there. I try and do all disciplines with my horses to let them do everything,” she said.

Her love of horses was engrained in her from a young age, constantly begging her parents for a horse since she was 5.

Besides her time with her horses, Jayla is a high school student juggling her studies with a stablehand qualification through TAFE. Her day starts early, taking care of four horses before heading to school and then returning home to complete feeding.

Dream of becoming a jockey, inspired by her grandfather’s love for racing, fueled Jayla’s ambitions to join the Racing industry. However, as she grew, she realized she may be too big for a jockey and instead switched her goals to becoming a racehorse trainer in the future.

“I got a job when I was younger at the Trots at Menangle Park before relocating up north to Tuncurry. This is where I discovered Terry and his stable,” Jayla said.

Local trainer Terry Evans has played a significant role in Jayla’s journey into racing. “He is great trainer and a good boss – he will explain something to you if you get it wrong, not yell or anything. His horses are all very respectful as well.

“I love everything about racing and working with horses. I especially love all the training and watching the horses progress with their different training,” she said.

Looking ahead, Jayla has her sights set on another one of Terry’s horses, Sir Ravenlli, the Mid North Coast Country Championships winner as her next retraining prospect.

Despite going into Year 11 and facing questions about her future, Jayla is clear about her goals. “I have my mind set on eventually becoming a racehorse trainer but also have my own business retraining and selling retired Thoroughbred racehorses,” Jayla concluded.

Ava’s Trifecta of Thoroughbreds

Ava, a lover of Thoroughbreds, is thrilled to welcome Ricochet Bullet, her third Team Thoroughbred Graduate, to her competitive team. Ricochet Bullet joins former Belltrees residents, ‘Bobs Cooltoo’ (AKA Harvey) and ‘Shepley’, adding to the mix in Ava’s stable.

Bobs Cooltoo, Ava’s first Team Thoroughbred NSW graduate, had a very successful 2023 as her main competition horse.  After a brief racing career, Harvey underwent retraining at Belltrees before finding a home with Ava on her family’s Northern NSW Farm. Described by Ava as the “Coolest, quietest guy out there”, Harvey can transition seamlessly from the perfect competition mount to the ideal Pony Club partner. Their notable achievement came at the Inaugural Equimillion competition, where they took out the Junior 80cm Showjumping class and $15,000 in prizemoney. Motivated by this success, Ava and Harvey are focusing on eventing and showjumping, aiming for continued success in 2024.

Having fallen in love with Harvey, Ava returned to Belltrees to find another valuable addition, this time for her mother, Rebecca. Shepley, formerly trained by Tracey Bartley, joined Belltrees and embarked on his retraining journey. Described by Ava as possessing “the most gentle and kind nature”, Shepley has proven to be safe and easy to handle, making him the ideal horse for her Rebecca to develop her skills. Shepley has already participated in some low-level events, showcasing his potential as a dressage champion. Exciting plans are in store for Rebecca and Shepley in 2024!

Ricochet Bullet AKA ‘Frankie’

The newest addition to Ava’s team is ‘Ricochet Bullet’ (AKA ‘Frankie’), who has seamlessly settled into the family. With promising potential as a future eventing champion, 2024 will be used to understand Frankie’s skills and ability off the track.

We wish Ava and her team of talented Thoroughbreds good luck in 2024.

Poppie Gorton: From Rocking Horses to Racetracks, Chasing Dreams in the Saddle!

By Abby Delucyk

When envisioning a typical 16-year-old girl, you might not imagine her going to bed at 8pm with the aspiration of waking up early at 4am to ride trackwork. However, for Poppie Gorton, this is her dream life.

Poppie was inspired by her mother’s love of horses from an early age and had a dream to pursue her love of riding. “My grandma made me a rocking horse when I was born and apparently, I just refused to get off and would stay there all day,” Poppie said.

Poppie began riding at the tender age of three, and her competitive spirit led her to enter her first competition at just six years old in Scone. While she only attended Pony Club twice, Poppie consistently took riding lessons and gradually progressed to participating in clinics. She has been fortunate to have the same coach, Sandy Lucas, for 13 years.

Poppie’s passion for Thoroughbreds is evident through her proud ownership of five off-the-track Thoroughbreds. “I love that with horses, you have a built-in best friend. They aren’t just built for going fast, they actually love their next job and are so versatile. I was drawn into eventing because of the adrenaline rush you get doing three disciplines in one,” she said.

With multiple competitions under her belt, Poppie shifted her focus to the Inaugural Equimillion competition, featuring $1,000,000 in prizemoney. “I didn’t have high hopes leading into the event as I had an injury 2 months before so only really had a few weeks to prepare.” Despite this, Poppie exceeded expectations and was crowned Grand Champion of her class, taking home an incredible $15,000 in prize money.

As Poppie invested her time into riding, school started to become a second option. Eventually, she made the decision to leave school at the end of Year 10.  

With her riding skills advancing, a friend named Rosie introduced her to the world of race riding. This new career path hadn’t crossed her mind until she saw a video of Rosie galloping down the straight where her interest was immediately provoked. Through Rosie, she was introduced to well-known Hawkesbury trainer, Brad Widdup who saw talent in this rising star.

With Brad’s support, Poppie’s parents agreed to her joining the local Hawkesbury stable as a trackwork rider. As her journey progressed, Brad suggested that Poppie explore the role of an apprentice jockey, considering her lightweight frame.

“Working with Brad is everything I’ve wanted and more. The whole Widdup family has supported me, and it feels more like I am working with a family. They understand I am still young and learning”, Poppie said.

Poppie is now on the path to becoming an apprentice under Brad, aspiring to follow in the footsteps of legendary jockeys like Kathy O’Hara and Rachel King. She sets her short-term focus on obtaining her apprentice license and working towards her first jump out.

“I wouldn’t trade my job for the world. It is hard at times to see your friends go out while you’re in bed early, but I know in the long run, everything will be worth it,” Poppie concludes.

Making The Unthinkable Happen

By Abby Delucyk

Para-Dressage rider, Simone Salter made the unthinkable happen with Team Thoroughbred graduate Vegas Vic after competing in the Riding For The Disabled competition just two weeks after purchasing him.

Haven ridden since she was 8 years old, Tamworth-based Simone became a para-rider after she was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. Despite this, Simone has continued to pursue her love of riding and is now a qualified Dressage coach and judge.

In need of a new competition horse, Simone reached out to Alec at Belltrees Retraining Farm after previously purchasing an OTTB through the Team Thoroughbred rehoming program at Belltrees.

The handsome Vegas Vic caught the eye of Simone when she first visited the farm.

“I needed to find a horse that had the right temperament and trainability. Alec knew exactly what I was looking for and suggested Vic,” Simone explained.

“Vegas Vic has a very cool, calm and collected demeanor which I love. He doesn’t like leaving his friends very much but other than that he is an easy horse to ride.”

This duo wasted no time and got straight into their training.

Simone rode Vic every day for a week before she floated him down to Sydney where they participated in an Equine Pathway Clinic. Their trip to Sydney was extended where they competed in the Riding For The Disabled NSW Championships.

“I was supposed to compete with another horse, but we had an accident and missed out on the qualifiers with him. I needed a horse to fill in the gaps and Vegas Vic was the answer.”

And the duo soared, taking home lots of ribbons.

“Everyone thought I was crazy. We made such a good connection to be able to do what we have done in the past two weeks,” Simone recalled.

With their success fast-tracked, Simone and Vegas Vic set their sights on the upcoming Equimillion competition.

“We are also attempting to qualify for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics which is a long process but that is where we are heading,” Simone concluded.

New Glory For Champion Cristal Breeze

By Abby Delucyk

On Saturday April 17, Cristal Breeze galloped down the straight at Royal Randwick to take out the 2021 Provincial Mid-Way Championships. All while his strapper, Ellie Rogers, cheered him home with tears in her eyes!

This duo’s bond dates back to 2019 when Cristal Breeze first arrived on Australian soil, with Ellie tasked to ride him every morning for Kris Lees. “No one actually really liked him because he had a very spooky, shy personality. I found that he was slow to trust people which I quite liked about him, and our friendship really just grew from there,” Ellie said.

“I worked with him at the stables, brushed him and strapped him in his first start which he won at Canterbury in the June of 2020,” she said. 9 months after his first start, Cristal Breeze qualified for the Provincial Championship Final after coming in second at Newcastle.

“No one was really backing him too much for the championships and were picking different horses as Kris had 6 horses in the race. I was quietly confident he would run a good race but didn’t think he would have it in him to win,” Ellie claimed.

However, Cristal Breeze made the unthinkable happen, winning the 2021 Provincial Championships Final at Royal Randwick, with Ellie marking this moment a highlight in her strapping career.

After achieving this success, Cristal Breeze made the trip up north to QLD where he went on to race while Ellie was forced to stay in NSW. Despite this, Ellie kept a close eye on this champion and was in constant contact with his owners and Australian Bloodstock who previously helped import him.

Ellie Rodgers strapping Cristal Breeze. Credit: Bradley Photos

“I think everyone knew that once he was ready to retire, I was the first in line,” Ellie said.

“It was after a race in Queensland that one of the owners actually dm’ed me on Instagram and mentioned that they think that might have been his last race. I was so excited but just didn’t want to get my hopes up too early,” she said.

It was a message that came from Australian Bloodstock owner, Luke Murrell, that allowed Cristal Breeze to be officially retired to Ellie.

This duo wasted no time and quickly got into retraining after he was transported back down to NSW. “Cristal is so quiet and relaxed. Everyone says he looks so happy now and has really come out of his shell.”

His home track, Newcastle Jockey Club chose Cristal Breeze as one of four picked to be a sponsored rider in the upcoming Equimillion competition. Ellie has entered Cristal into the classes of eventing and show jumping after he has shown lots of talent in jumping.  

“Our main goal is just to have fun and get some prizemoney as there is a lot on offer. We are going to take it step by step,” Ellie said.

We wish this pair good luck in Equimillion!

Small Steps Pay Off For Millie

By Abby Delucyk

Set to finish trials soon, Camilla, better known as Millie, has turned her childhood passion of equestrian sports into an exciting racing career. 

Growing up on a property outside of Tamworth, Mille always had off the track Thoroughbreds as show horses. Her favourite was Walt, a gelding who was formally trained by Eric Hayes.  

“We were a very horsey family like we went to shows on the weekends together and always did things with horses but never anything to do with racing,” Millie recalled.  

With the glamour of horses striking Millie’s interest, she regularly competed most weekends and went on to place in both Sydney and Brisbane Royal in showing. She did this all while balancing her ongoing school commitments.  

As school ended, Millie enrolled into a university course before she quickly came to discover that this wasn’t the path she wanted to take.

“I was starting to become really interested in racing and thought that there could potentially be a career in it for me. I reached out to local trainer Craig Martin to see if he had any work available at his stable and got a job there,” Millie said.  

As Millie settled in to her new normal, the transition into racing came quite easily to her.  

“Apart from the early morning wake ups, it was pretty normal as I have been around horses my whole life. Craig mentioned that I was the perfect build to be a jockey as I was quite small, so I started to ride trackwork.”  

“I always knew it was going to be hard to ride like a jockey and was mindful of all the small steps involved as it was a different style of riding than I was used to,” Millie said.   

Wanting to develop on this new riding style, Millie moved to the Hawkesbury to gain basic riding skills at a local stable.

“I started with Dan Robinson at DPR Horsemanship as my partner (Rory Hutchings) suggested I should go there to learn the basics. Dan is an amazing rider, especially with difficult horses, so it was really helpful to learn from him. I stayed here for 12 months just learning the ins and outs of everything like jump outs and being in the barriers,” Millie said.  

Although Millie learnt to ride in Hawkesbury, she always knew that if she wanted to become a jockey, she would have to move into the city. She reached out to Peter Robl and landed a job at his Randwick stables.

Millie’s progression then came to a sudden halt as COVID lockdown struck Sydney, forcing her to return to Tamworth. “After lockdowns were over, I came back to Sydney where I went to work full time with Pete which was always the plan. I have always been recommended to go to Pete’s stable as he was such a good jockey back in his day and wanted to learn off him,” Millie said.  

Millie decided to progress her riding so she reached out to Team Thoroughbred’s NSW Training Academy to earn a qualification. Through the Training Academy, Millie started on an Apprentice jockey path.

It was here that Millie started her apprenticeship with Pete and completed her first jump outs and trials. “My first trial at Randwick was on one of Les Bridge’s horses, Invincible Legend, which was quite a quiet horse. It was so nerve wracking, but I just remember Les saying to me “You’ll do great kid”,” she said.  

Unfortunately for Millie, Pete decided to relocate to QLD, meaning she had to scout a new stable to work at. Kim Waugh’s popular stable at Wyong caught Millies’s eye and she made the move up north.  

“Kim has some great horses in work at the moment and is a really lovely, supportive person. Wyong is also a great track as everyone gets along which is good,” she said.  

With Millie calling Wyong home for the moment, she dedicates her focus to finishing her trials and taking out her racing license.  

“I guess I dream of what everyone dreams of which is winning a Group 1 race. Right now, my goals are focused on riding and I haven’t really thought beyond that,” Millie concludes. 

Vicki Roycroft: An icon of the sport

After a stellar equestrian career, Vicki Roycroft is an icon of the sport. Her love of thoroughbreds has led her to represent Australia in three Olympic Games and three World Championship Teams. She also was the first female to win the Rome Grand Prix. All of these which Vicki competed with a Thoroughbred.

“When I first started riding, my sport horses were always thoroughbreds. And they are still my preference of horse today,” Vicki said.

“I think certainly for amateur riders’ thoroughbreds are a better horse as, generally, they are quiet. Whenever I return to riding from an injury or something I always ride thoroughbreds as they are a pleasant horse.”

Vicki with TTNSW Graduate, King Of Navarre

Vicki is regarded very highly in the equestrian community for her passionate love of thoroughbreds. “The best thing about thoroughbreds is their attitude. They are forward-thinking, intelligent horses, more so than other breeds of horse. Thoroughbreds have beautiful faces and eyes which they look at you and show their love,” she said.

Thoroughbreds are Vicki’s breed of choice for competing, such as her iconic Apache who she got straight after his retirement from racing.

“It’s actually a funny story how I got Apache. I was in Cowra doing a clinic when the guy running it mentioned that he has a little horse that just jumps too high for him and asked if I would have a look at him. I wasn’t at all fussed but eventually agreed. I got on and rode him and after the first jump, I thought ‘Wow, he was pretty good’. His owners didn’t want to sell him though, so I just forgot about him for the time.

“3 weeks later the guy called me and said his owners are going to sell him, did you want him, but I didn’t remember what horse he was talking about. He was only selling for $500 and $50 for transport so I thought why not and sent a cheque in the mail. I went down to Bankstown to pick him up but forgot how small he was! Driving back, I was thinking how Wayne (her then husband) was going to kill me because he was such a small chestnut like under 16hh. Turns out to be the best horse I’ve ever owned.

“This was a perfect example of how you don’t find good horses, they find you,” Vicki said.

This dynamic duo achieved the unimaginable in 1987 when they won the Grand Prix in Rome, with Vicki being the first Australian and women to do so. Apache was also ranked in the top 20 for the best horses of that year.

“I trained him (Apache) from cross rails to the Grand Prix. He just came out of nowhere to win and won the biggest class. We won a lot of competitions together until I had to sell him for financial reasons,” Vicki said.

Vicki’s success didn’t just stop in Rome, but instead spanned across the globe. Competing in 3 Olympic games, Vicki was awarded an Australian Sport Medal in 2000.

“I have been very blessed to travel with this sport taking me all over the world. The 3 Olympics I competed in were very special and all great in their own way. My first Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984 was probably my favourite as we had a great team and Wayne was the flagbearer for the Australian team which was incredible,” she said.

As Roycroft became Australia’s golden girl in showjumping, the pressure from home started to mount. “You need to expect pressure. I always felt less pressure overseas as you’re more of an underdog but in Australia, I always felt the home crowd expectations,” Vicki said.

Although the pressures were there, Vicki had a great support team behind her every step of the way.

“The great American trainer, George Morris, was a very big mentor for me as he has been there to help me in Rome and places like that. He is still a dear friend now and I bring him out to Australia to do clinics with me,” Vicki said.

Despite being separated now, Vicki’s husband Wayne Roycroft was also influential in her career.

“Wayne was an outstanding coach of 3 of our Gold Medal winning teams. He and his father, Bill taught me a lot and I was able to learn through their coaching,” she said.

Winning more World Cup Qualifiers than any other Australian rider, Vicki’s determination is backed by the advice, “You’ve got to earn what you want. People expect things to be put in their laps, but you must work for it,” she said.

Vicki’s drive to succeed is still alive today, with the idea of retiring never being an option for her.

“The thing with this sport is you can do it at whatever age. I still enjoy producing horses, especially off the track thoroughbreds as you get them off the track and make a sport horse out of them.

“That’s the pleasurable part of it, getting to work with the horse and improve it. That’s what I’ll be doing more of now,” Vicki states.

As Vicki continues to coach the next generation, her best piece of advice for new and upcoming riders is, “You’ve got to let your horses let down a little bit before training them. Let them get the racing syndrome out of their brains.”

Racing’s giving Loni a fantastic ride!

By Abby Delucyk

Loni Fuller’s love for horse racing was sparked by a basic riding lesson, igniting a lifelong passion which has captivated every facet of her life.

Since childhood, Loni has been immersed in the equine world, having grown up with a horse on her family’s farm. Although her mother was a rider, she did not come from a racing background. Loni always had a fondness for working with animals but was unsure of how to turn this passion into a career.

It wasn’t until it was time for Loni to start a career, that she decided to put aside her love for animals and instead study a business course through TAFE.

While completing her degree, Loni always had this urge that she wanted to learn to ride but thought she missed the boat as she was 22 and maybe too old to start a new sport. Pushing past this thought, Loni and her close friend decided to enrol themselves into a riding lesson at a local stable.

“It was here that it clicked in my head that maybe I wanted to do something with horses. I got really into riding and signed myself up for a breeding course through TAFE to learn more, but unfortunately due to covid it didn’t run,” Loni said.

This roadblock didn’t dim Loni’s passion for horses and instead pushed her to consider a career in the racing industry. Loni acted upon this thought and reached out to popular Newcastle trainer Kris Lees to apply for a stable hand job with him.

“I just wanted to see if the racing industry was for me. I haven’t looked back since,” she said.

Within a matter of weeks, Loni became invested in the racing industry and in her time at Kris Lee’s she had many rewarding moments. After two years she decided it was time to move on and sought career advice from Samantha Clenton, who was the foreman she was working under at the Lee’s stable.

“Samantha’s advice was that I should go to Leah Gavranich and Paul Messara at Arrowfield, so I applied for a job there. Ever since the interview, Leah has taken me under her wing and taught me so much within the past year. Leah is such a good horse woman and is really big on educating her horses which has been great to learn,” Loni said.

With this guidance and new position, Loni and her partner relocated to the horse capital of Scone as she has pursued full time employment at the Arrowfield training centre.

“At Arrowfield, they are giving me the tools and experiences to one day slot right into any role I wish to persue in the future, within Arrowfield or elsewhere. This is because of both Leah and Paul’s extensive knowledge and their encouragement to upskill myself by getting my truck license and completing a short leadership course which has been pretty amazing,” she said.

Although Loni details the highs of her role, she also doesn’t shy away from the reality of working with animals. “The early mornings and long working hours can be really hard some days, but I wouldn’t change it at all. Coming from working in other industries I look back now and realise how happy I am that I am here. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back,” Loni stated.

As Loni continues to upskill herself through the support of the Messara Racing team, she works towards her end goal of one day being able to train racehorses. “I am in the right place to learn and train successfully as I am so happy with Arrowfield and appreciate how much time they have invested in me so far. In the meantime, I would love to become a racing manager or a travelling Foreman if the opportunity arose,” Fuller said.

Career aspirations aside, it can be said that the racing industry has well and truly captivated Loni’s heart.

“For me, the best part of the racing industry is being able to connect with owners and create lifelong friendships that I wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t in the industry. I used to strap Enchanted Heart and now I am still very close friends with her owners,” Loni said. 

King’s Ultimate Love Of Thoroughbreds

After piloting Paths of Glory to success in the 2020 Wyong Cup, Group 1-winning jockey Rachel King has since adopted and retrained the English import to showjumping victory.

Formerly trained by Michael and Richard Freedman, Paths of Glory (or better known as POG), instantly stole Rachel’s heart after she rode him in his second start.

“I always had a passion for equestrian as I did a lot of showjumping as a kid but just never thought about having a thoroughbred of my own,” King said.

“From the first time I rode him he just felt different. Straight away I asked connections if I could take him on after he had finished his racing career.”

The duo’s bond deepened as Rachel became POG’s regular jockey in which they went on to claim a Group 3 win in the JRA Plate at Royal Randwick and three other Group placings.  

Credit: Bradley Photos

After 24 starts and earning over $500,000 in prizemoney, Paths of Glory officially retired from the track on Rachel’s birthday having suffered a minor tendon injury.

China Horse Club, the owners of Paths of Glory, gave the jockey their blessing and the grey was rehomed with Rachel.

“He had a good break after that to recover and then the work started. It’s been over a year now and he has really turned his hand to showjumping which is what I have always enjoyed,” Rachel said.

“Because I hadn’t done showjumping in years though, we both were learning on the go and taking this journey together.”

Credit: Wiepa Lodge

So far, the pair has entered multiple competitions and training days in which POG has consistently competed in *1m classes.

“He is such a good horse to have as he is low maintenance which fits into my racing schedule.

“It doesn’t matter when I ride him, he is always the same and doesn’t get too fresh.

 “I’m only doing it for a bit of fun, but he is truly a great horse to have,” Rachel said.

Although extremely happy with her companion POG, Rachel hasn’t ruled out the possibility of expanding her showjumping team to include other off the track Thoroughbreds.

“If I find one at the races, I keep an eye on them. I’m just waiting for the right horse to turn up and for me to have the same feeling as I did with POG,” Rachel concluded.