Saturday, 7 September 2013


It seems to have been forever since I had a horse of my own and any real involvement in racing.

I still have a very good knowledge of local racing, attending regular meetings and watching the rest on pay TV.

I have taken interest in the career of a horse owned and trained by the son of a long time friend and former trainer.
I could see some problems that the horse was having and I knew the training methods being used by the young trainer and his father.
They had some success with the horse and neither father or son were open to any suggestions from anyone, so I was very surprised when the son phoned me and asked if I would be willing to help him.
He wanted to take his family for an interstate holiday but wanted the horse to keep up with his work and retain his fitness----his father has been sick, and father and son usually argue badly over everything with horses, so he wanted me to work the horse for him while he was away.
I really don't like their methods but I enjoyed the idea of being back in harness myself, so I agreed.

The deal was that I would work the horse to the sons planned schedule, early each morning and work the horse by himself and that I would not let the father interfere.

First morning, I was there at 6.30am and on the track by 7.00am. Of course the father arrived and tried to supervise me and give me his ideas, but I worked the horse to the instructions I had been given.
I spoke to a friend of mine during the warm down jog laps and asked if he was working any other horses later in the morning----he was and I arranged to meet him at the track at 11.00am

He laughed when I arrived with the horse again, with father no where to be seen----I wanted to work with another horse at about half pace and try to teach this horse to race.
That work suited my friend and we worked together over 2 miles at half pace and sprinted to the post with the two horses going head and head along side each other.
I arranged to meet him again the next day

On day two, father was there for the early morning work out and was nowhere to be seen  for the 11.00am two horse war. This time I worked on the outside of my friends horse and we went strongly for 2miles, stepping up the pace to the line, but finishing with heads together.

This went on for four mornings but on the fifth I asked my friend to work his horse behind me over the 2 miles and then come around me and race to the line. I had watched my horse race a few times and he gets very lazy when in front and needs to be driven with the whip to keep him going to the line, so holding him back to a three quarter pace work out and yelling at him all the way seemed to confuse him and when the other horse came to him for the sprint, I just gave him one flick, screamed at him and urged him to the line. They finished with heads together
The sixth morning I worked my horse behind my friend but still kept talking to him and growling at him, even though we were at three quarter pace and I had him under a good hold----I sure he wondered what the hell was going on, even more so when I eased him out for the sprint home and only yelled at him. He raced up easily on the outside of my friends horse and they finished with heads together.

We mixed up their work for another week, both horses having victories, neither knocked around with the whip and both learning to race each other.
I phoned the race driver of this horse, who trains in his own right and asked if he could bring another horse or two to work with us, but not tell the owners father.
He arrived with his daughter and two handy racehorses-----I told him what we had been doing and I told him that I thought this horse could race without being chased with the whip and would sprint to the line a lot better if yelled at and only being flicked with the whip----he laughed but agreed to the match race and see if this horse had changed his ways.
We set up with the daughter in front, my friend in behind her, the driver with his horse and me in last place.
We worked strongly over a mile and a half and then stepped up the pace----as I eased out to make my run, the driver came out in front of me and my friend popped out in front of him----as we came to the home turn, the driver eased out to three wide to make his run with my horse right on his back and as he went to the lead, I screamed at my horse, gave him one flick and he went straight past them all.

I have to admit that I was as surprised as everyone, not only that this horse could sprint like that but he had learned to race so quickly.
The driver said that he couldn't wait to tell the owner and his father. I asked him if he could keep it to himself until race night which was a week away---and the owner would be back to take over in 3 days.---he agreed.

The owner came home, phoned me and thanked me and told me that the horse was in on Saturday night.

I went to the race meeting---I asked the owner if he thought it was worth having a small bet on his horse. He told me that he thought that the field might go a bit quick for his horse but that he could run a place.
The driver came to the stable to get his racing colours and told the owner that he had never seen this horse work so well as the morning of our little race set-up.
The owner and his father were not impressed that I had been working him my way and giving him extra work and I walked away with them fighting with each other over letting me work the horse at all.

Any way, I had a fairly modest bet on the horse, the driver's daughter had a few dollars on him and my friend, who normally doesn't bet opened his wallet.
The horse did his bit---he showed unusual pace out of the barrier and took up a great position in behind the leader and race favourite---the driver was talking t him and yelling at him to keep his place, no whip driving was required.
We got a lot of good luck with horse coming to tackle the favourite a few times during the run and as they rounded the home turn, there was horses coming from everywhere to make their runs---the driver eased the horse into the sprint lane under a hard hold, screamed at him and gave him one flick with the whip. He even amazed me as scooted past them and won running away.

The driver told me later that he had told the owner and his father that that was the way he finished off his run in training---but both told him that it was just the way the race was run---it suited him.
Who cares---we backed a winner that paid $23 on the tote.
Maybe he will go on as a better racehorse---I hope so

Monday, 15 April 2013


We go through life surrounded by family and we think that we know all about them.
If nothing is said then we assume that we know it all.

I grew up surrounded by basically all of my mothers family
The back fence of my maternal grandparents house was part of our side fence and it was normal to take a short cut through their yard when going most places..
Unusually for the era, my mother went back to work when I went to school, so my grandparents were a big part of my life while I was growing up. They had immigrated from Scotland, so I learned a whole new language and about another culture.

Every "family" time of the year, my mothers family would gather at my grandparents house to celebrate but when my grandfather died, so did the gatherings.

My father was an only child and both of his parents died shortly after I was born.
I know that my paternal grandparents never owned a house and that my paternal great grandfather immigrated from Denmark, married and had two sons.
I know that my mother and father did not marry before the war because my father volunteered and that he could not send his allotment to my mother to save for their house, so it was sent to his mother to save. Unfortunately, she enjoyed the money and spent it all before my father was discharged.

There was so much I thought that I knew about my family and so little that I asked.
And now there is no one to ask.

My mother was in her eighties when she had a slight stroke---at first we just thought it was a fall until I realised that she had no memory of it and shortly after it----
Some hours later in hospital she was being quizzed by a doctor and all seemed to be back to normal until she told the doctor that she had her eye poked out when she was two years old. I was frustrated by that and said something about her having two eyes-----it was only then that I found out that my mother only had one eye-----I had never noticed, never asked and never been told----and that I then knew, embarrassed my mother.

Now I have had contact from my mother's cousin's daughter who is working on the family tree of my maternal grandfather and I realise how little I really know about that family
I had no idea that my grandfather's family immigrated to the United States but returned to Scotland.
I now know that my maternal grandmother was an illegitimate child and that most of her family did immigrate to the USA and Canada.

But then I had a phone call---a woman working on her husbands family tree and that is my fathers family. I gave her the information that I had only to be told that most of it was wrong.
Did my father not know or not care or did I not ask enough
Yes, my great grandfather did immigrate from Denmark but he had seven children from two wives.
I know he died before my father was born but surely my dad asked about him and other in the family.
My father rarely spoke about his parents---I have one photo of me as a baby in their arms but my grandfather died of a heart attack when I was six moths old-----or was my father keeping the big family secret.
I was shocked when this woman doing the family tree told me that my grandmother had committed suicide.
Nothing was ever said---no one ever told me.
I searched the State Archives today and read the coroners report that my grandmother, aged 61, had hung herself in the shed behind her house.
Why would she do that.---her sister was living with her, she lived close to my home, she had my father, her only son, she had two young grandchildren.
The doctors report said she had been depressed over the death of my grandfather eight months before.----very sad, but she could have had 20 years of being my grandmother.

I guess we just go through life with our families taking them for granted and taking everything that they tell us as gospel. Maybe for our own satisfaction we have a responsibility to ask more, be interested and proud of our lineage and make sure that we pass our personal history down the line.
You never know, you might have the missing link

Saturday, 19 January 2013


I suppose one of the biggest stories in the world at the moment is Lance Armstrong admitting to being a drug cheat.
Well, admitting in his own way, while defending his actions and trying to apportion the blame to a variety of circumstances and people.
Sorry Lance, you did it, you got caught, pay up
You are a cheat and a thief
You stole the dreams of so many people.

Now having said that, Lance is no orphan.
Where there is prize money or glory and betting attached to the physical endeavours of man or man trained beasts, there will be those who will try to gain some underhanded advantage.

You should know by now that I have spent the best part of my life involved in the racing of horses.
I learned very early that a large majority people involved in the racing of horses, were quite willing to take short cuts and use anything they could to try to gain some advantage.

Blood doping is really nothing new. A simplistic form was used as early as there is records. Trainers used to bleed their horses in the belief that the newly produced blood in the system would have some magical power. It did actually, carrying more oxygen the horses appeared to be fresher and rejuvinated.

Over the years more and more substances have been banned by authorities as they have found them being used to enhance the performance of horses.
Unbelievably the early popular performance enhancing drugs were actually poisons. But in small regulated doses, poisons like arsenic and strychnine act as stimulants and were indeed responsible for vastly improved performances. Unfortunately, the system does not purge these poisons and of course a build-up caused multiple problems.
Steriods came and went, eventually being listed as banned substances .

Suddenly swabing proceedures detected traces of an elephant tranquilizer called Etorphine. Once again it was a poison used in small doses proving to be a great stimulant and it was being masked my large doses of glucose.
So it was discovered that the cheats were not only using illegal substances but had found a way to mask their use.
It was not until authorities started to investigate the reason for vastly increased CO2 levels in blood samples that they found the use of baking soda was masking the use of a Methamphetamine called Blue Ice.
A few trainers were banned after Blue Ice was found in their horses blood samples but the real smarties had moved on to an Ecstasy variant called Red Mercedes once again masked by baking soda.
Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda) is naturally occuring in the body and assists with the neutralizing of lactic acid in the muscles but now authorities have set an upper limit that can be in the body before being deemed to be a masking agent.

But have no doubts that the cheats have moved on and have found another way to manually or chemically enhance performances. It is like a dog chasing its tail---just as the authorities catch up, the smarties have moved on

I can tell you that my greatest satisfaction in racing has been beating these cheats by hard work, good feed and a knowlege of how to get the best out of natural ability. I can only assist my horses by education and sometimes a little psychology.

A cheat who I know very well thought that he was the smartest man in Australia when he found a supplier in a "neutral" European country. When he went to collect his supplies, he was nearly knocked down at the shop door by one of the most respected trainers ever in this country.
Hmm, I have now lost all respect for him.

So Lance, you are no orphan, but you are to be despised and forever known as a cheat.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


I knew that she was different from the first time I met her.
But somehow, I like "different" people---maybe I am one or just understand.

We talked a lot but it usually ended abruptly, like she had lost interest, or she just needed to leave.
I think she was happy in her own world and in her own company.

She used to talk about her ex---like there was only ever one guy---but I never pushed the point because I could sense a tenderness was still there and I never tried to advance our relationship.

She worked in the same office as a very good friend of mine. ---- a friend who like to meddle in my life---so it happened. My friend arranged that we would all have a night out with her and her husband.
It was a great night but it was easy to sense her discomfort at times even though she grabbed my hand and we walked arm in arm between the evening's venues.
I took her to a fair she wanted to go to and to the home of some charlatan to have her angels and auras read----sad that these people prey on the vulnerable and needy.---but there was no relationship other than a fairly lose friendship.

She failed to show up to work for over a week and her phones had been disconnected, so her contract was terminated---she was only a temporary employee.
I was concerned for her welfare and tried to contact her but there was nothing for over six months.
Then a phone call--"Could you come and visit me--I would like to see you and talk"----she had admitted herself to a clinic.
Of course I went and spent hours with her, talking and walking the grounds and playing pool with some other "inmates", until her parents arrived.
Her father took an instant dislike to me but that was fine---I didn't like his attitude towards his daughter needing help with a fragile mental state.
I could see that she wanted to talk to her mother alone, so I excused myself and asked her father outside for a cigarette. I further endeared myself to him, telling him he was an ignorant, arrogant arsehole and that he needed to support his daughter ----sad that an eastern European man could only see his daughters state as an embarrassment to his family.
I visited her on a regular basis, but just like everything in our relationship before, she failed to tell me that she had gone home---the staff told me when I turned up for a visit.

It was nearly a year later that she called and asked if I wanted to go to the football with her---her mother worked at a league club and had a variety of free members tickets and car parks
We had a great day---laughed a lot, drank champagne at the breaks and our team won. She asked if I wanted to go again next week and we made plans---but two hours before the game, she phoned and said she couldn't go and she was gone again for more than two years.

It was 1am and the phone rang---it was the angel of death, ranting and raving but obviously in some need. I talked her to sleep--ha ha ha, she didn't even hang up the phone----but she was back again the next night--2am and the next night and then gone again. It was only a week later at just after midnight and she rang to ask if I had some wine--she wanted wine and the shops and hotel bottle shops were closed---she arrived in her pyjamas and had already been drinking---I kept her here for over an hour but in the end, she was going---took her bottle and left.

I sent birthday and Christmas cards via her mothers address and it was just after her birthday she phoned---it had been 4 years or more. She sounded great.
She told me that they had found a tumor on her brain and operated---she had never felt so good ---we spoke for some time--she gave me her phone numbers and her address and we arranged to have lunch the next week---she sounded so happy---only sad that she had just turned 40 and missed so much in her life.
The day before our lunch she phoned and cancelled----said she had a longstanding medical appointment but she would phone again and organise lunch.

She never phoned---she killed herself
No one can say why
I guess that angel just needed to be free
If there is a god and he or she does have angels I'm betting on her being there