Home' Breeding and Racing : Issue 116 May - June 2014 Contents FOR DAILY INDUSTRY NEWS UPDATES VISIT WWW.BREEDINGRACING.COM 21
year-old Victorian trainer Henry Dwyer was
already celebrating his maiden Gr1 victory,
having won the Queensland Derby just 40
Dwyer may be relatively new to the training
caper but the path he has taken to this point
has been deliberately aimed at achievement.
He currently has 15 boxes at Caulfield and 8 at
Ballarat, which is utilised predominantly for
breaking and pre-training, and a useful facility
to freshen up a horse needing the variety a city
Without a family background in the
industry, he fondly recalls attending the races
from ten years of age, an activity inspired by
his father owning a few horses but “not in a
hands on sense,” Dwyer says.
Whilst undertaking a Bachelor of
Commerce/Arts degree at the University of
Melbourne, Dwyer took on part-time work in
the stables at Flemington for Russell Cameron
and Dan O’Sullivan and it was here he fell in
love with racing.
Dwyer then set about a ten-year plan
towards becoming a trainer and in his own
words has “crammed in as much as you can.”
He experienced life on a stud farm including
yearling preparation having worked for a year
at Ealing Park in Euroa, Victoria.
Dwyer certified his racing education by
attending the well-respected Marcus Oldham
College in Geelong where he obtained
his Advanced Diploma in Horse Business
Management. He was awarded the $15,000
Australian Thoroughbred Scholarship in 2007
to study the one-year Diploma of Equine
Management at Marcus Oldham College at
Dwyer says that Marcus Oldham gave him
the opportunity to formalise the knowledge
he had learned on the job in stables and
on studs, through an extensive syllabus of
horse and business subjects. It also facilitated
introductions to industry participants he
otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity
to meet, some of whom he does business with
to this day. Most of all, Dwyer formed lifelong
friendships at Marcus Oldham with like-
minded individuals who plan on making their
mark within the Thoroughbred industry.
The Thoroughbred industry is something
that has captured Dwyer’s imagination and
interest since he was about eight years old. The
initial interest was stimulated by the theatre
and excitement of being involved with a winner
however as he became more deeply involved in
the industry a love of the horse complemented
and overtook this. There are not many people
that can go to work every day and honestly say
there is nowhere else they’d rather be – Dwyer
says he is one of those lucky people.
What ensued thereafter was likely the most
influential element of his short-career thus far:
a four-year stint as foreman and then assistant
trainer with the astute Robert Smerdon at
“When you’re learning you have to be a
sponge; 90 percent takes place on the job and
working with good people. I’ve been lucky who
I’ve worked for,” Dwyer acknowledges of his
education in the horse business.
He describes Robert Smerdon as “as good a
teacher as you could ask for” as he was happy
to share his knowledge. Dwyer also found
this at Macedon Lodge, when he received the
opportunity to work with Robert Hickmott
and Lloyd Williams as their assistant t rainer.
Whilst working for Smerdon, Dwyer
attained his trainer’s license, and Aquanita
allowed him to have a horse in work. La Spiel
became Dwyer’s first runner at Moonee Valley
on 28 October 2011, finishing seventh.
Dwyer rounded out his educational journey
in racing by spending six months overseas last
year, visiting training and breeding operations
in Dubai, Ireland, France, the United Kingdom
and Hong Kong. “It’s great to see how they do
it even if it’s not always relevant,” he says.
Last August Dwyer attended a thoroughbred
sale in Melbourne which included a dispersal
of racehorses by the Darley operation.
Interested in 3-4 horses, he attended the sale
with a budget to purchase one. That one horse
that fit into Dwyer’s price bracket was a three-
year-old colt by Teofilo called Sonntag, which
he secured for $58,000.
Sonntag had finished fourth in a maiden at
Mornington just a few days prior to the sale.
Fast forward a little more than nine months
later, Sonntag is a classic-winning colt and
provided his sire Teofilo with his first Gr1
winner in Australia as well as Dwyer’s inaugural.
So at 30, what does Henry Dwyer do next?
• Education – TICK.
• Experience in breeding – TICK.
• Experience with local trainers – TICK.
• Experience with international trainers –
• Trained a Gr1 winner – TICK.
“You’ve got to be aspirational,” Dwyer states
ahead of the Melbourne Spring Carnival. His
immediate aspirations are to get more of his
current two-year-olds to the racetrack, with
only two of the 14 in his care having raced.
“There are some nice horses I’m looking
forward to,” Dwyer tells.
Although ambitious Dwyer is not one to
get carried away, with a sound and reasoned
approach to programming a preparation to
suit each horse’s progression. “You have to have
an A, B and a C plan,” Dwyer explains.
As for Sonntag, he’s enjoying the sun in
Queensland, having the Spring off with the
Autumn Carnival and Sydney Cup figuring in
his possible future schedule.
It’s undeniable that Natalie McCall and
Henry Dwyer love what they do. Their passion
is unmistakeable when they talk about their
own stables or the best horse they’ve seen race.
For McCall, it’s Black Caviar winning the
BTC Cup at Doomben, and for Dwyer it was
his experience standing at the 300m mark
watching Lonhro overcome the impossible to
defeat Delzao in the Australian Cup of 2004.
During the last chapter of the flashy black
Champion Lonhro’s racing career, fans famously
held a poster at the races describing three
certainties in life: “Death, taxes and Lonhro.”
Now there is another racing certainty to add
to the list. Neither Natalie McCall nor Henry
Dwyer will ever forget Stradbroke Handicap
Day 2014, a day where the duo overcame
seemingly insurmountable odds.
“Dwyer rounded out his
educational journey in
racing by spending six
months overseas last
Natalie McCall (left)
with River Lad
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20 FOR DAILY INDUSTRY NEWS UPDATES VISIT WWW.BREEDINGRACING.COM
CHANGING FACE OF RACING (CONT)
Farm racecourse on Queensland
racing’s biggest stage, Stradbroke
Handicap Day, Natalie McCall
and Henry Dwyer took centre stage and
created that very history with exceptional
triumphs by River Lad (Gr1 Stradbroke
Handicap) and Sonntag (Gr1 Queensland
Such accomplishment warrants a closer look
at the young trainers behind this achievement.
Based on track at Caloundra, an hour north
of Brisbane, and with 20 horses in work,
Natalie McCall always wanted to be a horse
trainer and follow in the footsteps of her father
Ray. Her appetite for racing was evident at an
early age. “I used to ask Dad to make sure he
woke me up in the mornings so I could go over
to the track,” McCall recalls of her childhood.
With training in her destiny, McCall learnt
her craft from not only her father but also from
a four-year stint working for John Hawkes.
During this time McCall strapped Crawl to
win the Stradbroke Handicap in 2001 and the
race has been in her sights ever since.
In fact McCall had planned an assault on
the race last year with her stable star River Lad
and all looked on track after a close second
in the Prime Minister’s Cup lead up on the
Gold Coast. Unfortunately those plans were
curtailed when a stone bruise forced River Lad
to be scratched from the Gr3 BRC Sprint, a
race he was able to win this year en route to a
famous Stradbroke victory.
The triumph by six-year-old gelding River
Lad provided extra special meaning for the
pair of McCall trainers on the Sunshine Coast.
By stallion Top Echelon, who was trained by
Ray McCall and whose trackwork rider was
Natalie McCall, Top Echelon finished second in
the Gr1 TJ Smith Classic (now JJ Atkins Stakes)
to Lovely Jubly as a two-year-old.
“He got the job done for Dad too,” McCall
enthuses about the unfinished business that
River Lad was able to achieve for her father.
River Lad is the best-performed progeny
of the unfashionable Top Echelon, a son
of Umatilla from the Kingston Rule mare
Advisory. Although the sire has been visited
by broodmares in small numbers each year,
ranging from 3 to 33, from eight crops he has
sired 54 winners from 80 runners (67.5 percent
strike rate). In fact McCall trains the stallion’s
best two racetrack performers, with four
year-old mare Lady Echelon also in her care, a
winner of the Listed Tatt’s Classic at Doomben
Top Echelon will stand at Oakwood Farm in
Queensland for the 2014 breeding season for a
service fee of $4,000.
Amongst a day of firsts, McCall’s maiden
Gr1 training effort was also remarkably the
first time a woman has trained the winner
of the Stradbroke Handicap. So focused on
winning the race, it was a fact that McCall
had not thought about until after the proud
achievement. Gai Waterhouse couldn’t do it
but Natalie McCall did – at her first attempt.
River Lad’s immediate plans are a decent
break over the Spring – he’s earned it – before
a trip to Perth for their Summer Carnival and
another tilt at Gr1 glory.
McCall has humbly built her stable and
owner base through purchasing “a couple” of
yearlings most years, as well as having clients
that are owner-breeders within the stable,
whose horses she is able to syndicate.
After receiving the boost to her training
career that all trainers dream of, does McCall
want to expand her operation?
“I don’t want to be bigger. That’s (20) good
enough for me,” McCall tells. She would prefer
to focus on increasing the quality of stock
within the stable and importantly “keeping
owners happy,” McCall laughs.
Whilst McCall was cheering River Lad
towards the winning post in the Stradbroke, 30
Most industry pundits would offer generous odds for the feat of training a Gr1
winner with your first starter in a Gr1 event. Cassandra Simmonds writes the
odds of this occurring for two individual trainers on the same day, at the same
racemeeting, are exponentially longer.
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