How a Slippery Ribbon Led to a Good Weekend

G’Day Mob,

Several weeks ago I was thrilled and privileged to have a story printed in the Good Weekend, a glossy magazine insert in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald. Thrilled because it is such a high-profile national publication and privileged to be able to share the story of Peter and Nathan Sinclair, father and son thoroughbred trainers from Moree.

Nathan and Peter Sinclair - father and son thoroughbred trainers at Moree in north-western NSW

Nathan and Peter Sinclair – father and son thoroughbred trainers at Moree in north-western NSW

The story behind this story began with a slippery satin ribbon.

I am rarely seen in a dress (well, there’s not a lot of call for it when chasing cows) but I make an exception each April for the Warialda Races when Kerry, my stylist, tarts me up with matching accessories and we join half of Coolatai on a bus to Warialda’s big day out.

The Coolatai Mob off to the races

The Coolatai Mob off to the races

Last year I was in a little black and white number with a recalcitrant satin ribbon that refused to stay bowed. On return from a foray to the stables, where I had been annoying anyone who would stand still, a gentleman stopped me to say the ribbon was once again flying free. I asked him if he would mind re-tying and as he attended to the task he dropped a rather important looking clipboard. Never one to miss an opportunity I asked him “What do you do here?”

“I’m the starter,” Mal replied, unwittingly opening himself and his profession to a thoroughbred-mad writer. By the end of the day I had been behind the barriers as Mal “started” the races and had secured his phone number for a future engagement.

Mal and the slippery ribbon led to the dirt track of Mallawa, out past woop-woop and the black stump. Here I met Brad (acting chief steward), Jack (assistant steward), Rhys (judge) and Bob (betting and swab steward) and here I spent a day learning about the role of stewards in racing. I was hooked.

Behind the barriers at Mallawa for a four-horse race

Behind the barriers at Mallawa for a four-horse race

A three horse race on the dirt track of Mallawa

A three horse race on the dirt track of Mallawa

Later when Jack moved to Sydney to take up a cadetship with Racing NSW I got an early morning tour of track-work at Randwick – also known as Headquarters to the Australian racing fraternity, and Mallawa and Randwick contrasted led to a story for Racetrack magazine.

A steward's tower on sunrise at Randwick Race-course

A steward’s tower on sunrise at Randwick Race-course

Somewhere after Mallawa and before Randwick I went to Bundarra to do a story for Outback. Here I was re-united with Mal, Jack, Rhys and Bob, and I met Barry and the big boss Shane. Stewards are like the policemen of racing and Shane came with a scary reputation. This bloke can fine, disqualify, revoke and suspend. He even sounded scary when he answered the phone, but then I learnt he drank VB and enjoyed golf and rugby league and that shouldn’t scare anyone! After the Outback article was published Shane’s comment was “now people are going to think I’m a good bloke.”

Behind the barriers at Bundarra with Mal of the slippery ribbon

Behind the barriers at Bundarra with Mal of the slippery ribbon

On the back straight at Bundarra

On the back straight at Bundarra

So, slippery ribbon, Mal, Mallawa, Bundarra, Shane and then I needed a trainer to interview and Shane rang Peter Sinclair and for this I apologise to Peter – not many trainers want a call from the Chief Steward.

With Peter came Nathan and I reckon, dear Mob, you should really read their story. It’s an amazing tale about a lovely family – and probably not what you are expecting from a racing story. Check it out here.

And that is how a slippery ribbon led to a good weekend.

 

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4 responses to “How a Slippery Ribbon Led to a Good Weekend

  1. That is a wonderful story about this father-son team of trainers. Always been partial to thoroughbreds myself. Beautiful horses. My great uncle Ollie was an old country doctor who loved horses. Rescued one named Major from a racetrack once. The horse had a broken leg. Uncle Ollie couldn’t bear to see him put down, so he took him home and fixed him up. Major recovered, learned to pull a plow, and lived to 20 years old.

    • The thoroughbred is indeed a beautiful animal. My favourite will always be my horse Bandit, though I cannot imagine him staying calm enough to pull a plough (plow).

  2. Good for you. One never knows how the story will end.

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