Keeping track of prime horse flesh
- by:Ray Thomas
- From:The Daily Telegraph
- August 17, 2012 12:00am
Trainer Peter Snowden keeps a close eye on his horses at Darley’s Osborne Park training facility. Picture: Mark EvansSource: The Daily Telegraph
TRACKWORK sessions at most racecourses are often described as organised chaos.
There are racehorses galloping everywhere, trainers yelling instructions, jockeys urging their mounts through their paces – all in near-darkness.
But morning trackwork at Darley’s new Osborne Park complex near Agnes Banks at the foothills of the Blue Mountains is something different again.
What strikes you first is the noise, or lack of it.
Trainer Peter Snowden stands alone in the clocktower as orderly groups of up to five racehorses at a time complete their workouts.
It’s all done with quiet, military-like precision and well after sunrise.
“There were no lights installed here at (Darley manager) Henry Plumptre’s request to make sure I didn’t get out here and start trackwork any earlier,” Snowden quipped.
“It is great to see the horses working in daylight rather than watching them through the fog and darkness. We start trackwork after 6am and we can run the ‘show’ at our own speed, do what we want really.
“When I drive over here and get out of the car in the morning, a real calmness comes over me.
“I wish we all had this environment, we would live longer and stay saner!”
Snowden’s secondary training base has been in operation for more than 12 months and with the associated infrastructure virtually completed, Darley held an open day for media this week.
It was a picture-postcard morning with hardly a cloud in the sky and only a light frost on the ground.
Snowden was in his element as he worked the majority of his 80-plus gallopers in just over two hours. “The asset of this facility is the availability of the tracks,” Snowden said.
“We can use them at times that suit us. We are lucky to have the StrathAyr track here because it doesn’t matter how wet it gets, we can always work on it.
“This is a superb set-up and it complements what we have at Warwick Farm.”
Snowden, who has a similar number in full work at Warwick Farm, travels over to the Agnes Banks property every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. “I’d like to train all the team out here but when they get to the races and there is 50,000 people and 100 horses all around them, they would never have seen that before and it might take them time to adjust,” the champion trainer continued.
“So, many of our horses do some of their preparations here and then go back to Warwick Farm. Having them floating between both places gives us the best of both worlds.”
Snowden said last week’s Missile Stakes winner Pinwheel is a prime example of the benefits of Osborne Park. Pinwheel, the talented seven-year-old, is rarely out of training as he excels in the stable environment.
But Snowden often sends Pinwheel over to Agnes Banks where the gelding can exercise on the water walker and roam the paddocks during the day.
“A horse can spend three or four days out here and it’s like they have had a spell. They feel rejuvenated and come back to Warwick Farm fresh and ready to go,” Snowden said.
Stable jockey Kerrin McEvoy also makes the trip to Osborne Park at least once a week for trackwork. McEvoy has ridden extensively in Europe and rates Osborne Park as one of the best training facilities he has seen.
“There are A-grade training tracks on the property,” he said. “The atmosphere helps horses relax, enjoy their work and get into a rhythm.”
Snowden and McEvoy followed their Missile Stakes success with Pinwheel last Saturday by combining to win two races at Canterbury midweek with Cliques and Omniscient.
The trainer and jockey team up again at Rosehill Gardens tomorrow with seasoned sprinter Skytrain in the Listed $100,000 Starlight Stakes (1100m), Babel (race 2) and Sindarin (race 3).
Snowden doesn’t have a Sepoy or Helmet in training for the spring carnival this year but the Darley Crown Lodge supremo nominated promising three-year-old Epaulette as a horse to follow. “Epaulette showed enough last time in to think he has a good future,” he said.
“He won the Black Opal Stakes in Canberra, then ran Pierro to the shortest margin any horse got to him all season.
“In the Golden Slipper, he was out of play in the first three strides out of the gates and we have already put that run behind us. I feel he has a lot more to offer. He’s only lightly raced and is probably our big hope going into the spring.”
Snowden said Epaulette was due to barrier trial next Tuesday in preparation for a return to racing in the Group 3 $125,000 Run To The Rose (1200m) at Rosehill on September 1.
“He is heading to the Golden Rose and then we will decide if he goes to the Stan Fox Stakes or the Caulfield Guineas Prelude,” Snowden added. “I feel up to 1600m will suit him.”