‘DAN McCARTHY…INSPIRED BY THE RACING GAME…..’

*  It was fate that drew Gai Waterhouse into racing: “There was a spot available with Dad when my Uncle died. I started by working in the office and clocking horses . But I found an excuse to leave the office all the time, and go down to the horses. I knew that’s where I wanted to be…..”

* Lee Freedman was 27, with plenty of faith in himself and his brothers, but little else: “We bought some stables; put down fifteen or twenty grand or something, and borrowed the rest. Then I went to see the racecourse manager and told him we needed to train there……”

* Colin Hayes was a 12 year-old at Semaphore, an Adelaide beachside suburb. He would save 25 cents, which would enable him to spend an hour at a riding school: “ I used to sit there and dream about owning and training my own horses…”

* Hal Hoysted was part of a racing dynasty. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all been successful trainers – as had several uncles. When he hung up his jockey’s silks, he became a stable foreman. Then, after gaining enough experience, he launched into a 60-odd year career as a trainer……….

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Dan McCarthy doesn’t pretend that he’ll reach the status of any of the above training legends. But he has something in common – he’s inherited a passion for the racing game that consumes him.

“I never visualised myself doing anything else,” he says. “When racing’s in your blood it’s a disease interrupted only by death. You can’t shake it ! “IMG_3942

His foothold in the industry has been enhanced in recent times, as his small stable has won several important races. He’s also forged a strong relationship with prominent owner-breeder, David Strain, whose horses such as Ashlor, Ashtrain, Blazing Ash and Ashrad have achieved success.

Dan’s hopeful that Ashlor can propel him to his dream of training a Group 1 winner…………

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He grew up around horses on the family property at Flowerdale.

“Dad ( Brendan) built up what was the biggest band of broodmares in Victoria over a ten-year period. At one stage he had about 700 horses; most on agistment, but a fair chunk of them were his own.”

“He was a great personality – a real story-teller – whose love for horses began as a teen-ager in Kyneton. He used to tell us that he acted as the resident S.P bookie at the Marist Brothers College he went to.”

When the McCarthys moved to Tallarook. Brendan Snr would travel down to operate his Insurance Brokerage in Melbourne, whilst also running the Stud Farm. Luckily, the eight kids were all willing helpers.

He became President of the Victorian Bloodhorse Breeders Association at one stage, and was a committeeman at Moonee Valley Race Club.

Brendan McCarthy died early last year, but his racing legacy continues through the VOBIS scheme. He and a colleague reasoned that the Victorian racing industry needed some sort of incentive for owners and breeders.

“They travelled the world off their own bat, looking at various schemes. When they made their presentation, Racing Victoria threw their support behind it. It’s a massive thing now.” Dan says.

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Dan’s other sporting love is footy. When he was rounding off his education at Assumption College he was a member of the First 18 squad for three years, alongside future stars like Brownlow Medallist Shane Crawford, Richmond’s Chris Smith and North Melbourne’s Simon Wood.

“I was as keen as mustard. But I couldn’t crack it for a game in the illustrious First 18.”

When he left school and spent a year working on the family Stud Farm, he played a season with Nagambie, but had to put his footy career on hold when he joined forces with his older brother Brendan, who was training at Caulfield.  At 21, he became the youngest-ever licensed trainer in the State.

“We usually had about 30 horses in work, and Saturdays were always taken up,” he says.

Dan and Perri married in 1998 and settled in Wangaratta. He brought five horses up here, to have as a bit of a hobby whilst undertaking an Electrical Apprenticeship: “I thought it’d be handy to have something to fall back on if things got a bit quiet with the training. But we were lucky enough to have 20-odd winners the first year.”

One of his best performers around that time was Another Timah. He had a half-share in him and the rest was owned by a few family members. “At the end of its career it had won 18 races; including wins in Melbourne and placings in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. He was a really good horse, and carried us through for a while.”

“But potentially the best we had was Le Rivet, which was broken down when we got hold of him. Three vets inspected him and told us he wouldn’t race again.”

“We bought him for $500. He won six races in his first preparation, and ended up collecting around $200,000 in stake-money, which was a bit of money in those days. He was placed three times in Melbourne. It was really rewarding to achieve that sort of a result against the odds.”

Eventually, Le Rivet’s career ended when he again broke down, but Dan was nominated for the Fred Hoysted Award for Training Excellence, for his effort in reviving the gelding’s career.

Spondee, which won eight races in the early 2000’s and Stash of Gold, which had nine wins, were a couple of others to bring success to the stable.IMG_4058

But wins have come along at fairly regular intervals over the years, and his last three seasons have been fruitful. Especially with Ashlor beginning to reveal its obvious potential.IMG_4051

After an impressive win at Moonee Valley last October, the stable-star was set for the lucrative Winterbottom Stakes at Ascot.

“It was a big challenge, taking him over to Perth. Normally plane expenses for that journey can be about $15-20,000, but W.A Racing paid for the trip over. When you nominate they’ll only do that if they think the horse is a genuine chance. And besides, they provided a $6,000 rebate to cover expenses.”

“W.A Racing were really good to deal with, and it was a marvellous experience. He got caught at the front of the pack doing a lot of work early, but then, when they turned into the home straight, he was in front. He faded a bit, to finish sixth, but overall, it was a terrific run in a million-dollar race.”

Ashlor followed that up with another good win at the Valley in late December. With 11 wins from 27 starts and accumulated stake-money of over $600,000, Dan’s confident that the five year-old gelding can keep improving……….

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When I tracked him down last week, this ‘Racing-Man’ was spearing drop-punt passes towards eager youngsters at College’s training session.

He’s a thick-set fellah with the physique of an old ruckman/forward. Since his kids started coming through the Junior League, he’s been fully invested. He had charge of College’s Under 14’s for four years and is in his second season sharing the Under 16’s coaching with Peter Harvey.

I suggest that, with his co-coach’s renowned reputation for ‘white-line fever’ he’d be spending a lot of his time trying to keep ‘Harv’ in check.

“Nah, he’s pretty calm. I’m the one who goes ‘off’ a bit,” he says.

Dan coached his sons Harrison and Alex to Under 14 flags at College. Harrison went on to be part of the Rovers’ Thirds premiership last year, and is now at uni, playing Amateur footy with Old Scotch U.19’s.  Alex made his Thirds debut with the Hawks a fortnight ago.IMG_4040

Third son Will is now coming through at College, whilst the baby of the family, Holly, is a budding Netballer.

I’m intrigued to learn, in hindsight, how Dan and Perri became so deeply entwined with the Greta Football/Netball Club.

“Well, Perri had a couple of seasons of Netball with the Rovers, not long after we arrived up here,” Dan tells me.

“It had been more than a decade since I’d played footy at Nagambie, but I got itchy feet, and joined Greta in 2002. I played there for the next 11 years; chalked up 150-odd games and finally hung up the boots when I was 40.”

“Perri eventually joined me out there. She won 5 Netball Best & Fairests, 2 O & K Medals and a couple of premierships.”

“We really enjoyed it at Greta. I served on the committee for a few years, and was Vice-President…..Terrific people……”

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Dan has a team of 12 horses in work at present, and reckons that’s just about perfect for him. Four of them are running at Caulfield tomorrow, in what will be a hectic day.

“You’ve just got to be careful not to take on too many,” he says. ” We’ve got a few syndicates involved now, which is great. And if they can have some fun, and get something out of it, I’m rapt for them. I suppose if you had the right team around you, you could possibly handle up to twenty.”

At the moment, though, the principal of McCarthy Racing, father-of-four, part-time Electrician and College Football Club co-coach is handling things just nicely………IMG_4053

‘FIRED BY PASSION……'”

(With Thanks to guest blogger Simone Kerwin)

JULIAN Corboy occasionally allows himself a wry grin as he pulls into the Wangaratta racecourse car park early in the morning.

The South Wangaratta resident muses that he could take his pick from a range of reserved spaces, as his equine industry involvement has ranged from track rider to steward, and just about everything in between and beyond.

His work life has taken him from riding track work and trying his hand at bull riding, to spending time on North Queensland cattle stations, working in horse stables interstate and abroad, and even enjoying a gig as a groom for a flight company.

While many and varied, all these experiences have centred on his love for horses. But it’s in his current role, as master farrier, that the 36 year old father of five believes he’s found his calling.

Despite the fact it requires him to rise before dawn and work steadily, sometimes until 8pm, every day but Sunday, Julian said the satisfaction the job delivered was worth the hours of toil under horses, and over his anvil and blazing blacksmith’s forge.

“Your work should be a vocation, and you should really enjoy it. It takes a long time to really find your vocation, and I think I’ve found it,” he said.

“You suck adrenalin from whatever you can. At one time, bull riding was great for the adrenalin, but then also, sitting on a horse in the outback for hours on end was gratifying as well. I get a lot more enjoyment out of this now; shoeing horses and making a difference in a horse’s life, in the rider’s life, is probably the best.”

Julian is one of a few farriers in the area working in the traditional hot-shoe manner, creating shoes over his forge to match the hooves of horses undertaking a range of activities, from racing to dressage, show jumping to western pleasure, and for draught horses like Clydesdales, to suit different seasons.

“Normally a horse would be out in the paddock with his head down, eating grass, but when we want them to do an activity, we’re asking them and their body to do more than what is natural.”

“We just put measures in place to ensure we get a good hoof; the old saying goes, ‘No hoof, no horse’. That’s basically why horses are shod. We don’t do it just because we can, it’s to save the foot from wearing out too quickly, or they go sore and you can have a lot of other problems,” he said.IMG_3839

“When a horse has grip and it’s asked to do something more than what’s usual, when a horse feels as though it can do it because it’s got a good set of shoes on, you’ll get 20 per cent more effort out of your horse. It’s all about increasing a horse’s confidence and making them comfortable, and the rest is up to the rider.”

Having seen different approaches to his trade during his travels overseas, Julian would love the same requirements for farriers in Australia that are in place in the UK, where it is an offence to shoe a horse unregistered.

“People have good intentions, but it can end up costing them more if they don’t do it correctly the first time. I’m one of the few who is qualified. I can’t emphasise that enough. I can’t do all of them, but I do recommend people have a good look at who’s under their horse, to avoid problems,” he said.

“The Victorian Master Farriers Association would be the first point of call for anyone looking for a farrier. Registered farriers are the only ones on that list.

“We’d like to see education by horse owners to do their research and make sure that the person under their horse knows what they’re looking at. A lack of knowledge of the equine anatomy and the lower limb, and incorrect trimming and application of shoes, can cause a lot of problems in joints and knees and upper body. It’s like orthotics in shoes, like podiatry, it’s the same thing.

“It is encouraging to see young people getting involved in the trade. I have a fourth year apprentice now who has really put the hours in; it’s important people do the trade so they understand properly what they are doing…….”

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Caring for horses has been a major part of Julian’s life since he was very young, having grown up as one of 10 children in a Warrnambool racing family.

“My earliest memory is from about the age of six or seven, when I used to go to my uncle’s stables with my brother, Adrian. I was keen to help out so I could get that little gold coin and go to the shop and get a bag of lollies,” he said.

“And I remember I rode a Shetland from Warrnambool to Dunkeld with my family on a family ride, I think I was about 10; it took a couple of days, and I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Despite the love of horses kindled in childhood, Julian said like people, there were always animals that proved difficult to deal with.

“I don’t like all of them; some of them aren’t very nice. There’s one a week I sort of have to avoid, I’ve been kicked nearly a million times,” he said.

“But the worst thing you can do with a troublesome horse is get upset – you just go and make a cup of tea and come back to it, or you waste your time and energy. Don’t go to war with a 500kg animal – it can outweigh you and outsmart you. Get along with it.”

In his 20s, Julian had aspirations to be a jockey, “but I was too heavy, so I was more of a track rider”. Around that time, he was riding 10 horses a morning in track work at Wangaratta, and then jumping on bulls at the weekend.

It was at the Wangaratta track that he met his future wife, Ludivine, who was also riding track work and building on the knowledge of equine health developed in her native France. Julian describes his wife as “the business brains” of their partnership – “she does all the books, is very clever – and she’s a great cook”.

“It wasn’t until I met Ludivine that I thought I’d better get focused on life and turn my knowledge into a business, and during that period I worked under Des Gleeson and Terry Bailey as a steward. I learnt a lot of people skills, and about working with sources and gaining information. The biggest thing I probably learnt was conflict resolution,” he said.

While he said he had “always been under a horse shoeing it”, it wasn’t until 2010 that Julian decided he would pursue farriery and become qualified. He trained with a master farrier in Benalla, as well as others around Australia, over four years to develop the skills and knowledge in horse handling and anatomy that he had picked up throughout his life. He is currently completing a diploma with the Worshipful Company of Farriers in the UK.

“I’ve also competed as a farrier blacksmith in Victoria and NSW, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being able to share and gain knowledge by brushing shoulders with other really good farriers from around the globe,” he said.

Julian honours the tradition of his trade in his workshop, with an unofficial memorial to World War 1 blacksmith farrier Merv Harris, whose tools and belongings he acquired when the man passed away.

“I was trimming a pony for a guy who used to look after him, and his name came up, and I said, look, I’d be happy to take his old tools and just hang them up, have a picture here,” he said.

The collection includes a cat’s head hammer, which Merv brought back from his time as a farrier in Turkey during World War 1.

Julian and Ludivine have passed on their love of horses to their five children, Jean-Baptiste (10), Francesco (8), Patrick (6), Kathleen (4) and Daniel (2). They all enjoy the company of the family’s gypsy cob horse, and their donkey, Morton – “a bit of a mascot” who’s fond of Guinness and is “the life of the party”.Julian Corboy-9558

“Jean-Baptiste has Down Syndrome, and he’s not walking, so for him to be able to ride the donkey is a big thing, it’s good for his strength. He’s also got a pony he rides. Franceso is a very keen rider and has a lot of natural ability. Kathleen’s still learning, and Patrick’s the same as Francesco, they just go for it, it’s just part of them,” Julian said.

Julian is gradually developing his business infrastructure on the South Wangaratta property where the family has been based for the past two years, in a “horsey area” handy to the racecourse and many of his local clients.

And the stream of work is steady. He rises each morning “at the crack of dawn”, milks the family’s cow, and enjoys a coffee before heading to the racetrack each weekday and Saturday morning to check in with trainer brother Adrian and tend to any horses that need to be shod.

“He’s got me 24/7 on call for any problems, and now that he’s working nearly 100 horses, it’s good to be able to assist him. He pre-trains for some very prominent trainers, and I like to be a part of helping him,” he said.

“I do have a great passion for racing, and I love seeing my clients get a winner, especially my brother. That’s never going to leave. Being able to help a horse through an injury is an advantage too. Lately I’ve been able to work with a number of vets on some pretty serious cases, and we’ve had some success.”

From the track, Julian heads off to see other clients, and from about midday, his out- of -town clients bring their horses to be shod.

“It’s a very, very busy trade. If it’s pouring rain, I’m making shoes, if it’s undercover, I’m shoeing a horse; there’s no way to escape work, you’ve just got to keep going, otherwise it will build up. I go away for about 10 days a year, and I pay for it. But it is worth it, because you’ve got to have a break – family comes first,” he said.

The Corboy children are also developing an interest in their dad’s work, and Patrick has his own anvil, though knowing the hard work involved, Julian said he’d be “very happy for him to be a dentist or a doctor or a surgeon” rather than follow in his footsteps.

“But to have a trade where my son can make a sword, that’s pretty cool,” he said.

When things get tough, and the work does build up, Julian relies on another strong conviction, his faith, to get him through.

“I come from a traditional Roman Catholic background, and I’m very, very proud of that. It’s been a big part of my life, my faith, for sure.”

” It gives me an incentive to suffer a bit when you’ve got to work hard, to offer it up if it’s a bit hard – that’s how I look at it. That becomes a prayer, doesn’t it? You think, ‘When am I going to find a time to pray?’, well, you are. Your work becomes a prayer,” he said.

Surrounded by animals and land in South Wangaratta, Julian said the family enjoyed all the region had to offer.

“After travelling so much, the North East is probably my favourite place, just because of the climate, the volume of horses; you just see horses do better up here because you get warm days in winter and the climate’s a lot better for horses.”

“My wife, being from the south of France, finds this region fairly similar to where she’s from. I’ve always come back to the North East, though I’m a salty at heart; I love the beach. I miss the sea breeze, but this is home for now,” he said.

 

(This story first appeared in ‘North East Living’  Magazine. The next issue will appear shortly.)Julian Corboy-9328