November 11, 2020 National Trotguide
JACK Trainor didn’t expect to have two runners in the same race just five weeks into his professional training career.
Even more bizarre was the fact that he has only four horses in work at his Menangle base.
Makoa and Shelby Bromac were both drawn in an early race at Menangle on Saturday night, and obviously Jack had the pick of drives.
He was more than happy to settle on Shelby Bromac, a horse he’s had in the stable for only a short time.
In fact he’d only given the gelding one previous run and was impressed with his second placing behind Match In Heaven a week earlier.
He booked talented youngster Josh Gallagher for Makoa, a towering giant of a horse by the celebrated sire Art Major.
From gate two Makoa led comfortably.
From gate eight Jack had to “cuddle” Shelby Bromac until the back straight where he slid forward and took over from his stablemate. Jack was far from happy even this far from home.
“He didn’t pace fluently at any stage and was wanting to get up the track all the way down the straight,” said Trainor.
“Something wasn’t right but I couldn’t put a finger on it.
“I wasn’t even aware how impressively Makoa had gone in the race.”
For Jack it was an early sample of the helpless feeling experienced by trainers when a horse has raced below expectations for no apparent reason.
Over the weekend a good reason manifested itself: “A foot abscess burst out of a front foot and you couldn’t help but wonder how the hell he got around in the race,” said Jack.
“There hadn’t been a sign of lameness and it took the concussion created in the race to bring the infection to the surface.”
Jack Trainor’s love affair with harness horses began in his very early teens as he grew up in the trotting stronghold of Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island.
His father Daryl enjoyed the sport and often travelled as far south as Winton and Invercargill to attend race meetings with his only son in tow.
Obviously Dunedin’s famous Forbury Park track was another magnet for the kid with a burgeoning interest in the sport.
Top trainer Cran Dalgety often sent horses to Dunedin from his Christchurch base in the care of a young horseman whose star was beginning to rise even that far back.
“I got very friendly with Dexter Dunn and I was pretty chuffed when he let me help with harnessing duties, or hosing and scraping horses after their races.
“Dexter could see how keen I was and some time later he suggested I spend school holidays in Christchurch under the tutelage of Cran Dalgety.
“I did this for two years in which time I got keener and keener.
“At the same time my father decided to hobby train a couple of horses at home which added fuel to the fire.
“My mother Anne also got interested as an owner.
“As soon as I was out of school I went full time to the Dalgety stable where I was treated like one of the family.
“I had a season and a half as Cran’s junior driver winning 17 or 18 races.
“It was all a great learning experience but my thoughts lay across the Tasman.”
It was the age old story.
Jack had a friend who happened to know Shane Tritton, who was still based at Newcastle and was winning races at an astonishing rate.
His junior driver Lauren Panella was rapidly running out of concession points, and it occurred to Jack that Shane might be needing a new junior.
Before he knew it, 19-year-old Jack Trainor was at Newcastle in the employ of a trainer who was working a big team of horses, many of them straight out of the paddock – a method that made good sense to a New Zealander.
He drove a healthy number of winners and gained valuable experience, but the big city beckoned.
It was Todd McCarthy who informed Jack that Kevin Pizzuto was looking for an experienced junior reinsman.
Clients of the Pizzuto stable were bringing horses from NZ at a dizzy rate, and it was certain concession drives would be available. “Once Kev watched me drive a few in races he started to give me more and more opportunities,” said Jack.
“After a while I was driving the bulk of stable runners and I must have won 50 races in my 12 months there. There’s no doubt Kevin Pizzuto launched me in Australia.”
Alta Jerome was unquestionably the best horse Jack Trainor drove in the Pizzuto colours .
“I won seven races on him including a listed Bulli Cup, but the opportunity to drive him in the 2015 Chariots Of Fire was my biggest ever thrill,” said Jack.
“We ran fourth to Our Sky Major and I can still remember every stride of the race.”
Following his whirlwind year with Kevin Pizzuto, the young Kiwi horseman embarked on the next phase of his career – a fulfilling five years as stable foreman to the great horseman Blake Fitzpatrick.
“What can I say about this man,” says Jack.
“He’s a wonderful all-rounder with great patience and understanding of the animal.
“He’s without peer as a race driver and gave me invaluable help in that department.
“Most of all he’s been a loyal friend. Blake and Lisa Fitzpatrick have had a huge impact on my life.”
Blake gave his offsider many driving opportunities – some because of multiple representation in races, some because of suspensions.
Jack’s expertise with trotters blossomed under Blake’s tutelage.
“It’s well documented that trotters invariably make up half of his team,” said Trainor.
“Nobody trains and manages them better than Blake. It was a treat to watch him develop a young trotter.”
It’s interesting to note that Jack’s favourite horse during his time with Blake was a unique little horse called Blazing Under Fire, winner of 20 races with 24 placings for close to $200,000.
“He was pacing bred which probably accounted for his funny action,” he said.
“He had an action like an egg beater.
“He’d throw his legs in all directions but would keep trotting.
“I won six races on him all up. I won’t forget him in a hurry.”
Since arriving in Australia seven years ago, Jack has been much in demand as a freelance driver.
Apart from the backing of trainers to whom he’s been employed, many outside drives have come from other stables.
“I owe a vote of thanks to several Sydney trainers, none more than David Thorn, who’s been a great supporter all along,” said Jack.
In setting up his own small training base, Jack was able to come to an arrangement with his good friend Jason Grimson.
Between them the pair work a total of a dozen horses.
“It’s actually a 10-horse barn, but we also have the use of a couple of paddocks,” he said.
“We’ve usually got a couple of horses who are better off being trained out of the paddock, so it works out well.”
Jack has a statistic-savvy friend who told him recently that he’s approaching 500 wins as a driver – a tidy effort in just eight and a half years.
That friend has now opened up a training diary for the young Kiwi who hopes to match his driving figures, with similar stats as a trainer over the next eight and a half years.
This is where Jack Trainor has wanted to be from the moment Dexter Dunn got him to hose down a horse at Forbury Park 14 or 15 years ago.
Looks like Dexter’s got a lot to answer for.
- JOHN TAPP