Maddie Ray­mond – Be­hind the Scene with ‘POP’

Ladies in Racing - - Contents -

THE 2015 MEL­BOURNE CUP WILL BE FOR­EVER RE­MEM­BERED FOR ITS GIRL POWER, WITH MICHELLE PAYNE RID­ING INTO THE HIS­TORY BOOKS AS THE FIRST LADY JOCKEY TO WIN THE

PRES­TI­GIOUS RACE. IT WILL CER­TAINLY BE A DAY TO RE­MEM­BER FOR AN­OTHER YOUNG LADY, 22 YEAR OLD MADDIE RAY­MOND, ONE OF THE STRAP­PERS AND TRACK RIDER OF WIN­NING HORSE PRINCE OF PEN­ZANCE, OR ‘POP’ AS HE IS MORE AF­FEC­TION­ATELY KNOWN

AMONGST THE DAR­REN WEIR STAFF.

As all eyes were on Ste­vie Payne proudly lead­ing his lit­tle sis­ter Michelle, back into the win­ner’s stall, it was easy to over­look one of the stal­warts of the Dar­ren Weir Team, who with­out hes­i­ta­tion had let Ste­vie join her in one of her big­gest mo­ments as a sta­ble hand. “The own­ers had asked for Ste­vie to help strap and I didn’t mind at all. To be hon­est, I don’t like much fuss and at­ten­tion so it worked out re­ally well. Ste­vie took the lime­light and raised lots of great aware­ness for peo­ple with Down Syn­drome, which is also our sta­ble char­ity and I was able to con­cen­trate on look­ing af­ter the horse him­self, which is what I love do­ing.” Maddie said. War­rnam­bool na­tive Maddie has al­ways had a keen in­ter­est in horses, be­gin­ning with rid­ing ponies from a young age. When she was still in school, Dar­ren Weir de­cided to op­er­ate a satel­lite sta­ble from War­rnam­bool and Maddie picked up a part time job at week­ends and school hol­i­days, be­fore mov­ing to Euroa and work­ing at Lind­say Park af­ter com­plet­ing school. Af­ter two years at Lind­say Park, Maddie re­turned home to War­rnam­bool and re-joined the Weir team. When the op­por­tu­nity came in late 2014 to travel to Ire­land to work for Cham­pion Jumps trainer Wil­lie Mullins, Maddie snapped up the chance. Com­ing from War­rnam­bool, the home of Aus­tralian jumps rac­ing, an op­por­tu­nity to see how one of the world’s top jumps rac­ing yards op­er­ated, proved an ex­cit­ing ad­ven­ture. “Rid­ing out and work­ing with horses is a lot dif­fer­ent in Ire­land than it is here. While I was able to use the skills I had learned from work­ing in Aus­tralian rac­ing, there was so much to learn. Even the way the horses are ex­er­cised is to­tally dif­fer­ent. It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence and I was able to work with some re­ally great peo­ple and fan­tas­tic horses.” One horse in par­tic­u­lar that Maddie got to know and ride out was Mel­bourne Cup se­cond place finisher Max Dy­na­mite. “I had rid­den Max Dy­na­mite out when I worked in Ire­land, so I knew the horse quite well. He is a very tal­ented horse, but I think I al­ways knew deep down that ‘ Pop’ would be able to beat him.” Not many peo­ple can say they had rid­den out and cared for the Mel­bourne Cup quinella, es­pe­cially when they are trained on op­po­site sides of the world. Af­ter spend­ing six months in Ire­land, the po­si­tion of a Sta­ble Fore­man at War­rnam­bool was of­fered to Maddie so she de­cided to re­turn home, tak­ing over care of Prince of Pen­zance who was re­cov­er­ing from colic surgery last Fe­bru­ary. One of the perks of hav­ing a satel­lite train­ing base in the coastal town of War­rnam­bool is the great beach ameni­ties on their door step. Most horses en­joy the break from reg­u­lar sta­ble rou­tine that be­ing ex­er­cised both on the beach and swim­ming in the wa­ter pro­vides. In hav­ing such a fa­cil­ity, Weir has the op­tion to send horses to War­rnam­bool to help re­cu­per­ate and re­ha­bil­i­tate post-surgery, as was the case with Prince of Pen­zance. Work­ing in rac­ing isn’t all sunny Spring glam­our and the life of a Sta­ble For­man is cer­tainly not for the faint hearted. A lot of hard work goes on be­hind the scenes to en­sure horses make it to race day. For Maddie, her daily rou­tine at the sta­bles con­sists of early morn­ing rises, with work com­menc­ing be­fore sun­rise at 4am. The War­rnam­bool Weir team usu­ally ride four lots of horses down at the beach, be­fore a fi­nal lot is worked through the nearby sand dunes. The pic­turesque sight of horses be­ing swum be­hind a row­ing boat is a reg­u­lar sight off the War­rnam­bool pier for those who rise early enough to wit­ness. Team­work is to the fore as ev­ery­one pitches in to all jobs at the sta­bles. Maddie can be found muck­ing out, feed­ing and car­ry­ing out gen­eral horse care along­side rid­ing the horses. A typ­i­cal week would mean at least one trip to the races, with ev­ery week­end be­ing spent at the races with sta­ble run­ners dur­ing the busy Spring Car­ni­val. Dar­ren Weir was quick to praise the great team he has around him in be­ing part of his Mel­bourne Cup suc­cess. Weir val­ues good staff and Maddie is no ex­cep­tion, en­sur­ing she re­turned to War­rnam­bool from Ire­land with the en­tice­ment of pro­mo­tion to Sta­ble Fore­man. Hard work de­serves re­ward and recog­ni­tion. “Maddie is a great worker and has done a great job look­ing af­ter Prince of Pen­zance. Hats off to Maddie I reckon, let­ting Ste­vie share her day.” Weir added.

Story by Caitrin O’rourke • Im­age by Sharon Lee Chapman Fast Track Pho­tog­ra­phy

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