It Takes a Team

4 min read

Welcome to TDNAusNZ’s newest series, ‘It Takes a Team’, brought to you in conjunction with Thoroughbred Industry Careers. Here we aim to highlight and celebrate some of the heroes of our industry. The strappers, riders, studworkers and people behind the scenes of some of our most favourite champions. The people who are up late into the night foaling or up at the crack of dawn to trackwork, working tirelessly to keep the industry running.

We begin today with one of the most recognisable strappers in the world. Thanks to his association with the wonder mare Winx, Umut Odemislioglu has become a bit of a celebrity in his own right and has been with the mare since the beginning of her career.

Chris Waller with Winx and Umut following her win in the Turnbull S.

TDN: How did you decide to work in the horse racing industry?

Umut: I began working with horses at my grandfather’s olive farm where he breeds Thoroughbreds and Arabians as a hobby. Through his connections I was able to get a job working with horses in Istanbul while I was at university. I decided to make a career of it and first travelled to Ireland and then on to Australia.

TDN: What do you love most about horses?

Umut: Horses all have their own individuality and different characters, they are fragile animals and what I love most about them is they will do anything for you if they trust you.

TDN: What does a typical day look like for you? What are some of your responsibilities?

Umut: First thing in the morning I quickly go through and check all of my barn horses, there are usually 20 under my care. They have been alone in their boxes all night and anything could have happened, so the first thing I like to do is check they’re all OK and then I can continue on with the daily routine.

Umut and Winx arriving at Randwick

TDN: How special is it to work with a horse like Winx?

Umut: I think every single person in this industry is waiting for the chance to work with a horse like Winx. The dream is what keeps a lot of people in the industry going. I am still amazed by how much one horse can change your life, she is beyond my wildest dreams and expectations.

TDN: How did you become a foreman in Chris Waller’s operation?

Umut: I was the assistant trainer for Tim Martin for five years, I started as a stablehand and worked my way up. After that I decided I needed a different environment and approached Chris (Waller) for a job as I had known him previously. I found my own space within a big team and have been a foreperson for him for almost seven years now.

TDN: What is the most challenging part of your position?

Umut: The most challenging for me is the working hours, but you get used to it and it is quite tough with the stable staff shortage in Australia. I think I have taught more than a few hundred the job as we are getting in new staff all of the time.

TDN: What is your favourite part of being a strapper?

Umut: Winning races would have to be my most favourite part.

TDN: What advice would you give to someone thinking of becoming a strapper?

Umut: Just give it a chance for a few months, the first year is always hard, but it is worth it. Remember to accept that it is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle.

I appreciate the chance Australia has give me to become a part of racing. I love the racing culture and the atmosphere. There’s pressure now but when we think about it in the future it will be great, great memories.

Umut with owner, Debbie Kepitis