It Takes A Team

8 min read

Welcome to TDNAusNZ’s newest series, ‘It Takes a Team’, brought to you in conjunction with Thoroughbred Industry Careers. Here we highlight and celebrate some of the heroes of our industry. The strappers, riders, studworkers and people behind the scenes of our 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.

Today we speak to two key members responsible for ferrying Group 2 Aquis Farm Fillies Classic winner Mystic Journey (Needs Further) across Bass Strait. The toast of Tasmania, Mystic Journey has been helped in her journey north by her strapper Bronte Page and truck driver Chris Mahoney.

Bronte Page - Strapper

TDN: Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get a start in the racing industry?

Bronte: I have been involved in horses for most of my life and started riding when I was three and joined pony club not long after. From there I followed my love of horses into a job that involved training endurance horses and then decided to make the move to work in the racing industry for Adam Trinder and Leah Goodrick. Adam and Leah have been great mentors for me throughout the years I have worked for them, because of this I found a real passion for the racing industry and the opportunities that come with it.

Bronte and Mystic Journey after her win in the G2 Aquis Fillies Farm Classic

TDN: What do you love most about your work?

Bronte: I love watching these horses go from yearlings to athletes. This transformation takes a lot of hard work and patience. During this time you can create some great bonds and relationships with these horses and gain a lot of knowledge from the people you are working with.

TDN: How long have you been Mystic journey’s strapper? Was this your first time travelling with her to the Mainland?

Bronte: I have worked with Mystic Journey after she came from the breakers to be trained by Adam. Throughout this time I have had the opportunity to ride her track work and strapped her at six of her nine starts. I also travelled to Caulfield with Mystic last month to where she won the Jim Moloney Stakes.

Celebrating a win in the Jim Moloney Stakes

TDN: Is there anything different about travelling a horse on a ferry to simply trucking them, how do you prepare them for the journey?

Bronte: Traveling horses across the water is fairly simple. We try not to change their routine too much and just ensure they have access to plenty of food and water before they are loaded onto the truck. Most horses seem to handle the boat trip quite well and seem to remain quite calm throughout the whole trip.

TDN: How long does the journey to Melbourne take?

Bronte: The journey can take between 10-12 hours depending where she is staying in Melbourne.

TDN: How did you feel when Mystic Journey won the G2 at Moonee Valley?

Bronte: There was a lot of mixed emotions, I felt so much excitement and pride but a small amount of disappointment that the other staff back home that put in the hard yards weren’t there to celebrate and experience this overwhelming moment. It’s an amazing experience to be able to strap a winner at that level and a moment I will never forget.

Mixed emotions after a G2 win at Moonee Valley

TDN: Any other career highlights that come to mind?

Bronte: Being part of Mystic Journey's win in the Sky Elwick Stakes at Hobart and her first mainland win in the Aquis Jim Moloney stakes at Caulfield.

TDN: What is the hardest aspect of your job?

The hardest aspect of my job would be the hours - early morning riding track work and late night races. This takes some getting used to but is totally worth it when you get the results you are chasing.

TDN: What advice would you give to someone wanting to get a job as a strapper?

Bronte: The racing industry isn’t the easiest place to work the early hours and split shifts but give it time, jump at every opportunity that you can. Take on board criticism and learn from your mistakes it’s the only way you will move forward and improve. Most of all enjoy working with these amazing horses.

I would like to say a massive thank you to Adam Trinder and Leah Goodrick for the opportunity to travel with Mystic Journey and also to Wayne Roser and his partner Jeannine for continuing to trust me with their amazing filly. The experiences have been sensational.

Chris Mahoney - Truck Driver, A1 Horse Transport

TDN: How long have you been transporting horses?

Chris: The first commercial transport was well over 15 years ago but I have been transporting our own competitive horses regularly across Bass Strait ever since 1990.

TDN: How did you get your start as a truck driver?

Chris: Funnily enough I started by carting flowers, and then decided transporting horses was a better fit for me. In about 2011 my wife Keryn and I started up A1 horse transport with the primary idea of commercially transporting our own export horses, and the horses of contacts and friends. We never dreamed it would end up a full time commercial operation.

From carting flowers to transporting stakes winners like Mystic Journey

TDN: Who is the best horse you’ve ever transported?

Chris: That’s a curly question because it depends how we define “best horse.”

Best, in relation to horses has a different meaning to all horse people.

So I’ll hedge my bets here and say best could mean most valuable, most loved, most accomplished, a stud’s new stallion or a broodmare bred in the purple, best stakes earner or perhaps even best known. So, to answer this question I’d have to say the best horse I have ever transported remains a mystery.

TDN: Is there anything different about transporting horses via the ferry?

Chris: Yes, I think so. Firstly it is a long trip and there are unique challenges to consider, pre travel preparation is important because you want the horse to arrive in peak condition and not metabolically compromised. By that I mean the horses need to be appropriately fed and watered before they leave for the journey and not in a stressed state, such as straight from a hard hit out or race.

Transporting horses on the Spirit of Tasmania is not an issue if the truck is well ventilated and care and attention to detail for optimum horse health is maintained. The TT Line do their utmost to ensure our horse crossings are managed well in the respect of making sure the trucks are parked in adequately ventilated areas and usually last on and first off which makes a difference.

The Spirit Of Tasmania

TDN: Is there any added pressure knowing you have a stakes winner on board or you’re transporting a horse to a very important race?

Chris: Young stock, mares in foal or with foals at foot, bloodstock, Stakes winners or any other category on board gets my full attention. However that said, transporting to a big race, or yearlings to premier sales as well as horses in work do carry a different level of pressure shall we say. I am mindful of the importance of ensuring all horses travel well.

TDN: How does Mystic Journey handle the trip to Melbourne.

Chris: Really well, she is a true professional and she has improved on every trip. Mystic Journey travelled over from Tassie brilliantly before her win on Cox Plate day at Moonee Valley.

TDN: What is the toughest part about your role as a driver?

Chris: I think the fact that I am not only the driver but the joint owner with my wife. We both know what it takes to manage performance horses properly and honestly the driving is only a small part of what we do.

TDN: Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about a career in transporting horses?

If you are passionate about horses and love driving, then it may suit you. Transporting can open some fabulous doors where you can go to great places, meet awesome horses, owners and trainers and feel a sense of achievement at the end of the day. You do need to pay serious attention to what is going on in the truck at all times though.

Horses are a truly precious cargo and they have taken me around the world literally. I have travelled with them to the UAE and Asia. Every horse is special in its own way to either the person despatching or the person receiving it and every horse deserves to be treated with respect and as an individual.

So, be confidential in your dealings, be kind to the horses; treat them like they are your own, be patient with the horses and run a clean, well maintained, decent truck.

That’s our formula. If you love horses and understand them it’s a great job.

The A1 Horse Transport set-up