Astute horseman Brian Mayfield-Smith may be semi-retired, spending his days far from the hustle and bustle of the city, but the former Sydney Premiership winning trainer still holds hopes of one day winning the Melbourne Cup.
With the “begrudging” support of his wife Maree, the tough ex-stockman and bushie who said back in November of 2009 he would never saddle another racehorse is quietly preparing for a second comeback.
“The thing that really still drives me is I would still like to win the Melbourne Cup, it’s unfinished business,” Mayfield-Smith said.
On his farm near Yea, Mayfield-Smith is embracing the rural lifestyle and enjoying the slower pace of life since announcing his retirement a year and a half ago.
“It’s really where I like to be and I feel real comfortable with it,” Mayfield-Smith said of his country home.
Mayfield-Smith made the decision to retire at the end of 2009.
“I told people that I was struggling a big with the money, but really we bought our farm in 2002 and we always planned to move up here and build a house,” he said.
“I went four years over my promise (to his wife) and I thought I better honour it before I kicked the bucket.”
With the house near complete, Mayfield-Smith is now ready to step back into the training circle and already has a horse in preparation.
“I do have one horse at the moment,” he said.
Born in Tasmania, Mayfield-Smith grew up in north Queensland and after spending his early years as a stockman, he turned his attention to horse training nearly three decades ago.
“I knew there was no future in being a stockman, so I started thinking about horse training,” he said.
Working in a handful of stables around Sydney and Queensland, Mayfield-Smith cracked the big league in early 1970.
After preparing a winning double at Cairns and collecting a small fortune on the punt, he moved to Townsville before taking a horse called Tiger Town down to Sydney where the galloper finished second Epsom Handicap.
This was the start of a glittering career, Mayfield-Smith offered a private training job for Millie Fox at Nebo Lodge.
His stable quickly grew to over 50 horses before the highlight of his career in the mid eighties, Mayfield-Smith knocking off the iconic Tommy Smith in the 1985-86 Sydney Trainers Premiership, which he would go on to win twice more.
The 1985-86 Premiership win for Mayfield-Smith ended a 33 reign for the late great TJ Smith.
Mayfield-Smith now likens his dream of coming back to prepare a Melbourne Cup winner to that of his seemingly impossible defeat of Tommy.
“When you’ve got something you want to achieve, you’ve got to put yourself in the place where that something is,” he said.
“At least you’re giving yourself the chance and that’s what I’m doing.
“Racing’s a gambling game, so who knows, you’ve got to put yourself in the right spot to get that opportunity.
“I’m hoping maybe somewhere down the line (he can win the Melbourne Cup).
“Like coming from Cairns and beating Tommy Smith, that’s just so improbable it’s ridiculous, but it happened.
“It was one of those classic cases in life where one door opened for me after another.
“I was the one to beat him (TJ Smith), it must have been just meant to be because I’m no genius.”
He is now hoping for another destined miracle with his sights set on slowly building up a small stable to target the Melbourne Cup.
“Hopefully win in the Cup one day,” he said.
“I’ve won a premiership and knocked off Tommy Smith.
“You can’t manufacture that, it’s either meant to be or it’s not.”
This is exactly how he sees his chance of breaking back into the big time, either it will happen or it won’t and he’s prepared to just take his time in achieving the dream.
“I’ll just take it one horse at a time,” he said.
The horse he has in work at the moment is a four-year-old galloper called Russian Heart.
From his farm one and a half hours North East of Melbourne, close to the Seymour track, Mayfield-Smith is quietly training Stravinsky gelding Russian Heart.
“We just feel that where he’s at at the moment, that this (rural) environment will suite him and give him a chance,” Mayfield-Smith said of Russian Heart.
When asked when Russian Heart will begin racing for him he said: “It’ll probably be either right at the end of the season or early in the new season.”
To date the horse has had seven starts for one win and two placings under the training of Michael Moroney.
“He’s pretty hard wired to racing,” Mayfield-Smith said of Russian Heart.
“He can be a little hot.
“I’ve been introducing ground pressure and release exercises to try and soften the horse and get him thinking a different way and taking a bit of the fear out of him so he can be more focused on what he’s doing.
“In the short time I’ve had him, he’s responded to it really well.
“I won’t be running him unless I think I can do any good with him.
“I’ll take him to the country tracks here like Seymour, get him winning so he’s getting in a winning mode instead of trying to jump back into the city.
“If he can do that and win well….he’ll be nice and race fit when he gets there (to the city).”
While happy to get Russian Heart ready for now, Mayfield-Smith hopes to eventually find a nice imported stayer to train and aim at the race that stops a nation.