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Training race horses is a massive part of the horse racing industry and skilled horse trainers can achieve incredible levels of success and fame within the horse racing community. Building a reputation is essential for trainers of race horses and they are judged every time one of their students takes to the track. Training race horses is not a profession for the faint hearted, as it means constant professional pressure, frequent travel and fierce competition.
Many horse trainers start their careers as amateur jockeys before changing paths for a multitude of possible reasons. This means they enter the profession armed with the deep knowledge of horses that is necessary to make ones mark as a professional trainer. Usually an aspiring trainer will serve some time as an apprentice/ assistant to an already established professional trainer before taking out their license and going into business independently.
Another common path to becoming a horse trainer is to follow along with family business. In the United Kingdom in particular – but also in Australia – horse training is often a family affair which sees ownership of and responsibility for the stables passed down from generation to generation.
Horse trainers are hired by race horse owners to take over the care of thoroughbreds and prepare them for their professional races. Many horses will remain with one trainer for their entire racing career, while a few will change camps several times before finding the trainer best suited to their needs. Although the trainers take care of the horses’ every need during schooling periods, it is the owners who collect most of the winnings from successful races. Only the most established horse trainers make serious money – and even they have to get by on pure dedication for the early years of their career.
However, there are a handful of trainers who are revered as true legends of the sport in Australia.
Bart Cummings is perhaps the most famous and most successful trainer of racehorses in Australia. This outstanding horse racing professional is particularly renowned for training twelve Melbourne Cup winners to date. The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s most prestigious horse racing fixture and Cummings’ affinity to prepare horses for winning performances in this event has made him a true celebrity on the Australian horse racing scene. In fact, Cummings is considered such a benchmark trainer, Racing NSW created an award in his honour, the Bart Cummings Medal; which is rewarded for outstanding performances by jockeys or trainers throughout the season.
Lee Freedman is another trainer with a seriously impressive resume. Since starting his career as an independent trainer of race horses in the ‘80s, Freedman’s charges have won four Golden Slippers, four Caulfield Cups, two Cox Plates and five Melbourne Cups. Today, Freedman is one of the first choices for owners looking for new trainers.