Trainer honoured to own champion

FORMER Irrewillipe horse trainer Tim Ryan is resigned to the fact the industry he has loved for more than five decades has changed.

The hobby trainer of champion Macluen, which won the 1980 Colac Gold Cup, has witnessed horse racing morph into the wagering-driven giant it is today.

Tim Ryan scans through a scrapbook of racing clippings at his Irrewillipe property, with Macluen’s Colac Gold Cup and Dunkeld Cup on display. Ryan said it was “wonderful” to train Macluen during the 1970s and ‘80s.

But he’s not complaining. Ryan says change is a fact of life.

He was pragmatic when asked if he would prefer the racing industry the way it once was.

“It’s gone past that,” he said.

“It’s like saying to the dairy industry let’s all milk 60 or 70 cows and make a living again.

“Racing is the same, it’s got more prizemoney and people are chasing that.

“People that breed horses have to get their money back.

“That’s how it’s progressed.”

Ryan has let his mind wander back to a time when horses graced south-west Victorian race tracks almost every weekend.

The now-68-year-old developed a passion for horse racing from his father, John Ryan, who also trained horses.

He received his trainer’s licence in 1970 and trained from his Alvie property. He was one of several hobby trainers scattered throughout south-west Victoria.

“When we first got into it each person in the Western District had a horse or two,” Ryan said.

“There were probably only six or seven really professional trainers in the Western District, four or five at Warrnambool, one at Terang and one at Camperdown,” he said.

“The racing was then run by the South-West District Racing Association, which was our own association.

“They allocated the meetings and what races there would be on.

“Nearly every Saturday there was a race meeting somewhere in the Western District.”

Training Macluen as the champion created his own history remains Ryan’s fondest racing memory.

The Castleburn gelding, out of Araluen Star, was Colac district-bred, reared and trained and didn’t realise his potential until late in its career.

Macluen won 26 races, including the Colac Gold Cup, the Dunkeld Cup and the Gold Nugget Handicap at Ballarat, and placed just as many times during a consistent career.

He was also a part of history when he dashed home to make Queenslander Cheryl Neale the first female jockey to win a metropolitan Melbourne race.

“It was wonderful to own him and wonderful to train him. We feel we’ve been blessed to have a horse like him,” Ryan said.

The Colac Gold Cup is on February 26 at Colac Racecourse.

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