RACING tends to be a family business but there won’t be too many families around the game that could hold a candle to the Newtons.
Three generations are still working together but if you think the involvement starts and ends with training and racing horses you are in for a bit of an education about just how involved you can get with the business.
It started with Alan Newton, continued with Micheal and has now drawn his daughters Kate and Georgia into the family firm.
And Micheal’s wife Jo is as equine inclined as the rest of the gang – from riding dressage to working at the track on race days.
Pay close attention now because it will take some concentration to not get lost in the description.
It started with Alan, who is still a trainer and he infected son Micheal with the conditions.
Micheal is a farrier by trade – his crowning moment might just have been when he got to shoe Black Caviar.
And he is a registered trainer with 12 horses in work (and that, he declared, is six too many).
But come race days at Echuca and he often doubles as a barrier attendant – although the rules require him to sit whenever he has a starter.
Horses have been, literally, his life. Outside racing he rode with the Findon Harriers Hunt Club – and was its whip for 10 years.
Giving it up after a bad fall left him with a leg broken in eight places and enough steel plate and screws holding it together to guarantee setting off alarms at every airport. It has also left him with a trademark walk as the leg was never going to be as good again.
Jo was an enthusiastic horse rider, especially in dressage, and has now branched out into photography (and loves snapping horses).
But like the rest of the family on race day she has another job – as meeting stenographer.
Which requires her to attend the stewards for their report on the day as well as any inquiries, protests or other matters that demand their attention, from watching the video of each race and recording their comments.
Whether she has to hand the computer over and leave if Alan or Micheal are ever summoned to the stewards’ room is yet to be decided.
Twenty-year-old Kate is an integral part of the Newton stable.
“She has been riding since she was four or five and does most of my track work – and she is really good at it,” Micheal said.
“She is a registered track worker with Racing Victoria and she is able to give me a really good assessment of how each horse is going,” he said.
“With the riding we also get a lot of help from Mikaela Claridge and Darcy Murray.”
Georgia takes charge of the nuts and bolts of the business, runs their feed, notes who is eating and how much, how the horses are behaving and all those other one percenters that can make the difference on race day.
“She is also a walking form encyclopedia, not just our horses but also the horses we will be racing,” Micheal added.
“She works with Racing Victoria as a form analyst and as she is also nearly always the first one up she is the one who checks out the horses each day,” he said.
Micheal has been a registered trainer since the early 2000s and has no trouble naming his first winner – it was Barnes Crossing at Wycheproof on October 30, 2004.
Ridden by Michael Heagney, Barnes Crossing was the first of eight in a race worth a massive $5000 (and the horse that ran second was trained by Darren Weir).
“The farrier work takes me all over the shop – Mildura, Seymour I get to them all but I prefer to do the work at bush tracks because it’s easier to get to them, easier to work on them and the pay is the same,” he grinned.
“But with the racing, well that’s a lot trickier, and the challenge is always trying to find a good one, knowing what can and can’t gallop.
“Truth be told I would rather have no horses than a few that can’t run.
“I like the bush tracks but if we had the right horse would be more than happy to take them to town.
“I reckon it’s all about the psychology, you need to understand the horse and what makes them tick – dad did his apprenticeship at Epsom and has always trained and has good advice and experience to help.”
Alan has also done some shopping at the bloodstock sales, including a Toorak Toff horse, and this pursuit of more success and better horses explains why Micheal said he was becoming more serious about training.
“It’s a long day though, starting about 4.30am and finishing around 6pm – plus paperwork and planning,” he added.
But when it comes to planning every facet of running a racing stable the Newtons are way ahead of most country trainers when it comes to having all the help you need under the one roof.