WHAT a few seasons and a change of State makes? Former South Australian trainer Mark Minervini in four consecutive racing years between 2013-14 and 2016-17 won 21 races at home, and his horses collectively earned just over $356,000. In a breakout year from his now Newcastle base, he has won 25 races in the current season; his horses have earned $890,000 and he is hoping to crack the $1m barrier in the remaining few weeks before July 31 rings down the curtain on 2022-23.
Little wonder he says he is “pinching himself a bit” at his results; especially considering he has achieved it with no more than 16 horses in work. “It’s been a fantastic season, but it hasn’t happened overnight,” Minervini said today between saddling a couple of runners at the Gosford meeting, and finishing the day on another winning note. “Yes it has taken a lot of hard work to get to where we are, but it’s definitely paying off.
“Hopefully, we have set ourselves up for more successful seasons ahead, and it’s a great time to be involved in the industry in NSW. “I think there has been at least four prizemoney increases since we arrived here.” Minervini recalls he won only four races and his horses earned not quite $60,000 in South Australia in the 2013-14 racing year. “We were going backwards in a shrinking industry, and that was the catalyst for myself and my wife Michelle to pull up stumps and move to Newcastle four years ago.
“I had trained in both Adelaide and Melbourne, and the industry here was really going ahead, so we thought we would give it a try when the opportunity arose.” Nonetheless, Minervini concedes it was still a big gamble to uproot stumps. “I really didn’t know anyone, and they didn’t know me,” he said. “I had never had a runner in NSW, and didn’t know where tracks such as Gosford, Wyong, Canterbury, Tamworth and Scone were,” he said. “I’ve got my bearings now, and know where and which races are best suited to our horses. “We’ve built up a good client base to the extent that 90 per cent of our owners are from NSW, and the other 10 per cent are from South Australia. “And gradually we are getting a better quality of horse, as evidenced by our results this season.”
Minervini says he would like to have another four boxes if Newcastle Jockey Club could accommodate him – but 20 definitely would be the limit. ‘We moved here not only for a business opportunity, but also for a better lifestyle,” he said. “I could have 50 horses if I wanted to, but like all businesses, getting staff is a problem. I’m content to concentrate on a boutique stable.”
Minervini trained seven winners in his first season here in 2019-20, then nearly doubled that to 13 the following season, and the tally increased again to 16 in 2021-22. This is his best season since 2011-12 when he trained 27 winners in South Australia. Even then his prizemoney tally fell well short of his current figure this season. “We’ve still got three and a half weeks to go, and it would be a terrific achievement if we can reach $1m prizemoney,” Minervini said. Runners at Royal Randwick and Newcastle on Saturday provide him with the opportunity to give that figure a real nudge. Recent acquisition Hosier (Listed 1400m Winter Stakes) and Star Impact (1200m Midway Handicap) are his Randwick acceptors, and Toyger (900m Maiden Handicap) and King’s Duty (1400m Benchmark 64 Handicap) will line up at home.
Minervini is keen for the current Randwick “Soft 5” rating to hold for accomplished wet tracker Hosier, who won last year’s Coffs Harbour Cup when trained by fellow Novocastrian Kris Lees. “Hosier has been ready to go since we bought him online in late May for $100,000,” he said. “He trialled nicely at Gosford last week, and I’d really like to assess him under race conditions. “All his seven wins have been on wet ground, and I may not run him if the track firms up.”
Minervini scored with lightly-raced Soobooco (which breeder Max Whitby stayed in when the now three-year-old was also a $100,000 yearling purchase at the Gold Coast in 2021) at Wyong on Tuesday, and $40,000 yearling buy Bubbles For Me rang up a hat-trick at Gosford this afternoon, when successful in the Conditional Benchmark 68 Handicap (1200m) at $6.50.
Wyong trainer Kim Waugh was the other provincial trainer to win at Gosford. Four-year-old Sebring mare Misty Dreams ($5) took the Provincial Class 1 Handicap (1200m), having won an 1100m Maiden at the same track on June 22.
Newcastle trainers Kris Lees (Prime Impact, $1.40 favorite), Nathan Doyle (Edge Of Reward, $2.40 favorite), and Andrew MacDonald (Orthie’s Girls, $2.45 favorite) all were successful at the corresponding Taree meeting, where rookie Newcastle apprentice Locky Scorse made it two wins from only five career rides when he led throughout on topweight and $1.55 hotpot Assiduity in the Benchmark 58 Handicap (1312m).
Nineteen-year-old Scorse began riding only last Saturday at Tuncurry, and broke through on his master Dave Atkins’ horse Rockbarton Roman at Muswellbrook on Monday. Assiduity was his sole ride at Taree; Scone trainer Cameron Crockett cleverly took advantage of Scorse’s 4kg claim to lessen his gelding’s 64kg handicap.
*Words John Curtis, July 6, 2023 – Pic supplied*