2017 Winning Wednesday – Clare Cunningham

Bairnsdale Girl Standing On Her Own Two Hooves

When both your parents train race horses and manage a horse stud, it is hard to imagine that you would do anything but follow in the footsteps and keep the tradition going. From small humble beginnings in the small Victorian town of Bairnsdale, this week’s Winning Wednesday person has had nothing short of an amazing ride with her career in the Racing Industry.

For 7 years our interviewee this week, worked alongside one of the best trainers and one of the best equines we have ever seen.  Now she is making a name for herself and kicking goals that she dreamed of as a young girl.

With her first winner and her first metro winner under her belt, there is no stopping this trainer that has taken a troublesome horse and turned him around to produce 3 wins in his last 5 starts- it is fair to say that our Winning Wednesday interviewee is finally coming out of the shadows and standing on her own two feet, introducing the one and only Clare Cunningham.

We caught up with Clare and got to know more about her journey so far……

How old were you when you got the bug for racing and how did you get involved initially?

Born into a racing family, mum and dad are Race horses trainers and also managed a stud. Training racehorses and all that lifestyle entails was my childhood. It’s in our blood, we live and breathe it. 

Did you always aspire to being a trainer or did you want to be involved in the industry in another role?

I always loved being involved in the industry but growing up  with parents that are trainers and working with Peter Moody for 7 years, I was exposed to the hardships of what a trainer has to face so it wasn’t very appetising to me. 

My dream job growing up was to work in the media and do post-race interviews on horseback (like Claire bird). Somehow my dream came true and in 2016 I got this opportunity for Racing.com, it was great! I feel so lucky to have been given the job, but sadly it just wasn’t me.

Most people may or may not be familiar with you working along-side the great Peter Moody trainer of Black Caviar, looking after his Sydney stables, tell us more about that experience? What was it like working for Peter? Did you ever get to look after Nelly, what was she like?

Yep I was lucky enough to stumble across Moody racing whilst I was studying in Melbourne. After a couple of years I went full time for Peter and was sent to Brisbane with Black Caviar (Nelly) and 4 other horses for a month, that was her 13th win up there. Nelly also came up to the Sydney stable staying for half a week on 2 occasions. And I will never forget the last time she run. 25/25 at Randwick, it was amazing to be a part of.

Meeting Peter and his stable has been one of the greatest things that has happened to me. At times it was challenging to run his barn but I would never change a thing for the world. I learnt and experienced so much not only in regards to the horses but also in relation to life and people. He has such a confidence about what he does, he is not only a bloody good race horse trainer but a ripen bloke. No beating around the bush.   Ran the stable like a business but it was a family at the same time… I think a lot of ex moody employees can agree that Moody racing is irreplaceable. The hole that is left after working there will never be filled. It stays open and I can keep reflecting back into now I’m a trainer. 

Nelly was the ultimate professional. Made to do be the star she is! Other than the continuous jobs the team had in keeping her sound, she loved working, eating and just being a horse. She had a great arrogance and confidence about her, I think she knew she was good.

The old saying goes “as one door closes, another opens”, Moody Racing closes down in Sydney and you decide to apply for your Trainers License- share with us the motivation behind this decision. (Share picking your stable location, racing colours etc)

Like I said above, it was very hard to fill the hole that Moody racing left. I tried working in the media and it wasn’t me, I didn’t feel satisfied with what I was and wasn’t doing. I then worked for a couple of successful stables in Sydney, all giving me learning experiences. Then I hit a bit of a cross road when breaking my hand from a track work fall, it got me thinking differently. 

I took a team to Magic millions for Bjorn Baker and it was then I felt the urge to have a crack for myself. I thought it was good timing and that I will regret never giving it a go. Once we broke very thing down and realised how many things I have in my favour it all seemed a bit more realistic.

I toyed for a few weeks about the design of my colours and in the end it was right in front of my face! I thought I would be so special to have colours that had a strong meaning, which symbolised my family. So my design is based on my families colours that mum and dad have had for 30 + yrs. my colours are cream with emerald green vee and cap. My parents are cream with emerald green sash and cap.  I love them to pieces, plus they are so visible on race day.  

I applied for a license at Warwick Farm because out of the 3 metro training facilities I like it the best. ATM it has so much to offer and I wouldn’t want to have them anywhere else (except a bit of beach would be nice).

Sir Barb (Pins x Baas) gave you your first winner as a trainer, tell us more about that moment? How were you feeling etc.?

Yes he did! It was a moment and feeling that is very hard to describe. No money in the world could take that day from me. He was the first horse on my books, he was a massive gamble for me and my family to buy, the win seemed to come pretty quick to people looking in but it took so much to get to that day.

Jason (Collett) rode Sir Barb (click to watch the replay) which was like a fairy tale and you could see on his face how much it meant to us and the months leading up to it weren’t easy. I was getting up at 2:15 am and getting home at 5:30pm nearly every day. Living out of my car pretty much, I had some sleepless weeks with carpal tunnel but looking back now it was worth it. One of the best things was to see how happy it made my family and friends! It’s such a racing thing, it can bring people together and give memories you will never forget. 

With the first win notched up, how did you celebrate that special moment?

The win was at Goulburn, so a couple hours from home. Jase and I got a roast pack from the Goulburn chicken shop and we ate it together in the carpark talking to our families and watching the replay. But we still cheers Sir Barb every time we open a bottle of bubbles.

Is there anything special that you do to celebrate the wins? Might be a special place you go reserved just for the wins, share it with certain people etc.

As you know we have to get up every morning to feed and work the rest of the team, so celebrations are often postponed to when we can enjoy a glass of wine and a good meal at an Italian restaurant. Jase has dietary limitations throughout the week so Saturday night is generally our time to indulge. 

Now, there is a bit of a story with Sir Barb and how he has come to be in your stable, share this with us?

Sir Barb came to our stable after we found him on bloodstock auction online. At that time I had applied for my license and had no horses…. Jason knew a bit about his ability as he had won on him whilst he was at Bjorn Bakers yard. The lovely gentlemen who had been training SB at the time was having trouble getting him to jump out of the barriers and participate on race day. He was very honest in telling me SB pro’s and con’s. At the time SB had a suspension from racing ban on him until he trialled successfully on 2 occasions. So I thought for the right price it was worth the gamble in buying SB plus I really needed a horse! Haha!

We were able to get him cheap enough so I spent the next month playing around with him trying to figure out what was going on and why SB didn’t want to be a racehorse. Step by step we kept achieving little goals, and in the end he won 3 out of his next 6 starts running a first and second in the city. He is now spelling and we are excited to get him back in for a fresh start. What also makes SB special is that he is owned by myself, my 4 siblings and their partners. He gives an added reason to chat and celebrate.

Your partner Jason Collett is also your stable jockey, how does being his boss and girlfriend affect the relationship? Especially if he rides a shocker??

Hahaha,   Yes its pretty dam cool to have your partner ride your horses. Not only is he a top shelf rider and horseman but having him apart of the experience is an added bonus. I think it is a HUGE asset to have a stable jockey (as such) to have someone on race day that has an invested interest in every one of your horses and owners.

He comes in and helps me sort through them during track work and the knowledge he develops about each horse plays a massive advantage on Race day.

We both ride the roller-coaster of racing together, no one is perfect and the difference is I know Jason will be trying his absolute best to give my horses every chance.

Being a Jockey Jason puts his life in danger every time he goes to work, as long as he comes home there is always tomorrow (a lot of people forget that).

Thanks to the first lady of Racing Gai Waterhouse, there has been an increase in female involvement in the industry- what are your thoughts and how far would you like to see the involvement go?

To be honest I hate talking about the topic. I have the up most respect for the female pioneers in racing that got the stupid restrictions lifted in the first place. However to me, TALENT is TALENT it comes in different genders, nationality age and colour. We need to get on with it, there is always going to be haters in the world and they aren’t worth worrying about. I have found the people that matter see through the rubbish.

Gai is an incredibly strong and talented individual in her own right, I take my hat off to what she has given and achieved in the racing industry.

Is there one race that you would like to win and why?

 At the moment I would love to win any group race but I suppose the Melbourne cup is just the epitome of racing achievements in my book. I would also like to win my local cup one day ‘Bairnsdale cup’ in front of my parents and locals that I grew up with.

What are the future plans for the stable?

Future plans; just keep doing our best by every horse. If I can go home knowing I’ve given each horse its chance to be the best it can then I’m satisfied. And most importantly have a stable I’m proud of, a business I want to keep getting up every morning for.

Are there any ownership opportunities available at present? If people want to get involved with racing a horse with Clare Cunningham Racing, how can they register their interest or get in touch with you?  

There is always ownership opportunities! The yearling sales start yearly each calendar year so the big opportunities are available then.

If there are people reading this that want to join the team as an owner then it’s a good idea to get in touch with the stable early with your interests so we have ammunition comes sales time. 

I have also just gotten the support of 2 syndication groups; Thoroughbred Leasing and Higgins Dalziel Racing who are open to any interests and may have shares available in horses that are getting trained by Clare Cunningham Racing. 

Email is the best way to get in touch Email is the best way to get in touch clare@clarecunninghamracing.com.au . You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well.

You will be attending our up-coming Spring Millinery Event, share with our followers what your participation will be and what are you most looking forward to at this event?

I have been to 3 Millinery Events/ luncheons held by Thoroughbred Events Australia and I have thoroughly enjoyed everyone. I’m not only blown away by the millinery and fashion on show every time but it’s just a fun day.  With insightful information on guest speakers and other racing industry news. It has also been an event that I have enjoyed meeting and chatting with new faces.

Is there there anything else special that you would like us to make mention of in your article?

So appreciative and over whelmed by the support I’ve been given from so many different individuals. Thanks will simply never be enough!

                We wish Clare all the best and will be watching the stable closely.

If you would love to meet Clare and have a fun day out with like-minded ladies to talk everything race day fashion, including getting some advice from leading Milliners then be sure to grab your ticket to our Spring Millinery Event happening this Sunday. But be quick this is getting close to being a SOLD OUT event- Ladies you don’t want to miss the hottest trends this spring racing!

Ticket sales at http://www.sharonsays.com.au/spring-millinery-luncheon

Interview by Kylie Johnson, TEA’s journo


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