If he’d been wearing a cap, the trainer would have looked like a limo driver.
Shaun Dwyer was standing beside his car at Toowoomba airport, with door open. He was there to pick up a journo. Someone he’d never met. Or heard of.
Still, he welcomed me as if I was an old friend. He talked freely on the way to the stables. There was a warmth, often found with those who ply their trade away from the bright lights.
I was doing a story about a small trainer going up against a giant of the game. Shaun V Gai. The first lady of racing had the favourites in the Magic Millions. The bloke from the Darling Downs had an outsider.
We had a cuppa, and he told me a bit about his background. Learning from the likes of Bart and TJ. Little things. A lifetime, getting better at his craft.
He showed me his pride and joy. Regimental Gal. She looked a million bucks. While we were there, the trainer never took his eyes off her.
On the ride back to the airport, Shaun told me he thought she could win. He didn’t say it in a boastful way. More matter-of-fact. He’d done everything he could, and she was ready.
On race day, she did exactly that. Won like a good thing. He was swamped in the ring post-race. But still found time to thank me, for my support. A bloke he’d met once. Who’d done one story on him.
I’ve been thinking about that encounter, in the lead up to today’s Golden Slipper. The similarities are striking.
Shaun now operates out of Bendigo. Still keeping out of the city. He’s up against Gai again. Of course, she has the heavily backed favourite.
He’s been putting all his efforts into one horse. Villa Verde. I’ve never been to Bendigo, but I’d bet my last on the trainer only having eyes for one horse in that stable.
Everyone has dropped off, after Overreach did a job on her last start. Barrier 17 won’t help either. And Gai’s horse does look a star in the making.
But there’ll be no better prepared starter this afternoon than Shaun’s grey. Trust me, she’ll look a million bucks.
I’m going to have something on her. Slippers are funny races. The first 200 metres can be like herding cats. I’m hoping that she can avoid any trouble inside, and get the cash.
If she wins, keep an eye on Shaun after the race. He’ll thank everyone who’s had anything to do with her. And a few others who haven’t.
There would be no more deserving Slipper winner. I’m hoping Shaun Dwyer gets to ride in someone else’s limo tonight.