Confessions before dawn. Why a stable life is soothing for a punter’s soul.

August 6, 2011

When was the last time you were awake at 3am? No, a sleepy trip to the toilet doesn’t count.

Work around a stable, and you know all about getting dressed in the dark. Putting in a good few hours before the sun decides to make an appearance.

One of my great pleasures is paying a visit to the stables. Others play at the best golf courses or fish from the biggest boat. I like hanging around where horses live. Just wish I could do it more often.

It’s a chance to give our bloke a pat, and dream of the day we’ll need security guards outside his box, because he’s so valuable.

There’s always something happening. An assault on the senses in the pre dawn dark.

There’s the smell, of course. Goes with the horses. Funny, but there’s something comforting about that. Reminds you where you are.

If the stable happens to be based at the track, even better. There’s never a bad time to be on a racecourse.

Watching thoroughbreds in action is a beautiful thing. There’s something majestic about them being put through their paces as the sun comes up.

There are sounds unique to trackwork. The constant, is those flying hooves. Rhythmic. Some faster than others. Just like race day.

There’s plenty of banter. No shortage of giggles. I guess you have to laugh, when your day starts so bloody early.

Every now and then, the trainer will bark an order. Or a suggestion. No room for mistakes here. Everyone involved knows that.

If you’re looking for characters, you’ve come to the right place. Everyone has a story.

Watch the trackwork riders, as they go about their work. Experts in the saddle. Good trainers can become great ones with their help.

Not big talkers usually. The boldest statement they make will often be through a footy jumper, or a cap. Showing their colours with pride as they take the horses out.

Cop a loss in the Friday night game, and expect a ribbing coming back in. Such a wonderful Australian trait. Even in the dark.

If you’re a stable visitor, the strappers¬†and stablehands are usually good for a chat. In between doing a thousand jobs for the morning.

Cleaning up, hosing down. Getting the stars of the show just right. Especially if they’re racing that day. True horse lovers.

Be careful of their tips though. One bloke is still laughing at me.

A while back, I thought I’d made an impression on a veteran strapper. And that had to be a good thing, because he knew every good thing, and every donkey. Or so he told me.

My new mate confided in me that one would be winning with ease. It was the talk of trackwork town. Get on, and get on for plenty.

Then came a word of warning. The stable’s other hope that day was no chance. It was being set for a few weeks down the track, and wasn’t anywhere near ready. Save your money, he advised.

I couldn’t believe my luck. Not only did I have a certain winner, I also knew a definite non-winner. It meant I could double my bet on the good thing.

You know where I’m going with this. The special ran just a touch slower than me. Never a hope. With nothing in my pocket, I then watched the donkey romp home in the following race. At twenties.

That costly exercise taught me a valuable lesson. People who start work in the early morning hours have a questionable sense of humour.

But the veteran was being loyal to the owners. Just as he should. Loose lips sink tips.

I just hope that on the day the security guards take our bloke onto the track, and he’s ready to shine, the stable secret will be just as tight. Now there’s something for a bloke to think about at 3am.