Maddie, we’ll talk about your work in racing shortly, but let’s go back in time. Did you play any sports when you were growing up?
I played netball at South Rovers in the juniors before playing in the under 18s. I never played in any netball premiership sides with the club. My dad Eddie was heavily involved with South Rovers. I also played tennis each Tuesday night at the Indoor Tennis Centre, but my focus regarding sport changed when I was 13 years old as I joined the Warrnambool Pony Club.
I was 15 years old when I got a part-time job at Matthew Williams stable before joining Darren Weir’s Warrnambool stables at 16 years old.
Weiry had eight boxes in Warrnambool back then.
I moved from Warrnambool to join the David Hayes stable at Flemington for six months before working at his Euroa property for 18 months.
People rate the Hayes property at Euroa as one of the best horse properties in the world. Would you agree with them?
Yes, It’s totally amazing. It’s just a laid-back environment on a magnificent country property which has everything for horses.
It’s very peaceful, quiet and tranquil. I found in my 18 months working at the property, horses totally relaxed in the environment.
When and why did you move back home to Warrnambool?
I had been away for two years and just wanted to come home in 2012.
The move away was a wonderful experience and I benefited from that experience. I grew up a lot when I was away and I got independent.
Did you have a job when you moved back to Warrnambool?
Yes, I went back to work for Weiry. He had 24 horses in work at Wangoom and I was helping looking after them. I’m working as a foreman for Weiry in Warrnambool now, but I had another stint away when I went overseas in 2014.
Where did you go?
I had a six-month stint in Ireland. Weiry encouraged me to go overseas.
I went and worked for top Ireland trainer Willie Mullins.
It was an incredible experience. Willie had 120 horses in work and each strapper has four horses in their care. There are some amazing, talented horse people in Ireland and they are happy to offer you advice and support.
Maddie, let’s go back to Prince Of Penzance for a moment. It’s well documented he won the 2015 Melbourne Cup, but what was your involvement with the horse before he won the cup?
Prince Of Penzance was specifically in my care for his whole campaign in Warrnambool. I rode him in trackwork, swam and water-walked him for weeks before the Melbourne Cup.
I fed him and took him to the races.
How would you describe Prince Of Penzance’s nature?
He was a very strong-willed horse. He was impatient, tough and bold.
I think it’s all those things that made him so good.
Did you think he could win the 2015 Melbourne Cup?
He ran second in the Moonee Valley Cup in his lead-up run to the Melbourne Cup, but we were unsure he would get a run.
He was only a 50-50 chance, but with a couple of scratchings he got into the race. I had no big expectations on him before the race. I was just proud to be there with him.
I’ll never forget I left Warrnambool on Melbourne Cup morning with him in the back of the float.
I was pinching myself all the way to Melbourne that he was running in the Melbourne Cup.
I watched the race from the mounting yard with a group of mates from Weiry’s stable. I sort of froze when Prince Of Penzance went over the finishing line in front. I could not breath. I was surprised. I could not get two words out.
We were jumping all over the place and crying.
Prince Of Penzance’s win in the Melbourne Cup is something I will never forget.
What’s your role at Weiry’s stable here in Warrnambool?
I’m a foreman in Warrnambool. Jarrod McLean is in charge of the Warrnambool operation and I work very closely with him.
Weiry has just over 60 horses in work in Warrnambool at three different locations. We’ve got his on-course stables, some horses are with Mark O’Donnell and others are out at Wangoom. I work between the three stables.
Maddie, what time do you start work?
I start at 4am six days a week, and sometimes it may be seven days. It all depends on the day and what is needed to happen.
It’s a great job. It’s time consuming, but I love horses. I consider it a great lifestyle. It’s not really a job as such, because I’m doing something that I love doing.
Jarrod is great to work with. He’s got a laid-back attitude for a person who has a huge responsibility. Jarrod has taught me a lot about horses over the last few years.
We’ve got more than 20 workers full and part-time on the books, which is a wonderful thing.
When you think of all the local contractors that are on the books, it runs into big dollars each week going back into Warrnambool’s economy.
Having worked for Weir racing for many years, how would you describe Darren Weir?
He’s a remarkable person. He started the business off from nothing and now it’s a big operation with stables not only at Warrnambool, but also at Ballarat and Maldon.
He’s a hard-working person who has invested a lot of money back into the facilities and, incredibly, he is across all parts of the business.
One of the amazing things I’ve witnessed is the better class horses that are now in the stable, and that is due to the hard work put in by all the staff at all levels.