YOU’LL find horse trainers at the track most mornings at 5am. But not James McNamara.
He opens the Koroit milk bar he owns with his wife Lisa, helps out there and later heads off to tend to his small team of horses.
The hobby trainer, who never goes to the track unless it’s for a race or trial, will today saddle up a runner in the feature $100,000 3YB Scotty Stewart Brierly Steeplechase (3450m).
McNamara’s hopes of achieving a famous victory and upstaging full-time trainers rest with striking grey gelding Dinna Latar.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said. “We are all pretty excited about the week.”
Depending on how the 10-year-old performs today, he could also run in Thursday’s $250,000 Grand Annual Steeplechase.
McNamara has four horses and trains them from his two-hectare property in Koroit. With Killarney beach just eight kilometres away, his runners do all their work on the sand.
“It’s just a hobby, just a bit of fun,” the 37-year-old said.
“I’m setting up for pretraining. I will just train a couple for my wife, her family and friends who have horses with us.”
McNamara, who grew up on a dairy farm at Bessiebelle, has always been around horses.
He rode in pony club events and showjumping and at age 12 started track riding in an era when track riders didn’t have to be licensed.
He rode for “four or five years” and then got a licence to ride in point-to-point races.
“But I was way too big to be a professional jockey.”
McNamara said Dinna Latar was an each-way chance.
He bought the preraced thoroughbred in 2007 for “a bit”. “I knew he had a bit of potential when I was looking around.”
Mailors Flat trainer Ciaron Maher had a win with Dinna Latar in a 3450-metre steeplechase at Warrnambool in 2006.
This time last year the gelding raced in a hurdle race at the carnival before winning at his next two starts over the bigger obstacles at Mount Gambier and Casterton.
“He got a staph infection in the joint and was out for two months,” McNamara said.
But when he returned, he finished fourth in the $100,000 Thackeray Steeplechase at Warrnambool (3450m).
“I would like a bit more rain. He loves it wet,” McNamara said. “I was quite surprised when I saw odds of $51. He ran fourth on the main track in the Thackeray. He goes pretty well around here.”
Should they win today’s Brierly, McNamara insisted he would still be working in his Morning Noonan Night milk bar tomorrow.