A month out from his return to training, Ciaron Maher has completed a journey of discovery.
The expedition has allowed him to experience racing throughout the world, opening his eyes to the best horse people throughout Europe, the United States and Asia.
Maher, who has been sidelined for six months by stewards for an error that he regrets, was more worldly and much wiser when he spoke exclusively to The Standard.
He said he had learnt a lot about himself during his sabbatical and is looking forward to the future with confidence.
“I made some mistakes,” the Group 1-winning trainer said.
“I can’t do anything about the mistakes I made because they are in the past.
“I can only look forward to the future.
“One of the good things that came out of my suspension is that everyone can see how good a trainer Aaron Purcell is.
“Aaron is a great mate of mine.
“We’ve got similar views on how to train horses, so it was obvious he was the choice to take over.
“Aaron’s got two Group 1 winners next to his name and they can’t be taken away from him, plus plenty of other winners
“I would love it if Merchant Navy wins another Group 1 for him when he runs in the Newmarket Handicap this Saturday.”
Seeing the Breeders Cup at Churchill Downs in the US last November was the first of many wishlist items that Maher ticked off while on his eight-week overseas working holiday.
“I had a wonderful time overseas,” he said.
“I went to the studs in Kentucky and was lucky enough to go to Ireland, France and England among numerous other places. “I was fortunate to ride work at Newmarket, but I suppose one of the highlights of my trip was going to Japan.
“I visited a few studs while in Japan.
“I just love the way they run their stables in Japan.”
Maher has been busy since early January, trying to replenish his stable with yearlings from sales at the Gold Coast, New Zealand, Sydney and now Melbourne.
“It’s been hectic since I came back from overseas, as I been visiting studs all over the place to see yearlings,” he said.
“I’m at the Melbourne sales this week buying some yearlings.
“I’ve already purchased some really nice types.
“We’ve still got shares in some of them.”
Maher ticks off another item from his wishlist on Saturday night when he heads to Cheltenham in England for a week.
“I’m going over to the four-day jumps festival at Cheltenham,” he said.
“I’ve always wanted to go and this year I’ve got my chance. They say more than 200,000 jumps fans go to the four-day carnival.
“I’m really looking forward to it before heading back home to prepare my training career again.”
Maher can resume training on April 3.
DUNKELD Racing Club is on the lookout for a new manager following the retirement of long-serving official Karen Van Kempen.
Van Kempen, who is retiring due to personal reasons, has helped the iconic, once-a-year race meeting at Dunkeld grow from 4000 patrons in 2003 to 11,000 people in 2017 during her reign as manager.
“I’ve had a wonderful time as the manager at Dunkeld, but I’ve decided to retire,” she said.
“I think it’s the right time for some new blood and ideas in the job.
“I look back on my time in the job proudly at the achievements the club has achieved.
“The facilities and upgrades that have been done at the course in my 14 years are nothing short of amazing.
“We’ve won three awards at the Country Racing Awards functions over the years, which is a real feather in the cap for the volunteers and the hard-working committee.”
Van Kempen will help a new general manager prepare for the 2018 annual race day after her retirement at the end of this racing season on July 31.
“I’ve told the club I will assist the new person they decide to take over this year,” she said.
“It’s a pretty demanding job but it is also very rewarding.
“There’s a lot of hours in the lead up to the race day.
“I put in a substantial amount of time into the job on a part-time basis over the year.”
Van Kempen, who is also manager at the Camperdown Turf Club and Terang Racing Club, has indicated to the committees at both clubs that she also wishes to retire from those roles at the end of July 2019.
“I suppose I took the first steps to retirement when I stood down from my job at the Colac Turf Club two years ago,” she said.
“I’ve worked at Camperdown for seven years and Terang for 10 years.
“I’ve told the committees at both clubs I wish to retire at the end of the 2019 racing season.
“I’ve met some wonderful people in my time in racing and I’m going to miss them.
“But it’s time for some new blood and ideas for the clubs.”
Dunkeld’s cup meeting for 2018 is to be run on November 17.
APPRENTICE jockey Chelsea Hall was outed on two separate charges and fined by stewards at Terang last Thursday.
Hall pleaded guilty for using her whip on 11 occasions prior to the 100 metre mark after her ride on Solitary Choice.
Stewards suspended her from midnight March 4 to midnight March 10 on this charge.
After her winning ride on Peg Leg Ben in the last race – Hall pleaded guilty to a careless riding charge in that passing the 1200-metre mark she permitted Peg Leg Ben to shift in when not clear of Starsonfortyfive, which had to be steadied and lost its rightful running.
Her licence was suspended from midnight March 10 and can resume riding on March 16.
Stewards took into account the incident was in the low range, her guilty plea and furthermore concessions were made not to make the total term of her suspension manifestly excessive.
She was also fined $400 for using the whip on Peg Leg Ben on nine occasions prior to the 100 metre mark – four more than permitted.