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Time has not wearied true turf warriors like Hyland
7th Sep 2012
Sydney Morning Herald - Max Presnell - Friday, 7 September 2012
Shanghai Warrior (pictured), the promising four-year-old out to enhance his reputation in the Bobbie Lewis Quality at Flemington tomorrow, is getting the personal touch from Pat Hyland, 71 years young and still in the saddle.
Perhaps his race-riding days, including successes in the Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup and Golden Slipper, are long gone but Hyland maintains an active role as a trainer.
''My track rider didn't turn up so I was on six [gallops] this morning," Hyland said this week.
Only last Saturday a minute's silence was held at Rosehill and Caulfield for the ninth annual National Jockeys Celebration Day to recognise fallen riders who didn't get up, totalling 509 in gallops as well as races.
Roy James, 62, was killed when thrown from a horse during a Canterbury workout in October 1963. ''James, who had ridden before some of the biggest crowds in Australian racing history, died a lonely death on the back stretch of the course,'' The Sun reported then. James, to me at the time, was a wispy, Don Quixote-like horseman but was nearly 10 years younger than Hyland now, emphasising the risks even before breakfast and the hustle and bustle of races.
So why has Hyland gone for so long? Most former jockeys let down like aged wrestlers and apply their expertise from ground level.
''I'm still fairly fit and enjoy riding work,'' he replied. ''I don't say I'm as game as I used to be but I'm not frightened. I was never frightened as a jockey, [but] getting older I pick my rides. [I] don't get on a two-year-old that's just come into training. The horses I ride I'm on all the time, the best in the stable.''
Hyland has had his share of nasty spills. ''Had a bad one in Adelaide in May 1984, smashed me shoulder,'' the trainer recalled. ''The doctor there said I'd never ride again, 'You'll never get your arm above your waist.' We got back to St Vincent's in Melbourne, and the specialists said what they'd told me in Adelaide was probably right but one reckoned he'd like to do something his peers reckoned wouldn't work.''
Thus Hyland was a guinea pig. All the ''bits'' of his shattered shoulder were pieced together.
Still, recuperating in Hawaii, he confessed to his wife Maree: ''I don't think I'll ride again.'' He had expanded to 72 kilograms.
''Are you going to give up?'' she asked.
Hyland said: ''Jockeys' wives aren't supposed to say that.''
Maree said she would look after his diet and, ''You give up the drink.''
That July, ''the pins and wire'' came out of the shoulder and Hyland won the 1984 Caulfield Cup in October on Affinity. The next year he triumphed in the Melbourne Cup on What A Nuisance.
However, Vain, possibly Australia's greatest sprinter, is still the apple of his eye. Hyland won 12 out of 13 on Vain and was only beaten on him in the Sires' Produce at Randwick when the mighty two-year-old missed a vital lead-up track gallop. (Vain also went down in the Moonee Valley Stakes but was handled by Roy Higgins.)
The feel of a top horse? Can the rider in initial workouts get any indication?
''In the early days of Vain, whilst we thought he'd be quite handy, we didn't think he was going to be the horse he turned out to be,'' Hyland said. ''I always said this is a beautiful, lovely going horse. We had two two-year-olds at the time, him and a Court Sentence. One wasn't that much better than the other.'' But the feeling grows.
''The first time you let one roll down it mightn't happen,'' he said. ''Once a horse lets you know what it's doing you can judge this horse is better than another one. Sure, I'd love to say I've found one like Vain but I don't know how you can.''
What about Shanghai Warrior? Winner of his past two starts, Shanghai Warrior is hand tailored by Hyland and gets three-quarters of an hour with him every morning: warming up and cooling off. Last time out the four-year-old accounted for subsequent winner Golden Archer, a brilliant sprinter, at Flemington.
''Old trainers would say, 'You don't buy a horse unless it walks well','' Hyland said. ''Good walkers are good movers, and good movers have got a much better chance than bad movers. Shanghai Warrior moves good. Normally I thought we'd be getting to a mile by now. But we have to get his rating up to get into the right races. I started early and he's been a slow-maturing type. There is a possibility this horse will go over the top before I get what I want out of him this year.''
Hyland, though, will get the feel when he does.