Muswellbrook-born Ian ‘Ginger’ Smith always on hand for country trainers
Acknowledge: Virginia Harvey & Muswellbrook Chronicle
Featured Image: Well-known Ian ‘Ginger’ Smith lend a hand with last year’s Golden Slipper entrant, Dubious (a Not A Single Doubt earner of now over $1.2 million). Photo by Virginia Harvey
Fore-note: Although Virginia correctly identifies ‘Ginger’ Smith as Muswellbrook-born he is a bit of local legend at Scone where he was raised. Its well-worn cliché but a truism nonetheless that if you opened any box Ginger Smith would pop out! There weren’t many things Ginger didn’t try. He’s a guaranteed regular at every Scone Cup meeting. He even roped me in on a few occasions to share the rostrum with VRC’s Greg Carpenter at charity functions to raise funds for Aged Care.
It is not only connections of possible entrants looking forward to the Country and Provincial Championships, which begin later this month, but Muswellbrook born city dweller Ian Smith is another excited about the series.
Affectionately known as ‘Ginger’, Ian Smith is a long serving industry participants who is prominent at Sydney’s four racecourses and some country tracks, as well as at Inglis’ yearling auctions, to lend a hand where needed at the stables.
Numerous times he is called upon to help lead a fractious two-year-old entrant in the world’s richest juvenile race, the Australian Turf Club Golden Slipper Stakes-G1, or maybe to help a visiting country conditioner seeking an “extra pair of hands” with a city runner.
“The country trainers will contact the ATC, then they will contact me, but in more recent times it is word-of-mouth,” he said.
Many Saturdays Ginger can be seen as strapper for a country conditioner of a TAB Highway Handicap runner, a race restricted for country trained gallopers.
“I think they are a great innovation, with one race on every Saturday except for carnival times.
“So often country trainers do not have spare staff to come to the city to strap their horse, so they contact me and I assist them,” he said.
“If there are several country trainers needing help, I know three or four girls around Randwick who will go and strap a horse if I am not available.”
The Mudgee-trained Ori On Fire is a special horse to Ginger.
“Being the TAB Highway, there is only one of these races on any race program, and Ori On Fire was my 10th winner (last year) that I have strapped, and that was a rewarding little milestone for me,” he said.
Ginger also praises the ATC and Racing NSW with the introduction of the Country and Provincial Championships – the race series that reaches country and provincial regions in the early months of the year, each culminating with a $500,000 final on the multi-million-dollar The Championships race days at Randwick in April.
“I think it is a great concept. When the Country Championships started (in 2015) a had a dream to bring the finalists together on the Friday night before the big race,” Ginger said.
“Firstly I talked to Ash McGregor a country girl who works for the ATC and she suggested I discuss the idea with the ATC general manager at the time, Darren Pearce. He liked my idea, but then we had to find a venue, so he approached Charles Kelly of Newhaven Park.”
The Kelly family businesses include the Doncaster Hotel at Randwick, which has proved the perfect venue for the pre-country final soiree, hence the race’s name the Newhaven Park Country Championship Final.
Ginger said it is now a folklore event, the Newhaven Park Country Championship Final Cocktail Party.
“It brings country folk together to share a chat and a beer, then to see each other the next day in the parade ring adds more memories to hold,” he said.
Ian ‘Ginger’ Smith
Ginger’s parents Clare and Graham Smith – who were dairy farmers in the Scone district – loved horse racing.
“Dad had horses, which were trained by Tommy Ollerton at Scone, also Jimmy Gleeson and his son Stephen, and they had quite a bit of success around country areas,” Ginger said.
“They bred and raced top sprinter, Top Crown and he is still the most winning son of Beautiful Crown alive today. He retired to be a “nanny” horse at Arrowfield Stud, where he will live out his days.”
Ginger said that Top Crown won almost $200,000.
“He may not have won in town, but was brilliant around the country circuits, with seven of his 15 wins being in race or course record time.”
During Ginger’s early experience, he worked at the Scone racecourse, did foal night-watch at Bhima Stud (then owned by David Bath), as well as tended parks and gardens for Scone Council.
Moving to Randwick in about 1995, Ginger initially worked for Bill Mitchell who at the time was preparing a strong team of horses at Randwick. At the same time, Ginger had part-time work at the Sydney International Aquatic Centre as a lifeguard, which he described as “a fantastic job”.
Ginger’s curriculum vitae broadened again when he took full-time employment at the University of NSW, working in anatomy.
“For 10 years I worked in the morgue with deceased bodies who were donated to the uni, which I used to prepare for the medical students. This was very interesting and that is where our wonderful doctors come from, after working on these bodies,” Ginger said.
When he moved to Kensington, Ginger worked for Graeme Rogerson where he handled good horses including Savabeel, Flying Firebird, and Break The Barrier.
“I then worked for Bart Cummings, and I strapped the Derby winner, Roman Emperor, and it was 10-years ago last year that he won – and that was when John Thompson (now a successful Randwick trainer) was his foreman.”
Today, Ginger’s day begins at 3am (four days a week) where he works for Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott. At 7am he goes home for breakfast, then onto his full-time job as wardsman manager at the Prince Of Wales Private Hospital for an eight to 10-hour shift, then at times he is strapping horses at the races.
“I love my jobs as they are very rewarding,” he said.
While Saturdays are usually reserved for racing, Ginger also spends time with his 10-year-old grandson, Eathin watching him play rugby league, or enjoying pony club.