Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Meagher reflects as D-Day approaches

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A third-generation racehorse trainer, Dan Meagher says there was no chance of him being anything else.

“I had no choice really, I wasn’t much good at cricket, basketball or footy,” he laughed.

“I guess it’s in our blood, when you’ve got family – father, grandfather, uncles – in the game.

“From an early age, I really loved it … once you get that love for the horse, and an interest in the competitive side of it, you’re always going to be in the industry.”

Dan’s father, Hall Of Fame trainer John Meagher, won the 1985 Melbourne Cup with the Lloyd Williams-owned What A Nuisance.

Though only two at the time, it is a moment Dan looks back on with extreme pride, with his father essentially pioneering the use of the now commonplace equine treadmill, in order to bring What A Nuisance back from injury.

And, thanks to a small crush John had on Princess Diana, who was in attendance for the race, the family gets a good laugh whenever they look back on the day.

“It was a great time – I was only two, so a bit young for me – but lots of memories from there,” he said.

“Princess Diana and Prince Charles were there to present the Cup to Lloyd Williams, Pat Hyland and Dad.

“Dad was in love with Princess Diana, so he got lots of pictures taken at the presentation ceremony.

“But that horse had a lot of problems, and Dad used the treadmill to get him back. It was probably one of the first times the treadmill was used in those situations … it’s a great story.”

Meagher was foreman for his father in Singapore between 1999 and 2011, where the stable claimed 577 victories and seven Group 1 honours.

Upon returning to Australia, John and Dan set up in Eagle Farm, to train in partnership with Dan’s older brother Chris.

But by 2016, having married his Singaporean partner Sabrina and started a family, Meagher got the itch to go back to Asia and train in his own right.

“I learned a lot on the job from Dad and Chris … we had good success without being dominant,” he said.

“But I just got the lure from Singapore … my wife is Singaporean, and we got married in Australia.

“It was a great experience (in Australia) and I learned a lot, but I just felt like I was missing something. And that’s when Singapore came along.

“I kept sending my resume, and making sure we had good winners at the same time I was applying … Dad didn’t think I’d get in from Brisbane.

“It was good timing in the end. Michael Freedman and Brian Dean were both leaving right as I knocked on the door, and I was lucky enough to get in.”

WATCH: Meagher’s journey

Secret Win would give Meagher his first Group victory in 2017, but it was the two champions owned by Lim’s Stable that Meagher, and perhaps the latter years of Singaporean racing, will be remembered for.

After bouncing between Singapore and Australia, Lim’s Lightning became the stable’s maiden G1 winner in the 2021 Lion City Cup.

“He was a good two-year-old in Singapore, and being a Magic Millions horse, they wanted to try him in Queensland,” Meagher said.

“But it didn’t work out for whatever reason … my brother Chris won a race with him at Werribee, and then he just didn’t find form.

“Mr Lim sent him back and wanted me to train him … I couldn’t getting on him for the first month, but then we worked out how to ride him.

“He turned out to be a superstar. He won seven more races, four G1s. He was a proper horse … it just shows you can get them back if you find a happy medium.”

But arguably the best horse Meagher has trained was still to reveal himself.

Both would incredibly register G1 wins from 1200m-2000m, but Lim’s Kosciuszko will go down as possibly the last great of the jurisdiction’s soon-to-end racing industry.

The son of Kermadec has won over $3.5 million in prizemoney and seven G1s, including the last two Kranji Miles, the latest run just last week.

With Lim’s Lightning winning the same race in 2022, it ensures that Meagher will forever be associated with Singapore’s premier mile contest.

Sadly, with the Singaporean Government electing to close the racing industry this October, Meagher’s historic three-peat will be the last Kranji Mile run.

Lim’s Kosciuszko will race four more times, with his last start to be in the 2024 Singapore Gold Cup – the last horse race to be run in the country.

But while Meagher likes the idea of training the nation’s last real champion, he is still desperately disappointed that the shutdown is happening at all.

“It was shock initially, and anger, disappointment, and it turned to sadness,” he said.

“But then it turned to, ok, well it’s going to happen. The reality of it closing has hit, obviously, and we’ve got to move on.

“It was the place to be in the early 2000s … it was level with Hong Kong at the time. You had all the best jockeys, great trainers, really good horses.

“I think the two casinos were the beginning of the end, unfortunately, people started to go there instead … it’s a missed opportunity, it’s sad, but it’s the reality.”

For Meagher, opportunities are aplenty once the dreaded day arrives on October 5th.

Several Asian racing jurisdictions are looking to capitalise on the closure, increasing prizemoney and funding to attract the plethora of horses, trainers and jockeys on the move.

But a recent meeting with Southside Racing CEO Neil Bainbridge could see Meagher come back to the country where it all began.

“There’s things I have to explore – Malaysia is up and going and just doubled their prizemoney, and there’s going to be new racecourses in Thailand and the Phillipines,” he said.

“But the reality is, home’s on, and I had a great meeting with Neil Bainbridge at Pakenham during the week, and he’s a man with a real vision.

“I was really impressed with that, so that’s another opportunity.

“But the number one aim now is to get back, make sure we’re successful to the end, and make sure our horses and staff are moved on in the right way.”

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