By Brad Gray
Clare Cunningham will send her first runner to the races on Monday when troublesome five-year-old Sir Barb lines up at Goulburn over 1200m.
Cunningham, who previously ran Peter Moody’s Sydney operation, currently has a team of four horses with a fifth to join her Warwick Farm stable next week. So now Cunningham has had time to settle into the demanding training routine, how is she finding the transition?
“It doesn’t matter who you are in the racing game, its 24/7. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing you are working seven mornings a week, twice a day so it’s busy,” Cunningham said.
“I had a bad couple of months early days. I have carpal tunnel in my hands and before I got diagnosed I was running on about three hours sleep a day but I manage that now and get more. At the time I said to (boyfriend) Jason (Collett) it can’t get much tiring than this so I’m prepared for anything now.
“I’m doing it all myself and four or five is manageable on your own but once you start getting any bigger you have to employ staff which brings financial pressure. I’m happy at the moment and it’s a good number to start with when you are hands on.
“I’ve always been quite hands on and I really enjoying riding horses. It’s a big part of why I love racing.”
Sir Barb is owned exclusively by Cunningham’s four siblings and their partners who bought the ex-Bjorn Baker trained gelding, who had a suspension on him for standing flat footed in the barriers, off an auction site.
“He is no world-beater and I’d be happy to just win a couple of races with him but at the moment we are just setting little goals because as you can see, his recent form isn’t great,” Cunningham said.
Sir Barb's recent Warwick Farm trial - May 29
“Were not putting too much pressure on him but if he shows us that he wants to be a race horse again on Monday I’ll be really pleased. It gives us something to work with.
“I don’t know if he will be able to get to a metropolitan race or be able to win one but he has the potential to win a couple in the country when he is right.
“I’ve got a family that really loves the racing industry having been brought up in a racing family. It has been awesome and is keeping us all together and giving us something else to talk about. My sister will be there on Monday to strap him.”
Just months into her training career, Cunningham also has the support of prominent racing owners Neil Werrett and Graham and Linda Huddy.
“I’m very lucky and very grateful. I mightn’t have a very big team but I’ve got a good little group of owners to start off,” Cunningham said.
“Neil and his sister-in-law Karin have been big supporters of mine and the day they rang me up and said they had a horse for me I was very happy. Linda Huddy has been another big supporter. I had horses in my care for her through Pete Moody and she was another one that approached me as soon as she found out I had my licence.
“I was just doing my job at the time but obviously they respected that and being genuine people they wanted to support me from the start which is really nice because a lot of people wait to see you prove yourself and these guys didn’t need that.”
Zanacon, owned by the Huddy’s, is a two-year-old and Cunningham will be patient with the son of Congrats while her other two horses are Moe maiden winner Princess Freya, owned by Werrett, and unraced three-year-old Cradle Mountain, owned by the Collisons.
“I’m not too sure what level they will get to but they give me a nice enough feel to suggest that they might win a race,” said Cunningham.
“Princess Freya has had a few injuries in the past so we’ll all be really happy if we can get her back to the races while Cradle Mountain is a very raw horse but he is showing us enough.”