Late last month we made the pilgrimage to Bunbury to watch a couple of horses we have an interest in do a bit of track work. As we pulled up in the dark on what was nothing short of a “miserable morning”, one couldn’t help but ask the question – “who in their right mind would be into this?”. It was early, it was cold, it was wet – it was bloody horrible…
That morning we had the pleasure of meeting OZ Racing trainer Neville “Nev” Parker, and decided to take the opportunity to find out a bit more about what makes this young man tick. At a time in life when most are focused on good-times and friends, Nev chooses to brave the elements day in / day out – gets bumped, kicked and thrown from mounts regularly, and is usually in the stables at an hour when most of his peers are deciding to call it a night. The answer to this outrageous commitment is simple – it’s in his blood – a passion beyond common sense – and for that (from an owners perspective), we are forever grateful.
Nev has been good enough to give us a rare insight into life to date via 20 questions – the answers to which might help explain to us mere mortals what has possessed this young man in his quest to become a first class trainer…
1). Place of Birth
2). Star Sign
“Nev” – (Edit: although his “fans” in Broome call him “Guns”…)
4). When did you first know you wanted to become a trainer?
“I always loved the horses growing up – I would fake being sick so I could spend the day working with Dad or going to the races. Despite the obvious interest, my first love was football. It wasn’t until a bad break to my elbow that sidelined me for 10 months that I started following the local races and began really concentrating on form lines and local breeding. Whilst studying for the TEE (Year 12 Leaving exams), my father broke both knee caps during training, and I jumped at the opportunity to help pick up the slack. Dad had a stable of 20 at the time, and it really gave me a great insight into what it is to be a trainer and manage a good number of horses. My parents were always quite weary of me being involved in the industry, after enduring a lot of bad luck and hardships of their own, and were always adamant that I would complete year 12 and either continue my studies or get a trade before being allowed to work with the horses”.
5). Who has been your greatest inspiration?
“Hands down, definitely my father (trainer John Parker)… I’ve never come across a man as wise, resilient and enduring as he – he’s a fantastic inspiration to me… Dad has a foot-high stack of x-rays of broken bones received over the years from the horses, yet every day at the crack of dawn he’s up head high and back out for another days work. I remember as a 12 year old seeing him get kicked while on a horse – clean broke his shin in two – then to see him to get off, wash the horse, put the horse back in the yard, walk to the house, have a bath, coffee, two Panadol, then go and lunge a horse which was racing at Ascot the next day… and after all that – he then took himself to the hospital… It’s such a great position for me to be training alongside him – he is a highly respected man in the industry and has a priceless wealth of knowledge with the horses. Some of the things he’s seen and methods he’s used can’t be read in books or Googled… Dad’s never really had any above average horses but always made the best of his opportunities. He is a man who’s seen many defeats, but never been defeated. I’m immensely proud of his strength and kindness. Other than my father, the story of Chris Waller is inspiring – coming to Australia with virtually nothing to become one of the biggest forces in Australian racing”.
6). Your first training experience…
“The first horse I trained was with Dad when I was 16. I really wanted one of my own to ride and hopefully get to the track. Dad said “leave it with me – I’ll get you a quiet one.” A week later – Dad delivered, and for a carton of Crown Lager I purchased Saratoga Springs (“Grandpa”) from Dads longtime friend who had retired the horse 6 months prior from the Esperance circuit. I’ll never forget Grandpa landing with us – off the truck bounces this big, 16.3 hand, plain bay, ugly as all hell , full of beans, 10yo gelding!!! Well… we were up for a challenge with old Gramps, but honestly you could not have asked for a better horse – and 8 weeks later we bravely went to town on a Saturday at 20/1 with William Pike in the saddle. What happened next will stay with me forever – Grandpa proceeded to run the biggest race for some time and got second behind a nice horse in Legend Express. I was frozen stiff in the grandstand – I don’t even think I had the power to cheer for him over the last 100m – I was that overwhelmed in watching this old horse throw everything at the line and couldn’t believe we just picked up $8000 for a carton…”
7). Your first winner as a trainer…
“Oscar Wildly – another old timer which I purchased with longtime family friends Kim Sammels and his son Damon. He was a 9yo when we brought him for the sum of $9000. We took a massive punt with an old, well tried horse who had suffered a lot of hoof and joint troubles throughout his impressive career. Despite the injuries, never have I come across a horse with so much life in his eye – his work ethic was second to none – he gave 100% everyday, so much so I limited him to mainly beach work for 3-4 days a week because he would bolt under me or any other jockey who tried riding him – he was “flat-out” no matter what, the old shit gave me hell – day in day out. Going into his first race for us he felt like a 3yo in his prime – absolutely flying! And he got my very first training success from my 7th starter – in the Grandstand Cup at Pinjarra with Joey Azzopardi in the saddle – a magic day, forever remembered…”
8). Number of winners trained to date?
“10 since I started full time mid-2012 – hell of a lot of frustrating placing’s along with that…”
9). Number of horses you have in work?
“My numbers are usually around 7, but can quite easily waver between 5 and 8 – ideally I would love to build up to a stable of 15”.
10). Number of OZ Racing horses you have in work?
“Currently 5 – OZ Racing is a massive part of my stable and I couldn’t be more grateful for the support and opportunities I’ve received from Bruce (Saxild) and all the people involved in the syndicates.
11). Favourite horse of all time?
“Again – it would have to be Oscar Wildly – my first winner as a trainer”.
12). If you could train one horse – it would be?
“Hard one… I love seeing the babies develop – its always exciting extending them for that first time, so without being too picky… maybe Atlantic Jewel’s foal…”.
13). What is your career goal?
“Group Winners!!! – It’s a long road but it only takes one good horse. I also aspire to be at the helm of a 20+ stable with my own fully functional, self-sustained property”
14). Who would win a Match-Race between: Sea Biscuit / Secretariat / Phar Lap?
“Wow!!! – Could only dream of witnessing this race – but for me I don’t think we’ll ever see another horse as impressive as Secretariat. Triple Crown winner, 40 year race records still standing, 31 length winner of The Belmont Stakes – Unmatched! – The perfect animal in his prime”. (Edit – Agreed.)
15). Favourite Food?
“I’m a bit of a sugar junkie, so I want to say lollies, but Mum would kill me so… Steak”.
16). Favourite Beverage?
“Scotch and Dry”.
17). Any Race Day superstitions?
“NO GREEN!!! – I remember travelling to Narrogin once with Dad – we had 4 runners – 3 winners and a third – great day, but Dad still claims we would have had a clean sweep if I hadn’t worn my green undies that day”.
18). Which AFL Footy team do you support?
“West Coast Eagles” (Edit – Ha Ha – Go North…)
19). Pet Racing Hate?
“I’m not the biggest fan of the rating system” (Edit – Who is?)
20)…and for the Ladies – Marital Status?
“I have a girlfriend” (Edit – your Broome fans will be very disappointed Nev…)