It takes a special kind of person to see a gap in the market, then target that niche as a not-for-profit business rather than trying to line their own pockets. Lindy Maurice, the driving force behind Thoroughbred Industry Careers (TIC), is one such lady. TIC is in its third year of shepherding young people with the skills to ride, or just the desire to work in racing, towards our industry. And that’s just the beginning of a journey Maurice believes will lead to a more balanced Thoroughbred workforce.
Was racing part of your family background?
I was born in Walcha in New South Wales and my mother rode as Bronwyn Blatch as an amateur rider in the days before women could ride professionally. In 1969 she rode in an International Lady Rider’s Series at Orange which made it onto the pages of Woman’s Day, the jockey’s fashions getting as much attention as their skills in the saddle.
During the day mum worked for my grandfather’s business and she rode trackwork in the mornings, just because she loved it. I followed that growing up my brother and I rode and competed, and as a family we would go to Tamworth or Armidale races, and at Easter, if I was riding at the show we would go to the Derby at Randwick.
The first time I got to ride on a racetrack was with my long-time friend who I grew up with, Melissa O’Gorman, now Melissa Smith. After pony club one day we told our mums we were going to ride home the long way from the showgrounds, when we weren’t home as expected they frantically started searching for us on the stock route and finally found us as we were coming down the straight on the course proper of Walcha racecourse, stirrups up, having a great old time.
Did you pursue a career in racing when you left school?
I rode trackwork and strapped horses at the races towards the end of school for a local trainer before studying a Business Degree at Charles Sturt’s Bathurst campus. At 22 I decided to see the world starting in England working for the Vestey family, grooming and riding at their stables in the Cotswolds. That was so much fun, but I wasn’t exposed to flat racing over there, we went to Cheltenham and a lot of Point-to-Point races.
Upon returning from England I wanted to work in racing but was advised I should gain some experience in big business, then come back to the sport, so I spent a few pretty full-on years working in advertising at George Patterson Bates. In 2003 I caught up with Melissa who mentioned there was a three-month contract role working out of the Inglis offices for Aushorse helping to develop the export market and the Inward Buyers Scheme in time for the Easter Yearling Sale. I was taken on at what was a great time to be there as the Board at Aushorse were fantastic to work with.
That three months lasted five years until 2008 when we moved to Dubai and I continued to work for Aushorse as their UAE and South African representative. The first Friday night I was in Dubai I went racing at Nad Al Sheba and ran into Francesca Cumani and it turned out we were neighbours. We also had some great friends from Australia in Dubai so we had a pretty fun time. My main job is Dubai was managing a project for the opening of the new Meydan racecourse (March 2010) which included learning the names, roles and faces of 400 guests we were hosting for a long weekend visiting Dubai, so each could be introduced properly to Sheikh Mohammed and John Ferguson. It was fascinating but nerve wracking!
Returning home after two years John Kelly from Newhaven Park asked me to do some work on their marketing, so I consulted to him for some time and later back to Aushorse to work on their rebranding.
What was the spark that lit the fire for Thoroughbred Industry Careers?
I had taken my kids to a pony camp out at Geurie just South of Dubbo where a lady approached me saying “I heard you work in the Thoroughbred industry;
I was wondering if there were any opportunities for my son when he left school?” We had a chat and I walked away from that conversation thinking ‘there are so many great kids out here riding around, I wonder what can be done to harness them for our industry?’ As an industry we weren’t on the map for them as a career.
I couldn’t get that thought out of my head for a few months so finally I rang John Messara and asked him if he knew what the industry was doing in that space. John supported me and arranged a meeting for me with Racing NSW and the ball started rolling from there. I then met with Emma Ridley and Diana Cooper from Godolphin and started researching everything I could on the topic, also travelling to England and Ireland to look at what they did, and from there developed a concise document covering what I thought we needed to implement in Australia, from grassroots Pony Racing through to staff retention issues.
With my plans in hand I then met with Chris Waller, Adrian Bott and Gai Waterhouse, David and Prue Hayes, Tony McEvoy, Vin Cox, and the Australian Turf Club and with all of their support along with Arrowfield’s and Racing NSW, Thoroughbred Industry Careers was born. Since then we have garnered support from some of the other state PRA’s and leading stables and studs.
When did TIC start, what does it offer and what are you trying to get across?
TIC was launched as a not-for-profit business in November 2018 and I think Gai got to the heart of it at the time when she said “…we want to shine a spotlight on the diversity of options available to young people and the pathways to access them.” What I did is to bring all the information to one platform as a marketing arm for the industry to say to young people “hey, we are an industry here and if you love horses then we have lots of career options”.
Our first intake of cadets started in early 2019 with the course broken down into a 12- week boot camp, followed by four and a half months with a trainer and then the same time working on a stud farm. I say to the Cadets what we are doing in the 12 months is removing all of the barriers for you, so it doesn’t matter if you go on to be a steward or a form analyst or a vet, you have had the experience of strapping a horse, foaling down a mare or leading a yearling through the sales. That way whenever you talk to someone in the industry you know what you are talking about.
The final piece of the puzzle comes when the year is over and the cadets can then ask themselves, ‘OK I’ve had that year doing it all, which bit really resonated with me and what do I want to do moving forward?’
What effect did COVID have on the programme?
We had to cut boot camp short by about a month and send the kids home which was disappointing. We had to tell them we would find them work placements in an environment which had become difficult as employment had frozen a bit thinking racing may stop. But within the month we were able to place all the cadets in positions and then when restrictions in Sydney in the Spring eased, we launched the Accelerator program for trackriders, with Gr 1 jockeys as mentors.
The Accelerator program was really great. We had a group of people we knew wanted to be track riders or aspiring jockeys, so it was a case of just putting the polish on them. They were riding timed gallops after week ten and one of the girls rode Away Game (Snitzel) the second day of the program. And we had Darren Beadman, Tommy Berry, Sam Clipperton, Kath O’Hara and Rachael King coming out every other week spending time with them.
That is some tremendous expert professional heavyweight support you are getting.
The number of people who help me in the background with TIC is quite something. We are trying to break new ground so knowing I have support from such incredible people in the industry helps to give us a level of confidence in what we are doing. All our sponsors are special to work with and each is a truly professional operation. I did have to say to Charlie Duckworth recently that CWR is becoming a bit of a “problem” for me because the cadets we place there don’t want to leave when it’s time for their stud placement, they just love working there so much!
At Richmond TAFE we have the services of ex-jockey Tracy O’Hara who also works part-time for TIC, Karlie Triffit who has worked in the industry for the Cummings family and Tommy Peters who is a leading track rider with Godolphin. We also have Fiona Hughes who is a high-level event rider who teaches core riding skills, predominantly to those who are interested in racing but don’t have that equestrian background.
Tommy Berry has been an absolute superstar constantly offering his support to come and help and asking “How’s this group? What do you need me to do?”, just a legend of a guy.
Each state has training programmes in place, usually delivered through the local TAFE, how is this different?
The programme doesn’t fit into one singular education box. There are track rider programmes and stud hand qualifications out there, but this is something we have developed to give people a better sense of the industry and all of the things that they can do. And having discussed this with the other members of Together for Racing International, a committee made up of representatives from six major racing nations where we learn from each other through collaboration, this is the only entry-level program of its kind I am aware of around the world.
I think everyone will acknowledge that something like TIC has been desperately needed, but similarly something needs to be done to keep experienced staff in the industry.
With that in mind we are announcing that in conjunction with Godolphin, Racing Australia and representatives of the Principal Racing Authorities, we will be holding a national workplace forum in Sydney in April to discuss the various issues and try and come up with a plan of attack. This will be professionally facilitated and will look at grassroots strategies, recruitment and marketing strategies, the education that is needed and long-term retention strategies for the industry.
You mentioned Pony Racing which plays a major role in other countries, what benefits would its introduction have here?
There is so much talk about how, in this urbanised world, the next generation and racing are becoming further and further apart, and part of TIC’s remit is to bridge that gap. For me Pony Racing ticks a number of the boxes. We have a franchise of 360+ tracks around the country and alongside that, we have a lot of kids that are riding and competing in other disciplines every weekend, so it makes sense to marry the two through Pony Racing. Whether it is cricket, football or netball, kids become passionate about their sport because of participation. They can’t do that with racing at present.
It’s also a way to bring the community to the track as the families follow the kids and it is an inexpensive way of getting involved as a pony won’t cost the $50,000+ needed to buy a competitive eventer. It is accessible, it is affordable, the infrastructure is there and so, for me, it is a case of tacking it on to the franchise that already exists. Pony Racing is proven in other major racing jurisdictions around the world acting as a feeder for riders into the senior ranks.
Aside from that we are doing lots of work at grass roots level to say, ‘we are here!’ Amongst the initiatives is sponsoring the Pony Club National Championships in Victoria in September.
What advice do you give to your cadets?
The biggest thing I give them is to be aware of their manners and their attitude, be as polite and as charming to the person on the front gate as you would to the stars of the sport and of course, work hard! .