Brett Cavanough reaping the rewards of his hard work

Brett Cavanough and his Cavanough Racing team have been in flying form. Image – Cavanough Racing.

On paper, you look at Brett Cavanough, and you see that he is a successful trainer who knows how to prepare a winner or two.

The 61-year-old cruised past 1000 career victories in August of last year, and in 25 years training thoroughbreds, he’s brought up a remarkable 1035 victories, scored multiple Group and Listed triumphs, and earned connections over a staggering $18 million in prize money. 

While thrilled with the success, it didn’t happen overnight, with Cavanough learning his trade under the watchful eyes of legendary trainers TJ Smith and Neville Begg.

In a testament to his hard-working nature, Cavanough became the first Australian to hold an official World Shearing Record in 1997 when he shore 427 in eight hours at Widgeiwa Station in the Riverina.

A year later, he was training thoroughbreds at Tocumwal and eventually moved to Albury, where he became a force in the Southern Districts training ranks, winning seven SDRA titles.

Now based in Scone, he’s claimed the New South Wales country trainers’ premiership five times, with his name synonymous with success, hard work and professionalism.

With just under 100 horses in work, including 70 at his Scone base and anywhere from 20 to 30 at his Ballina satellite stable, the Cavanough Racing team has been in flying form to start 2024. 
From their past 50 starters, they have notched 13 wins, and remarkably, that figure includes eight maidens. 

Cavanough shifted much of the praise onto his son Jack, who is in charge of pre-training and breaking in at Cavanough Racing.

“It’s probably the result of two years of hard work by the whole team,” Cavanough told NSW Country and Picnic Racing

“My son Jack broke in 80 horses we trained last year, and over the last couple of years, he’s broken in 150. 

“They are now turning out as two-and-three-year-olds, and it’s a bit of a cycle, and it took us a while to build it up, but we’re seeing those rewards.  

“From a stable point of view, we worked out that if we wanted to race good horses, we needed to buy yearlings, and those results are coming through.”

With multiple stables and a weekly wage bill ranging ‘between $35,000 and $40,000’, Cavanough stressed that it was a team effort. 

“Steph Alexander runs the Ballina stable, and Rowena Dillon runs the Scone stable, and they do a great job,” he said. 

“The whole team works hard. Brady Tipping does an excellent job as Racing Manager, my wife (Lauren) is at the office, and Georgie and Jack are very supportive.

“They’ve all got a truck licence, and they’re all hands-on, and they want to be hands-on, which is important. 

“There are a lot of winners and not a lot of glory but a lot of hard work, and we’ll keep trying to bring horses in and win races for their owners.”

It also helps that Cavanough can call on an impressive group of apprentices, including Cobi Vitler, Braith Nock, Jackson Searle, and Nick Palmer.

“Jackson Searle is still in there riding work, and he needs to get his weight down, but he’s still in the game while playing rodeo and having a good life,” Cavanough said. 

“He was an apprentice when he was 16 or 17 and missed that fun, but he’s an integral part of the team and rides work, gallops, and jump-outs. 

“Cobi and Braith are riding well, and another kid is Nick Palmer, who comes down from a camp drafting background; he’s only a pre-apprentice, but he’ll be the next one to come along.”

When asked what set his in-form stable apart from the rest, Cavanough explained that he was always striving to win for the sake of his owners, regardless of where his gallopers came from and where they ended up racing.

“We just treat every horse that comes in the front door the same, and we try and train a winner every day and everywhere,” he said. 

“We can train two-year-olds and can do carnivals, and we’ve got great support behind us, but winning races for our owners is what we strive to do.

“At the end of the day, the bottom line and dollar is what matters, and we’re always trying to find a black type horse, but in the meantime, we’re trying to earn as much as we can for our owners.”

Cavanough and his team will look to take that winning attitude to Ballina on Friday, with a team of seven engaged to race at the seven-race Ballina Cup Showcase meeting. 

The stable is set to start former Western Australian Stay Safe in the $65,000 Ballina Cup (1590m) and Big Dance qualifier. 

The five-year-old Safeguard gelding, formerly trained by Simon Miller, was Group 2 and Listed placed as a three-year-old but went off the boil and arrived at Cavanough’s having won once in 13 starts. 

The penny appeared to have finally dropped in a 1600m Class One handicap at Ballina on January 5, with Stay Safe ($1.50) cruising to a six-length win. 

It is a huge step up from Class One to Open Handicap, and if the first emergency does get a run, Cavanough expects a bold showing with Ben Looker in the saddle. 

“He came to us with Stakes ability from Western Australia,” Cavanough said. 

“He lost all form, and we kicked him off here in a (Mudgee) Sprint and tried to get his confidence back. 

“All be it was a Class One that he won the other day, he donkey-licked them, and it was a good warm-up to see if he has rediscovered his Stakes ability. 

“If we can get his confidence back, I think he can easily win a race like the Ballina Cup, but he still needs to regain it, so we will see how he goes.”

There’s no rest for the wicked and or the extremely hard-working in Cavanaugh’s case, and his stables will continue a busy few days following Ballina’s meeting on Friday, racing at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday, Scone on Sunday, and Coffs Harbour on Monday.