South African born Lyle Chandler is a well-travelled horseman, spending time in England and other countries before moving to Australia to ply his trade as a foreman with leading metropolitan stables
Since moving to Scone to set up shop with his Swedish partner, Emelie Larsson, the self-confessed ‘country boy at heart’ is loving life and tasting plenty of success too.
“Myself and my partner Emelie have been toiling away over the last three months. We have got a team of seven in work and things are just starting to pick up recently,” Chandler told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“We are based in Scone. I left my position as foreman with John O’Shea and my partner Emily Larsson was second foreman for John Thompson
“I was also foreman for three years with David Van Dyke, when he had those good group horses such as Yankee Rose.
“It was a slow start, but we are starting to get some good results and it’s making it all worthwhile.”
Chandler and Larsson funnily enough met in Australia, and the pair were over the moon on New Year’s Day when Banju won the 1400m Class Three TAB Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick, giving the stable their first city winner.
“Emelie and I actually met as Gai Waterhouse’s and we spent most of the last eight years in Sydney,” Chandler said.
“It was quite nice to win at Randwick because we spent a lot of time doing our apprenticeship there.”
Chandler said Banju’s win was only made better with the stable also winning at Gilgandra on the same day, with Purple Cup taking out the 1100m Benchmark 50 Handicap.
“Banju was one of the first horses given to me,” Chandler said.
“It was great. I waited over a year to get one winner, and with a small team and to get my first ever double on the day was amazing.
“I know we had the city winner with Banju, but it was just as fulfilling to get that winner at Gilgandra, and just as thrilling for the owners.”
The Scone trainer said he would look to build a top-class stable at his new base, with his team more at home in the country, but still not afraid to travel for success.
“I was a country boy growing up in a farm in South Africa, then I moved to England before coming here to give it a real go,” Chandler said.
“I’m getting on a bit, and it was nice to be involved with successful stables, but there is nothing better than having success in your own name, and I probably could have set up in Sydney, but being a country boy at heart, it was nice to get out of the city and set myself up in the country.
“Plus, in Australia, you can have the metropolitan grade horse, and with road networks and vehicles, you can easily travel down to Sydney.”
Chandler’s recent success is a rags to riches story, with the former groom arriving in Australia with barely anything to his name.
“I actually came to Australia on a horse flight. I came over with a bunch of imports. I was doing a bit of a stint as a flying groom for Hong Kong international races, the Breeders Cup, and racing in Canada and Turkey and eventually I thought I should go to Australia,” Chandler said.
“I did a three-week quarantine at Eastern Creek and from there I worked my way around some stables
“When I came over to Australia, I only had $300 to my name. I was lucky to have quarantine work, and credit to Australia; I was just able to have a fair go.
“Plus, the incentive for country only horses are amazing. It gives people opportunities that you wouldn’t get in England and other places and even paying to 10th place helps.”
Eight years after moving to Australia, Chandler is now looking to the future as he looks to expand his team and attract better talent.
“For me, obviously it’s all about taking those opportunities we can get,” Chandler said.
“We want to try and get bigger, and we are mindful to try and increase the quality of our horses too, because there is no reason that we can’t go down to Randwick to compete.”
Funnily enough, Chandler has both Banju and Purple Cup racing again today, with the stable eyeing their second double of the New Year.
Banju again has Jean Van Overmeire on board when contesting the 1500m Class Three TAB Highway Handicap at Rosehill Gardens and Purple Cup has James Baker in the saddle when in action in the 1000m Benchmark 50 Handicap at Tuncurry.