For most of the year, Inverell hobby trainer Wayne Oakenfull is carting bulls up and down highways while visiting all corners of Australia.
“I’ve got a stock truck and cover about 150,000 kilometres a year,” Oakenfull told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“I work for five bull studs, and I contract to them; they sell them, and I deliver them. I get to South Australia, Northern Queensland, Victoria, and all over NSW.”
While Oakenfull ‘makes his quid’ transporting stock, his true love is racing, and when business slows down in the warmer months, he likes to have a handful of gallopers in work.
“In the summertime, we have a crack,” Oakenfull said.
“I’m more a hobby trainer. I wouldn’t make a quid training, but horses are my life, and after next Tuesday, we don’t do much, and I can focus on my horses.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m still working four horses every morning before I jump in the truck, and I just shuffle my jobs around to suit that while it is a bit quieter.”
It’s no coincidence that Oakenfull enjoys this time of year, with racing heating up at Inverell and surrounding non-TAB meetings.
“Inverell is a great place to race and to be honest, they don’t race here enough,” Oakenfull said.
“The Boxing Day and New Year’s Day meetings are great, and it leads into a good little circuit with Glen Innes and Deepwater, and that flows into the Walcha Cup.”
Oakenfull will be out to make it a hat-trick of Inverell Cup victories after Renegade (Dannie Peisley) won the race in 2022 before Zaidin (Ben Looker) got the job done for the stable in 2023.
Oakenfull enjoyed a good 2023 of Country Cups in the region, with Amazingly, ridden by Brendon Newport, defeating stablemate Aytobe in the Deepwater Cup on January 21.
Amazingly (Ben Looker) also finished second in the Glen Innes Cup on January 7, beaten by Aytobe (Matthew McGuren), trained by Cody Morgan at the time.
Oakenfull will undoubtedly be back to defend his crowns, and Zaidin will be targeting the 2024 Inverell Cup on New Year’s Day.
The eight-year-old returned from an 11-week let-up to win a 1010m trial at Inverell on November 25 and has been entered in Saturday’s $17,000 Texas Cup (1200m).
“Zaidin might kick off in the Texas Cup on Saturday, but we will wait and see what he draws; I will pull in and see the track, and if it is rock hard, he won’t go around,” Oakenfull said.
“We are trying to get him ready for the Inverell Cup, but my only worry is that I might have left my run short.”
Aytobe was good last preparation, winning the abovementioned Glen Innes Cup for Morgan before Oakenfull set him for victories in the Gwydir Cup at Moree and the Goondiwindi Cup.
Following an eight-week let-up, the eight-year-old resumed in the 1206m Open Handicap at Grafton on November 26, finishing fifth of six when beaten just over five lengths.
“Aytobe is heading towards the Deepwater Cup, and that is because the club’s committee own him,” Oakenfull said.
“He was at the end of his tether last prep but still won at Moree first-up and the Goondiwindi Cup. I think he will go well in the Glen Innes and Deepwater Cups.”
Oakenfull has Highland Bay ready to return from a 21-week spell at Tamworth on Tuesday, and he is hoping the four-time winner can rediscover the form that saw him win the 2022 Spring Cup at Tamworth and Guyra Cup at Armidale.
The lightly raced six-year-old trialled at Grafton on November 26, finishing fourth when beaten two-and-a-half lengths over 946m.
“He looked like being a pretty promising horse, but I spelled him, and he came back last prep and was terrible,” Oakenfull said.
“He finished up with a bit of a virus, so I put him back out in the paddock.
“It all looks a bit more on track at the moment, but I’m not getting ahead of myself just yet, and it remains to be seen if he is back; I’m not totally convinced.”
Rounding out Oakenfull’s team of four is Glencoe Pearl, which raced for the first time in 42 weeks when finishing third in the 1000m Benchmark 45 Handicap at Goondiwindi on December 2.
“She is only a Class One horse, and she is another one getting ready for Inverell Cup day,” Oakenfull said.
“She is very lightly raced and was only a pony when I bought her as a yearling out of the Magic Millions.
“We didn’t do much with her and let her grow out, and she is a lovely mare now, but a mare that doesn’t cop a lot of work and galloping; she is better fresh.”
While locals will be cheering Oakenfull on at Inverell and surrounding non-TAB meetings, it is set to be an exciting period of racing in the region.