Shailer enjoying strong start to training career in Port Macquarie

Paul Shailer has been enjoying life as a trainer in Port Macquarie. Photos: Port News/ACM and Paul Shailer Racing.

Paul Shailer’s foray into the Country NSW training ranks has started well, with the trainer tasting good success since setting up shop in Port Macquarie.

The New Zealander trained his first winner in October of last year, with Swing The Tide getting home in the 1800m Class One Handicap, while on the same day, Shailer picked up his first career-double when Relucent won the 1500m Class Three Handicap. 

While he experienced a good start to his career, Shailer said this immediate success led to some unexpected pitfalls, but he learned quickly how to manage success, expectations and an inundation of new horses and owners.

“I couldn’t have got off to a better start, and looking back on it now, that good start had more of a negative impact, and we got inundated with horses,” Shailer said.

“We didn’t have the resources, and we went through a bit of a lull for a couple of months, but we were able to identify what was going on pretty quickly, and we moved some horses, and brought in some new ones and we have found a good balance.

“We have been active at the sales, and we are slowly building and in the last two or three weeks, we are seeing the fruits of knuckling down, getting the right horses, and bringing in the right staff around us.”

On Sunday, Shailer landed another double on his home track, with Mista Razzledazzle winning the 1200m Benchmark 66 Handicap before Rapid Rose came out and won the 1200m Maiden Plate, with Ben Looker guiding both gallopers to victory. 

“It was a good day and Ben rode them a treat,” Shailer said.

Mista Razzledazzle was very good first-up over 1200m, with the ex-Victorian storming home for a good win.

“He trialled really good, and we had a lot of confidence he would run well,” Shailer said.

“The only concern was that the six furlongs was too short, and I knew he would be strong, but didn’t know he would be so strong and win the way he did.

“Plus, he is our first OTI horse, and for an owner like Terry Henderson to send us a horse; it gives us a thrill.”

Rapid Rose is another ex-Victorian that was first-up for the stable, and according to Shailer, she exceeded expectations at Port Macquarie.

“She was meant to race a couple of weeks ago when a meeting was washed out, and we thought she was a big chance that day, and Sunday’s race had a bit more depth and we thought she could run top five,” Shailer said.

“She also came from Victoria, and when we get these second-hand horses, we try and give them some confidence and we try and build them up with soft barrier trials and soft galloping and keep them fresh in their legs, and it seems to work, and we have seen some success doing this.”

Shailer might only be new to training in Port Macquarie, but the former jockey and New Zealand-based trainer has a lot of experience, having spent an extensive apprenticeship under the watchful eye of fellow Kiwi, friend and legendary trainer, Chris Waller.

“I was with Chris in Sydney between 2000 to 2010, then went back to New Zealand and trained out on my own there for six years, then I ended up back at the Gold Coast in 2016 and opened up his yard for him and spent five years there,” Shailer said.

In fact, Waller was the reason Shailer first came to Australia, with the young trainer closely affiliated with the stable for the best past of 20 years.

“We are both from Foxton – a very small town in New Zealand, and Chris is married to my cousin Stephanie, and when Chris trained in New Zealand, I was an apprentice jockey at the time before I got too heavy, and when he moved to Australia, he asked me to come across with him,” Shailer said.

“I was his trackwork rider for a couple of years before being promoted to foreman and then assistant trainer.”

Shailer went back home to train, preparing Group 2 and Group 3 winners before returning to Australia to train for Waller and eventually breaking out on his own late last year.

“I had some success, and we had a pretty healthy strike rate but when Chris decided to open up the Gold Coast stable, it was an opportunity too good to pass up and it was such a great experience,” Shailer said.

“We had a lot of success. We trained Magic Millions winners and we had a lot of Group 1 success.

“Then I finally decided to go out on my own, and I thought there was an opportunity in Port Macquarie, given the way country racing is going and progressing.

“The Kosciuszko, Country Championships and those races are great incentives by Racing NSW, and after thinking about it, I thought there was a good opportunity to start a business up.”

Shailer said he was basing his approach to training on what he had learned from Waller over the years.

“I try and replicate what Chris does,” Shailer said. 

“It is hard, because he has unbelievable resources, but we are trying to replicate his systems as good as we can, and staffing and all those little things.” 

The Port Macquarie trainer does envision getting bigger, and he hopes to consistently have runners in feature country races all over the state.

“Obviously we are only starting out, and only have 25 horses in work, but we are trying to build a team of 50 to 60 horses, and I think that will be a very comfortable number to have in work,” Shailer said. 

“We want to get good horses in and want to be able to compete in TAB Highways regularly and have horses in the Country Championships and The Kosciuszko.”

Shailer isn’t resigned to just racing in the country either, and while he is loving life in Port Macquarie, he said he wouldn’t let his location limit his ambition. 

“Just because we are country trainers, we don’t have to buy country racehorses,” Shailer said. 

“We have been to New Zealand and spent $120,000 and $150,000 on yearlings and we are aspiring to race in town.

“We are only four hours from Sydney, and four and a half hours from Brisbane and just because we are in the country, it doesn’t mean we can’t race at the metropolitan tracks and if our horses are good enough, we will go to town.”.

Still, Shailer said he will support his local track at all times, and following Sunday’s winning double, he has a team of three entered to race at Sunday’s Port Macquarie meeting.

“We try and support the local club. If we can nominate at Grafton, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie, we will be racing at Port first,” Shailer said. 

“It’s the same as a football side; you get home ground advantage, plus we want to poor as much money back into the club as possible and support the club.”

Shailer and his team could be in for a big weekend, with Whatever I Say (Nash Rawiller) racing in Saturday’s 1200m Class Three TAB Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick.