10 May 2023

Georgetown trainer finishes 2021 on high note

| Matt Nicholls
Start the conversation

THIS time last year, Athol Ryan was in hospital with severe facial injuries after an innocuous incident while preparing to gallop a horse at Mount Garnet.

The veteran trainer hadn’t even made it onto the racecourse when the horse reared and fell on top of him, resulting in a trip to Atherton Hospital, followed by an ambulance ride down the Gillies Range.

Complications in his recovery forced the Georgetown resident to miss months of work, but once he was given the all-clear to resume in February, it didn’t take him long to get back on the horse.

It proved well worth it, with 2021 bringing a massive eight winners for the stable, three more than his 2020 tally.

“When you’ve got a horse like Macipenko it keeps you going,” he said of the horse that has now won four races this year.

While seven winners might not seem like a lot, it’s not bad considering Ryan only has a few horses in work at any one time and has to travel more than 300km one-way for just about every race meeting.

Ryan and his wife Sue travelled 670km to Cooktown for the Cup meeting and were handsomely rewarded when they returned with two winners.

Both ridden by Lacey Morrison, the double started with the stable star Macipenko.

The five-year-old gelding hadn’t won a race when he landed in Georgetown, but has now four to his name after previous victories at Oak Park, Mareeba and Atherton.

Sent out a $1.80 favourite in the Class 2 Handicap (1290m), the bold chestnut looked the winner a long way from home and saluted by two lengths.

“I was pretty confident he would run a big race and be hard to beat,” the trainer said.

“I was a bit more shocked about the second horse because I thought the topweight would be hard to beat.”

The Ryan-Morrison combination backed it up with Red Denaro in the Benchmark 60 (1400m).

Morrison sent the $2.70 elect straight to the front from barrier one and he was never headed, scoring while being eased down near the line.

A beaming Ryan said he was thrilled the decision to keep his horses in work had paid off.

“We normally finish up a little bit earlier because it gets really hot and there aren’t a lot of meetings for us in the back end of the year,” he said.

“But the horses were going well and there were the right races here for us so we decided to make the trip.”

The closest track to Georgetown is Einasleigh at 170km, but the club opted to sit out 2021 due to uncertainty around COVID-19.

Considered one of the best horsemen in the Far North, Ryan rides all of his horses in trackwork at the beaten-up Georgetown track, which hasn’t staged a race meeting for decades.

The Ergon Energy worker is used to travelling vast distances for maintenance on electrical lines throughout the Gulf country and usually stables his horses at Mount Garnet overnight before heading to race meetings.

This time he stayed in Tolga on Friday night before coming up to Cooktown.

Ryan said he had no hesitation in getting back in the saddle after the fall, which he described as a freak accident.

“Because we weren’t doing fast work it was OK (for me),” he said.

“We were just walking out on to the track and the horse got spooked by something and I ended up underneath it.

“I wasn’t worried about getting back on again.”

Start the conversation

Cape York Weekly

Subscribe to get the latest edition of Cape York Weekly in your inbox each Monday.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Cape York Weekly's terms and conditions and privacy policy.