The head trainer for one of Australia’s biggest operations has studied under David Reid and Noel Daley in the U.S., Timo Nurmos in Sweden and Jean-Pierre Dubois in France.
by Adam Hamilton
About 17 years ago a starry-eyed young Australian was trackside at Delaware for the Little Brown Jug with just $60 and a return ticket to Australia to his name.
After just a few months in America, Anton Golino’s hopes of landing a good gig in the U.S. seemed all but over.
Enter David Reid of Preferred Equine, the first in a chain of people who have shaped Golino’s life, not just his career.
“I’d already called mum and said I’d be heading home, but it all changed when (Aussie trainer) Peter Walsh introduced me to Dave, who asked if I wanted to go down Lexington and work for him at the sales… that was the fork in the road which changed everything for me,” Golino said.
Defying the odds is something Golino has done repeatedly. The idea to try his luck in the U.S. came while the then 20-year-old horseman was in hospital having a rod removed from his leg, the result of a motorbike accident which left him with two crushed legs and more than a year in a wheelchair.
Now Golino, 40, is head trainer for one of Australia’s biggest harness racing operations, Yabby Dams, which is home to about 200 standardbreds at a lavish 700-acre racing and breeding property backed by passionate trotting man, Pat Driscoll.
From Lexington, Golino went to the Harrisburg sales with Reid and was approached by the Aussie-born Noel Daley with an offer to work for him as a groom. Momentum was gathering.
“Dave was great, but I thought Harrisburg was the end of the road again until Noel spoke to me,” Golino said. “I started with him as a groom and graduated to driving work after a couple of years. Noel had a fantastic team of horses, but just as good a team of people working for him. It’s no surprise, who wouldn’t want to work for him? He’s an amazing person, like a father to everyone.
“Noel completely changed my life. I spent eight years with him and learned so much.”
Golino then moved to Sweden where he worked near Solvalla for trainer Timo Nurmos for a year as he mapped-out how to return to Australia and start training in his own right.
“That was fantastic, too. The plan was to go back to Sydney because they were building the new Menangle track with training facilities and it sounded perfect for me, but that was delayed and I went from Sweden to France and met ‘The Boss,’” Golino said.
“The Boss” is France’s — and quite possibly the world’s — “Mr. Trotting”, Jean-Pierre Dubois.
Golino’s step-father Peter Bednarczyk, a horse trainer himself, didn’t want Golino following in his footsteps, but once it became inevitable, he insisted Golino learn how to be a good farrier.
“Wherever I went, I took my shoeing gear with me. So, I got the train from Sweden to France, a 35-hour trip, with all my gear. I remember getting woken up at 3 a.m. somewhere in Germany by some guards yelling ‘papers, papers, where are your papers,’” he said.
“I only had six months with Mr. Dubois, but it was incredible. I had about 60 babies to break in. If I could do everything again, I’d have gone to Mr. Dubois earlier.”
The pair clicked so well, Dubois promised he would race Golino’s first horse with him when returned to Australia and set himself up.
“He kept his word, it was the first horse I bought, a colt called Twice As Much, by one of his stallions, Sam Bourbon. He won 11 races for us, but his importance was huge because he’s the reason I met Pat (Driscoll),” Golino said.
Driscoll, his passion of trotting unknown to Golino at the time, was fascinated how a legend like Dubois was a part-owner of Twice As Much.
“I told him the story and a bit about my background. A few months later, Pat came across to the Prix d’Amerique with me and that was really the start of it all for us together. He’s been incredible for me, another special person who has changed my life,” he said.
“I just thought he was a trotting fan when I met him. Little did I know what he had in mind and how big everything would become.”
“The first horse I had for Pat was a lovely mare called Arboe. She’s still one of the best we’ve had, but she was a bit crazy. Things really grew about a year later when I moved from NSW to Victoria and, eventually, Pat got his amazing property (about 90 minutes outside of Melbourne) up and running.”
Golino’s connections and Driscoll’s passion and funding has revolutionized trotting in Australia. The racing arm is Yabby Dams, but the breeding side, Haras des Trotteurs, has given Aussie breeders access to many of France’s best stallions. This year’s roster includes: Love You, Orlando Vici, Quaker Jet, Timoko, Bold Eagle, Brilliantissme and others.
Dance Craze, a daughter of Muscle Hill out of former superstar Aussie race mare La Coocaracha, is the best trotter Golino and Driscoll have shared so far. She raced 50 times for 24 wins, 13 seconds and banked $551,780 (AUD) before being retired a few months ago.
“Hopefully Im Ready Jet (a powerful daughter of Quaker Jet) can replace her, I’ve thought for a year or so she could, and she’s come back really well with two good seconds and a win this campaign. She’s still only 4, so we will pick and choose a few of the good races for her this campaign because I think she could be a bit special in another six to 12 months,” Golino said.
“She could even end-up going over to the U.S. to finish her racing days, but it wouldn’t be for another year or more. I’m certainly open to that.”