Racing SA, Media Release, 1 December 2021
If Alan Lyons isn’t fulfilling his duties as clerk of the course at racetracks around the state, there’s a good chance you’ll find him at his Strathalbyn stables training ex-racehorses for the next stage of their career.
The Irishman – who originally moved to Australia as a horse breaker – has up to six horses on his property at any one time preparing them for clerk of the course positions.
“The first thing is to take them away from what they’re used to,” Lyons said.
“They’re used to going around the track every day, they’re used to being trained up, being fit, and they’re used to going fast whenever they’re asked. I on the other hand need to control all that and make them just relax.
“What helps them a lot is by getting them fat and unfit. Once you get them fat and unfit their mind changes a bit. A bit like a prized fighter if they haven’t had a fight for a while they get a little bit more relaxed about things.”
As clerk of the course, Lyons gets to see up close how horses react and behave at the track, and uses this information to his advantage when identifying which retired racehorses could be trained up for the job.
“I have been fooled over the years where I have a horse I’ve been watching for twelve months and I say I would love to get him and then you bring him home and he might not be able to handle the different situations. They need to be able to handle the pressure on race day, and if they take it all in or if they get a bit worried,” Lyons said.
“Over the years it’s funny you take them all on with that role in mind – that you’re going to make a clerk of the course out of them – but over the years you get one that there’s just one or two little things that they’re not good enough to go to the races for.
“So I’m connected with the show jumping, the hunting club, the dressage all that sort of thing so we do find a really good home for them if they don’t fit the bill.
“Most importantly they’re horses that people can saddle up and go and have a bit of fun on. And that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. It’s about enjoying your animal. Some people don’t even ride them they just enjoy having them around.”
Lyons – who is often joined by his two boys, Jarlath aged 5 and Cian who’s 2 – spends a minimum of 90 minutes a day retraining the racehorses on his home arena.
And for him, the rewards come on race days.
“It’s probably more when you’re at the races and there’s a jockey calling out for help or something and you know that you and your horse is going to be there to give them a hand,” he said.
“And even calming a race horse down on race day getting them to the gates and then that horse comes out and wins. Nobody says anything to you but it does make you feel a little bit better that you made it all happen and nice and smoothly more importantly.”