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Stephen Massingham's new lease on life

2 August 2022

By Jordan Gerrans

Premier Cairns trainer Stephen Massingham feels like he has saved his own life over the last six months.

The affable Massingham reached some of the greatest heights in his career in recent years taking popular gelding The Harrovian around Australia.

The FNQ-based trainer was of course the person who bought, prepared and turned The Harrovian into a star after he was just a battling galloper in Victoria. 

And, while “Big H” and his exploits provided an endless amount of smiles and positive energy for the stable, Massingham was fighting a battle – that he believed was going to eventually kill him – behind the scenes.

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Like most men in their late 40s, Massingham – who goes by “Boogie” to his mates – enjoyed a drink or two and a big feed but was not doing nearly as much exercise as he should have been.

Now, as the 2022 TAB Northern Queensland Winter Racing Carnival turns to Townsville and Cairns, Massingham is in as good a physical condition as he has been in decades and believes he is fighting fit for the second chapter in his training career.

He has dropped a massive 45kgs and looks like a completely different man.

“I am going good,” a new-look Massingham said.

“I was getting up to that weight there and I was definitely obese and I was going nowhere.”

The Harrovian is now retired from his amazing journey from bush galloper to city favourite and the Cannon Park-based stable of Massingham is now replenishing its stocks.

Through his astounding weight loss, Massingham is as active and hands-on as he has been with his team of horses in years.

“At the end of the day, I think it saved my life,” Massingham said.

“I turn 50 this year and to lose all this weight, I feel way better and I am more active.

“I feel way better and I am doing a lot more with the horses.

“I have taken a new direction in my life and I am feeling a lot better.”

After a quiet start to the Mackay and Rockhampton legs of the carnival for Massingham, his yard's plans start to take shape this week at Townsville’s Cluden Park.

They have big numbers set for Thursday’s race day before the big one – Townsville Cup and Cleveland Bay Handicap – on Saturday afternoon.

After winning the Townsville Cup with 'Big H' during his dazzling run, the barn will not have a stayer in the event this year.

Stephen Massingham Next Racing
Don Arcangelo Next Racing
Full Recognition Next Racing

Relative North Queensland newcomer Don Arcangelo will instead tackle the Benchmark 65 Handicap on Cup day with an eye to landing him in a Cup race at Cannon Park later in the carnival.

The vast majority of Massingham’s runners on race day sport the famous orange silks with a big “H’ on them, which are owned and raced by Cairns Jockey Club present Tom Hedley.

The long-time owner (pictured below) has horses with a number of different trainers but has put significant faith in Massingham in recent years, sending a large number of gallopers his way.

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“He is a good young trainer and puts his right foot forward,” Hedley said of Massingham. 

“He is pretty happy to back himself with what he is doing and he is easy for me to work with as an owner.

“We had a good run with The Harrovian and a few other horses and the batch of horses he has now, they are ones going through their grades.”

The voice of racing in FNQ – Bluey Forsyth – has seen Massingham rise through the training ranks over the years, following in the footsteps of his late father Wayne.

Wayne was a great trainer in his own right, collecting his final winner at Cooktown in late 2015.

“Stephen had a very good background in the industry with his father Wayne and brother Warren helping out to create the top kind of product they have now, in Steve, so to speak,” Forsyth said.

“He has the runs on the board.

“His ability is proven with horses like The Harrovian but he also has a lot of other good stock.”

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Forsyth (pictured above) says that Hedley has put his trust in Massingham to train the majority of his horses and that shows that he has become a premier trainer in the north of the state.

With Don Arcangelo searching for staying features over the carnival, stable mate Full Recognition will be the team’s sprint hopeful.

He has accepted for Thursday’s Lightning Handicap and also for Saturday’s prized Cleveland Bay Handicap over 1300 metres.

The stable has a big decision to make before Thursday. 

“He just recently had a ten-day break and he will be up in those good races, the Lightning, the Cleveland Bay and maybe the Newmarket, depending on where we go,” Massingham said of Full Recognition.

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