By Bernie Pramberg
It was a Sunday two years ago when Toowoomba trainer Lindsay Hatch received a stark reminder of life’s contrasting realities.
After leading in four winners at Clifford Park, Hatch should have been celebrating.
Instead, he headed to hospital in preparation for surgery to remove a life-threatening cancerous growth on his bowel.
“I was really crook at the time,’’ he said.
“But I had a great surgeon and was very lucky with the outcome. The doctors are very happy with me and I had wonderful support from a lot of people.
“At the time it sort of shocked me. It changed my outlook on life.’’
With unstinting support from family, friends and stable staff, Hatch bounced back and currently has 50 fully occupied boxes at Bahram Training Centre and another 20 horses in the paddock.
“Our business has really built up and my wife (Tracey) works very hard as well. She has been my rock all the way …”
At the time of writing Hatch was placed fifth on the Queensland provincial trainers premiership with 18 winners at an impressive strike-rate of 28.6 per cent. He was also running second in the Toowoomba premiership behind runaway leader Ben Currie.
Hatch’s career has been influenced by time spent working closely with a number of successful and respected trainers over different eras.
After four years as a travelling work rider for the legendary T J Smith, Hatch’s development as an excellent all-round horsemen was further enhanced by working stints with John Hawkes, John Sadler, Peter and Paul Snowden, Kelso Wood and current premiership pacesetter Tony Gollan with whom he has shared a friendship for more than 20 years.
Hatch’s 50 boxes at Bahram invariably include 10 or 12 horses he pre-trains for the powerful Gollan stable.
“My own business has also built up nicely and I have 35 in work and usually another 20 in the paddock at any given time,’’ said Hatch. “We have some very good clients”.
Hatch forged a close association with Gollan in Toowoomba when the future champion trainer was based in an adjoining barn at the Bahram complex at Westbrook.
A mutual interest in rugby league was a key component to the friendship.
“Tony was playing in the local competition at the time and I’d go to the games with him. We loved it …”
Gollan’s father, Darryl, was also still training at the time, mainly focusing on preparing fresh horses prior to them moving into Tony’s stable.
“When Tony moved to Brisbane in 2012 he was keen for Darryl to also transfer from Toowoomba. Darryl is an absolute legend and an amazing man considering the health issues he has confronted over a long time,’’ said Hatch.
“I suppose Tony was really influential in me making the decision to return from Melbourne with my family in 2014 to assist with pre-training and also re-establish my own business.’’
Hatch had been away four years after training for a decade in Toowoomba where he twice finished second in the trainers premiership, once only a solitary win behind Michael Nolan.
His decision to quit training on the Downs in 2009 was prompted by a combination of events, notably dissatisfaction with the newly-installed synthetic cushion track at Clifford Park.
“I was sitting in front of the computer one day and saw a job advertised as an assistant-trainer to John Sadler at Flemington,’’ recalled Hatch. “I spoke to my wife and decided to apply, thinking nothing would come of it.
“They flew me to Melbourne, showed me around and a few days later contacted me to ask when I could start.’’
With two young children, Hatch and wife, Tracey, faced a tough decision.
“We decided to go and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,’’ he said. “My family settled into Melbourne and John was outstanding to work for … a very smart man with an incredible eye for detail.’’
After 18 months with the Sadler stable, a job opportunity presented with the Peter and Paul Snowden Darley stable in Melbourne.
“I spoke with John and he said I should apply although I didn’t think I’d be successful. There were more than 80 applicants but I ended up with the job.
“The Snowdens gave me a barn of 32 horses at Flemington to run. It was an unbelievable experience and I was there more than two years before deciding to come back to Toowoomba.
“We had Group 1 winners like Guelph, Earthquake and Long John come out of there. Spirit of Boom was also stabled with us when he won the William Reid.
“Probably the biggest thrill was to bring Long John out of the paddock as an unraced maiden to eventually win the Caulfield Guineas and run in the Cox Plate. You learn so much from being around those top trainers.’’
Born in Blackall, Hatch spent his school years at Ayr in north Queensland where his father Geoff was a trainer.
“Dad had been on sheep properties in the west then moved to Ayr where he trained a few horses.’’
Hatch recalls current leading trainer Kelly Schweida, then an apprentice jockey in Townsville, riding regularly for his father around the northern circuit.
“Kelly was a top rider … I used to idolize him when I was a kid,’’ he recalled.
Hatch also had his mind set on becoming a jockey and moved to Brisbane when he was 14. His family followed soon after with Geoff Hatch continuing to train.
“I rode for about four years until weight beat me,’’ said Hatch. “I won a Gold Coast apprentices premiership and rode winners in town. It was a good time and great experience.’’
During his apprenticeship Hatch also spent three months on loan to trainer Albert McKenna in Sydney.
When weight curtailed his race-riding career Hatch rode work for a time in Brisbane before snaring a job with the legendary Tommy Smith at Randwick.
He accompanied Smith’s horses interstate as track rider for four years with numerous trips to Melbourne, Adelaide and back to Brisbane for the Winter Carnival.
Smith’s No 1 stable jockey during the period was Mick Dittman who Hatch had known from their riding days in Brisbane.
“Mick looked after me in Sydney and treated me very well. We’re still good mates.’’
After four years at Tulloch Lodge, Hatch returned to Brisbane eager to gain further knowledge as he resolved to become a trainer in his own right.
He worked with the late Kelso Wood for two years and a year with the John Hawkes stable in Brisbane before taking a break in north Queensland.
“Two mates and I went up to the Cairns Amateurs and I ended up staying three years,’’ said Hatch. “I was single and loved the lifestyle.’’
He also took out a trainer’s licence but never went beyond a couple of horses as he worked fulltime for an earth-moving business.
“I worked the horses in the morning, went to my day job and then came back to the horses late in the afternoon,’’ he said.
“I really enjoyed Cairns but decided I needed to come back to the south-east if I was serious about horse training.’’
Geoff Hatch was training in Toowoomba and Lindsay rode work for his father for a couple of years before setting up his own training establishment in 2000.
“I’d married Tracey by then and we thought Toowoomba was a nice place to get started, get a house, have kids and train racehorses,’’ he said.
“We both had jobs outside racing and I kicked off with two horses. But we built up the stable to a stage where I could train fulltime which was what I’d wanted for a long time.’’
The fact Hatch twice finished second in the Toowoomba premiership with a stable of only 18-20 horses prior to moving to Melbourne in 2010 is testimony to his ability.
He believes the current state of Queensland is the most positive he has experienced for many years.
“What has happened over the past three or four months has been very positive for everyone,’’ he said. “First, the prizemoney increases, and then the good news regarding Eagle Farm.
“It helps get you out of bed in the morning.’’
Hatch has a reputation of success with problem horses, an example being Transporter which came to the stable after a litany of injury issues.
After being absent from the winner’s tall for two and a half years, Transporter won first-up for Hatch in a 1600m Open Handicap at Eagle Farm in January, 2017.
Transporter saluted again two starts later over 1800m at the Gold Coast when ridden by Brad Stewart.
“After the 2014 Winter Carnival he was injured and spent nearly two years away from the track so owner Les Tinkler sent him to us to see if we could get him going again,’’ said Hatch. “We have a water-walker on the complex here and he thrived in Toowoomba.’’
A member of the Hatch stable is talented apprentice Baylee Nothdurft, 20, who seems destined to make an impact in the metropolitan area after being Queensland’s leading provincial apprentice rider last season.
Hatch’s interest in rugby league has been heightened by the involvement of son, Thomas, 16, who is a hooker of considerable ability.
Tom has been selected in the South-West Mustangs under-18 pre-season representative squad and plays on the Toowoomba club competition for the Valleys club.
“Tom is very dedicated and loves the game,’’ said Hatch.
His daughter, Jade, 13, is into show-jumping so the Hatch family have plenty of time invested away from racing.
“Following the kids’ sport is great and gives us a chance to relax a bit away from the stables…”