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Rookie Hill to do family proud on training debut

By Jordan Gerrans

a66a8377-ff70-46cc-9285-97cdfafe1c83.jpgWhen Stuie Hill makes his debut as a thoroughbred trainer on Saturday, his family, his people and his culture will be by his side.

The proud Indigenous man has specifically designed his own racing colours for his brand new stable that represents his family and area where he hails from.

Chestnut mare Buwan will go around in red, black and yellow silks – the colours of the Aboriginal flag – as well as encompassing a horseshoe and a black duck, with the black duck being one of Hill’s tribal totems from the Yuin people in NSW.

Just starting out in the Far North Queensland training ranks, Hill has two horses in his barn, Buwan – who heads towards a Benchmark 45 at Innisfail this Saturday – and a yearling that is working towards their first preparation.

“It will mean a lot to see my horse in those colours,” Hill said on Wednesday morning from his Mareeba workplace.

“I am from the Yuin nation and the horse that I am about to break in, another one that I have got, she is still a yearling, named Yuin Blackduck, I am going to name her after my people.

“They are significant as they have the colours and the totem. I really like them.”

Earlier in his life, Hill took part in the Racing NSW-led Darby McCarthy Employment Program, designed to provide Indigenous people with prevocational training and job placement in the horse racing industry.

A proud descendant of the Mithika people, McCarthy hailed from the sandhills outside of Cunnamulla in western Queensland and was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame earlier this year.

The trailblazing hoop, McCarthy, achieved widespread acclaim during the 1950s and 1960s after riding across the globe and was named as one of 10 inductees for the class of 2021.

Through Hill’s involvement in the Darby McCarthy Employment Program, he spent almost two years working with the Gregory Hickman and David Vandyke stables at Warwick Farm as a stable hand.

He always dreamed of being a jockey, like McCarthy, in his early days but just got too big – so he eventually switched his ambitions to training.

The 58-year-old hatched a ‘five-year plan’ to become a trainer, moving to FNQ and basing himself in Mareeba to achieve the goal.

Hill originally planned to bring his sister, Diane Sawtell, along for the ride as he chased his training dreams, but she sadly passed away before seeing Buwan debut for the team.

“It has taken six years; it has taken a little bit longer than I first thought, but I have eventually got there with two horses now,” Hill said.

“In that time, I have bought everything I need, a horse float and everything else, it has been a slow process, but I have achieved the end result, which will be when she walks out in my colours on Saturday at Innisfail.

“I am pretty nervous and I will be more and more so on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

“But, excited as well, the journey has come to fruition and hopefully it will be a successful one.”

Hill has received enormous support and encouragement from his family leading towards his debut day as a trainer, declaring he is lucky to have such a good family network around him.

Buwan, a six-year-old daughter of Equiano, will have her first start since February of this year on Saturday after previously being trained by Moranbah horseman Bevan Johnson.

She has won twice in 24 career starts for six other minor placings.

The redeveloped Pease Park track at Innisfail will return to racing this week after the Innisfail Turf Cub has been out of action for all of 2021 while works have been completed to upgrade their racing surface.

The Innisfail club was awarded close to $500,000 from the Country Racing Program to upgrade their facilities.

With almost 200 projects funded through the CRP, Innisfail’s upgrades are the single biggest project to date that has been delivered and will provide the North Queensland racing industry with another quality venue.

The upgrades included a reprofile of the course proper to fix the reverse camber and installation of sand slit drainage to course proper from the 500 metres to the 900 metre mark and 1100 metres to the 1500 metres, including the 1200 metre and 1500 metre chutes.

On top of that, there has also been an installation of a new plastic inside running rail and relocation of the existing inside running rail to the outside running rail.

The reopening of the track will double as the popular “Banana Industry Race Day” at Innisfail, which will host six races, and will be run as a TAB meeting.

Innisfail held their first TAB meeting for more than a decade in November of last year and the upgraded track could well provide further opportunities into the future after mainly racing on the non-TAB circuit in recent years.