Skip to main navigation Skip to main content
  1. Home
  2. News
  3. June 2021
  4. Acornley brings varied and extensive experience to training ranks

Acornley brings varied and extensive experience to training ranks

125522004-10158760508297612-7461475523358769608-n.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

When Townsville’s Sarah Acornley started her first galloper as an officially licensed trainer in Queensland earlier this month, she got there with a resume that most start-up trainers would dream of.

The mother of three has had a varied and extensive life around horses and the thoroughbred industry that has taken her around the world to learn from some of the top operations around the globe.

Acornley started in South Africa, going through their racing and equestrian academy, focusing on the equestrian side of things, including show jumping and eventing, while her peers honed their skills to become jockeys.

She went through the academy with now Townsville-based hoop Denicious Smith and Keagan Latham, among others who have gone on to ride all over the world.

After finishing up in the academy in SA, Acornley was on to the UK, completing a Bachelor of Science degree, focussing on equine sciences, while working on stud farms around embryo transfers.

Then it was over to the USA where Acornley took up an internship around equine research in Lexington, Kentucky for 18 months, using her time there to focus on the nutrition and exercise side of things.

While in America, she competed in eventing in the USA, before eventually making her way to Australia.

While working as a track work rider with John Symons and Sheila Laxon in Seymour, Acornley met her eventual husband - jockey Carl Spry.

They would move to Darwin together and then on to Townsville, where Spry - who is dual-licensed - is now more so focusing on his riding while Acornley is in the first month of her new training adventure.

While she was always going to work with horses wherever she was based, Acornley was not certain that she would eventually become a horse trainer.

“I did not think I would get into training to be honest, I always thought I would be working with horses, but doing what exactly, I was never sure,” she said.

“I originally studied doing equine nutrition to be a nutritionist as that is why I spent time in Kentucky but once I got to Australia, the first job I got was with racehorses.

“It was naturally where I went to and then being with Carl, he wanted to start out training and we decided to do it together.”

ChoirBoy.jpgWhile Acornley has not been officially licensed as a trainer until recently, she has played a big role in the Spry stable’s success in the Northern Territory and north Queensland.

“She has been the backbone of our operation for a long while,” Spry said.

“Sarah has experience from around the world and I have learnt plenty from her over the years.”

Coming from a diverse background around horses throughout her life, Acornley, who these days works as a head veterinary nurse during the week, is hopeful it can only help when it comes to her emerging training career.

“I often look at a horse and think that they should be working differently but that is when you are thinking about a show jumper, not a racehorse,” she said with a laugh.

“Carl will often pull me up when I say things like that.

“But I do think the other experiences in my life will only help my training, in terms of varying their work as well.

“Just so they are not just going around in circles, we can take them jumping or to shows and they can get experience in that way, doing more things than just going around the track.”

The Acornley stable has had its first three starters so far this month and will add two more on Thursday afternoon at Townsville’s Cluden Park.

In the Class 3 Handicap, the new trainer is hopeful Serbelloni will become her first ever winner.

“It has been a little more stressful now that I am training, but it has been a lot of fun - I have enjoyed it,” she said.

“It has been great to be involved, take a bit of the pressure off Carl and help him out."