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Shirley Batten going as well as ever towards her 90th birthday

 

05-2021-athor-sbatten-2.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

Even on the coldest, rainy mornings before the sun is even considering rising over the Gold Coast Turf Club, Shirley Batten is there smiling away.

One of the elder stateswomen of the Queensland racing industry, Batten is adored by all that neighbour her stables down at Aquis Park or those who come across her on a race day.

She only has a handful of boxes these days, a far cry from the operations of the Edmonds’ team and other big time trainers on the Gold Coast.

While those around her chase Group and Listed races over the TAB Queensland Winter Carnival, Batten, who turned 89 earlier this month, is glad to be poking away with a horse or two.

Batten has been in racing most of her life, growing up on a farm and riding ponies as a youngster, going on to ride track work, preparing jumps horses and then eventually moving up to the Gold Coast just over two decades ago.

She has become a regular fixture, a popular local and treasured part of the racing community ever since.

Gold Coast trainer John Zielke thinks the entire racing community in the area have respect for Batten as a person and as a trainer.

“She is one of the loveliest people I have ever met in racing, she is so down to earth and is so modest,” Zielke said.

“You would not meet a nicer person and at around the age of 89 years of age like she is, I hope I am still walking at that age.”

The Batten yard will only ever have a few horses at a time, with Shirley’s son, David, helping out in the morning and some afternoons.

David, who was once the stable's track work rider, owns several of the team’s horses with his Mum on top of driving horses around Queensland for Sydney Horse transport.

According to David, Shirley’s age has not slowed down her training endeavours at all and on the days he cannot be there for work reasons, she will do it all herself.

“She enjoys it, she loves the horses and having one or two in work,” David said.

“She gets them done, I am amazed really how she gets it all done herself; feeding them, doing their boxes, and getting their rugs on.

“She loves the horses; she looks forward to getting down to see them every day.”

Shirley, who has been a licensed trainer for over 50 years, will drive herself to and from the track from her Southport home, complete all the jobs to get her small team of horses ready for their next assignments.

While some at Shirley’s age battle to get out of bed, she would not have it any other way.

“I have no troubles, no one ever has to fight me to come to the stables,” Shirley says with a laugh.

“I like something to be happening, nothing happens when you are just sitting at home.

“There is no use going to the shops to have lunch, instead I can come down here with these horses.”

Gold-Coast-05-FB.jpgA mother of five, Shirley grew up on a farm and got the racing bug when her father purchased her a pony when she was still in school.

She went on to compete in show jumping at events like the Melbourne Show and other shows around Victoria.

She rode in the lady’s point-to-point, as well.

Many a decade ago she raced horses at Caulfield in Melbourne in the Australian Steeplechase, winning jumps races at Moonee Valley with a horse name King's Gamble, which one of her sons rode in amateur races.

King’s Gamble winning a steeplechase at Moonee Valley in 1975, ridden by her son Iain, is quickly nominated as one of the greatest achievements Shirley has landed in her career in the racing industry.

When her husband sadly passed away back in 1991, all the farm work, which included milking 100 cows a day, on top of the training duties of the horses, got too much for Shirley, she decided to pull stumps and head to Queensland.

With all her children grown up and moved away, three were in Queensland, so she decided on the Gold Coast and in 1995, brought up her horses that were based at Flemington.

The winner of 21 career races as a trainer rode her own track work until she was about 60 but says her body couldn’t handle it any more, so she gave up on it.

While she cannot get out there herself and work the horses in the morning these days, Shirley still loves training as she approaches 90.

“I enjoy it, you see, what are going to do if you do not get out of bed every morning?” Batten asked.

“You will not get out of bed if you have nothing to do.

“Most mornings I am up at about 2.30am, on a Sunday we get a sleep in till 3.30am or 4am.

“It does not matter to me; I am a morning person.”

Zielke always enjoys popping his head into the stables around the corner from his to have a quick yarn with one of the oldest licensed trainers in the Sunshine State.

“Shirley smiles all the time and never speaks ill of anybody,” Zielke said.

“She is always out to help everybody, she walks in the early hours of the morning, it might be 3.30am or 3.45am, she goes out and watches her horses work every day and the comes homes and always has something nice to say or a smile on her face.

“Even if it is raining, she is still smiling and she is such a breath of fresh air on the Gold Coast, she is such a lovely person.”

While Zielke is happy to talk up Shirley’s positive attitude and demeanour around the stables, he says she should not be understated as a trainer, declaring she knows her way around a racehorse and had some great jumpers in her younger years in Victoria.

On her current yard of horses, Shirley likes the prospects of youngster Top Bird and stayer Electric Ellyse.

“She had to do a lot of work to get to her first start as she had issues around the barriers,” Shirley said of Top Bird.

“She is in the paddock now but once she is back, it should be straight ahead going.”

Electric Ellyse won a couple of provincial races last year and her trainer believes the six-year-old mare may have a few more in her.

“She is a lovely horse,” Shirley said.

Top Bird and Electric Ellyse live at her Gold Coast stable alongside a retired 16-year-old gelding named “Benny”, who is a close companion of the pair.

The Batten team also have a full sister to Top Bird who is about to go to the breakers and will ensure Shirley’s training career kicks on well past her 90th birthday next year.

Electric Ellyse RETIRED 2021