Top trainer in key move

Dual Melbourne Cup winning trainer Robert Hickmott describes Romsey’s Kerrygail Farm as “a perfect facility to complement Hickmott Racing’s Caulfield and Ballarat stables”.
The 270-acre state-of-the-art racing complex just south of Romsey was recently vacated by Luke Oliver, now training at Cranbourne.
Hickmott, a New Gisborne resident, finalised all necessary approvals to utilise Kerrygail Farm last week, and has already moved some horses there. A farm manager has been appointed.
He said the Romsey complex fitted in splendidly with a three-year plan to get Hickmott Racing – which has around 110 gallopers on its books – established as a major player in the Australian racing industry.
Having been closely involved with plenty of elite stayers during his 12 years at Macedon Lodge, Hickmott has studied the European racing scene closely, and regards German-bred gallopers as being ideal for Australian conditions.
Schabau, making a return after 14 months lay-off due to a tendon injury, and Django Freeman, soon to race, were bred and raced in Germany, and are highly rated by Hickmott.
Growing up on the family farm near Wangaratta, the 51-year-old Hickmott was destined to be involved in racing, riding trackwork for his father John as a youngster.
John Hickmott was in real estate for a time, then became a full-time trainer and won the NEDRA trainers’ premiership. John has prepared over 500 winners, mostly in South Australia.
Rob soon knew he would be too heavy to become a jockey, and Australian Rules football was an attraction.
As a teenager, he starred for Wangaratta Rovers in the 1988 grand final victory, and attracted the interest of VFL talent scouts.
He was at Essendon for a time, then was taken by Melbourne in a pre-draft, where he played two senior games before departing at the end of 1991.
Like many country recruits, Hickmott found it hard to adapt to the AFL: “It was fun,” he candidly admitted.
Hickmott laughs when reminded of the quiz question: Which AFL footballer trained a Melbourne Cup winner?
He did when he was head trainer for the legendary owner Lloyd Williams at Macedon Lodge — Green Moon in 2012, followed by Almandin in 2016. Zipping was the first of Hickmott’s 13 Group 1 winners.
Williams offered Hickmott a job in 2001; he had earlier worked with his father in South Australia, and been stable foreman with Colin Little and Tony Vasil at Caulfield, and Alan Bailey on the Gold Coast.
Hickmott has trained 240 winners since obtaining his licence in 2009; a strong winning percentage of 17 per cent from over 1400 starters.
Reassessing his situation in late 2017 after the death of his brother, Rob departed from Macedon Lodge and looked to branch out on his own.
He soon took over training several horses from the John Sadler team at Caulfield when the latter was suspended, and now occupies the large stables once occupied by long-time trainer Robert Smerdon (now disqualified).
“Caulfield has great training facilities, as good as any in Australia,” Hickmott said.
He presently has 37 horses in work there, and 12 at Ballarat.
Hickmott likes the Macedon Ranges, and said he heard about the Kerrygail Lodge opportunity purely by chance.
“My father came over and inspected the property, and urged me to go there … it will complement Caulfield and Ballarat.”
“Kerrygail Lodge will give our horses every opportunity to sustain longer preparations with a beautiful environment to freshen up horses post run.
“It will also be very beneficial for horses that need rehabilitation after injuries.”
Hickmott said it had everything needed – lush green day yards, a water walker, 75-metre pool, 1800-metre grass training track, and a good quality 1600-metre sand track.
The trainer is a strong believer in gallopers having access to open paddocks and country life as much as possible, and complimented Kerrygail Lodge’s Bianco Giampaulo for her assistance.
Asked what his ambitions are, Hickmott said he had high hopes of winning quality races both in Melbourne and interstate, with international owner David Price being a strong stable client.
“It would be great to win a Cox Plate and other blue ribbon events like the Guineas …. another Melbourne Cup would be good as well,” Hickmott said.
He estimates it will take 10 to 12 months to get the Romsey complex fully operational to suit his plans, with at least 30 horses there at a time. About 12 employees are expected to work at Kerrygail Lodge.
Hickmott Racing has plenty of well-bred yearlings to be broken in, and there is an opportunity for syndication.
“A number of racing enthusiasts can pool resources and get a share in a horse, and we are always pleased to discuss what we can offer for new clients,” he said.

High hopes: German import Schabau won his first three races at Flemington last year, and (from left) part-owner Ben Corcoran, Hickmott Racing’s Damian Slocum, and trainer Robert Hickmott were thinking of a 2019 Melbourne Cup campaign before injury intervened. On Saturday, Schabau ran seventh over 2000m after being sidelined for 14 months.

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