Versatility in the race game

Born in America, raised in England, arrived in Australia armed with a work ethic and a love for horses, Christine Griffiths (Jeffrey) is one of those behind-the-scenes people who helps the thoroughbred racing industry tick.
It’s one of the very few sports still operating in Australia at present with the coronavirus lockdown, and Griffiths makes her living as a successful pre-trainer of gallopers, with her dalliances into show jumping and dressage now distant memories.
She also has a trainer’s licence, and last week Bud, the only galloper she owns and trains, won a 1000m Maiden at his fourth race start after being runner-up at her home track Kyneton on March 13.
Bud, a three-year-old gelding bred by Griffiths, is named after Sydney Swans superstar Buddy Franklin, and arrived at 1am on AFL Grand Final Day. Despite being a North Melbourne supporter, Bud earned the tag as a foal, and it stayed at registration time.
“He showed ability in trails, though he’s not easy to ride, as he pulls like a steam engine … but Dean Yendall managed to get him some cover at Ballarat on the very heavy track, and he strode away to win well by over two lengths,” Griffiths said.
Bud, who started at $4 after his previous promising run at Kyneton, is far from pampered, and lives out in the paddock on Griffiths’ 33-acre property at Redesdale.
It’s a peaceful location, and new stables and a house are to be completed soon.
Griffiths enjoys doing plenty of pre-training work along quiet roads in the area, getting to know the new horses and their traits, and educating them …. a bit like pre-school for the bigger classes ahead.
The majority of gallopers she works with are provided by Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock, which has its headquarters at Berenbroke, in Moorabool Shire.
ATB principal Darren Dance gave Griffiths a chance to prove her worth when she came to Kyneton some years ago, and the association has continued.
From small beginnings in 1997, ATB now has over 2000 owners in its books and sells and syndicates unraced and proven gallopers.
Griffiths is largely her own boss as far as time is concerned, and enjoys this freedom, with other trainers sending young horses to be pre-trained at times as well.
Quite some years ago, Griffiths worked for large horse enterprises in New South Wales, and has some interesting tales to relate about the difficulties encountered by women trying to gain full acceptance in the industry.
Now female trainers and jockeys are far more plentiful and prominent; Linda Meech, who rode the Stawell Cup winner on Sunday, was Victoria’s top jockey last year.
Looking back, the much-travelled Griffiths recalled she initially learnt to ride in England, and came to Australia as a 13-year-old.”It’s a rich person’s sport in England, but out here anyone has a chance to reach to top if they work hard … but being a pre-trainer is a lot easier than being a fully fledged trainer. I’m a fair dinkum Aussie now.”
After coming to Australia, she and her young sister rode their first horse at Mooroopna, a 22-year-old called Mister Jay (both on at the same time).
Griffiths follows the fortunes of the many gallopers she has pre-trained, hoping that one day she may play a very small part in the initial journey of a Melbourne Cup winner.
She hopes that Bud can mature into a more-than-useful galloper, and at the end of seeing a day’s work done, enjoys sitting down looking at a Redesdale sunset with a beer and ‘Bear’, her three-year-old german shepherd.
*Bud’s win for Griffiths was her first since she landed the 2014 Avoca Cup with nine-year-old Scareymac, ridden by Boris Thornton, but she has had very few runners since that time.

A winner: If Bud is as successful on the track as Buddy Franklin has been on the football field, he will end up as a superstar.

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