Doing very little with Spieth (Thorn Park x Stella Livia) in the first two seasons of his racing career could be the making of Bryce Heys as a racehorse trainer.
This reads like an oxymoron but it makes sense when applied to how Heys has managed the emerging sprinter.
When you have held a trainer’s licence for less than two years and you have a horse with Spieth’s raw talent, it would be easy to get ahead of yourself.
Young and ambitious, Heys wants to get to the top — and quickly — but not at the expense of his racehorses.
Which explains why he didn’t push Spieth to the racetrack as a juvenile, why the colt has been restricted to just six race starts so far as a three-year-old, and why he hasn’t been rushed into racing’s big leagues too soon.
Heys has resisted all the temptations to chase big prizemoney in the major races with Spieth, preferring to take the road of development rather than the slippery slope that usually does not lead to Group 1 glory.
“Spieth has the potential, he has great natural ability,’’ Heys said.
“When I purchased the colt as a yearling, like everyone, I was on the lookout for a colt that could be a potential stallion prospect.
“You narrow horses down on type when you inspect them at yearlings sales and to me Spieth was an absolute standout.
“Coincidentally, I was looking for a Thorn Park and this colt was the closest I had seen to his father — and Thorn Park was a very, very good type.’’
“From day one he has always shown us something but he has needed time to develop. I still feel he is six months away.’’
Spieth didn’t get to the racetrack as a juvenile due to shin-soreness and his trainer’s reluctance to overly tax the colt early in his career.
Heys, 30, says he is a firm believer in the adage “the harder you work, the luckier you get” but he also knows patience is the key to being a successful racehorse trainer.
What did the late Bart Cummings always say: “Patience is the cheapest thing in racing but most people don’t use it.’’
Heys understands the principles of what Cummings said and is putting it into practice with Spieth. But at Randwick on Saturday, the gloves are going to come off — well, maybe.
Heys has Spieth entered for three races but wants to start in the Listed $100,000 June Stakes (1100m). Spieth is only fourth emergency for Sydney’s premier winter sprint but his chances of securing a run have increased marginally with the scratching of Sultry Feeling.
Heys is sweating on more June Stakes scratchings but as a precaution he has the colt entered for the Sydney Markets Foundation Handicap (1100m), where the sprinter has topweight of 60kg.
Spieth is also entered for a third race, the Glenn Wheeler Handicap (1200m), where again the young gun is fourth emergency.
Heys probably won’t know which race Spieth contests until the 7.30am scratching deadline on Saturday or who rides the colt for that matter if he gets a June Stakes run.
“We are waiting to see which jockeys are available after scratchings,’’ the trainer said. “In Sydney, unless you have locked in a jockey 12-14 days out from a race you are chasing your tail.
“But that is just the way it is in Sydney racing — this is the most competitive racing environment week in, week out anywhere, there is none tougher anywhere in the world.’’
Heys grew up in the Waikato region, the heart of thoroughbred breeding in New Zealand. He was a promising sportsman during his teenage years but he had already determined his career — to become a trainer in Sydney racing.
“From a young age I was in awe of the Golden Slipper and the Doncaster — I was captivated by those two races in Sydney during the autumn carnivals,’’ he said.
“Sydney racing has always been so competitive. You only have to turn up to a Canterbury midweek meeting and the racing is very strong, particularly the two and three-year-old races and three-quarters of the field are from the top five per cent sold at the yearling sales. You just don’t get that anywhere else.
“When I was growing up I revered Sydney racing, I always dreamt of coming here because Sydney has the best trainers, jockeys and horses.’’
Heys was just 22 when he left home, flew to Sydney, got a taxi from the airport to High Street adjacent to Randwick racecourse and walked into the first stables that were open hoping to get work.
It was the pre-Godolphin era for trainer John O’Shea, who was based at Randwick in those days, and it was his stables Heys walked into unannounced.
O’Shea didn’t really have a position available but employed Heys on the spot.
Heys used the next six years or so to learn as much as he could about the art of training and the nuances of Sydney racing before he took the biggest gamble of his life and made a successful application to become a licensed trainer.
“You have to live and die by the sword in Sydney racing but I am a competitive person and I love that challenge,’’ Heys said.
He set up stables at Warwick Farm two years ago with virtually no clients and no racehorses. His story echoes that of fellow New Zealanders, Chris Waller and Bjorn Baker.
Waller made Sydney his home in 2000, Baker in 2011, and both have built their businesses from nothing to become dominant training forces in Australian racing.
Heys admits the Waller and Baker success stories have inspired him to make a go of it in Sydney racing.
“What Chris has done as a trainer has taken it to another level, he is a revolutionary,’’ Waller said. “He has changed things so much, changing elements of the game from running his business to handling owners and placing his horses.
“Chris has put himself on the map. Everything he does is methodical and with his success, he has put everyone else on notice.
“You can’t take anything away from Bjorn and what he has done. Bjorn is a massive go-getter and deserves the success he is getting.’’
Heys acknowledges he has taken a massive gamble taking out a trainer’s licence in the competitive Sydney market.
“But I have no regrets at all, this is what I have always wanted to do,’’ Heys said. “I probably don’t put myself out there enough but I like to stay humble and observant, quietly chipping away and improving myself.
“I’m really focusing on treating people and my clients in the right manner and proving to them I am a good trainer. To me, integrity is paramount, particularly now the game is becoming more transparent.’’ -The Courier Mail