The Young And The Restless
20th April 2020
I thought it would be a good idea to have a catchup with a couple of young harness industry workers to see how they’re faring during the lockdown period. As I write this, we’re at Level 4 for another week, and are likely to move to Level 3 in seven days.
My interviewees are Rory McIlwrick and Chelsea Faithful.
Chelsea says she’s certainly missed not been able to work horses.
“It was nice in the first couple of weeks not having to get up early. You don’t realise how much you need sleep until you get it,” she said.
She trains a small team from the Winton Racecourse and hasn’t been able to keep her horses ticking over.
“It’s extremely frustrating because the racecourse is closed. Hopefully they open the public racetracks so I can start jogging my horses.”
She had also been preparing to start training her two most recent recruits.
“They got picked up a couple of days before lockdown started. They came in and got shoes on. I was getting ready to start jogging and then they locked it all down. That was a bit frustrating.”
But she’s also used the time to catch up on some maintenance around the stables.
“I’ve pulled down fences and put up some new ones. Just odd jobs like that.”
She’s also got back into her hobby of drawing and painting.
“Art was my best subject at school. I finished one (see below) and then I started drawing Dark Horse but haven’t finished it yet. It’s good to have the time to get back into drawing – something I wouldn’t normally have time to do.”
Nicki Wards ex pacer ‘Steen’ after winning the Champion ribbon at the Winton A&P Show- Artist Chelsea Faithful.
Recently she’s been able to return to Nathan Williamson’s stables which has helped her get back into what she loves.
“Every second day I’m back at Nathan’s doing the boxes. Ollie (Kite) and I have turn about. Nathan’s got a few jogging and a couple he’s breaking in. It was unfortunate because he had about seven horses ready to start fast work when Covid19 came along. Coming back to work has been good and having a few laughs.”
McIlwrick is a self-confessed drifter, well known for travelling around and setting up where he can find work, which is generally between Canterbury and Southland.
He was in the south when Covid19 Level 4 was announced and he’s settled down in Southland until lockdown is lifted and racing can resume.
“When you’re locked inside you’re just hankering to get out there. You really just want to be racing, but it’s a situation you’ve just got to deal with,” he said.
Rory McIlwrick at the Wyndham Race course with Sovereign Banner
He’s been occupying himself with a variety of things.
“I’ve attempted to learn the guitar. I down loaded the app, got the guitar, played it once and thought maybe this isn’t for me. I’ll carry it round on my travels and I’m sure someone will know how to play it. I can definitely cut a shape on the dancefloor though. Singing and dancing are the two things I’d rather be learning.”
Rory says movies and social media contacts have also been high on the priority list.
“I’ve been watching Netflix and Tiger King. It’s all good.”
However he says he’s missing the race day driving and the daily contact with the people in the racing industry.
“Of course you’ve got Zoom and House Party which helps to keep people in contact, and a bit of Snapchat. I zoom everybody. I’ve called my mum a bit more often to get in the good books. I miss talking a bit of rubbish really, and even the trips to the races you start to miss. It’s all the banter.”
He’s also found himself getting involved in a fun zoom punters club with his cousin and some of his mates, and betting on races in Australia.
“That keeps us interested. We’ve been tuning into that and everyone has been getting a bit of a yell on.”
On the serious side he’s also had a number of conversations with his cousin in Christchurch who runs a painting and plastering business, and employs fifty staff.
“To be fair he was probably flying before Convid19 so it’s a bit of a setback for him like it is for all small businesses. It’s great that the government is helping and he doesn’t seem too stressed yet. He’s lucky to have contracts for Housing New Zealand and Signature Homes.”
He’s also in regular contact with harness racing’s Williamson family in Oamaru.
“Look, they’re all pretty interesting but Phil is probably the one. He can tell you a story and it’s different each time he tells it. He adjusts it each time. They’re all good buggers. Of course Bev is always there looking out for everyone and making sure everyone is never hungry. But it’s always good to give Phil a bit of banter to get him fired up.”
McIlwrick says he’s discovered Oreo biscuits during lockdown but is hanging out for a milkshake.