When Zardoro burst between horses to grab the lead, 100 metres out in Saturday’s TAB Highway, his usually reserved trainer Terry Robinson allowed himself a fleeting moment of jubilation.
The Shoalhaven Heads horseman has had to exercise great patience with the slow maturing five year old, but has had the full support of owner John Starr.
Zardoro has been in Robinson’s care since he was a two year old and has given the trainer many headaches. “Apart from his lack of maturity, we’ve had foot injuries, foot abscesses, and a couple of nasty viruses”, said Terry over the weekend. “That’s why he’s a five year old with only seventeen starts under his belt”.
The son of Medaglia D’Oro won his maiden as a three year old at Moruya twenty months ago, and didn’t win again until last Saturday at Rosehill. “In all fairness he has run six seconds and a couple of those were in tight finishes”, explained the trainer.
Zardoro gave Terry his tenth TAB Highway success, putting him in fourth spot on the trainer’s scoreboard behind Matt Dunn (21), Danny Williams (15.5) and Matt Dale (12.5). “The Highway concept is a godsend for country owners and trainers”, said Robinson over the weekend. “Fancy being able to bring a Class 2 horse to Sydney for a first prize purse of $35,250, without running into horses from the Chris Waller and Godolphin yards”.
His endorsement of the TAB Highway phenomenon is shared by owners and trainers from all parts of NSW. “I think the introduction of the Highway races has been the most significant innovation we’ve seen in NSW racing in the modern era”, said Terry.
Terry Robinson has concentrated solely on the training of thoroughbreds since quitting the harness racing scene in 2007. He drove hundreds of winners on NSW tracks, and got to steer some of the best pacers of his era. He had eight race drives behind the remarkable Gammalite, who raced 179 times for an astonishing 94wins and 52 placings. His prize money tally of almost $1.4 million pales into insignificance alongside modern thoroughbred statistics, but he attained this figure more than thirty years ago.
Terry won seven times from eight drives on the champion, and says he was something beaten in the other one. “He had massive ability, was the toughest of the tough, and never stopped trying”, recalled the versatile horseman.
Terry Robinson won many races at historic Harold Park on talented horses like Bill’s Student, Frosty Imp and Under A Cloud and had an association with another history making horse. “I drove Koala King a few times and was lucky enough to have the drive when he won his 40th race on the Harold Park track - an all-time record”.
To this day Terry maintains a horse called Black Line was potentially the best he ever sat behind. “He was a spectacular two year old, as he proved when he came from last to win the Australian Pacing Gold Final at Moonee Valley in 2002”, recalled the trainer. “He had enormous ability and was a glorious pacer. One night in one of his early races, I heard a peculiar noise come from his spinal region. Vets failed to identify the problem, but he was never the same horse. He raced on for a few years and won several races on sheer talent. It was a tragedy”.
Terry continued with the harness horses for two years after the passing of his father, legendary horseman Kevin Robinson in 2005. By this time he was building his own business as a thoroughbred trainer, and was finding the workload impossible to handle. “On Fridays I’d be working gallopers from early morning, and then rushing to be ready to leave for Harold Park by 3PM if we had early runners’, recalled Terry. “I put up with it for a couple of years, but it was starting to knock me around. Brother Chris took over the harness horses and I switched my attention to the gallopers”.
Few trainers can boast the skills and versatility of T.J.Robinson. Here is a bloke who would mix it with the best drivers at Harold Park on a Friday night, and the following morning you’d find him in full flight on a thoroughbred at the Nowra racecourse, or on a stretch of sand at Seven Mile Beach.
Terry has ridden the bulk of his own work for many years now, not without mishap. His list of injuries includes a fractured shoulder blade, broken collarbone, fractured wrist and ankle, not to mention several torn ligaments.
The “daddy” of them all occurred fifteen months ago. Terry was galloping a horse on the course proper at Nowra racecourse, which is right alongside the local trotting track. “I’d completed my work and had slowed down to a canter, when a pacer suddenly appeared from behind a grove of trees”, he recalled. “My horse just freaked out and shot sideways leaving me airborne. I landed heavily on my back and felt the bottom edge of my safety vest press into my lower back. I was devastated to learn I’d sustained a compressed fracture of the L1 vertebra”.
It took Terry three months to get over that very nasty spill, but he couldn’t wait to get back into the saddle. He’s currently training a team of thirteen horses, and likes to split their work between the Nowra track and nearby Seven Mile Beach. “There would be no more than forty horses worked in the district, so the track isn’t overused”, said Terry. “We work outside the witch’s hats on the course proper and the surface is well looked after. By the same token, the horses love to get to the beach on a regular basis”.
Terry, wife Monique and children Matilda (10) and Tom (8) live on a twelve acre property, which for many years was used as a riding school by the late Kevin Robinson. Terry and Monique now own the property outright and have reopened the riding school under its original brand name of “Regal”.
Monique is a former horse trainer who enjoyed considerable success when operating at Hawkesbury a few years ago. An outstanding rider herself, Monique has easily made the transition to head instructor at the Regal riding school. She is also instructing in the art of vaulting, a relatively new equine pursuit which has “taken off” all over the world. Best described as gymnastics on horseback, it requires great balance, an understanding of horses, and steely nerve. Matilda Robinson is proving to be a natural in this unique art.
While Monique is looking after the riding school, Terry is getting on with the business of winning the much prized TAB Highway races. He’s been fortunate to have had four dual Highway winners to date - Our Rosemaree, Rose Of Man, King’s Officer and Fui San. “Our Rosemaree is a half-sister to Rose Of Man and I was lucky to get her for $40,000 at the Inglis Classic Sale”, said Terry. “I’m delighted with the way she’s going, coming into the SERA Country Championship Qualifier at Goulburn on Sunday (March 3rd)”.
King’s Officer was a great money spinner for the stable, winning four straight in town including his two Highways. Terry fondly remembers Danebar, a wonderfully consistent gelding who got the trainer going in the thoroughbred world. “He won eight races including a Gr 3 in Adelaide, and ran twenty five placings”, recalled Terry. “He ran in two Adelaide Cups, finishing fifth and fourth respectively”, and also won the Lord Mayors Cup at Rosehill. I’d love to have him all over again”.
Ledger was another good money spinner for Regal Lodge, winning six races including one at Rosehill for his large group of owners. Sky Racing form guru Ron Dufficy was a member of the syndicate.
Andsoitiswritten was a very useful mare, winning four for Terry including one at Canterbury, while Elusive Lad also won four races including one on the Kensington track for Hugh Bowman.
It’s well documented that Terry is one of twelve children born to Kevin and Dawn Robinson, with seven of the clan having a horse involvement at some stage of their lives.
Chris had great success in harness racing, including a twenty two win association with the brilliant filly White Thunder. This dynamic little trier had a spectacular thirteen win sequence as a two year old. Terry drove her in seventeen of her wins, and she was actually the last winner he drove before his retirement from harness racing in 2007. Chris quit the sport a few years ago.
Michael Robinson gave the standardbreds away following Kevin’s passing in 2005. Paul tried the harness horses for a short time only, while Peter showed tremendous aptitude as a rider, but decided on a career in bricklaying. Another brother Anthony was involved with the horses for many years, but is now retired.
The baby of the family Ann-Maree, several years younger than her siblings, was a superb trackwork rider, and later dabbled successfully in the art of training. Anna, as she prefers to be called, won a Group 3 Concorde Stakes with Friday Creek after the horse had been in some very high profile stables.
Anna was forced out of the training ranks by a recurring back injury, which requires constant attention. Nowadays she is a full time carer for her elderly mother Dawn at Berry on the South Coast of NSW. Dawn Robinson, who had the busiest of lives bringing up twelve children, is now in her mid-eighties, and dealing with vision impairment.
Terry Robinson is the father of six, with four older children from his first marriage, Jennifer, Ashley, Simon and Dane. The sixty four year old is as fit as any of his thirteen horses, and had a spring in his step when Zardoro saluted on Saturday.
He’s the son of a true master horseman and many agree he is worthy of the same title himself. Kevin Robinson had his moment in the sun when he won the 1996 AJC Oaks with the lightly raced Kenbelle - his one and only Group 1 success. Terry keeps a close eye on the front gate at Regal Lodge, hoping another Kenbelle walks in one day.
In the meantime he’ll just concentrate on the TAB Highways.