When Danielle Seib saw Nash Rawiller look behind in the closing stages of Saturday’s TAB Highway, she suddenly realised her “big baby” Assault’N’Bathory was going to win by a space. “I thought my God he’s looking back to see where they are”, said the young Goulburn trainer. “I couldn’t believe my eyes”.
As her hands started to shake and the sheer emotion kicked in, Danielle’s thoughts were of her late and beloved father Lewis who died in early June of 2017. “If only he could have been there to see the horse win a Saturday metropolitan race”, she said.
The first indication of Lewis Seib’s critical illness came when he collapsed while hosing down one of his horses at his Muswellbrook stable. “We believe he lost his balance and fell onto the concrete floor”, said Danielle. “Doctors discovered an inoperable tumour on the brain stem. We lost him only a month later”.
Lewis had worked around thoroughbreds for most of his adult life. He was a member of Brian Mayfield-Smith’s team in the heady days of Nebo Lodge, when the former Queensland horseman deposed T.J. Smith as Sydney’s premier trainer. Mayfield-Smith ran a tight ship, with Seib one of his most trusted lieutenants.
Lewis eventually settled in the Hunter Valley and gained valuable experience over the next decade. He played a pivotal role in the running of Kingmaker Stud during the era of the underrated stallion Bite The Bullet.
This son of Spectacular Bid became a recognized “bread and butter” stallion, consistently siring winners and occasionally getting a top level performer. He’s best known as the sire of triple Group 1 winner Sniper’s Bullet, multiple Group 2 and Group 3 winner Pleasure Giver and The Jackal whose stakes wins included two Ramornie Handicaps.
Lewis later became stable foreman for successful trainers Jen Butler and Paul Messara before deciding to go solo in 1999.
Danielle was in pony club from a very early age and later excelled in the eventing field. She’d often spend a day at work with Dad at the Messara’s Arrowfield stables, all the while growing closer and closer to the thoroughbreds.
She was twenty years old when she rode her first fast gallop for Lewis and the die was cast. Before long Danielle was riding regularly in barrier trials, and he could see a career as a jockey was paramount in her thoughts.
Such was her regard for the wise counsel of her father, that she finally enrolled for a teaching degree at Newcastle University. “He wanted me to have a professional qualification and after his passing I was even more determined to gain my degree”, said Danielle.
She was equally determined to keep his Muswellbrook stable in operation, and it was a bittersweet occasion when Danielle won a race at Mudgee just one month after his death. Nic City was the mare to provide an emotional moment for the entire Seib family.
Danielle hadn’t forgotten an offer made to her by Danny Williams when the Goulburn trainer was in Muswellbrook for the Country Championship Qualifier in the autumn of last year. “Danny said there was a job in his busy Goulburn stable should I ever feel like a change”, recalled the young trainer.
By the middle of last year Danielle was feeling the strain of running a stable, combined with the constant travelling to Newcastle University. She made the decision to finish her degree online, a task she has performed with dedication.
The twenty five year old recently graduated as a Bachelor of Secondary Education with Honours in Science, majoring in Biology. She’s now been in Goulburn for one year and recently landed a position as a Science teacher at the nearby Crookwell High School.
Danielle enjoyed a three month stint at the Williams stable, but suddenly found herself with the opportunity to train a small team of her own. This young lady’s passion for work has never been more evident. She’s out of bed at 3.30am every day and helps with the feeding and stable chores as she waits for the track to open at 6am.
Her partner Aaron Day is a most competent horseman, as you’d expect from a member of one of Australia’s most successful harness racing families. Aaron and Danielle are currently working a team of six horses, with Assault’N’Bathory obviously the star boarder.
They have three two year olds, one by Nicconi and two by the ill fated Poet’s Voice. Three year olds by Magnus and Salade and the tried horse Terre Di Baccio make up the rest of the team.
Young Ms Seib rides all six in their work, before changing into teaching garb and rushing off to Crookwell High School. She’s back in the stables every afternoon to attend to the fine detail.
It’s not hard to understand Danielle’s special attachment to Assault’N’Bathory. Lewis Seib actually attended the huge Patinack Dispersal sale in 2014 with a view to buying his full brother Inner Viking, who’d won two races on the Sunshine Coast. When that horse made $60,000 Lewis immediately turned to his weanling full brother and was delighted to acquire him for $10,000.
Both were out of the well performed Countess Bathory winner of 9 races including the Group 3 Dane Ripper Stakes and the Listed Glenlogan Park Stakes. Assault’N’Bathory is one of five winning foals from the daughter of Dracula.
The decision was made to keep the new horse in the family. “Tag” as he’s now known was syndicated between Danielle, her mother Julie, sister Belinda, brother David and his wife Ellen. David is a detective and is responsible for the unusual name of Assault’N’Bathory - a play on words derived from assault and battery.
Danielle explains why the gelding is now six years of age and has raced just thirteen times. “Early on he was big and gangly and took forever to switch on”, she pointed out. “The first time he worked three quarter pace, he had heat in a tendon. He was always awkward, continually changed legs and was shin sore several times. Before we knew it he was four years old and hadn’t even trialled. He also had barrier issues and went berserk on one occasion”.
Nash Rawiller was fortunate to be on the six year old on Saturday. The injured Winona Costin put in a lot of early work on the troublesome gelding, and was on board when he won a Canberra Maiden by 6.5 lengths and a Cl 1 at Goulburn.
Winona suffered a meniscal tear to the left knee when dislodged in the enclosure at Moruya six weeks ago. She was unaware of the damage and actually rode for another three weeks before severe pain set in. The popular jockey has recovered quickly after minor surgery and is set to resume riding as this story goes onto the website.
Danielle was deeply disappointed that the talented Costin couldn’t be part of Saturday’s exciting win. “Winona deserves much of the credit for the horse’s improved manners and would have been on him at Rosehill if available”, said the trainer.
For now Assault’N’Bathory is happiest bowling along in front, as he did on Saturday. He still tends to go too hard when restrained, but will hopefully learn to settle with experience. Nash Rawiller told connections he’s still very unsure of himself. The jockey said the big horse wanted to lay out on the turn and didn’t seem to know what was expected of him in the straight. The fact that he still won by 2.8 lengths speaks volumes for the win.
And what of Danielle’s long term future. She’s a highly credentialed university graduate with a wonderful future ahead as a teacher of Science, should she choose that path. She’s also a gifted horsewoman, who’s already proven she can successfully guide the destiny of a quirky racehorse.
With only six horses in work Danielle can’t justify the commercial decision to become a full time trainer. Should a few more horses walk through the gate it may well be a different story.
You can bet she’s having a little chat with Dad in her quiet moments.
(Banner image courtesy Bradley Photographers - An easy TAB Highway win to Assault'N'Bathory)