Racing Victoria Acknowledged Retrainer Nikki Cook has been recognised for her outstanding work with retired racehorses by being awarded a coveted Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Award.
The Freshwater Creek-based rider and equine educator, who operates Shory Park Horses, took out the award for Thoroughbred Care and Welfare at an intimate presentation at The Valley on Friday night.
Cook explained that the accolade, as well as the $10,000 prizemoney, was reward for countless hours of hard work by her and her team which is motivated by a deep passion for the thoroughbred.
“It’s not a nine to five job so it’s definitely hard work but it’s really nice to be recognised like this with such a prestigious award,” Cook said.
“I’ve had thoroughbreds since I was about 13 and probably doing this as a business for about five years.
“It is quite a demanding job but we do it for the horses, not for us.
“It’s lovely when you job is also your hobby and your passion so it’s not just work for me.”
In addition to re-educating racehorses for second careers, Cook balances full-time employment in real estate and said an average day sees her rise at 5am to work her first horse and finally close up the stable at 9.30pm.
With capacity for approximately 20 horses at any given time, Cook works closely with several local trainers, including Glenn Thornton and Bryce Stanaway, to source, re-educate and place Off the Track horses into arrange of post-racing careers, including pony club and polo.
“We’ve got a pretty good relationship with a couple of local trainers, namely the Thorntons and Bryce Stanaway, who send us quite a few horses and know exactly which ones will suit our program,” she said.
“A lot of them will come to us immediately after they’ve been retired from racing and they’ll go straight out to the spelling paddock and get three months off before we think about doing anything.
“They just get to hang out and be horses for a while which I find is one of the most important things for them before they begin their retraining program.”
Fellow Victorian Lee Purchase from Darren Weir Racing was named the runner-up in the Thoroughbred Care and Welfare class at the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards.
Click here to view the full list of Racing Victoria Acknowledged Retrainers.