“It was more than an apprenticeship, it was more like family”: Brenton Avdulla. Photo: bradleyphotos老域名备案老域名Phanton call: the greatest Melbourne Cup horses
There are kids who need to learn and then there was Brenton Avdulla.
“He didn’t know one end [of a horse] from the other,” John Moloney laughed of a young kid who walked into his stable as a 15-year-old not all that long ago.
Harsh? No argument from Avdulla – “I’d never touched a horse in my life” – whose Victoria Derby booking on Moloney’s Pay Up Bro means the old band is back together on the big stage at Flemington on Saturday.
“I never did any basic riding … I started from scratch,” Avdulla said. “He put me on the ponies and then I got upgraded to riding on the racehorses.”
Pretty quickly in fact. At the end of the two-month school holiday, it was Moloney’s call: send Avdulla back to school or take him on as an apprentice. He chose the latter. Less than a year later he was legging him aboard a horse called Associate at Bendigo with some pretty simple instructions for his first ride in a race.
“I just told him to sit on,” Moloney said. “There wasn’t any specific instructions, I can tell you. He did well, though. He kept with the horse and he didn’t lose his rhythm. And because of that they were both able to go on and win the race.”
It can take an apprentice weeks for the first winner. Months. Sometimes the calendar flips to another year. Avdulla managed to do it with his first ride. And Moloney has been watching the transformation, which includes being one of the top riders in Sydney these days, ever since.
“He was unbelievable,” he said. “If I was going to the races or heading somewhere else, he was like a shadow and a sponge. He took everything in that was around him. He never murmured … all he did was watch and take it in.”
Added Avdulla: “I was very lucky to go through the system. It’s not only John – but he had his brother there in Gerard who was a big influence as well – and his old man Jim trained Vain.
“It was more than an apprenticeship, it was more like family. I lived with John for a couple of years. They took me in as a part of the family and at the same time I lost my mum.”
For all Moloney’s consistency over so many years with his string of horses there has been a dearth of genuine group 1 contenders. Geelong Classic placegetter Pay Up Bro, a $14 chance, can change all that in the $1.5 million classic.
Moloney sounded out Avdulla for the ride at Geelong. The colt’s owners had locals rather than the Victorian native in mind. The trainer wielded his powers of persuasion and the rest is up to the kid who fumbled with that head collar on his first day.
“It’s always been a dream to ride on the elite stage for him,” said Avdulla, whose greyhound Kihael Kaluna, that he part owns, will try to win a group 1, too, in the Vic Peters Classic at Wentworth Park on Saturday night. “What a way to do it in a Victoria Derby on a live chance.
“He’s a very capable sort of horse, but he only does as much as he has to. He gets back in his races and has been running on well.
“I was hoping he would draw well, but he’s drawn the car park  and he’s going to need some luck. He looks like he will stay all day though and I think he will run well.”
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