Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Congratulations to Matt Martin, the Farrier Who Kept Black Caviar Running

Australian farrier Matt Martin and the most famous mare in the world: Black Caviar. Photo courtesy of Abu Masum of J.C. Milton & Company, the supplier of the mare's raceplates.
It's Kentucky Derby time in the USA, but Down Under in Australia, they won't even blink at the thought of twin spires, blankets of roses and mint juleps. The country can afford to have a been-there-done-that attitude toward horse racing. Their outstanding race mare Black Caviar has dominated news in the racing world for the past four years with her career-long unbeaten streak of 25 races. She even traveled all the way to Ascot in England to beat the British.

But there's been something missing from Black Caviar's story, and that's the story of her farrier. In honor of her recent retirement, it's time to tell the story of her hooves.

"She never lost a shoe!"
--Matt Martin on Black Caviar

I interviewed Matt Martin on October 11, 211 and tried to write about him but there was never enough information to do him--or the mare--justice. Now we have a nice sketch of Matty provided by the school where he first learned farriery. The Northern Melbourne Institute of Technical And Further Education (NMIT) calls Matt Martin a "success story" for the school and they were kind enough to allow his story to be shared.

You might expect the world's most famous racehorse to be shod by a sage veteran farrier with a lifetime of tricks of the trade up his sleeve, but that's not the case. Black Caviar's farrier is relatively new to the profession, but he made up for it with his high-profile charge.

Studying NMIT’s Certificate III in Farriery was Matt Martin's natural first step to a career in the industry. Since completing the course Matt has worked with some of Australia’s most famous horses, including Black Caviar.

This brief feature on Black Caviar was produced much earlier in her career, but she was a big deal even then.

A love of horses runs in Matt’s family; his great uncle and four cousins all work as farriers, and other family members are involved in harness racing.

Matt came to NMIT straight from school because he knew that he loved working with horses.

“To be able to help a lame horse is really satisfying,” says Matt.

Since completing his farriery education at NMIT's Epping Campus in 2008, Matt has worked with some of Australia’s leading racing stables, including Peter Moody, Byron Cozamanis and Brendan McCarthy. Matt was named Apprentice of the Year.

Back to school: Black Caviar's farrier, Matt Martin, (right) with his former shoeing instructor, well-known British farrier Colin Smith, AWCF of the NMIT.
Matt has fond memories of his time at NMIT.

“It was great. You don’t have time to learn everything on-the-job," he said, "so it was good to be able to learn all the intricate parts of the trade like shoe and tool making – skills that you might rarely use, but are still important to know.”

Matt has worked at Peter Moody Stables since completing his apprenticeship in 2008. He has shod Black Caviar, one of his many charges at the stables, for all of her race victories including her historic win in the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in England.

But Matt says the job has it challenges with early starts, long hours and physical work.

BTC Cup - Black Caviar
Here's Black Caviar in the saddling ring early in her career. In her 13th win in 13 starts, she won the Bundaberg Distilling Co BTC Cup. She never lost a race. She won Grade 1 stakes races in four Australian states and England and was considered the greatest sprinter in the world. She retired earlier this month. (Hannah Phillips photo)
“It’s six days a week and every public holiday. The hours are demanding, the stable wants you there every day. It’s tough on the new apprentices. There is a lot of bending as well as needing to physically control the horses. A former trainer compared it to running a marathon every day. But your body gets used to it.”

Matt works closely with the trainers to make sure he knows when each horse is due to race. Before each race he swaps their steel work shoes for the lighter aluminium models. "I keep about 20 different types (of shoes) at the stables," he said.

He says Black Caviar is beautiful to work with although “she can get a little stroppy if she has had too much attention from vets, trainers and the media. She likes a bit of quiet.”

Matt currently works with the help of a third-year apprentice studying farriery at NMIT. He says when his apprentice qualifies he’ll look to pick up a bit of extra work. 

Matt is also kept busy with his duties as a committee member of the Victorian Master Farriers Association which runs events, provides advice and helps apprentices.

“I’m really happy where I am working with Peter Moody, Byron Cozamanis and Brendan McCarthy," he said. "But with a bit more work I’ll be able to employ another apprentice.”


According to the Kerckhaert web site and Australian farrier supplier J. C. Milton & Company, Black Caviar won her races--which were all on turf--wearing Triumph Aluminiums in front & KRP Extra Sound 2/Clipped Hinds.

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