Trevor Sutherland Profile
Try telling Trevor Sutherland he can’t do something, and he’ll say he can. Tell him he shouldn’t do it, and he’ll ask ‘why not?’ He’s not big-noting or being brash, – he’s not that type – but he does have a simple take on life. “You must have a go,” the likeable Wagga racehorse trainer says.
“And you have to do your best while you’re having a go. There’s no point saying ‘I should’ve done this, or I could’ve done that’ … get out there and try your best. If you break it, then fix it, … if you get knocked down, then get back up again. “I don’t mind losing, but I hate being beaten … there is a difference. There’s no hassle running last, as long as you work hard and have a go.”
If there is such a place as The School of Hard Knocks, then Trevor Sutherland has graduated with Honours. In fact, school isn’t a place he spent a lot of time as a child – the youngest of five boys in a family of seven siblings.
Raised on the family farm near Grafton, Trevor quit school after sixth grade and went to work on properties as a 12-year-old. His parents parted ways and he was the youngest at home, so he decided to leave too. He never went to high school but learnt plenty on the national rodeo circuit with his older brothers.
He worked through Queensland on cattle stations and was a naturally gifted horseman – he even rode trackwork at Grafton as an eight-year-old. “We were right into the rodeo scene,” Trevor said.
“I learnt to ride pretty early in life because my brothers used to tie me to a cow and I just had to hang on and ride it … the barbed wire fences did hurt a bit!”
Sadly, one of the Sutherland brothers was killed while riding a bucking bronc, the saddle hitting him across the forehead in a tragedy not uncommon in such a high-risk sport. “I guess when you look at what we did, there was always a chance it could happen to one of us,” the 43-year-old says.
It never stopped him and it’s never stopped his five children – four girls and a boy – growing up with animals in their lives. His older daughters have pursued careers in veterinary science, dentistry and social work, and events management while the youngest teenage girl – Georgia – looks likely to follow her dad into the racing industry.
Then there’s seven-year-old Leroy who knows his way around most Riverina racetracks like a veteran – familiar with everyone and where to snag a free ice-cream or drink. Leroy is right into his mini-trotters and Trevor even trains and drives a few pacers in his spare time because “someone told me I needed a hobby”.
Trevor doesn’t fail to mention another daughter – baby Sophie-Lee – who died from kidney disease despite every attempt to save her young life. In a tribute to the little one, the Sutherlands named their stables at Wagga “Sophie-Lee Lodge”. Amazingly, the carved wooden “Sophie-Lee Lodge” sign which hangs at the front door of his house was one of the few possessions Sutherland salvaged from the devastating floods in Wagga in March last year. After the massive waters receded, the sign was found floating nearby in a pool of water. He knew then someone was looking over him.
“The floods just about broke us. We virtually lost everything because the water came up higher than anyone expected. Everything literally fell apart – all our belongings, everything. We’ve had to start all over again … it’s been a struggle but you keep going. The horses had to come first and now we’re right back into it … we’re at full capacity.”
Trevor is the first to admit there’s no room in this stable for negativity or self pity … remember, you get knocked down, you get back up again.
Winning the Southern District Racing Association trainers’ premiership last season was a high amid the carnage. This was significant, particularly for a Wagga trainer, as no-one from the city had won the title since the end of World War Two. The SDRA trainers were dominated in that seven-decade era by the likes of Bert Honeychurch, Jack and Richard Freyer, and for the previous nine years by Brett Cavanough.
Trevor said he’s having another great season – capped off with his engagement to Stephanie Menzies – and again has a sharp eye on the Wagga and Albury Cups. He also had Power Alert win the 2013 Wellington Boot. “I’ve won just about every Cup around the Riverina except the two you want the most – Wagga and Albury,” he said.
One of the great attributes of Trevor Sutherland is his unique ability – known far and wide – for breaking young gallopers and “re-programming” rogue horses. He’s Wagga’s own Horse Whisperer.
Unbeknown to many, Trevor works for some of the biggest names in Australian racing and has had Group 1 horses rehabilitating at his stables in the 11 years he’s been based in Wagga. He works closely with Gai Waterhouse and is entrusted with any horses sent to Wagga or Albury for the carnivals. He assisted in the preparation of Rain Drum in last year’s Cup. “We get on great. She demands perfection 100 per cent of the time. I understand that and I do my best … it’s been a good 10 years working with Gai,” Trevor said.
He has also had his luck with rogue horses, getting them back on the track with a renewed attitude. “We’ve bought cheap horses who have been barred and we’ve managed to get them back,” he said. Wrapped Up was one of those. “He broke so many ribs and arms, I couldn’t find a jockey to get on him. In the end – and after I quietly persuaded a few jockeys – we got him back and he was later named SDRA horse of the year.”
Another close to Trevor is his first city winner Trevbar. “He’s a horse close to my heart. We bought him for $3000 and he went on to win $140k plus … he tried his guts out.”
No story on Trevor Sutherland would be complete without a mention of his wide-brimmed white Akubra felt hat. So what’s the story? “There’s no real story,” he says. “I grew up on a farm and spent a lot of time outdoors … basically, I wear it everywhere to keep the sun or the rain off – it’s that simple. I guess people are just used to seeing me wear it.” Indeed, get ready to see a lot more of Trevor Sutherland.
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