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Savio resurrects careers with hands-on approach

Belinda Savio said she never wanted to be a thoroughbred trainer when growing up.

HANNAH DRISCOLL February 7, 2013 4:15am

Tatura-based trainer Belinda Savio has found her calling in giving unwanted racehorses a second shot.


Belinda Savio said she never wanted to be a thoroughbred trainer when growing up.

Now it is hard to imagine her enjoying any other job.

Savio and her partner, harness racing trainer Paul Dunn, moved to Undera from Yarra Valley late last year and Savio is training her horses at Tatura and Shepparton Racing Club.

The couple is in the process of turning a run-down dairy farm on 93ha into a training facility.

Savio was raised by Canberra trainer George Barnard and was a jockey in the 1970s and 1980s. She also has a background in showjumping and eventing.

It was Barnard who bought Savio her first horse, a weanling named Lucky Magic.

She said they did not pay ‘‘a hell of a lot for him’’ because he had a cut on his leg, but Lucky Magic finished with four wins from 16 starts.

This is what Savio enjoys most — taking horses that have been given up by other trainers, for what ever reason, and giving them a second chance.

‘‘I have taken horses from big trainers that couldn’t get them going and I got them going, but it’s not because I’m brilliant or anything like that, it’s because I’m personal with the horse, that’s all it is,’’ Savio said.

One success story was One Storm, who was sacked by two trainers before he came to Savio as a two-year-old.

Savio said he was the ‘‘weediest looking’’ horse, so he had 12 months in the paddock to put on a bit of weight and had 18 starts for 17 third-or-better finishes.

Another success was Unknown Lady, a five-year-old mare still being trained by Savio.

Savio said she bought the then-unraced Unknown Lady as a three-year-old and the stud she came from said she would never race because she was a ‘‘cripple’’.

‘‘She had immature cannon bones and she kept going sore with them all the time. She would go out and trot a lap and she couldn’t walk,’’ Savio said.

Unknown Lady has since gone on to have two wins, a second and six thirds from 15 starts and holds a special place in Savio’s heart.

Savio insists her secret is simply getting to know the ins and outs of all the horses she has and being hands-on with her work.

She said she used a lot of herbs to help with ailments and gave the horses massages to help herself become aware of any problems.

In her own words, ‘‘I can tell you how many manures a horse did every day, I can tell you everything and I don’t want to change’’.

She also prides herself on helping owners make the most profit out of a horse they can, but also being upfront with them about their prospects.

‘‘My challenge is getting a horse that has had ability that has lost the plot and give it a new start, or take horses that have problems — physical, mental, both,’’ Savio said.

‘‘I think if something’s not working, change it with that horse, if you can’t fix it and it’s not going to work and you’ve tried everything, it’s not going to work.

‘‘With the big stables, they have one way and if it doesn’t work the horse is no good. I honestly believe that ... every horse is different and every horse has to be trained differently.’’

Savio and Dunn have 22 horses, including weanlings and yearlings, and Savio began preparation work with some of her thoroughbreds last week.

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