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By Graham Potter | Friday, September 24, 2021

The official Melissa Taylor and Dale Smith training partnership is close to becoming a reality.

“My trainer’s license has been approved,” said Smith. “The way things work is that I had to apply for my license, get my license and only then could we apply for our training partnership licence.

“There have been hoops to jump through which has taken some time but, hopefully, it won’t be too long now before our training partnership is finally underway.

“What’s funny, in a way, is that I went for a dual license when I was in Victoria. That is quite a stringent process in terms of what you had to do to get that licence in Victoria. I got the licence, but I never actually took up training there because I only got it about a month before we decided to move to Queensland.

“I thought that having passed the Victoria’s training license criteria, it would be a simple changeover to Queensland … but that did not turn out to be the case and I again had to go through a whole lot of formalities. Because they didn’t accept it as a simple change-over, I had to re-do all of the exams, the police checks again (even though that had been done not so long ago with my jockey’s license).

“Anyway, we’ve got through it all and I am just waiting that final approval.”


“Melissa has really done well, going from one horse to thirty in three years and I’m very proud of her.

“One of the important things that Melissa does is that she always turns her horses out well. It might seem like an obvious thing to do, but it is not always the easiest thing in the world to get right … yet it is something we have always taken particular pride in.

“You know, if the horses feel well and look well, they’ve got their best chance of running well.

“We are also lucky in the fact that, while I do ride work, Nathan Wales, the other bloke that we have got riding work for us, also breaks in ninety-percent of our horses so he already knows the sort of ins and outs of their quirky traits before they come in and he is able to just bounce straight on them and get them going.

“The way it has all panned out, particular in recent times … it really is going well for us.”


“Melissa and I actually made the move to Queensland because of my riding career,” said Smith.

“We had spoken about her training in Victoria, but had basically decided that it would be a bit pointless at that time because Darren Weir sort of had the monopoly… and you would be going against te likes of David Hayes, Mick Price and Peter Moody, amongst others.

“So, it was always going to be a lot harder there than it was going to be in Queensland. We then made the move to Queensland. That decision was to do with my riding career, but it also had to do with a change of environment and family lifestyle.

“I was riding six, seven days a week in Victoria and it just ran me into the ground, whereas the racing up here was more appealing to race three, maybe four, times a week.

“In career terms, it was definitely a bigger push to come here for my riding, but we had purchased a horse and , when we got up here we thought Mellissa might as well start out on her training career with that horse.

“I personally was lucky. I hit the ground running here. I had great support … especially from Rob Heathcote very early … and Less Ross and Liam Birchley.

“So, it soon became evident that it was a good move … a great move actually.”


Two-and-a-half years on though, Smith was dealt one of the cruellest blows that any jockey could receive in what amounted to a career ending injury.

“I tore three major ligaments away from my shoulder,“ recounted Smith. “It happened in a 400m jump-out on January 13. I’d ridden the horse the week before and it was as quiet as a lamb, but this time it got a bit of a bump, it panicked and went to have a bit of a buck. The saddle slipped and shifted at the same time. I came off and, unfortunately, another horse finished me off.

“I was left with those torn ligaments and the bone. I had popped the AC joint. The bone had moved 4cm. My hand was also injured … the carpals, the third, fourth and fifth carpal which needed to be plated and wired up. It was my left shoulder and my right hand.

“I did my rehab and made some progress. I got signed off for a jump out. I did the jump-out … it was actually on Kudu and he is a strong bugger to say the least … and I just lost all feeling in my arm. It pretty much went dead.

“That was a bit of a worry, so I spoke to the surgeon. He said there was not much more he could do. He said I had as much metal in me that I could possibly have.

“I did keep working at it. I was riding work just trying to keep strengthen it. Then I did a jump-out on The Kewess before he won first-up and the same thing happened again.

“Melissa and I then sat down with our little girl and basically decided we would head towards having a training partnership and that I would give trace riding away.”


“Ending a riding career wasn’t as devastating to me as it might be to some others,” said Smith.

“I had left once before … in 2016, I left to go into Real Estate.

“Sadly, an injury also ended Melissa’s career as a jockey. I think she was about a week out of her apprenticeship when a horse flipped over on her and busted up both of her legs … the difference being, as she has said to me, that her whole career was taken away from her at an early stage and she didn’t have a choice, whereas, when I ‘retired’ in 2016, I had already weighed everything up and made that choice.

“So, when that retirement option came around a second time for me … it wasn’t that difficult to accept and I can honestly say I don’t miss riding that much. I haven’t had the withdrawal symptoms that some ex-jockeys have gone through.

“I have been riding some trackwork, but I haven’t missed the race riding at any stage, so I know it has been the right call. The body just told me enough is enough and I was happy to go with that.

“Why did I come back after that 2016 hiatus?

“If it wasn’t for Michael Walker I probably wouldn’t have gone back to riding and would have stayed in real estate.

“Michael was living with us at the time … we had about ten acres in Cranbourne South. He was out of action with his back and spent most of his time with us. He was basically part of the furniture and he was using his time there as part of his rehab, working around the farm with us.

“One day, he got on the scales and I got on the scales. I hadn’t been on the scales for twelve months. He got on … he was 72kg after three months. I got on and I was 65kg after thirteen months and Michael just said, ‘mate, you have got to go back.’

“I know this time, in reality, it has been taken away from me, but my circumstances are completely different to what Melissa’s were when it happened to her.

“This time, it is fitting. It just feels so right to me.”


“I can say that I have had so much enjoyment watching and dealing with the babies and horses like Kudu and The Kewess that it has really ignited another passion in me … and, I have no doubt that going into a training partnership now will only spur that passion on even more.

“I work harder now than I did when I was a jockey. I bounce out of bed at 2.30am now. You could never get me out of bed when I was a jockey.

“Melissa is a good trainer in her own right … she has shown that.

“With me coming on board I do think it is going to be an added plus for our business going forward in terms as we aim to achieve bigger and better things.

“It’s not just the racing side of things. We are starting to get into the breeding side of things which is another exciting avenue that we will be hoping to grow slowly.”

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Dale Smith ... from being a jockey ...
Dale Smith ... from being a jockey ...
... to finding a new passion as a trainer

Photos: Darren Winningham
... to finding a new passion as a trainer

Photos: Darren Winningham
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