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  • Provincial Racing NSW


Updated: Aug 25, 2023

A tingling sensation can have many possible health causes – some serious and some which are not. Thankfully, a cleverly-named mare by that name instead gave KRISTEN BUCHANAN a serious start to her training career.And it keeps getting better and better.

The “girl” from the Central Coast, who travelled far and wide before returning home, has certainly come a long way – and not merely in distance. A benchmark 37 winners last season clinched Buchanan the Wyong local trainers’ premiership for the first time, and she has become Queen of the Midway Handicaps in Sydney, capturing 10 of them. Importantly, she has hit the ground running in this new racing year. Stable newcomer, former Victorian Cecil Street Lad, made a successful $16 debut at Canterbury last week and was her third winner in the first 16 days of 2023-24, lifting her career tally to 273.

Though Buchanan had a love of horses from a young age and attended school at Erina on the Central Coast, training racehorses as a career was something which never presented as an option. Her father’s work took her to London in the UK and Western Australia, and her dream was to go to Europe, become a top-class equestrian and represent Australia at the Olympic Games. “I recall my German riding instructor telling me that either I had to get a good job earning lots of money, or marry well,” Buchanan said.

She chose the former, began studying for a Human Biology and Exercise Physiology degree at University (which she successfully completed), and joined one of WA’s leading stables to “earn a bit of money”. “I worked at trainer Neville Parnham’s farm just outside Perth,” Buchanan said. “It was great. Neville is a really kind and lovely man, and I was getting paid for riding horses, doing something I loved. “I spent about four years with him, and started my own pre-training and breaking-in business.”

Buchanan’s first foray in terms of owning a racehorse was a Bold Rancher filly out of Pins and Needles, which she aptly called Tingling Sensation. “I went to the sales, picked her out and got her for $400,” she said. “I asked Mum if she had her cheque book, and she bought her for me. “I actually wanted her for use as a dressage horse, but thought I could take her to the picnics as I would have been able to ride her. “She was shin sore the first time, and then got a virus the second time, so unfortunately it didn’t happen.” The sudden death of Buchanan’s father understandably had a profound effect not only on her life, but also her career path.

“It was such a terribly sad time as Dad had mental health issues, and took his own life,” she said. “I decided I would get serious and do what I love. Something that made me happy.”

Buchanan didn’t initially train Tingling Sensation, but after five unplaced runs took out her licence in early 2005.“Tingling Sensation was my first starter and ran second at $21 in a Pinjarra Maiden (1300m) in February that year,” she said. “Three starts later she was my first winner, in a Bunbury Maiden (1400m) in April, ridden by Link Robertson.”

Tingling Sensation won only one other race – and it was a Class 6 Handicap (1820m) at Perth’s Ascot racecourse on November 30 that year. “I didn’t know anything about programming then, and backed her up after finishing second in a Class 1 Handicap at Bunbury 10 days earlier,” Buchanan said. “Fancy going from being beaten in the country in a Class 1 to winning a Class 6 in town? She won at double figure odds, and it was so exciting.”

Determined to succeed as a trainer, Buchanan moved back east to garner her business acumen.

“It was what I felt I needed to do, and didn’t start training straight away,” she said.

“I got a job working for Iskander Racing as a marketing and bloodstock assistant, travelling to all the sales and helping with the selection of horses. “The experience was invaluable, especially the networking. Some of my clients I’m still training for are people I met through working at Iskander. “Suman Hedge from Iskander actually provided me with my first Sydney winner (Strong Gain) when I started training again, at Wyong. “The horse went amiss in Hong Kong and was going to be put down, but he saved him and brought him to Australia.

“After 18 months off the scene, I got him going and won races with him at Cessnock (in 2009) and Wyong (2010), then he was my first Sydney winner (at Canterbury on September 24, 2010).”

Buchanan is greatly appreciative of the support she has received from her local Wyong race club. “They have been fantastic, and done everything I have asked to help me,” she said.

Buchanan’s maiden Group success came with Two Blue in the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick. Paul King rode her and she started at $26 in defeating Melbourne visitor Secret Agenda, who came back to win the same race a year later.

She won eight races for the stable, and her record could have been even better as she was runner-up on 13 occasions.

Buchanan also feels Two Blue was unlucky not to have given her a Group 1 breakthrough when a close fourth from the outside barrier (13) in the BTC Cup (1200m) at Doomben, five weeks after her Sapphire victory. “I have trained better horses, but none had the same application as Two Blue,” she said. “Her will to win was second to none.”

Buchanan is training one of Two Blue’s daughters, whom she went to $70,000 to buy at the 2021 Inglis Classic yearling sale.

Zoublue (by Zoustar) is now a four-year-old and is yet to race. “I haven’t even trialled her yet; she has been quite sensitive in the barriers, just like her Mum,” she said. Winning Saturday Midway Handicaps in Sydney is a different story, though. She has won 10 of them; the latest being Oakfield Waratah at Randwick on July 15, the second time the Dissident gelding has won a Midway in recent months for his trainer and owner Bruce Mackenzie. “When the Midways were introduced by RacingNSW, I took as many notes as I could about them,” Buchanan said. “These races give owners the opportunity to race horses who might not generally be Sydney Saturday grade in town for really good prizemoney. “They opened a lot of doors for stables such as mine.”

Establishing herself as a successful provincial-based trainer means Buchanan has increased the size of her team to now keep on average up to 45 horses in work, but says she hasn’t lost the touch of a boutique stable. “We maintain an individual approach with each horse and tailor their programs to give them the best chance to win races. We’re not a sausage factory.”

Buchanan also prides herself on excellent communication with all her owners. “It’s a real focus and so important, and my partner Peter plays a vital role in ensuring owners get up to date information,” she said. “They pay a lot of money and need to know what is happening with their horses. Good communication also means time management as it cuts down on phone calls from owners. “You have to stay ahead of the game.”

Consistency is a hallmark of Buchanan’s stable. She has trained 204 winners in the last seven seasons, only once managing less than 24 in a season in that period, but is by no means resting on her laurels. “I would love to be involved at least once in The Everest,” she said. “It’s such a fabulous concept. “And of course winning a Golden Slipper and the Pink bonuses with both Inglis and the Magic Millions with ladies’ owned horses would be fantastic as well. “We have some nice two-year-olds coming on this season, and there has been a big shift in the stable in that regard in the last 12 months. “I’m really excited about what’s on the horizon.”

Definitely no pins and needles there!

Article by John Curtis, 23rd August 2023. Photos: Bradley Photos

Photo: Two Blue winning the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes in April 2016 ridden by Paul King

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