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  • Provincial Racing NSW


NICK Mitchell’s training skill has never been questioned!

And it was there for all to see at Taree earlier this week when he prepared a three-year-old filly to win over 1400m on debut.

Understandably, Like Yesterday’s success at $41 in the Maiden Handicap was even more special as the Stratum Star filly was bred and is raced by New Zealander John Thompson, whose well-known colours were carried to victory in the 2000 Caulfield Cup by Diatribe, prepared by the late George Hanlon.

Thompson was Mitchell’s initial owner when he took out his licence nine years ago, having met him during a four-year stint as then Rosehill Gardens trainer Tim Martin’s foreman.

“I got to know John, and contacted him to let him know I had decided to branch out on my own,” Mitchell explained.

“He was not only my first owner, but continues to be a wonderful supporter of my stable.”

Whilst Advocacy (Blake Spriggs) was Mitchell’s breakthrough winner at Newcastle in September 2014 over 2300m, one of his early victories was his first for Thompson when Kipuka (Tommy Berry) scored at Kembla Grange in June the following year.

Like Yesterday actually began her career with Wyong’s Allan Denham (who is taking an indefinite break), but did not race for him.

“The filly came to me as an early three-year-old, and I have taken my time with her,” Mitchell said.

“She has been a slow learner and was beaten more than 16 lengths at her first trial on the Beaumont track over 800m early last month.

“But she improved quite a lot at her second trial over a bit longer 15 days later when I put blinkers on her.

“She was beaten clearly, but ran home well from last early.

“I felt she could run well first-up at Taree, and anyone who watched that Newcastle trial could easily have backed her.

“Now that she is a winner, I’ll look for another suitable race in the coming weeks, perhaps over 1600m, and consider she will be even better next preparation.”

Mitchell gave due credit to his wife Katie, whom he said “has done a terrific job riding the filly and helping educate her”.

The couple has two young children, Ollie and Ava, and the Gosford trainer says his partner is the backbone of the stable.

“Katie works very hard, and I couldn’t do this without her,” he said.

Expatriate Englishman Mitchell, who has called Gosford home since the spring of 2017 after initially training at Hawkesbury, was born on the south coast of England at Eastbourne, and grew up around the famous training district of Newmarket, where his late father Pat trained with some success.

Whilst Mitchell was always too heavy to pursue a riding career, he rode work for one of the country’s leading trainers Ed Dunlop, well known to Australian racing fans through the Melbourne Cup deeds of thrice runner-up Red Cadeaux and fourth placegetter Trip To Paris.

“Ed was a great bloke to work for, and I did so for a couple of years,” Mitchell said.

“I got an opportunity in the late 1990s to go to either Dubai or Japan, and chose the latter.

“Quite a few people thought I was mad not going to Dubai, but I knew it was hot there and Japan appealed to me as it was something different and exciting.”

It was all that and more! Mitchell initially planned on a 12 months’ visit, and ended up staying for 11 years.

He got a job as an assistant manager at a pre-training farm just outside Tokyo.

“We had 20 to 30 horses when I started there, and the number gradually increased to around 140,” he explained.

“We often pre-trained them right up until race day.”

Mitchell’s return to his homeland lasted only 12 months. His father had passed away, and he never really settled back in.

“It was very unmotivating being back in England; there was no get up and go and it didn’t sit right with me,” he said.

“I made enquiries about going to either Australia or America, and Australia just got in first.”

After spending four years with Tim Martin, he set up shop at Hawkesbury and won his first city race at a midweek Metropolitan meeting at Wyong with his old favorite Radical Impact in April, 2017 at $31.

Former stable stalwart Radical Impact won eight races, was placed on 27 occasions and earned nearly $300,000 – and it would have been fitting if he had given Mitchell his actual first success in Sydney, which he thought had occurred.

The gelding “won” at Canterbury in June 2015 – but lost the race on protest.

Radical Impact (pictured), who died in 2021, was one of the first two horses in Mitchell’s Hawkesbury stable when he began training, but it was a mare who provided him with a dream Sydney result.

“Dream Lane injured herself before she raced, and had been sent to Cobbitty Lodge,” Mitchell said.

“She was one of two horses I looked at the day I visited the property, and chose her.

“I didn’t have many owners at the time, and Cobbitty Lodge virtually filled the syndicate to race her on lease by arranging for some of their staff and clients to become involved.

“Dream Lane was a terrific mare to us. She was placed at four of her first six starts before breaking through in a Kembla Grange Maiden (1400m) in September 2015.

“She also won at Canberra the following year before finishing fourth to Famous Seamus in the Ladies’ Day Cup at Hawkesbury, and then won 16 days later at Rosehill in a Benchmark 78 Handicap (1200m) at $10.

“Christian Reith rode her, and my first Sydney win was all the more special as my eldest son Bart (then nine years of age) was with me to share the moment.”

Mitchell made an unsuccessful offer to buy Dream Lane when her racing career ended, and subsequently secured the mare when he noticed in a Scone catalogue that she was listed for sale, and was in foal.

So determined was he to buy her at the 2018 Inglis Scone broodmare sale that he drove out of his Gosford base on the morning of May 18 that year, towing a float behind.

“I wasn’t going home without her, and was able to buy her for $2000,” he said.

Mitchell’s win with Like Yesterday last Monday was his first since both Miss Checkoni and Monsoon Magic won (the latter dead-heated) on consecutive Saturdays (7th and 14th) at Wyong and Tuncurry in January this year.

“There have been a number of placings since, so it was good to get back in the winning list,” he said.

“We’ve got some nice young horses coming through, so hopefully there are more winners ahead.”

Keep an eye out too for any Mitchell horses – perhaps even first starters like this week’s debut winner – at Taree. It’s his most successful track, having won 10 races there!

*Words John Curtis - May 10, 2023 - pics Bradley Photos*

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