Cranbourne based-trainer Robbie Griffiths always rises like the phoenix whether it was recovering from brain surgery and continuing to work with Thoroughbred training or taking early retirement from his career as a jockey after he started developing weight issues and rising further in the Thoroughbred industry as a trainer. There is a deliberate spirit of rebellion and passion in the work he does. It’s this attraction to the atypical that saw him partner with South African trainer Matthew de Kock, the son of leading South African and UAE trainer Mike de Kock creating one of the strongest partnership in Australia.
“I’m inspired to trainer after my brain surgery, knowing that I can,” Griffiths explains from the Gold Coast, where he is currently buying yearlings at the Magic Millions’ Gold Coast Yearling Sale.
“Matthew and I have bought nine horses so far and we hope that we can find the right partners for each horse,” said Griffiths.
Indeed, Griffiths De Kock Racing, have found incredible opportunities for their syndicate partners through their association with Mike de Kock’s stable in Dubai. Despite challenging times Griffiths’ Gr.3 winning-homebred Halvorsen is expected to travel to Dubai for the Al Quoz Sprint and then onwards to England for the Sprint Series providing the other owners with an opportunity to enjoy the experience of iconic international racing.
Based at Cranbourne, Griffiths is firmly entrenched among the top 10 trainers in Victoria. Here, Griffiths describes his plans for Halvorsen in greater detail and what he plans to offer future syndicate partners at Griffiths De Kock Racing, making them stand-out:
Q: What are your plans for the Halvorsen going forward in 2021?
A: Halvorsen is nominated for the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington in March. Depending on his in-line form and his performance at the time as well as the circumstances (referring to the COVID19 restrictions) he will travel to Dubai for the Gr.1 Al Quoz Sprint and then further onto the UK for the Sprint Series. Although this year Halvorsen is likely to travel alone and be managed by Mike de Kock, eventually, we want to offer our owners and syndicate partners the opportunity to experience international racing where possible.
Q: What kind of a horse is Halvorsen and which is your favourite win by him?
A: Halvorsen is very easy to train a horse. He has been much protected and has not travelled so far. As long as he takes to travelling, he has to be the ability to win at the highest level.
Halvorsen’s Gr.3 Standish Handicap for me was his best win because it helped me put a difficult 2019 behind me, during which I had brain surgery in August to remove an aneurysm.
Q: You are currently at the Gold Coast sales, what have you purchased so far?
A: We’ve bought a couple of American Pharoah colt from Coolmore. Also, we purchased seven yearlings from a range of other leading sires - So You Think (NZ), Redoute's Choice, Zoustar (AUS), Highland Reel (IRE), Shalaa (IRE), Sebring (AUS), Exceed and Excel. We have something for everyone at different price ranges.
Q: Which has been your most challenging/ memorable race to date?
A: Halvorsen’s Gr.3 Standish Handicap as I mentioned earlier was his best win and a very memorable one for me. Another close favourite is our Gr.2 Saab Quality win on Derby Day which then secured our berth in that year’s Melbourne Cup. It was a really big win for me.
Q: What attracted you to horses and a career in training racehorses?
A: My family was in racehorses and I have an elder brother who was a successful jockey. So I have always wanted to get involved with horses. As a kid, I wanted to be a vet. Those dreams went out the window and I became a jockey, following in my brother’s footsteps. I rode for training greats such as the late Colin Hayes, Bart Cummings, Lee Freedman and other brilliant horsemen, which stood me in good stead and helped me outride my claim within two years. Eventually, when I started having issues with my weight, I became stable foreman for Tony Vasil in 1991. Vasil did quite well in Dubai. In fact, his horse Elvstroem broke the Australian duck at the Dubai World Cup meeting in devastating style, winning the US$2 million Gr. I Dubai Duty-Free in 2005.
Q: And finally, who is your biggest inspiration?
A: For me, the great Bart Cummings was my biggest inspiration in my younger days. However, recently as I look back, I am inspired by the fact that I can continue training horses after my brain surgery.