Waikato’s famed Browne’s Hill is back in action after a month-long hiatus. The husband and wife training duo of Emma-Lee and David Browne had the opportunity to continue ticking their team over on their private training establishment on the property during COVID-19 Alert Level 4, however, they elected to turn out their entire team in the midst of uncertainty.
“We decided not to (work them) with the uncertainty about when races were going to start again,” Emma-Lee Browne said. “We didn’t really think it was fair on the owners to keep the horses in without a definite plan. “Instead, we spoke with all of our owners and decided to put them out in the paddock. As soon as level 4 was lifted we brought everything back in. We have got 25 in at the moment.”
While they weren’t working their horses during Level 4, Browne said they were kept busy on their property. “We haven’t found it too bad, we have done a lot of tidying up,” she said. “We moved here just under a year ago. “We had a very slow start to the season. Moving here we had to change a few things up and it was a little bit devastating for the team (to have to turn out the horses) because everything had just started to fall into place. “We had a few nice ones going around and we were getting our rhythm going.”
Browne said she also enjoyed spending quality time with family within her bubble, which included David’s grandmother, famed jumps trainer Ann Browne. “She is very well,” Browne said. “She was in our bubble, which was quite nice.”
Browne has enjoyed getting her team back in work and has been able to utilise a new track as well as the infamous hill. “It’s (Browne’s Hill) very handy to get their base fitness up,” she said. “It is nice for the flat horses to use as a change of scenery. For the winter stayers and jumpers, you just can’t beat it. “We put in a new track at the bottom which leads into the hill, so that has been quite good as well. “We were only able to use it three weeks before lockdown, so it’s good to be back on it.”
The couple previously trained out of the Cambridge Jockey Club complex and Browne said everyone in the stable is enjoying their new surroundings. “The horses really enjoy it. It’s a bit more relaxed than being at a training centre,” she said. “But it did take us a while to get the hang of things. I have only ever trained at Cambridge, so training out here was a little bit of a learning curve, but the horses are happier and the staff are happier. It’s a better lifestyle for everyone because we can start a little bit later. “The good thing is the Cambridge track is just around the corner, so if we ever did need to go in it’s very accessible.”
While Browne is looking forward to the resumption of racing, she said she is particularly looking forward to the return of Uluaki. “Uluaki raced well at Gisborne and Wairoa and he is one that we have been schooling a fair bit,” Browne said. “We have been lucky enough to have Missy Browne and Emily Farr doing the schooling on the young jumpers.”