He might have underestimated the challenges of relocating to a new state but former South Australian trainer Mark Minervini has no regrets about his move to Newcastle.
Having forged a successful 30-year career in Adelaide training horses like Group Two winners Go The Knuckle and Vormista, Minervini had, like many, started to lose faith in the direction racing in the state was taking.
So in August last year, he and wife Michelle upped stumps to Newcastle and quickly fell in love with the town.
Adjusting his business to a new city took a little longer.
“I didn’t appreciate the size of the move,” Minervini said.
“I didn’t know a farrier, I didn’t know a track rider, I didn’t know feed people, the horses all had to run in a different direction.
“I didn’t know any of the tracks, Wyong, Gosford, Newcastle, Scone, I didn’t know any of that so it has been a baptism of fire.
“Now, after eight or nine months, I’ve got my bearings and I think from here on business will increase.”
In a sign Minervini has found his feet, the trainer will have his first Saturday metropolitan runners from his Newcastle base at this weekend’s Randwick Kensington meeting.
French Response, a mare bought online as an unraced three-year-old, tackles the Coolmore Handicap (1800m), while Calipari lines up in the Sky Racing Active Handicap (1000m).
Both rise in grade but the decision to test them in Sydney has not been made lightly.
“I’m normally a bit hesitant but I don’t think it’s unrealistic. I think both horses are reasonably placed,” Minervini said.
A stable favourite, French Response earned a shot at city grade with a first-up win at her home track.
Minervini is hoping to get a solid tempo for the backmarker who has pleased him with her lead-up work this week.
Calipari was bought as a tried horse and earned himself a trip to town with back-to-back wins on the country circuit.
A well-bred son of Written Tycoon, Minervini says it will not shock to see him handle the class rise.
“We bought him from the China Horse Club. Peter and Paul Snowden used to train him,” Minervini said.
“He was an expensive yearling, $270,000, so if he measured up to city class it wouldn’t be any surprise.
“He looks like a beast at the moment. He is a really big, strong horse and he is ready to go on Saturday.”