The Turf always seems greener on the other side of the fence, but Mark Wallace can make a pretty succinct case for his decision to relocate his training career to Australia. "I'll miss my friends and family," he admits. "But I won't miss the weather, or going to Southwell to run for 15 hundred quid."
Little wonder everyone is telling him that it is a brilliant idea. "I think they're trying to get rid of me," he grins. That could only be true of rival trainers, of course, because the reality is that Wallace's departure for Sydney in the new year will leave British racing considerably the poorer. Not many people turn a 7,000-guinea yearling into a Group One winner, as he did with Benbaun last year. But the latest entry in one of the sport's more arresting CVs confirms Wallace to be a man of adventure as well as talent.
Still only 35, the Irishman learned his trade as assistant to Aidan O'Brien and then Mick Channon before taking out a lease on a yard in Newmarket six years ago. Now, despite steady consolidation in the quality of his string, he is ready to start all over again. The idea only took root slowly. He worked in Sydney when cutting his teeth in racing, for Bill Mitchell at Randwick, and an Australian friend who had been working for Darley Stud in Newmarket has been goading him about the life he has returned to. Then there were the comparisons made by Pete Moody – "an old friend, top man, no nonsense, and a bloody good trainer as well" – when he was in town during the summer, to prepare Magnus for Royal Ascot.
"The money's better, the climate's better," Wallace said. "But I never really gave it any thought. We were just cruising along here, going pretty well. But then I thought: 'Wait a minute, we're getting better horses, we're getting more winners – but we're not really making any more money out of it.' I spoke to Pete and he said yes, if you're sensible and you work hard, you can make a decent living there.
"Anyone who thinks he can do that here, with say 50 horses, is deluding himself. The financial situation here makes no sense, and it seems to be getting worse." With his girlfriend eager to make the move, Wallace still has the freedom and youth to take a gamble with only one recent precedent, from William Huntingdon a few years ago. And, while the stakes are high, he argues that there would be no point otherwise. "There would be no point going there on your knees," he said. "Hopefully they will like the fact that Benbaun is a Group One sprinter, who got near Takeover Target [the Australian champion]. But I won't be going there with a great big fanfare. Do that, and you'll just get shot down before you start. If you talk yourself up, the results can't be speaking for themselves. I'm single-minded, but I'm not big-headed. I won't let anyone ride roughshod over me, but I'm not going to get in anyone's way, not going to tread on any toes."
At the same time, he already has "a good few promises" to take to the sales when he arrives in January. Meanwhile he is unravelling the red tape of emigration, and will soon be putting in a few days with Mike De Kock in Dubai.
"You can't think you can train like you do in Newmarket," he explained. "You train on the track, so it's a different way of training. I know Mike quite well, and he's a proper fella. I just want to pick his brains a bit: about training on the track, what he feeds them, the electrolytes they need in the heat, and so on." Wallace does not lack self-belief but has never had any airs, and will fit in well in Sydney, swearing cheerfully in those gravel tones. "I liked the people when I was there," he said.
"They're down-to-earth, a spade's a spade, but you don't hear too much bitching – they just get on with it, and they work hard. When it comes to sport they're a pain in the ass, of course, but you've just got to accept that. I'm not expecting it to be paradise on earth. It's not going to be a cakewalk. There's an awful lot of hard work to be done. But I've no problem with that, because I'm young enough to do it, if I can see light at the end of the tunnel.
"I said after five years I'd have a review. I've done that, and thought: 'Sod it, you've got to be proactive in this life'. I think if I work hard enough, I can be more successful there than here. We're not doing too badly. But you always want to do better."Reuse content