by Grant Morgan
David Vandyke is by his own admission a new man. Both in name and outlook. The Sunshine Coast trainer is riding the crest of a wave thanks to his star three year-old Alligator Blood.
David started his career as David Hayes on the New South Wales South Coast at Kembla Grange. After rising to the top in that area, David was ultimately taken by inner demons which confront many people.
With those demons well under control, David re-invented himself and replaced his father’s family name of Hayes with his mother’s maiden name of Vandyke. That was an important step for two reasons. Firstly, to differentiate himself from the South Australian born training dynamo of the same name, but secondly, to signal his second coming as a man and trainer.
After rebuilding his career from a Warwick Farm base in the dreary west of Sydney, David made the tough but admirable decision to move to Queensland in 2016. The move was based largely on the desire to seek better lifestyle and balance, whilst still plying his trade with the horses he clearly loves.
But a departure from the hustle and bustle of Sydney meant that he lost clients and horses. Not long before the move, Vandyke scaled the Group 1 heights with star filly Yankee Rose. He was very much back on the up in Sydney.
But four years on at age 54, Vandyke is part of the furniture at the Sunshine Coast.
The area was the home of legendary Queensland trainer Bruce McLachlan, who was instrumental in first putting Sunshine Coast on the racing map.
With Me, St Jude and Phelan Ready and many others all flew the flag for McLachlan, the Sunshine Coast and Queensland.
Now Vandyke and Alligator Blood are the second coming for the Sunshine Coast. I can only imagine ‘big Bruce’ would be looking down in approval.
Vandyke won't be alone as an elite trainer at the Sunshine Coast. I have no doubt that the region will start to produce a flow of talented trainers in the years ahead as the area grows.
Pound for pound, the Sunshine Coast is without doubt the best racing and training facility we have in Queensland.
Despite this, the Sunshine Coast has attracted criticism for the generous funding it has received over the years since opening in 1985. This money has flowed from both sides of parliament. I’ve always thought that criticism was ill-founded. The Sunshine Coast is a vital part of the future for the Queensland Racing industry. By and large, the money has been incredibly well spent.
But since the opening of Corbould Park some 35 years ago, Queensland has been sadly lacking in ‘green field’ visions for better training and racing facilities.
Don’t take this the wrong way though. Racing in Queensland is very strong now after a fairly bleak period in the wilderness. The confidence of participants is the highest I have ever seen it. But there is still much to do, particularly with training facilities.
I feel strongly that today’s racing administrators in Queensland need to take a longer-term view of the industry and embrace developments like the Sunshine Coast. They need to do this for the good of the next generation of trainer. Too often I feel the short term ‘band aid’ approach is taken with some of our existing tracks.
I cant help but feel the days of training in major cities is numbered, and we need to prepare for that. We are witnessing this in Melbourne with the coming demise of Caulfield as a training centre, which in years to come will be followed by Flemington.
So as our population grows in Queensland, regional training facilities around Brisbane are going to become all the more important.
As was the case with David Vandyke, Racing in the Sunshine State should never be afraid of re-inventing itself. There may just be an Alligator Blood right around the corner for us all, if we do.