One of the world’s best harness racing trainers and Mount Isa native, Noel Daley, has explained why he returned to the United States to train for a second time.
“I suppose you could say I was a bit homesick and that’s why I came home. I love Australia, especially Queensland, but I was working in Sydney which was 800km from where I’m from, and the racing was way too different to what I was used to.
“To be honest I don’t know how some of the small-time trainers down there make a dollar. I sold up everything in New Jersey and wanted to make a go of it back home,” Daley told Egmont Park from New Jersey.
“I tried it. I was working a team of about 17, and I didn’t like it, so I returned to what I knew best. I came back with my eight-year-old son Max. We are here until I retire, and that’s when I will return back home probably to my house on the Gold Coast,” the 59-year-old added.
Daley returned to Australia in November 2018 to work for prominent New South Wales owners, Emilio and Maria and Rosati.
Daley, who stamped himself as one of the all-time greats in North America over nearly three decades, trained about a dozen winners for his new employers where he rented stables at the Menangle Training Centre, while a state-of-the-art training establishment was being set up by Rosati.
Within a year he was back in the United States.
“I’m lucky I made the decision when I did because I only just got back into the USA before Covid hit.”
He said he missed everything about northern hemisphere racing – including the lifestyle and his friends.
“I was gone less than a year and I’ve already reconnected with a bunch of owners. Everyone has been pretty supportive.”
He said Hambletonian Day played a big part in his decision making.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about racing in the U.S. I was watching the action at The Meadowlands at 3am in Australia one morning, and then it hit me that I needed to be back in my adopted homeland.
“The job was good and the guy treated me well, but I didn’t race a lot of horses there. I had a lot of young ones prepping for races. I raced a few of the American mares we took down there, but I found myself going to the races and coming home to look at the results in America,” he said.
Daley left his home base at Magical Acres (where he has returned) shortly after Princess Deo finished second in the Goldsmith Maid final at The Meadowlands on November 24, 2018.
He returned to the United States with 2,570 career wins and $61,454,588 in earnings.
Daley which ranks 20th among all trainers in harness racing history and his total stake earnings ranks him sixth.
Only Ron Burke, Jimmy Takter, Robert McIntosh, Erv Miller and Mark Ford, have won more purses.
Being based mainly in Bordentown, New Jersey, a little over an hour from New York, Daley prepared such greats as Mr Muscleman (his favourite and his springboard to success), along with Broad Bahn, Cedar Dove, Caviart Alley, My Little Dragon, Explosive Matter, among many others.
He has won eight Breeders Crown races, the 2011 Hambletonian with Broad Bahn and won the 2005 Trotter of the Year award with Mr Muscleman.
At one point he was training a team of 125, but whittled that number down to 20 at the start of 2018 and 10 by the time he was prepared to leave for Australia.
“Basically, I chased owners off the last five years knowing my intentions were to go home. When I was last here, I spent the last five years prepping to go home and when I did go, I realised it wasn’t what I wanted it to be.”
Noel Daley’s second stint in the United States got underway after Thanksgiving (November 25, 2019), and with a stable of 18 horses that included stakes-winner Princess Deo and more than a dozen yearlings.
He has since been purchasing horses at yearling sales to rebuild his stable. He now has 25 babies comprising 22 trotters and three pacers.
And his ‘Midas Touch’ has continued in the USA.
“One of the first babies I bought was Anoka Hanover. I paid $35,000 for her and she’s now won 10 of her 14 starts and nearly $600,000.
“I think she will really make a splash as a 3-year-old this season. She is the fifth foal out of stakes winner Aunt Mel. Her previous four all made money at the races, but Anoka Hanover is the first to exceed $45,000. I bought her on the recommendation of long-time collaborator Martti Ala-Seppala.
“He’s done it a bunch of times for me, picked out well-bred ones where the mares, for whatever reason, haven’t hit yet and I can usually get them at a bit of value,” Daley said. “That’s what he did there. This was the right one. He’s a big help,” Daley said.
In November wrapped up her 2-year-old campaign with a 1:53-2/5 win in the $451,800 Goldsmith Maid for trotting fillies on Saturday night at the Meadowlands. It was her seventh consecutive victory and she was driven by fellow Aussie, Todd McCarthy.
"She's been phenomenal, and I think the job that Noel has done with her, managing her, has just been unbelievable. I can't thank Noel enough for the opportunity to be able to drive this filly. The success that we've had with her has just been a dream come true for me," McCarthy said.
"She just seems to be getting better and better all the time, and she's so brave and so tough. The one thing I love about her is just her attitude. She goes out there, and she wants to do her job every single time she goes out there. It's just such a privilege to be able to work with a horse like that," he added.
Daley co-owns Anoka Hanover, a daughter of Donato Hanover, with L.A. Express Stable LLC. and Caviart Farms.
"She had a hell of a season and provided me with the prefect tonic and validified my decision to return to the U.S. She's just a tough, tough filly. She's got a very good head on her.
“It was a good way to end the year. Everything about her, she's just a very relaxed filly, and there are no real issues with her. I think she'll be the one they've all got to beat next year. It was a very competitive group."
Daley brought the former Dean Braun trained Laredo Torpedo with him from Down Under.
Daley’s young horses, which all turned two on January 1, are made up of 10 trotters and four pacers.
“Getting the 14 (yearlings) was good. I’m happy with that. I don’t know how good the trotters are, but 10 out of 10 of them trot. That’s a good head start,” Daley said.
“I just love it here and so does Max. He was born here and this is who we are, but I have every intention on retiring in Queensland one day, because I still have a home on the Gold Coast,” he insisted.
“I’m also looking forward to working under a new Government. Let’s say I wasn’t the biggest fan of the last president, but that’s personal and I don’t want to upset people,” he added.
Footnote: Daley won two races this weekend just gone with two former Luke McCarthy trained standardbreds named Darkershadeofpale and Effronte.