TASMANIAN harness trainer-driver James Rattray today revealed his secret weapon that helped take his stable star Beautide to victory in yesterday’s Group 1 $750,000 Inter Dominion final at Menangle in NSW.
Less than 24 hours after claiming Australasian harness racing’s Holy Grail Rattray revealed that his life partner Sofia Svennson was Beautide’s secret weapon.
Svennson is a talented reinswoman in her own right and has been involved in harness racing internationally for well over a decade.
Rattray met Svennson while working at Noel Daly’s stables in New Jersey, North America, three years ago.
Rattray and Svennson fell in love and they have been inseparable since they departed the US in October 2012.
“Fia has done most of the work with Beautide and it is very clear that they have a special bond,” Rattray said.
"Keeping a horse happy is one of the secrets to success and there is no doubt Fia spoils Beau and that keeps him very happy."
“It is quite evident that there is a special affinity between them and while I do a fair bit of Beautide’s fast work he is very much her horse around the stables,” he said.
Rattray and Svennson’s journey to Tasmania was planned but what has transpired in the past three months was beyond their wildest dreams.
“I really love this horse because he has a wonderful character but most of all he is such a brilliant racehorse and he showed that the way he won the Inter Dominion,” she said.
“This is still like a dream and I’m waiting to wake up,” she said.
Svennson has been involved in harness racing since she was in her early teens in Sweden.
“My older sister Lotta trained for many years and I was always with her so I guess getting involved in harness racing was inevitable.”
“I travelled to France and Italy following the European circuit and then I made the move to America where I worked for about four and a half years with Jonas Czernyson and then for a year each with two other trainers and that’s when I met James,” she said.
When asked if it was love at first sight they both laugh but deliver coy smiles and agree that their future is with each other.
The couple landed in Tasmania after spending five weeks with Svennson’s family in Sweden in November-December 2012 with basic plans to travel to Tasmania and work at the Rattrays’ family stables at Longford in the north of the state.
But when James’ twin brother Gareth, who has been Tasmania’s premier driver for the past seven years, got married and opted to branch out on his own, the door was opened for James to step in and become number one driver for his father’s stable.
James quickly raced to the top end of the driver’s premiership table but after only a few months an opportunity arose to establish stables alongside John and Luke McCarthy’s stables at Cobbity, near Menangle.
“One of the main reasons for moving up here (NSW) was that it gave us a chance to set something up for ourselves.”
With Dad (Barrie) giving us a good batch of horses to train to get established we thought it might work out well but it has gone a lot better than we ever imagined,” he said.
Barrie Rattray has long been regarded as one of Tasmania’s best trainer-driver-breeders so he was intent on doing everything he and wife Denise could do to kick-start James’ trainer career.
“I owe a lot to my parents because they have been very supportive of me and to be given this opportunity is quite amazing,” James said.
“You don’t get anything cheaply in this industry. You have to work hard for whatever you get but realistically this is a way better start than any young trainer would dare to dream.”
“But I will never forget where I came from, that’s for sure,” he said.
By Peter Staples