Strapper Teina Loving his Life in Racing
A proud moment for strapper Teina Walters as he escorts Melody Belle and Shafiq Rusof back to scale after their Tarzino Trophy at Hastings
Modesty is the first trait you notice when talking to Teina Walters, the next is pride in his achievements, and the third is the absolute enjoyment he derives as a strapper in the racing industry.
When approached for this LoveRacing interview, 23-year-old Walters suggested we focus on someone else, not just anyone else but any one of several young people employed in similar roles around the country.
“Okay, I’ll do this, but it doesn’t need to be about me,” said the Te Akau Racing employee. “It needs to be about all the other people that are part of the team, the horses we work with and the owners and everyone else who share in the wins.
“I’m just lucky to be doing this job. To think I started when I was still at high school, mucking out in the mornings, and here I am now strapping some of the best horses anyone could wish to work with.”
Top of Walters’ list is the star of the Jamie Richards-trained string, Melody Belle. The young man in the Akubra hat has been at her side through an exceptional campaign that has already netted wins in the Gr. 2 Lisa Chittick Foxbridge Plate at Te Rapa in August and the Gr. 1 Tarzino Trophy and Windsor Park Plate at the Hastings spring carnival.
“She’s an amazing horse, always been good but as she’s got older she’s become so consistent. She does everything so easily, without any fuss, and she’s got such lovely mannerisms.”
Walters, the popular winner of the Strapper of Year trophy at the last Matamata Racing Club annual awards, recognises his role as not being about just the Group One horses – they’re all important and all deserve the best of care.
“People like us strappers have a big responsibility, it’s up to us to pay attention to every horse, make sure that the owners who have invested so much in them get the best possible rewards.”
Some may be surprised to know that Walters has all but completed a degree in e-commerce, majoring in marketing, and all he needs to graduate is an internship with an appropriate business.
“I’m a bit like a jockey on 999 wins, I just have to get that one more and it’s job done,” he laughs. “Growing up here in Matamata, my bunch of mates who played rugby together and all that included guys like Todd Pollard and Cameron Ring, all but one of us went to uni.
“Us three first worked in racing as muck-out boys when we were 15; I was here at Te Akau when Mark Walker was in charge, Todd was at Richie’s (Richardson Racing) and Cameron was at the Hillis stable.
“Then we ended up going to uni at Waikato and here we are still in racing, although I’ve had a few jobs in between my studies and what I’m doing now.
“During the holidays I worked for Harvey Norman – sold a few pillows. Another job was for a radio station in their promotions team. That was cool, I was one of the guys giving away stuff and making people happy.”
But the happiest faces in Walters’ eyes are those of the jockeys, trainers and owners after a win – that’s much of what motivates him.
“For someone like me it’s been a tough journey at times getting where I want to be, and I’ve got plenty I still want to do. As a young Maori guy I’m proud and I wear it on my sleeve, my brother KC is the same, he’s been my greatest mentor.”
The older Walters began a jockey apprenticeship in Matamata and later moved to the South Island, riding 73 winners in all. He is now part of the team at Victoria’s most successful stable riding work for Darren Weir.
“Maybe one day I’ll go overseas; listening to people like Cameron and Todd who both did scholarships it’s a good way to see the world and learn more.”
That’s for later though. Right now Walters has his eyes on another Group One prize as the fine tuning takes place around Melody Belle’s Sistema Railway bid at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.
“She had a serious trial at Te Aroha last week and had a real good blow afterwards, then in her next track gallop you could see how much she had improved. She looks like she’s right on target, Jamie’s got her humming, so she’ll be up for it, can’t wait.”