AFTER more than a year on the sidelines, former leading trainer Liam Birchley is preparing to return to the fold, well aware he will face a good deal of scepticism, but determined to rebuild his career.
Birchley, a multiple runner-up in the Brisbane Metropolitan premiership, will train from a property near Kilcoy and has made application to the Sunshine Coast Turf Club to use their training tracks to gallop his horses.
He has not saddled a runner in 14 months after announcing he was stepping away from training.
That followed a three-year legal battle as part of the Aquanita top-up scandal, in which he had a one-year ban quashed in September last year.
He has recently written to clients informing them of his decision to return to training.
“I feel reinvigorated and ready to recommence my training career and have the confidence in myself to take it to another level,” he wrote.
“I have decided to take up an on-farm boutique stable. Leveraging everything I have learnt from training and on farms in my career, I believe training on farm is the best thing for the horse.
“A boutique stable will allow me to have a lot more one-on-one time with the horses.”
There is no doubt Birchley’s return will evoke some animosity, which he is well aware of.
“I’ve got no control over that. I don’t think about it,” he told the Courier Mail.
“The people who know me, know what I’m about. That’s all I care about. People will always think what they want to think.
“It’s more about the bloke they know, not the bloke they read about.”
Birchley was charged as part of the Aquanita scandal, which saw a number of trainers disqualified, including Robert Smerdon for life.
He was implicated after sending a text message to barred doper Greg Nelligan which said: “can u org a top up for tomorrow pls” on the eve of the 2015 Melbourne Cup.
Birchley was originally given a 12 month sentence, but won his appeal at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
VCAT Deputy President Heather Lambrick ruled she could not be satisfied Birchley’s horse had been administered anything illegally.
Birchley has maintained none of his horses were ever administered with a ‘top up.’
“I swore on my kids’ life, I knew nothing had happened to those horses and you don’t do that lightly,” he said.
“To be honest I never lost a minute sleep the whole time. That might sound crazy, but if I know for sure nothing happened how can I be found guilty?
“I am grateful to the people who did support me. In these situations you never know how much that means. Those individuals certainly know who they are.”
As he moves to rebuild his career, Birchley has plans to reach a stable of 30 – no larger – and is keen to test his theory of horses doing better in rural surrounds.
“When you have a bit of time to yourself and you’re not on the wheel, you get a chance to think about what you could or would do better,” he said.
“Seeing how the horses did at Archer Park that were still in work really gave me an idea that this could be the next stage.
“I’ve always liked the competition, always liked the challenge of it and I’ve missed that part of it.
“Thinking there’s a better way to do it, gives me a lot of hope going forward.”
Originally published asTrainer Liam Birchley readies for return
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