Emma’s army

1 March 2019



EMMA Stewart hasn’t become the most feared trainer in Australian harness racing just because of what her horses do.

 Because the Victorian sensation admits she got where she is now because of all the things her horses don’t do. Any more.

 Stewart will have favoured runners in four of the group one races on harness racing’s biggest night of the year at Menangle tomorrow, with Poster Boy in the $1million Miracle Mile and a remarkable five starters in the NSW Derby.

 That continues her freakish record at Menangle, a track whose lung-searing times often catch visiting horses off guard but suits Stewart’s team perfectly.

The stats? 122 starters there for 44 wins and 33 placings, numbers that could be much better but for having multiple starters in the same race, like tomorrow’s Derby.

 She has been clearly the most consistently successful inter-state trainers at Menangle but without yet capturing its Holy Grail.

 “I’d love to win a Miracle Mile, it is a very special race,” says the 37-year-old.

 “And I think we have the right horse this year. We ran third a few years ago with Guaranteed but as good as he was this Poster Boy is a more natural pacer with more speed.

 “Barrier one could make it tricky but if he can trail the right horse he has a real chance.”  That Stewart has emerged so rapidly from the pack of talented Australian harness trainers to be the clear number one is almost as surprising as how she got there.

 While it is her name in the record books the stable is basically a partnership with life partner Clayton Tonkin, whose father Peter is an astute horseman and obviously passed on the fundamentals to his son.

  But that is not what Stewart puts the stable’s incredible success down to.

 “We tried a whole lot of things and watched a whole lot of other trainers to see what they do,” admits Stewart.

 “We train our horses in two heats, which I think Peter Manning was the first Victorian trainer in the modern era to do.

 “That means on fast work days we will work them, take them back to the tie ups, take their bridles and boots off, loosen their gear and let them cool down. Then we will work then again two hours later.”

 That work is rarely fast, with few of their elite pacers asked to break the standard 30 seconds for 400m at home before they head to the trials.

 “We don’t work them hard. We work them consistently and a lot. They never jog on the jog machine, they go into the cart (sulky) every day.”

 Stewart and Tonkin, whose four-year-old daughter Willow is a races regular, used to gallop their horses fast in work but stopped that for a pretty simple reason.

 “Too many of them were breaking down. So now it is more long, consistent work and that is why they suit Menangle. They are fit and hard, and at Menangle there is nowhere for horses to hide.”  Stewart admits they even tried to learn from watching champion New Zealand trainer Mark Purdon, whose horses stand in their way in almost all of the group ones tomorrow night.

 “We have a lot of respect for Mark and tried to watch how he trained but that would drive you mad. He is always changing things and doing different things. He is impossible to follow.”

 With 80 horses on her books and a seemingly endless zeal for work, Stewart’s time on harness racing’s throne doesn’t look under threat any time soon.

“We are consistent. We work hard and a lot and the horses work a lot too. That is how we get results.”






Harness Racing NSW (HRNSW) is the controlling body for harness racing in New South Wales with responsibility for commercial and regulatory management of the industry including 33 racing clubs across the State.  HRNSW is headed by a Board of Directors and is independent of Government.




(02) 9722 6600 •  arando@hrnsw.com.au •  @Amanda_Rando