Darren Weir hopes to continue his winning ways with Trevenson Park.ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky
Darren Weir rose to prominence when Prince of Penzance carried Michelle Payne to an historic Melbourne Cup win in 2015. Now the trainer hopes a new facility in central Victoria will help him reach even greater heights.
It is the final piece in the puzzle for the Berriwillock-born trainer who last year set a Commonwealth training record for the most number of wins in a season.
But rather than rest on his laurels, Weir has continued to build his empire.
"It's terrific for our stable to be on the top of the ladder at the moment, but it can change so quickly," Weir said.
"It's a very competitive game."
Photo Darren Weir has spared no expense in creating his new training facility previously owned by Peter Liston.ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky
With a high-tech training facility in Ballarat and a beach stable in Warrnambool, Weir has added Trevenson Park, a former thoroughbred stud property in Maldon, to his facilities and spared no expense in upgrading it.
While the rolling green hills and grandeur of Trevenson Park may seem like a far cry from the tiny town of Berriwillock, in the Mallee district town in Victoria where Weir was born, he has managed to bring a bit of the Mallee with him.
Photo The 1,200-metre training track is made from sand trucked in from the Mallee.ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky
The 180-hectare property, referred to as the 'farm', has a 19th-century homestead and stone cottage and features a large dam fitted out with walkways and a purpose-built pacific track made of sand about an hour away from his home town.
Search for the best sand
"We've put a lot of thought into it — it's a deep sand training track, and we feel in the years to come it will be a real benefit to us," Weir said.
Photo Lots of sand: 140 B-double loads of sand were trucked in from a farm in Yaapeet for the training track.ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky
After an extensive search, tonnes of the deep soft sand were trucked in from a farm in Yaapeet, on the eastern edge of the Big Desert.
"I shopped around quite a bit trying to find the right sand and of course me being a Mallee boy I had a look up in that area as well, and we found the sand that we were looking for," Weir said.
The sand, which had blown off from the enormous Lake Albacutya, was used to create a 1,200-metre circular track and a 600-metre uphill sandtrack.
"Obviously it's a fair way away from Maldon, so it was quite expensive to get it here but it's the perfect sand and we think it will be terrific for us in the future," he said.
Not too coarse, this soft sand was used to create a training track just over 30cm deep and about six metres wide, reminiscent of a beach and making it ideal for training.
"It's very soft on the horses' legs but when you sink into it, it's very hard work for them," Weir said.
Photo The 30cm deep by six metre wide sandy track is reminiscent of a beach.ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky
Long-time track rider, Irish born Paul Nolan agreed.
"It helps with the sand if you've got a horse with sore feet or he's a bit crippley, a bit jarry — it's not as hard on their feet or their legs," he said.
"It's a lot easier on the horses once they get used to it — it's grand."
To make sure the tonnes of sand stay on the track a sprinkler system has been installed around the entire track.Attention to detail
Photo Water and sand are key training resources for Darren Weir's horses.ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky
Weir has come a long way from his early training days in Stawell in western Victoria.
"I was of the mindset that you had to train horses on race courses because I thought that's what you had to do. But that doesn't obviously suit every horse," he said.
Nolan, who has ridden for Weir for the past five years, described him as a genius.
"His attention detail is phenomenal — just the little things that no-one would pick up on he sees," he said.
"If you see a horse and he's not 100 per cent and he's not happy, a bit tired, Darren can pick up on that straight away."
Th Irish-born track rider also said he enjoyed the more relaxed atmosphere of the farm to the more "congested" Ballarat facility where he previously worked.A kingdom for his horse
Photo 2015 Melbourne Cup winner Prince of Penzance has retired to Trevenson Park.ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky
Much of the purchase of Trevenson Park would not have happened without the success of Michelle Payne winning on the 100/1 chance Prince of Penzance.
"He's such a special horse to us, he made our dreams come true," Weir said.
"He actually helped purchase the place."
When the champion thoroughbred is not touring he has retired to the 'Prince of Penzance Paddock' on the farm.
"It's great just to be able to go down there and see him, he's a horse that loves a lot of attention."
"He's got a great lifestyle and he's got a home for life here — he thoroughly deserves it."