Stakes performer to spearhead team

The Listed placegetter Dancing Embers will head the team when Cambridge trainer Paul Mirabelli starts a new chapter in his life on August 1.

Mirabelli (38) will branch out training on his own account in the new season and prepare his horses from Sir James Lodge, the property of fellow trainer Martin Cleland.

“It’s a lovely property and I’m very lucky to be there,” said Mirabelli. “I’ll be starting off with about six horses and there are 30 boxes available. I’ll have basically a very young team, but I’ll be bringing Dancing Embers back into work.”

Dancing Embers is raced by Mirabelli’s mother, Linda, and finished second in the Listed Gold Club Metropolitan Handicap at Riccarton last November before being unplaced in the Gr.3 Christchurch Casino NZ Cup. She later registered her third win when scoring at Rotorua on April 17.

“She got hurt in the New Zealand Cup and though we got her back to win another race, she went amiss (after racing on May 8),” said Mirabelli. “She’ll have another month out then we’ll try again with her. I think she’s capable of winning a big race.”

Mirabelli’s initial team at Sir James Lodge will include a handful of young horses, including fillies by Swiss Ace, Shinko King and No Excuse Needed. “I’ve got two Shinko Kings,” he said. “One is a rising three and the other rising four. It’ll probably be a while before I have my first runner on my own account.”

Mirabelli, a New Zealander, began his career in racing when a stablehand for top Sydney trainer Gai Waterhouse and in that role he brought Basra to New Zealand for some summer three-year-old races. It was a memorable introduction to New Zealand racing for Mirabelli as Basra won the Gr.2 Royal Stakes at Ellerslie.

“I was with Gai for five years then I shifted back to New Zealand and worked for Roger James,” said Mirabelli. “I was with him for five years, the first three as foreman and the other two training in partnership.”

Mirabelli then teamed up as a training partner with Graham Thomas, also at Cambridge, a role which has lasted three season.

“You could say I’ve done my apprenticeship,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot working for both Roger and Graham. Now I’m looking forward to having a go myself. If I don’t make the move now I might never do it.”