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Title Image: The Horse
Tommy Woodcock Strapper/Trainer

 Tommy Woodcock

Born in 1905, Tommy Woodcock was apprenticed as a jockey at twelve, and although he was lean enough, it was clear by his late teens that he was growing too tall. Instead, he applied his placid nature and natural affinity with horses to the business of caring for them. Tom spent his lifetime rising at four in the morning, mucking out stables and generally catering to the needs of the most pampered animals on the planet.

Woodcock's placid nature made horses relate to him well. It was not that he got on badly with people, but he loved horses and they loved him. Trainer Harry Telford recognised Tom's particular affinity with Phar Lap and asked him to work as strapper to the horse full-time. Woodcock disagreed with Telford's tough training regime, preferring a gentler approach. He and Phar Lap soon formed such a close relationship that Phar Lap would take food from no one else.

'Bobby', as Tom nicknamed Phar Lap, always came first. Life must have been difficult for Mrs Woodcock. Even when they married, Tom could take no more than four days off. Once, under pressure from his wife, he went to the opera; before long his dawn rising caught up with him and he was drowsy. By nine o'clock Tom had fallen asleep in his chair.

Phar Lap's trainer on the trip to America, Woodcock was heart-broken when the horse died. Returning to Australia, he was licensed as a horse trainer. He remained in this occupation until the age of 78. In 1979 Woodcock donated several of his own mementoes of Phar Lap to Museum Victoria. He died at Yarrawonga in 1985.

© Museum Victoria Australia