For Prestige Racehorse Transport, comfort is at a premium when it comes to transporting such precious cargo.
Former racehorse trainer turned racehorse transporter, John Holgate, founded Prestige Racehorse Transport in 2005.
One of six siblings, Holgate grew up on a dairy farm – and it was there that his love of horses began. “All of us kids had a pony at a really early age and we learned to ride them. Some of us kept at it and some of us didn’t,” he said.
“I had a fair bit of success as a trainer. I started off breaking horses in and then a couple of the blokes that owned them said, ‘why don’t you train them?’ – so I started doing just that. I had a bit of success and moved onto the racecourse about 35 years ago. Most of my good luck came in the 80s and 90s. I won the Breeders’ Plate with a horse named Ghost Story. I bought him off a local breeder here in the Hawkesbury.”
Holgate trained horses for about 35 years but before that he also completed a mechanic apprenticeship, so it made sense that his next career move would combine the two.
“When I was growing up, if you didn’t stay at school, you had to get an apprenticeship, so I had that mechanical background and when I got out of training, I bought my first truck,” he said.
One truck has now grown to a fleet of 11, with the six most recent additions being MAN TGL models. These are joined by a mix of Fuso, Hino and UD trucks.
Based in western Sydney, the company provides racehorse transport throughout New South Wales.
It’s very much a family affair, with his wife Linda, son Daniel and daughter-in-law Helen all involved in the business.
While John still oversees aspects of the business including the transport fleet, he’s starting to take a step back as he nears retirement. Helen now performs many of the everyday managerial tasks, while his son designs and builds the company’s horse trailers, which he has been doing for around 10 years.
“These are highly specialised and custom-built for racehorses. We’ve learned a few tricks over the years to ensure the journey is a comfortable and seamless one for the horses,” said Holgate.
The trailers range in size and can transport anywhere from six to nine horses at a time.
The newest three MAN TGLs have been delivered over the course of the last 12 months, with the last of these only just put to work.
According to Holgate, the modern MAN fleet has been instrumental in assisting drivers to deliver horses safely and securely.
“My family and I have been involved with horses all our lives, so we have an understanding of what will help the animals during the trip,” he said.
“Our job is to make the horses and their strappers as comfortable as possible. This will ensure the wellbeing of the horses and also ease the anxieties of owners and managers.”
And the MANs have been popular among the drivers too. There are 10 truck drivers at Prestige and each of them is also an experienced horse handler. “They all love the MAN,” Holgate said. “They’re a beautiful ride.
“Comfort comes first for us and they’re very comfortable, which means if you’re driving long hours, you’re not completely depleted at the end of the run.
“We define ourselves by the service we provide, which means we aim to supply the best drivers and the best vehicles for every job we do.
“The MANs suit our needs because comfort is everything in our line of work, and that’s what these vehicles provide to both our drivers and to the horses we’re transporting.”
Since turning to the MAN brand, Holgate has developed a great working relationship with dealer Penske Australia in Chipping Norton, and the local MAN parts and service agent in South Windsor, Seiders Truck Repairs.
“Our relationship with both Penske and Seiders is very good. We’re situated behind the Hawkesbury racecourse, and Sieders is just a convenient 10 minute drive away when we need servicing,” Holgate said.
“If we do experience issues, I drive over and they sort it out for me. Having this support definitely makes a difference to our business. It suits us very well.”