Former hobbit returns to winner’s circle
HORSE RACING Paul Williams and NZ Racing Desk
A Levin jockey who was once a stunt double for hobbits in the Lord of the Rings movies is adding more chapters to his own adventure story. Trevor Bau’s life over the past two decades reads something like a Boy’s Own classic, but two winners in as many weeks has him back doing what he enjoys most — riding winners. The 57-year-old jockey rode his first winner in more than 12 years when he kicked home Kingston Flyer at Trentham a fortnight ago, and the duo backed it up with another win at the weekend, in the $22,500 Property Brokers (1600m) at Whanganui. The wins came in the best possible circumstances as Kingston Flyer was trained by his wife Donna Beck, who races the horse in partnership with her sister-in-law Rhonda Bau. Completing the family affair, Kingston Flyer was strapped by the couple’s son Oliver, who was leading his first winner into the birdcage. Bau began his jockey career in the early 1980s with Takanini trainer Cliff Fenwick. “My family had no connection with racing but I was sporty and small at school, so someone suggested I should become a jockey. Norm Holland put in a word for me when Brian York was coming to the end of his apprenticeship with Cliffy, and Roy McKay and I were his next two.” Natural lightweight is a description that fits Bau, almost to an extreme. “I was so small I didn’t get to have my first ride until I was 18, and even then I weighed only 37 kilos,” he said. Bau rode 26 winners as an apprentice and his career since has included time in the South Island as well as offshore stints. He rode at a Chatham Islands meeting to welcome in the new millenium. “I’ve ridden winners in Australia, including Kaye Tinsley’s first city winner at Eagle Farm, plus time in Samoa and New Caledonia. I ended up in the South Island, which is where I met Donna, and when she got the job with Trackside we moved up to Wellington. “Around the same time the Lord of the Rings trilogy was beginning production and I figured I might fit in there, so I signed up with the Stunt Guild of New Zealand and ended up on the Lord of the Rings set.” That opened up a whole new world to Bau, whose riding skills were called upon as a stand-in for other cast members who might have come up short in that department. “The next four years were great, I was involved in lots of stunt work, falling off horses, fight scenes, that sort of thing. I rubbed shoulders with a whole lot of name actors; one I specially remember was Orlando Bloom when I was the stand-in for the dwarf Gimli. You wouldn’t know it was me after I had spent hours in makeup having all the prosthetics added.” Life beyond Lord of the Rings meant further stunt work on productions such as The Chronicles of Narnia and Up The Creek, a spoof on the hit move Deliverance, the television series Lost World and the Christmas black comedy Krampus. “I got to work with Burt Reynolds on Up The Creek and others I worked with were Bob Hoskins and Toni Collette — I played the part of a scary dwarf who had to make her cry.” Covid-19 lockdown brought a halt to the productions Bau was involved in, but more recently he has found further work with an Amazon series. All the while he has continued to assist his wife with the small racing team stabled on their 1.6ha (four-acre) property across the road from the Levin racecourse. During the summer he had second placings at Awapuni and Trentham on Cabochon, while current stable star Sacred Falls gelding Kingston Flyer preceded his Trentham win with a first-up fourth and is set to back up at Wanganui on Saturday. Up until the Trentham win, Bau’s previous win had come on the Becktrained Pacific Jewel at Otaki in March 2009, and his most recent win took his career tally to 50. But the long time between drinks had to be put into perspective. In the eight seasons he has been active since, Bau has had just 37 raceday rides. He has ridden just six winners in the last 20 years, but has had limited opportunities. His best season was in 1983 — the same year Kiwi won the Melbourne Cup — when he rode 16 winners. “I suppose people might wonder why I hadn’t ridden a winner for so long, but when they read my story they’ll realise I’ve been having a ball. Life’s a highway and I’ve been riding it.” Bau was confident of breaking the half-century mark ahead of Kingston Flyer’s most recent win. In a pre-race interview, he shared that confidence, which saw punters send the horse out at the much shorter odds of $5.60 for a win. “I think he’s improved on the run,” he had said. “He’s got a very dedicated trainer and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was to step up again.” As a natural lightweight jockey Bau walked around comfortably at 50kg, He said he felt he still had a lot to offer as a jockey and was riding as well as he ever had, despite the limited opportunities. Kingston Flyer had been given a few days in the paddock since his most recent win while Beck and Bau map out his next target. “We’ll just play it by ear,” he said. Kingston Flyer was a half-brother by Sacred Falls to topline galloper Prise De Fer, from the Snippets mare Foiled. Initially the 4-year-old gelding, who was owned and bred by Raffles Racing, was to have raced in Singapore, but the outbreak of Covid-19 put paid to those plans.