The fact is he has always had his license. Birchley has confirmed that he never actually relinquished or lost his license during those most trying of times when he was handed a one year suspension … which he then had overturned on appeal so many months later … but he did stop training of his own accord, writing to his owners in August 2019 to notify them of that fact.
That decision came less than a month before the VCAT Appeal Board handed down their finding in Birchley’s favour, but Birchley had already decided that, at that time, that he would rather concentrate on his role at Archer Park, a spelling and pre-training facility.
“I wouldn’t say fatigue from the whole situation didn’t play some part in my decision to stop training then … but it was really more of a commercial decision,” explained Birchley.
“Most trainers with the size stable I had at that time pick up a horse … if it’s not every week, its every two weeks. With all that was going on with me at that time, that supply of horses all dried up.
“I still had horses reaching their mark in grade or being put out for a spell or whatever, but I had nothing to replace them because everyone was so unsure about what was going on.
“I was developing Archer Park at the time, and, given all of the circumstances, I decided it would be best at that time to put my energy into the Archer Park development.
“Importantly, it also gave me time to think about things. When you are on the racing treadmill you rarely have a chance to sit back and critique what you are doing and look at what you can do better. You just don’t have time to think and mull things over because it is a seven day a week job. It is non-stop.
“So, while I would rather not go through all of that again … you could say some good came out of it.
“I will be training out of a property near Kilcoy. We’ve got fifty acres. We’ve got a sixty-metre swim. We’ve got a high-speed treadmill and I’ve got a track there too where I can work the horses.
“I’ve got the ability to train out of paddocks if required and, at the start, I’m probably just going to concentrate on horses who have slipped through the cracks a little bit with some of the bigger stables.
“In size, I will probably be a bit smaller than I was before … but more hands on.
“Why come back now? Is it the right time?
“I don’t know how you would define a ‘right time’. It’s definitely not financially, but I think part of my reasoning is that if I kicked off around now I would hopefully be at least partly relevant by the time the yearling sales came around and have a chance of hopefully picking up some horses then … rather than, if I started after that, everybody would have already got their horses placed.
“There is a lot to think about and a lot of work to do. We’ll see how we go.”