Aaron Treve Woodcock was born in October 1905 at Uralgurra, near Kempsey,
NSW. When Tommy was 5 or 6 years old his father, a Cobb & Co coach driver, was
transferred to Port Macquarie. From an early age he had a natural love for horses and
would always hang around the stables of Bill Fuller, an experienced Port Macquarie horse
trainer, who taught Tom all about horses.
At the age of 14 he started a jockey apprenticeship with horse trainer Barney Quinn at
Randwick. On 25 February 1922 Tommy rode his first race at Moorefield. He was 16 years old
and weighed 32.5 kilograms. Two year old filly Oriental Charm, trained by Dan Seaton, won
by a head. Tommy rode the horse again at Canterbury finishing first and third at Randwick
Farm. They won again as a 15-1 outsider in the Youthful Stakes on 29 April 1922. Tommy
Woodcock had achieved three wins out of his first four rides on city tracks. However, this
success did not last, he was suspended for three months when he crossed from an outside
alley on Oriental Charm at Randwick crowding out her rivals. The steward and the senior
jockeys were not impressed.
After completing his apprenticeship Tommy rode many winners on dusty country tracks in the
New South Wales western region. Eventually he become too heavy and went to Sydney to work
as a strapper and work rider. To subsidise his meagre income he worked as a truck diver.
He also offered his services to trainer Harry Telford who employed Tommy Woodcock when he
could afford it. From the moment he first saw Phar Lap he developed a strong emotional
bond with the horse and it was Tommy who suggested a training method that would lead Phar
Lap to his great victories. Affectionately he called him "Bobby". In the lead up
to big races Woodcock slept outside Phar Lap's stable and helped groom and strap him on
race day. He even accompanied him on spells. Phar Lap soon become restless when Tommy was
not around. He was poorly paid for all his hard work, but he stayed for the love of
When he was 25 years old Tommy Woodcock was granted a No.1 trainer's licence in the
beginning of 1931. He accompanied Phar Lap's owner David Davis to America where he trained
the horse for the big race at Agua Caliente. Phar Lap's win with top weights was a great
accomplishment for Tommy. He was heartbroken when Phar Lap died in 1932.
Returning to Australia he worked briefly at Braeside for Harry Telford. In 1934 he was
granted a trainer's licence and he trained a few horses with moderate success. Like many
others he had to stop training during Word War II. He spent those years on a Victorian
farm working with pigs and producing food.
After the war Tommy Woodcock successfully trained a small group of horses from his stables
at Mentone and later from Mordialloc. Reckless was one of the most successful horses Tommy
has trained, winning the Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane Cups and finishing second in the
Melbourne Cup in 1977. Tommy was much respected for his training methods and his great
love for horses by ordinary and influential people. He was a small hard working man with
perfect manners, a good sense of humour and an uncomplicated, positive approach to life.
In 1929 Tommy married Emma. They had no children but their home was always open to the
apprentices that were trained by Tommy. Joe Harrington, Billy Smart, Greg Cornish, Glen
Bilney and Geoff Lane were among them.
Tommy Woodcock remained a trainer until the age of 78. In 1979 he donated several of his
personal mementoes of Phar Lap to the Museum of Victoria. Tommy died at Yarrawonga in
SOME HORSES THAT TOMMY TRAINED:
Phar Lap, Reckless, Knockarlow, Impulsive, Amarco, Droll Price, Webster, Spritsail,
Reinsman, Stamen, Elect, Chosen Lady and Impeller