Tommy Woodcock

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Aaron Treve "Tommy" Woodcock (8 October 1905 – 27 April 1985) was the Australian handler of the racehorse Phar Lap.

He was born at Uralgurra, near Kempsey, New South Wales, in 1905. Woodcock served an apprenticeship as a jockey under Barney Quinn, who was based at Randwick, in Sydney. He won several starts, and worked as a jockey until 1927, when he was 22 years old. However, as his size and weight increased he gave up jockeying in favour of riding work and strapping for trainers.

It was in this way that he met Harry Telford and Phar Lap. In 1929, Telford employed Woodcock full-time as Phar Lap's strapper. From then on, Tommy and Phar Lap were virtually inseparable. Before big races, Woodcock would sleep outside Phar Lap's stable, and it was said that Phar Lap refused food from anyone but Tommy.

On 21 January 1931, Tommy Woodcock married Emma Jane Bone at St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Sydney. While the couple would have no children, they cared for a number of children from broken homes while their home was also residence to a number of Woodcock's apprentice jockeys over the years.[1]

Following on from Phar Lap's defeat in the 1931 Melbourne Cup the horse was shipped to America, where he competed in and won the Agua Caliente Handicap. Shortly afterwards, on 5 April 1932, Phar Lap died suddenly. Ever the devoted strapper, Woodcock was with him in his final moments.

Woodcock continued to work with horses until his retirement in 1983. In his later years he achieved fame through training Reckless. In 1977, with Reckless he won the Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane Cups all in the same year and ran second in the Melbourne Cup.

Emma Woodcock passed away in 1983. Tommy Woodcock died at Yarrawonga on 27 April 1985, aged 79, where he was cared for in his last years by his lifelong friends, the Hinchliffe family. His cremated remains were interred at the Springvale Botanical Cemetery in Melbourne.

In 2012 a Wagga Wagga mother and daughter, Louise Clayton and Tegan Ellis, became aware that the tenure on his ashes and memorial plaque had expired on 31 December 2011. Louise and Tegan, along with Margaret Benson, who wrote Tommy Woodcock: The Story of Australia's Most Remarkable Trainer in 1978, collected $465 to pay for Woodcock's ashes to remain in perpetuity in his original resting place.[2]

Woodcock was a Freemason, a member of the Smithfield Lodge No. 414 which meet at the Collingwood Masonic Centre (Victoria).[citation needed]


  • Tommy had a cameo appearance in the film Phar Lap, playing an unnamed trainer. The role of Phar Lap's strapper in the film was played by Tom Burlinson.


  1. ^ Tommy Woodcock - Australian Dictionary of Biography
  2. ^ Brent Zerafa (20 July 2012). "Tommy Woodcock ashes saved at cemetery". Herald Sun. Retrieved 14 August 2012. 

'Tommy Woodcock 1905 - 1985', J. Wositzky, 1986, Greenhouse Publications Pty Ltd, Richmond VIC

' Tommy Woodcock ( The Story of Australia's Most Remarkable Trainer), Margaret Benson, 1978, Shenley Publications, Melbourne VIC

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