IVAN CULLIVER LIKES HIS LIFETSYLE
Story By Keith Hillier
Monday, 23 June 2014: Jockey Ivan Culliver’s name bobs up less often in form guides these days but when it does the odds are short that the race meeting will be in the Latrobe Valley.
Culliver, 48, has a unique way of selecting or getting rides – he only goes to the races to ride horses he likes, for trainers he likes.
Mostly he likes to ride at racecourses in Gippsland and as result as only one ride at Traralgon on Tuesday – Viva La Vida in the Jeremy Fleming Jewellers’ 0-64 Handicap (1100m.).
The 10-year-old gelding is trained by Pat Conroy, a hobby trainer who has less than a handful of horses in his Cranbourne stables.
Culliver has a decades-long association with the trainer and a soft spot for Viva La Vida as he was the longest priced winner Culliver has ridden and Conroy has trained.
He opened at $101 and drifted to $150 in a 1300m handicap on a heavy track at Cranbourne on May 13, 2012 and won for the second time in his 25-start career.
Winners have been sparse for Culliver – only five from his last 50 rides since last October.
He won three races at Sale, one at Bendigo and the other at Warrnambool on April 29.
Culliver’s career was at the crossroads 18 months ago when his pelvis was broken by a kick from a horse in the mounting yard at Traralgon.
He was sidelined for almost three months with options to consider retirement or continue racing in semi-retirement – he chose the latter and has moved on to a satisfying place in his life.
He keeps fit by riding trackwork six days a week. His race rides, basically, come from only three trainers – Robbie Griffiths, Barry Fox and Conroy.
Thoughts or retirement have been moved to the back burner. Culliver says he is fitter, healthier and busier than ever and intends to pass the 50-year age barrier before he again even thinks about retirement.
On Monday he drove from his home at Loch between Cranbourne and Phillip Island to ride in trials at Cranbourne.
His knowledge of the fitness and condition of horses trained by Robbie Griffiths is an important factor in the stable’s success. Culliver says he phones Griffiths about 10 times each day.
Culliver and his wife Debra recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. They have two children – Luke, 24, who is a policeman and Hayley, 22, a nurse.
His race-riding career started 30 years ago when he was apprenticed at 18 years to trainer Eddie Laing.
“I am more than content with my lot in life,” Culliver said. “I planned for retirement a long time ago, so when it comes I will be ready to enjoy it.”
Culliver may have a ride at Geelong on Wednesday and one at Bendigo on Thursday.
“Now, that would be a busy week for me,” he said.