He’s a part-time uni student, part-time warehouse worker, father of three kids and trainer of one of WA’s most exciting two-year-olds.
Stefan Vahala is a jack of all trades, but the riches of The Pinnacles at Ascot later this year will be his main focus when his unbeaten juvenile Aztec Ruler returns from a spell.
The 36-year-old, who also played water polo at a State and national level, juggles training a small team of gallopers with his studies and a job at Statewide Oil Distributors.
“I’m doing a teaching degree but being a bit busier with the horses now, I’m doing that part-time,” Vahala said.
“I’m in the warehouse and doing deliveries at Statewide. I played water polo for a fair while and played for Australia, but didn’t make any Olympics.
“I’m not from a racing family but I grew up with Chris Gangemi (trainer).”
Vahala, who also worked at Neville Parnham’s Ascot stables for many years, will set Aztec Ruler for the Group 2 WA Guineas (1600m) after his two impressive wins at Belmont Park.
The Universal Ruler gelding followed his fast-finishing victory on debut with a three-length romp on Saturday.
“It’s been amazing,” Vahala said. “He’s always worked like a good horse, but obviously you like to see them step up to the plate in races.
“He’ll have four weeks out and then we’ll aim him towards the Guineas.
“When you’ve got a brilliant turn of foot like he does, it can be harder to get a mile, but I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t get it.
“He’ll go to the Belgravia and Fairetha and if he doesn’t run the 1400 out strongly enough, we can always go back to the Placid Ark.”
Prizemoney for the Placid Ark Stakes (1200m) was boosted to $500,000 as part of the revamped Ascot carnival, with the sprint moved forward to November 12.
Aztec Ruler’s impressive start to his career prompted calls from bloodstock agents interested in buying him, but Vahala has fended those off.
“I’ve had a few people ring but he’s not really for sale,” Vahala said.
“A few of the owners from Melbourne have been in the racing game for a while and they don’t want to let a fast one go.”
Vahala, who scored his first win with Pernella Miss in 2014, has six horses in work.
They also include city winner Universal Pleasure, who will trial in the coming weeks, and his recent New Zealand purchase, Tuscan Holiday.