Into his fifteenth year living in Ipoh, the inefficiencies of local government agencies still boggle the mind of Australian Stephen John Cook. Despite regularly being made to jump through hoops and hurdles, the 53-year-old, known to many as the “Laughing Fat Man of Ipoh” has no regrets relocating to the city.

Sharing his story, he said, “When an opportunity arose for me to come to Ipoh to train racehorses, I decided to take that chance. It was in 2000. Not long after that, I established my own stables at the Perak Turf Club, which I named Bluegrass Stable, as an extension to my farm in Durham Ox in Victoria, called Bluegrass Park. It was also like bringing a piece of Australia with me to Ipoh.”

 Stephen John Cook hugs his charge

Stephen John Cook hugs his charge

Now, with seven racehorses to his name and a total of 26 under his care, Cook regards Ipoh as his home, not second home, and intends to retire here one day. He added, “I purchased my condominium unit in 2006 across from the turf club and still live there with my Vietnamese wife and two young sons. For someone involved in the Malaysian horse racing circuit, Ipoh’s central geographical location makes it an ideal base.”

To date, Bluegrass Stable which employ twenty workers, have already produced three winners in Group 1 premier races, namely the Penang Sprint Trophy 2011, Perak Sultan Gold Vase 2011 and Perak Derby 2014. There are only four Group 1 races in a racing calendar, so only the best horses are entered into the competition.

Cook watches as his horses are being exercised

Cook watches as his horses are being exercised

Cook continued, “I love the surrounding countryside, especially the limestone hills, and the fresh air it offers. In general, Ipoh gives a sense of country feel, yet all amenities of large cities are accessible here without the hassle of traffic jams and other problems that populous cities bring on.

“A foreigner I may be, I do not face security concerns living in Ipoh. I find the locals likable and as long as we do not disturb them or make life difficult for them, they would treat us with the same level of respect.

cup-winning stable

cup-winning stable

“Ipoh’s, and in fact Malaysia’s multi-cultural diversity is one of the main attractions for me. The friendly disposition of the majority of Malaysians is very welcoming, and I feel right at home here.

“Another attraction would be the incredible range and taste of food readily available. When I first arrived from Australia, I couldn’t stomach spicy food. These days, I enjoy it and indulge myself now and then in a delicious meal of fish head curry and roti canai, although I eat Chinese most often, especially Bak Kut Teh! It’s only one of my favourites!

“By city standards, the cost of living in Ipoh is incredibly affordable. A dinner for a family of five would only set me back by RM50 to RM60. That’s just about AUD20.”

If only Cook, who also has three daughters and a son studying in Australia, could overcome the frustrations brought on by dealing with government agencies, life would be perfect here in Ipoh.

Note: An edited version of this article [The Prancing COOK] was published on 4th July, 2015, in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.

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