Singo wasn’t happy.
That trademark grin was missing. He was gunning for someone. Whoever was responsible for the goodies sitting on the Gold Coast Turf club bar.
A committeeman had decided that scones, bikkies and tea would do just fine for the launch of the new look Magic Millions company. Big mistake.
Singo wanted a beer. The clock had struck midday after all. And he wanted everyone else to have a beer with him.
The dispute was only ever going to end one way. The teapot was removed. The committeeman disappeared, ears ringing. Some icy beverages arrived. And so began the most fun racing enterprise in the land.
It was a highly entertaining press conference. There’d be dozens more laughs over the years, as Singo and buddies Gerry Harvey and Rob Ferguson set about revolutionising the crusty business of selling horses. That era ended when Harvey bought out his partners earlier this year.
On that first day, as the rest of the media chaps departed, Singo asked if I wanted another. I must have looked thirsty. With my work for the day done (yes, times have certainly changed) I decided it couldn’t hurt to get to know a multi-millionaire a little better. My cameraman took our tape back to the station, and I buckled in for a memorable afternoon.
Still seething at the Turf Club’s handling of his big day, we retreated to the Magic Millions office across the road. Perhaps not surprisingly, the fridge was full of cold tins. We took some chairs out of the boardroom, and plonked ourselves onto a small patch of grass outside.
Singo was excited about taking over the sales and race event with his good buddies. He outlined their grand plan. A sale to rival Inglis. A race day worth a fortune to owners and trainers. With a crowd dressed in shorts.
He oozed passion for racing. He re-told the story of chasing glory in France with Strawberry Road. His unique call of the race for 2KY, where he mentioned only one horse. And how he tried to strangle the Pommy jockey who slaughtered Australia’s big hope.
The pile of empties mounted. The early sectionals were deadly. We talked footy. His beloved Newtown. He was impressed when I told him of my dealings with the great Jack Gibson years before. He spoke in awe of mates like Johnny Raper and the late Peter Gallagher.
Staff would peer out through the sliding office doors, wondering who Singo’s latest victim was. We got louder. It was getting dark. I was under the whip a long way from home. It was a match race between a maiden hack and a Group 1 champion.
His (now ex) wife Julie arrived. Singo was running late. She had his shirt for the official function at the Turf club that night. It was still in the plastic packet from the store. To this day I remember one of Australia’s richest men complaining about the pins sticking into his back, as he got dressed in our now tense courtyard.
Mrs Singleton could see that I’d had enough, and was badly in need of a spell. Not so her husband. He demanded I accompany them across the road. Julie was delighted.
So, under-dressed and over-done, I joined the elite of the racing industry, with my new best mate. For about ten minutes. Until I could make a stumbling dash to a waiting cab.
He’s been the same ever since. A knockabout with a genuine love of the racing game. Up for a beer with anyone who shares his outlook. I missed Magic Millions raceday a few years back because our horse was a false favourite at Ipswich. I rang in advance to apologise. He was quick to point out the difference in our racing operations.
Singo’s involvement with some of the nation’s greatest equine performers is no fluke. He’s an outstanding breeder. I’m talking horses here. Everything is done for a reason. He has a keen sense of racing history. And he loves a champion for the masses.
That’s why I hope he takes the Doncaster at Royal Randwick tomorrow with More Joyous. She’s a true champion. They deserve victory.
Yep, she’ll have to lug some weight. Don’t let it worry you. It won’t worry her. Chris Waller’s good horse Triple Elegance has nothing on his back, but the gelding will need to bring his ‘A’ game. The mare is flying. She’ll be winning.
Don’t be fooled by Singo’s bank balance and trackside jokes. He loves nothing better than claiming our classic races. Even better if the rest of us are on with him. Who knows, he might shout the public bar again. But a warning if you’re close by. Look out for the pins if you’re patting him on the back.