How I can save Qld Racing. Along with Moody, Singo, a radio legend and a sexy model.

April 28, 2012

First off, on behalf of all Queenslanders, let me congratulate the good folk of South Australia.

You won the Black Caviar battle. She’ll be breaking records in your backyard this afternoon, instead of ours.

What an experience to savour. Maybe even your greatest racing moment. Something to tell the kids, and the grandkids. Like we did up here last year.

Yep, they’ll be celebrating into the night down there. The pubs might even allow one last beer after 9pm. Wild times.

So where did we go wrong? Why is the Mighty Mare thrilling the southerners, instead of dazzling Doomben again?

It’s clear that we need a plan, to make sure it doesn’t happen again. To do that, we need the sharpest and most innovative minds in the game.

Sadly, they’re all either asleep or trying to make bail at the time of writing. So the job has been left in my less than capable hands.

And that’s a good thing. Because I have a simple solution, that will only cost a few million.

It’s time we appointed Queensland Racing ambassadors. Some superstars to get us noticed from boardrooms to bush tracks. And I have just the cattle.

Ambassador #1 .. Peter Moody.

Yes, the bloke who’s in Adelaide today. If Australian Racing had a Board of Directors, Moods would be my chairman.

They don’t, so we can pinch him.

Moody is constantly promoting the industry. Taking the best mare ever all over the nation, so everyone can experience racing at its finest.

He wants to attract people back to the races. And knows the best way to it. Show them a superstar.

It doesn’t hurt that he’s a Charleville boy. Proud Queenslander. And he’d come cheap. Give him free XXXX Gold at every pub in Brisbane, and he’d never go home.

Ambassador #2 .. John Singleton.

My mate Singo is another who can’t help but promote racing. It’s his passion. And he cares more for the bloke in shorts at the bar than anyone in the Members.

He might be a Blue, but he’s at war with NSW Racing officials. Perfect time to make him an honourary Queenslander.

Whack on a big money race for More Joyous at Eagle Farm, and he’d be ours. Believe me, having Singo in our corner would be a huge asset.

Ambassador #3 .. Alan Jones.

As much as I love the boys on 4TAB, we need some added punch down south. Selling our story, to get the horses, jockeys and fans spending their cash north of the border.

Alan is our man. Another Queenslander, living in enemy territory. It’s now law in Sydney to listen to his breakfast show. He’ll spread the message far and wide.

The radio legend gets back to his home state whenever he can. Let’s make it official.

Ambassador #4 .. Miranda Kerr.

The world’s most famous model went to school in Brisbane. With some creative story-telling, we’ll tell her fans overseas that she was a trackwork rider for Rob Heathcote in her early days. I’m pretty sure she weights less than Chris Munce.

The international interest would be enormous, if we could have Miranda and her Hollywood boyfriend in a photo shoot inside the new Eagle Farm enclosure.

She has other friends too, that she could invite to the Winter Carnival. Make no mistake, there can never be enough Supermodels at the racetrack.

So there we have it. A foolproof plan, to put the national and international spotlight on Queensland racing. The four of them will be our version of The Avengers.

They can have caps with a catchy slogan. “Queensland Racing Ahead”. Get them and their horses/partners/fans on board, and we won’t be able to fit the crowds onto the course.

I’ve done the hard work. The officials can take it from here. Please send my cheque to the Hold All Tickets office. And one of those fancy caps.

Why it’s hard to be romantic at the Drive-In, when you’ve just broken a girl’s finger.

April 24, 2012

There was a time when the Drive-In was the ultimate in cool.

Much better than the local cinema, that required a bus trip. Hard to impress the girls when you’re fumbling for change and sitting in the front row.

The blokes who had wheels were in another league. As youngsters, we heard stories about legends who would spend all Saturday night, parked in front of the big screens. If only half those tales were true, they were going alright.

My first trip to the Drive-In was with Mum and Dad. We took our own sandwiches, and Dad plonked his beer bottle on the glovebox lid. I’m pretty sure it was in winter, and we froze not long after the opening credits.

When I got my licence, it was one of the first missions to embark on. A few of us would park side by side, and imagine we were an Eighties version of the Fonz on four wheels. How wrong we were.

The most memorable trip to the vast viewing ground was with a good mate and girls. In our minds, we had become the legends.

Thommo’s car was in better nick than mine, so we took it instead of the Kingswood. That also allowed me to take the back seat.

Things were going well, until we decided to go and get food. The typical fare of the time, dripping in oil and batter.

I was obviously excited about this teenage feast, because I lost concentration for just a second. What a mistake that would be.

In my haste, I slammed that back door shut. Firmly, and with great effort, onto the hand of my girlfriend.

One finger in particular bore the brunt. The sound of bone crunching and female expletives quickly drowned out the audio coming from our ancient speaker.

Being the sensitive guys we were, we offered sympathies. And then asked what their order was again.

This wasn’t what she wanted to hear. Thommo’s friend was equally unimpressed. The night pretty well ended there. Romance and busted blue fingers don’t go hand in hand.

I thought of those fun times, when we visited a Drive-In a few weeks back. Yes, they still exist. It was part of our school holiday adventure.

What struck me was the change in audience. It now seems to be a family venue. With utes, and trucks, and four-wheel drives.

Kids in pyjamas are set up in the back, with their blankets and pillows. Mums and Dads are perched in camp chairs. It’s like a camping trip on asphalt. No cool leather jackets in sight.

Those goofy speakers are still there, but they’re not needed. The audio comes through your car radio. Mighty impressive.

Along with their cousin Super Shaun, the girls munched on that greasy tucker, just like I did all those years ago.

They thought it was fun. Something different. Next time, we might go in our PJs too. And they know the golden rule. Take great care in the opening and closing of doors.

Track too wet. Race too short. He finished second last. So why are the owners still smiling?

April 21, 2012

Do a headcount at a city meeting midweek. Any week. If you’ve counted above three figures, you’re obviously including trainers and jockeys.

This week, it didn’t matter. Our horse was running. Finally, his first start.

Want to meet an optimist? Let me introduce you to a racehorse owner. We’re a special breed. We only think positives. Tell us we can’t win, and we’ll cover our ears.

It’s taken forever to get our bloke to this stage. He’s a giant of a thing. We had to be patient, and let him develop. He got bigger, as our wallets got smaller. Growing in the paddock. Day after day. But we’re a happy bunch.

He had colic as a youngster. Nearly died. They told us his recovery was ‘remarkable’. And some other medical stuff. But that’s the word we remembered.

After what seemed like an eternity, he made it into Rob Heathcote’s stable. Queensland’s top trainer liked him. ‘Could be anything’, he said. And some other training stuff. But they’re the words we remembered.

The strappers raved about him. Trackwork riders gave glowing reports. ‘Does it easy’, they’d say. And some other jockey stuff. But that’s the phrase we remembered.

Then he got shin sore. Off to the paddock. I felt his pain. He returned, and gradually got back into work. The wraps continued. Then he went shin sore again. I couldn’t walk for a week.

Good owners ooze patience. We have to. We look forward, and dream, and ignore negatives. We live for any signs of hope.

He came back into work again. We told each other the time away was actually a good thing. Just what he needed. Fully grown now, and no damage done. Positives.

And so here we were, on a Wednesday at Eagle Farm, men and women, chattering away like schoolkids getting ready for camp.

Like so many others, we’re part of a syndicate. People from all walks of life, joined by a love of the game. Some, we met for the first time. Just like that, we’re brothers and sisters.

He was led out by the strapper, and looked amazing. Bigger than the rest. Majestic. Our pre-race talk was all professional, but deep down, we just wanted to hug him.

Damian Browne came out with our colours on. I wanted to hug him too. One of Australia’s best, a Group One winner, riding our horse. What a thrill.

The trainer gathered us around. We felt important. Rob told us his plan for the race. A gentle jibe at his mate, the jockey. We laughed on cue. Nervously.

There was a warning about how hard it is for a horse to win on debut. Especially on a wet track. But he’d shown plenty on the training track, this bloke. That was enough for us. Bets on please.

We took our seats in the stand. Owners from other syndicates were all around. Only one of us could win, but everyone had that feeling. Positive. Optimistic. THIS will be our day.

The race was a blur. Over in a flash. We jumped awkwardly. Floundered in the going. Bloody wet track. Our giant lad was never a hope. He needs more distance. Just as we thought.

We listened to Damian and Rob post-race. Don’t despair, they said. Doesn’t handle the wet. And then, what we’d been hanging out for. “He needs it dry. He’ll be so much better for the run”. And some other soothing stuff. But that’s the message we remembered.

There’s no feeling like it. Whether it’s Race 4 on a Wednesday, or the Doncaster at Randwick, owners feel the same. Positive, and full of hope. That’s how we are.

They’ve promised we’ll have a dry track in a few weeks. And a bit more distance. Our plan is coming together beautifully. We’re owners, and we’re optimists. And there’s always next time.

Dads heading in the Wrong Direction. Trust me girls, there’ll be another boy band around the corner.

April 17, 2012

From Gladstone to Grafton and all i-pod docks in between, there is scented fury in the air.

The concert to end all concerts is coming to Brisbane. And no-one can get a ticket.

If you have a daughter, of any age, you would know this. The females are going wild about One Direction.

For the lucky few who’ve escaped the frenzy, possibly by being in a coma, let me explain. They’re a British band. Five ridiculously good-looking boys. With big smiles, and giant mops of hair, and voices like angels.

The lads are setting fashion trends. I saw one the other night wearing a powder blue suit coat. A sterilized version of Sir Les Paterson. Another had braces. On his pants, not his teeth. And no-one seemed to mind.

Their Australian concerts so far have been noisy, high-pitched affairs. The fans, and the boys. The madness will continue here tomorrow night.

Tickets sold out before the windows opened. Mostly, it seems, to FM radio stations. There are giveaways every few seconds. I know this, because all our radios have been switched to strange frequencies.

There’s a catch, of course. Those deep-voiced guys behind the microphone will only give the cherished prizes to older people, who are willing to make giant fools of themselves.

Sing your favourite One Direction song. Get a tattoo of your favourite band member. Impersonate a screaming schoolgirl. Want front row tickets? Try all of the above.

Of course, the youngsters think they’re the first to go nuts over some pimply boys. If only they knew.

Find a groovy grandma, and there’s every chance she was throwing her sensible underwear at the Beatles a few decades ago.

Years later, female schoolmates were going crazy over some of Australian music’s finest.

An old flame had a huge crush on Shirley from Skyhooks. She would fight to get to the front of the stage, and hurl suggestions at him that still make me blush.

A few others in the gang were Sherbert tragics. They would actually cry when Daryl Braithwaite and the other band members appeared on Countdown. The rest of us had no chance.

But they always managed to snare a concert ticket. Without making their parents become performing mules.

I only have a few hours left. Wish me luck. Or better still, send me two tickets. It will save me getting that stupid tattoo of some kid named Harry.

Stepping out of the giant shadow of Black Caviar. Get ready for a two horse war.

April 14, 2012

There’s no tougher gig in the sporting arena than living up to the family name.

Dawn Fraser’s daughter would have needed fins at birth to match her famous mum.

Bob Fulton’s sons were all handy first graders. But better than one of league’s Immortals? No chance.

The Ablett boys have made a fair fist of it. I’m no expert in their game, but I hear people say Gary Jnr goes close. And doesn’t seem to get into as much strife as Dad.

In the racing game, perfect families are few and far between. For a start, some of our greatest males are left, shall we say, less than manly. Makes it a little difficult to keep the bloodline going.

There’s no guarantee either, for those in the breeding barn still firing live ammo. Champion sons and daughters are rare.

One of the great father/son combinations was Octagonal and his boy Lonhro. Both champions. Trained by the Hawkes family.

They know something winning the big ones, this lot. So who better to be handling Black Caviar’s half-brother?

All Too Hard might just be a superstar. We’ll know more later today, when he goes around as the short-priced favourite in the Sires.

When someone like John Hawkes gets excited, you take notice. He’s been around the block a few times. The bloke would play down a Lotto win as just a nice pick up.

Make no mistake, behind closed doors, he’s doing the old trainer’s version of cartwheels about this youngster.

They’ve been cautious with him. Even side-stepped the millions on offer in the Slipper. How tough would have that been?

It’s all about the horse. That’s how they are. Looking ahead. There is huge money to be made, if he keeps winning, and remains intact.

It sets up a dream encounter this afternoon. All Too Hard v Pierro. Gai’s Slipper winner from last weekend. Tough as old boots. Racing on the pace, with a genius in the saddle.

If we’re lucky, we might get a once-in-a-generation finish. Those clashes that feature in showreels, and trivia nights.

Think back to Bonecrusher, ever so slowly grinding Our Waverley Star into the Mooney Valley turf, in that soul-stirring Cox Plate of 1986.

Get the kids to log you onto YouTube, and dig out the 2002 Yalumba Stakes. You’ll remember it when you see it. Sunline flying up front, only to be reeled in by Lonhro in the shadows of the post. A ride for the ages from a fellow called Beadman. And a call from Greg Miles that still prompts tingles.

We love a two-horse war. And we just might get another one. Don’t stress too much about the result. Just enjoy two young stars, showing us what’s great about the racing game. They’ll both do the family name proud.

Farting frogs, fake boobs and the perfect use for thongs. All in a day at the beach.

April 10, 2012

He didn’t look like the sort of person to make a life-long impression.

Older without being old. At the beach on his own. He had the appearance of a man who’d grazed in a decent paddock for some time.

He was wearing a terry-towelling hat, similar to the one Dad owned. And those tight, colourful bathers, popular at the time.

We were plonked just a few towels away. Pimply teenagers with ocean-bleached hair and cancerous tans. Back in the days when summer was spent in the surf, or on the sand.

He was paying no attention to us, and we wouldn’t have known he existed. Until that fateful, ear-splitting second.

Our coastline companion let one rip. Right there on the beach. A fart so loud it surely registered on a nearby Richter scale.

We all heard it. After quickly establishing that the guilty party wasn’t among us, we scanned the surrounding crowd. And found our man.

He sat, grinning. No attempt to hide it. And then a line that has stayed with me forever.

“I believe I trod on a frog”.

With that, four immature teenagers collapsed into fits of uncontrolled laughter. Tears ran down our cheeks. The cackling continued for an age.

All the while, our flatulent friend sat with a smile. He thought it was a hoot. Thankfully, he didn’t work up an encore.

It’s funny what you see at the beach. And what your hear. A smorgasbord for the senses.

Ever since, I’ve been acutely aware of what those are doing around me. No-one has come close to Farting Fred. But there are still sights and sounds to delight.

The girls and I spent Easter Sunday enjoying a rare Autumn dip. Along with a great many others. Such a lucky country.

Not so lucky, those international tourists who arrive for their day at the beach wearing Warwick Capper’s shorts. Usually in black or navy blue.

Someone is doing a roaring trade in Korea, selling these fashion atrocities. Where are the boys from Billabong when you need them?

What makes such attire worse, is when the offender strides onto the sand singing. Like the two happy blokes who wandered past us on the way to a swim outside the flags.

Loudly, too. They were obviously so excited about the bargain they scored on their new Korean short-shorts, that they just had to burst into tune. I didn’t recognise it, but it obviously made them happy.

So too, the young Aussie bloke who’d been buried in the sand by his mates. Up to his neck. They’d given him slender legs, and a most impressive set of breasts. Almost lifelike in fact. His girlfriend seemed less than impressed.

On our walk up the beach, we encountered two games of cricket. My favourite was the group using two upright thongs as stumps at the bowler’s end. Genius. You wouldn’t see that anywhere else in the world.

There are the non-swimmers, who stand on the edge, gazing at the waves. And the Whiteskins, who turn a bright orange before they get out of the car.

I particularly like the kids who run towards the ocean, dragging their boogie board, while kicking sand over anyone within fifty metres.

Their cousins would be the ones who gallop through the shallows, spraying icy cold water over those of us gently dipping a toe in.

But my favourites are the first timers. Tourists, and bushies, and the very young, making their beach debut.

It’s something special, to see that smile, and hear that excited scream, when the first wave crashes into them. Pure delight.

Next time you’re at the beach, keep an eye out for all of the above. Join in the fun. Make your own list. And listen out for any stray frogs.

I’m raising a glass to Gai. Her winning Slipper performance, before they even jump.

April 7, 2012

Imagine three members of the same family lining up at the Olympics, to contest the final of the 100 metres dash.

Picture four brothers wearing the green and gold for Australia in a Davis Cup battle.

How hard would the applause be poolside, if you saw half the field in the classic 1500 metres final bearing the same surname?

Impossible, right? Unless your name happens to be Waterhouse.

Check the form guide today, and run your eyes over the Golden Slipper field. The world’s richest race for two-year olds. A highlight of the Australian turf.

It’s no mis-print. You’ll see Gai Waterhouse mentioned five times. Five runners, in a field of sixteen flying juveniles.

It’s a phenomenal training performance. And four of them are genuine chances.

Unbelievably, it’s not the first time. She pulled the same trick in 2001. The year she produced the trifecta, with Ha Ha having the last laugh.

Anyone who’s ever raced a horse knows what an incredible training feat this is. It verges on the ridiculous.

Most of us battle just to get one to the track. I have friends who’ve won big races. And others who haven’t. Lots of them.

We have a three-year old, who is still to hear the thrill of a race day crowd. He’s had enough health problems to make the local vet seriously wealthy.

Don’t feel sorry for us. He’ll be winning next year’s Cox Plate. Get your bets on now. But my point here, and I do have one, is that it’s so bloody hard just to get them to the races.

It makes Gai’s effort so much more amazing. The niggles and varied dramas that strike young horses, all over the land. And the First Lady of racing manages to get five of them ready for Sydney’s biggest day.

Sometimes I wonder whether she gets the credit she deserves. Such an easy target. Her own blood lines, and that theatrical bent. All these years on, all those Group Ones, and a few clowns still manage to find fault with her. Behind her back, of course.

I’ve written about the grand dame before on these pages. I barely know her, and she wouldn’t have a clue who I am.

I interviewed her at Magic Millions many years ago. On the run. She was happy to talk. Just not standing still. Too much to do, you see.

There we were, chatting away into the camera, at a pace that would have done one of her stayers proud. Her giving me detailed answers, and me wondering how her hat wasn’t falling off.

I’m like all punters who’ve won a quid from her over the years. By backing horses that are the fittest they can be. With the best jockeys on top.

She knows how important owners are, and treats them like friends. Not fools. A walking promotion for our great sport, even if it’s at a quicker clip than everyone around her.

So today, this wonderful trainer will have the job of cheering all five in running.

And here’s a tip. As impartial as she is, I reckon she’ll be watching out for one in particular. The strapping colt with the number one saddlecloth, Pierro.

Such a typical Gai horse. Trained to the minute. Set for this six months ago. With Australia’s top hoop doing the steering.

I’ll take the Gai factor over Blue Diamond form every time. Today will be her day, again. Actually, it already is. Applaud her this afternoon, regardless of the result. We might never see such dominance again.

How many people remember your first name? The sad trend where none of us really know anyone.

April 3, 2012

There is no excuse not to wash your own car. None. How hard can it be?

Grab a bucket, some water, soapy stuff and a sponge. Apply all liberally. Bask in the glory of a job well done.

That’s what I would do, if I could muster the energy. Instead of forking over precious folding stuff to someone else.

Yes, I know. It’s incredibly lazy. Such a waste of money. I get it.

In my defence, the place I visit does a fine job. Quick too. And no annoying smudges.

It must be said, I don’t go there often. It’s quite a job to cut through the layers of dust and grime when I do.

But on these rare visits, the friendly bloke who seems to be in charge always remembers my name. Every time.

He even gives me a title. Mr David. He’s Indian, and as well as being a tip-top washer, he never forgets.

That’s in contrast to his client. Because I don’t know his.

He would deal with maybe thirty car owners a day. My money is on him calling every one of us by our first name. With a Mr or Mrs thrown in for good measure.

I have one person involved in a function that makes my car look nice. No-one else to confuse the issue. He even wears a badge. For the life of me, I can’t recall his handle.

There was a time when everyone knew your first name, and you theirs. The butcher, and the barber. Certainly the publican. In my case, the local copper.

Do you know your butcher’s name today? And Coles doesn’t count. Do you know anyone’s name at your favourite watering hole? I doubt it.

Write me a list of the names of all your neighbours. Next door, across the road, and over the back.

Forty years ago, Mum would have known all of them. And their kids. And their pets. Your parents would have too.

My list is almost bare. Only the neighbours to my right. I don’t know the others, and they don’t know me. We get by with the odd nod and a wave.

Life is busier. We all work long hours. People have so much on their plate. All the usual excuses.

Somewhere along the line, we lost contact. It didn’t seem so bad, because everyone else was doing it too.

In our streets, and in business. At some stage, we all slipped into accepting anonymity.

Well, enough of that. It’s time for changes. Everyone needs to fill their list. Put some names to faces. Even if it’s across the back fence.

I’m going to find some mud to drive through, so I can return to the car wash. I’ll find out his name soon enough. I might even put a Mr in front of it.