A right Royal celebration. How I helped the Queen party after Royal Ascot.

June 22, 2013

My phone rang seconds after they crossed the line.

I knew who it would be. The Royal Britannia call alert confirmed it. Her Majesty just can’t help Herself.

“Did you see, did you see?”, the Queen asked, going close to losing that dignified tone we know so well.

Indeed I did Ma’am. I had watched her flying filly Estimate cross the line to win the Gold Cup.

The cameras told it all. High in the Royal box, they captured the smile of a successful owner. It doesn’t matter who you are, that thrill of victory is impossible to hide.

Those around the Queen forgot about protocol. There was jumping, and yelling. Like any winning camp.

I reminded Her Majesty she was supposed to present the cup. Was there a Plan B?  Of course there was. One of the children was down there somewhere. There was no way she was missing out on this. The first Monarch to win her own race.

Mid-sentence, the call ended. That happens often between us. More than likely a security issue. Some bloke from MI5 cutting the line to Brisbane yet again.

You might not be aware, but the Queen loves racing in Australia. And I happen to be her main contact. There are frequent calls and texts.

When Beartracker won at Eagle Farm a few years back, the Royal congratulations were swift. ‘We are happy for you. Wish we’d taken the 10s last night.’

The messages weren’t so positive during Pintuck’s well-publicised battle with wet tracks last year. Apparently Prince Charles had taken a liking to the giant gelding, and was losing plenty of the Royal inheritance. ‘We are not amused. Find a dry track or you might be visiting the Tower. Permanently.’

Try telling that to the trainer. Rob Heathcote just shook his head, and made mention of the evils of rum.

As I pondered that strange conversation, the phone rang again. The presentation was finished, and Her Majesty wanted a chat. It’s what winning owners do.

I asked if she was going to have a tipple in the committee room? “One would love to, but these pesky cameras are still following me. It will have to be a cup of tea. Tell me, what did you do after the Bear’s great victory at headquarters?”

“Well Ma’am, funny you ask. They were serving the beer in seven-ounce glasses. So we had seven. Then they told us we had to go, because race two was about to start.”

“So you won the first race? One can imagine how that day ended up.”

As usual in such conversations, I played down our shenanigans. It’s not the done thing to let the Queen know you were singing The Gambler as they were coming back to scale after the last.

“Your Majesty, make sure you enjoy the moment. Soak it in. Remember us after Pintuck’s one and only win. We thought there would be plenty more. Now he’s a prancing showjumper. And we haven’t been back in the committee room.”

Security were obviously worried, because the line went dead once more. It was time for bed. I was happy for a fellow owner.

It showed that racing is not about the money. Last time I looked, the Queen wasn’t short of a quid. But nothing could buy the excitement of that victory.

The joy of racehorse ownership, on show for all to see. If only Her Majesty had been allowed to break into a bit of Kenny Rogers at the end of the day. I’ll explain it to her on our next call.


An empty glass on raceday. Could this be the secret to successful punting?

June 15, 2013

In times gone by, it’s fair to say I’ve enjoyed a cool drink on a warm day. Sometimes, even on a cooler afternoon.

Those who’ve been following closely will know a medical hiccup has slowed me down in that regard of late. The big dry continues.

Several of my favourite activities would usually be carried out with an icy cold one. Or two.

There is no way a BBQ can be cooked without a beer. I believe it’s actually law. Here in Queensland anyway. Those in other states should make their own checks.

A day on the punt is no different. It’s what we do. At the track, brews will be had. The girls will find a decent chilled bottle. A win late in the day will send us to the top shelf.

At home, there are few finer things to do on a Saturday arvo than to raid the grog fridge while watching them run around. Break out the Smith chips and gherkin dip and you have the dictionary definition of Relax.

But professionals in the ranks will tell you there’s a downside to all this. That such consumption can lead to impaired judgement. And empty pockets.

It’s a theory I’ve always dismissed. Usually loudly. After the third shout.

Now, I’m not so sure. The last few weeks have shown me a very different way to approach the art of finding a winner.

I’ve been punting while sipping water. At one stage, there was even a cup of tea involved. Like one of those cardigan-wearing gents who arrives at the track at 8am to get the best table.

On each day, I’ve won late. Last race winners. Even a few trifectas. And not a hard luck story to have the most basic whinge about.

Can it be a co-incidence? For the first time since the great Bart was a silver-haired boy, I have cash at the end of the day.

I’m not missing races I have good things in. No ridiculous late changes from texting tipsters with less idea than me.

Because I’m stuck on the lounge, the winnings are staying in my account. Not being splashed over the bar somewhere. Or re-invested on the 1 dog later in the night.

Of course, it could all come crashing down today. In a perverse sort of way, I hope it does. I need an excuse to get back to normal in the weeks ahead. There’s a beer in the fridge with my name on it. I’m counting the days. Winning just isn’t as much fun, when you’re celebrating with Bushells.


A big thanks, to those who helped me kick cancer’s butt.

June 11, 2013

My surgeon, The Genius, said it like we’d won the pub meat raffle.

“The tests are back, and we’re sure we’ve got it all.” His voice was pleased, but measured. The tray of t-bones thanks.

I was in my hospital bed, enjoying the lingering effects of the morphine. Minus a cancerous prostate.

What do you say to someone who may have just saved your life? It is a moment in time. Surely worthy of a man’s greatest speech.

Or not. I came up with two slurred words. “Thanks Doc”.

He didn’t seem to mind. Everything had gone perfectly. Text-book surgery, he called it. Just what a patient wants to hear.

It’s hard to describe the relief. Fears and doubts, extinguished in a single sentence. Light overcomes dark. Success, I have no doubt, from all those positive vibes.

Later, as The Genius was off saving someone else, I reflected on the love that has been directed my way. Strange in a way, that it took cancer to make me fully appreciate that.

In the days before surgery, I received messages from such a varied bunch. Family and friends. Media colleagues from today, and decades ago. Old school buddies. Footy mates. Racing folk. And you, dear readers of this blog.

A few went above and beyond. The precious gift of passing on strength I didn’t possess. Support and reassurance from the heart. It let me enter that operating theatre, as positive as I had been in the months before. I’ll never forget that.

After a few days of being looked after by a wonderful medical team, I left hospital. With a catheter attached to me. This is a device inserted where things should never be inserted.

It must have originated as a military weapon of torture. How it came to be part of the medical world I have no idea. But it did the job. It came out after a week, and I would have gladly given the nurse responsible a new car for her gentle efforts.

Now, I’m resting up. And yes, there are challenges ahead. A blood test in a few weeks will tell me whether the cancer has spread. The Genius is confident that won’t be the case. So am I. In fact, I’ve called the result of this race before they hit the post.

To everyone, thank you. I asked for help to kick cancer’s butt, and you gave it to me.

Others are still in the fight. I think of them daily. Some are not so fortunate. A great mate lost his mum, just days after I was released from hospital. So unfair.

The mission now is to help others. If you’re a bloke over 40, get your prostate checked. Yes, 40. If you’re the partner of a bloke over 40, make him get his prostate checked. And don’t take no for an answer.

Life is a raffle. I’m confident I’ve won this time. If your turn comes, I want the same result for you.