From shorts to safari suits. A Mug Punter’s fashion tips for Magic Millions.

January 9, 2016

Singo refers to the Magic Millions carnival as the Melbourne Cup in shorts.

Great racing. Hectic parties. No top hats or waist coats.

It’s part of the magic. Winning plenty in a relaxed atmosphere. Count me in.

Sadly, not everyone has the fashion sense to make their way into the summer social pages. Fear not, because help is at hand.

Already, you are sniggering. Fashion advice from someone who once owned a safari suit. As a child.

Then there was the multi-coloured jumper Mum made we wear to the Youth Club disco. She was worried I’d be cold. Bless her. At least it matched my dance moves.

My cowboy boots were a big hit as a teenager. Huge heels, to fool the bloke at the bottle shop. A ploy that worked zero times.

Anyway, enough of my own disasters. It means I’m more than qualified to give a helping hand to those of you staring blankly at the wardrobe.

I’ve watched with interest, the photos from the week’s social functions that I wasn’t invited to. And there is a common theme. An image as handy as an ashtray on a motorbike.

Someone has decided that it’s cool for blokes to wear jackets and shorts. Together. You’ll see the photos, where they’re gazing off into the distance, with skinny hairless legs poking out of crisply pressed Joe Blorts.

Someone is taking the piss. It’s straight from the Fashion House of Gilligan’s Island.

Ladies, if you’re taking your man to the races today, set him straight. Jackets belong with pants. You can buy them as a package deal at Lowes.

If you must wear your dress shorts, a nice shirt is all you need. And say hi to Mary Ann for me.

At the other end of the scale, there are blokes out there right now, deciding which pair of footy shorts to wear this afternoon. The Premiership winning pair from the ’98 Gympie grand final, or the Broncos gift set from Christmas.

Boys, leave them in the drawer. No matter how good you think your pins are looking. Apart from turning female stomachs, they are also useless for holding betting tickets.

There has never been a Magic Millions Day under 40 degrees, so the tip is, dress appropriately. Unless you’re presenting a trophy, leave the tie at home. And for the welfare of those of us in the tote line with you, be generous with the deodorant.

That’s the best I can offer. Oh, and sensible shoes. In case you have to walk home. Yep, it’s been done before.

When it’s all said and done, I’m happy to be a fashion failure, if it means I might back a winner. I wonder if that old safari suit still fits? If I polish up the cowboy boots, it just might work..

The beauty of loud voices in the racing game. At least we’re never boring.

May 11, 2013

Imagine being part of an industry that puts people to sleep. Where participants are comfortable in beige. No thanks.

We racing folk, we’re nothing if not vibrant. Everyone has a voice. Usually raised.

It seems everyone has been yelling this week. Major spats in two states.

The Singo and Gai show will be a mini-series one day. Scribes better than me have documented every juicy bit. You don’t need that again today.

What I will say, is that there was passion at every turn. It’s what racing does to us.

Whether it’s at the bar, or in front of the Stewards, nothing is held back. No punches pulled.

In Brisbane, it was Rob Heathcote v Larry Cassidy. My mate the trainer, against the Group One jockey.

I’m still scratching my head over that one. We all know they don’t like each other. So what? Could it not have been sorted out before an official inquiry?

The fact that Brisbane’s leading trainer was fined for speaking his mind on a private blog, puzzles me. If things were that bad, take it to court. If not, move on.

No-one does more to promote the sport in Queensland. He doesn’t mind letting people know what he’s thinking. There should be more of it. It’s easy to stay out of strife, if you don’t open your mouth.

The beauty of these spats, is that we all get over it. Racing types are great at moving on. With or without grudges. We have to. There’s a race about to start any minute.

Listen to the old blokes this arvo at your local. Best of mates, will go toe to toe over the merits of the ride on the topweight.

No thoughts for feelings. Because we have hides like rhinos. Throw your best insult. Then pass the peanuts.

In our game, strong opinions aren’t confined to millionaires. The strength of your argument isn’t measured by the thickness of your wallet.

Don’t get too concerned the next time you hear about a racing blow up. As long as it’s not about cheats ripping us off, then laugh if off. Worse things happen at sea.

And one more thing. If you’re off to the track today, don’t wear beige. It’s just not our colour.

How to buy a horse at the Magic Millions – don’t let them hear your knees knocking.

January 12, 2013

There’s nothing like bidding for the next Black Caviar.

It’s even more exciting when you have next to no money.

It was at the Magic Millions sale many years ago, that I nearly walked away with a superstar. For someone else.

It’s true that cool drinks had been involved. For much of the afternoon. Even so, I had no intention of raising my arm.

Singo, however, had other ideas. He was a part-owner of the sale at the time. And he had a plan. That I knew nothing about.

One of the joys of sharing drinks with the great man is the endless procession of interesting people who come to the table. The shout could include Johnny Raper and Dawn Fraser. Alan Jones might take a seat, opposite Tommy Raudonikis. Another old mate from footy days would be sipping a beer with the vet. Next to a journo who no-one knew.

The longer the day went, the more likely it was that Singo would add another horse to his stable. Often at the suggestion of one of his guests.

But not this one. He’d written the Lot number on his hand. It could still be seen, through smudgings from sauce and XXXX Gold.

That’s where things got crazier than usual. For reasons not fully known, the multi-millionaire decided that I should do the bidding for him.

At first, I thought he was joking. It made no sense. Especially given I had no cents. But he was in the middle of a deep conversation. Possibly about Newtown’s grand final loss or Strawberry Road’s overseas mission. So he needed someone to raise a hand. Apparently mine was the only one left.

I pretended to be cool, as the bids came in tens. Thousands, that is. From memory, my first entry into the auction was at 40-thousand. With a shaking hand, and a voice that resembled Minnie Mouse.

To add to the sheer lunacy of it all, I was bidding against someone at Bart Cumming’s table. Possibly for the Cups King himself. If only he knew.

It was when we reached 100-thousand dollars, that I started to consider what I’d gotten myself into. It seemed Singo was paying absolutely no attention to me. He could leave at any second. And I had all of ten dollars in my pocket.

I started to wonder how the conversation would go at home. ‘Dear, we need to sell the house. I just bought a yearling. Showed Bart how it’s done. The girls are always talking about wanting to go camping. Now they can LIVE in a tent’.

The auctioneer was looking directly at me. He wanted more. Others in the room were no doubt wondering who this badly dressed bloke was making such outrageous bids. My sweat started to drip into Dawn’s beer.

And just then, as I was contemplating making a run for it, never to show my face in racing circles again, Singo put me out of my misery. ‘No more’, he said, quietly but firmly. He’d been listening all along. With that, he went back into his conversation. And I slumped, exhausted, in my chair.

I’m certain no-one less qualified has ever gone so close to sealing such a deal. My inept performance was the source of much mirth later in the evening.

Singo went on to buy many more horses. Some superstars, some not. After that night, I’m pretty sure he did the bidding for all of them himself.

If you end up in the sales ring tonight, after Heza Jetsetter storms home to win the million dollar race for 3 year olds, remember the following tips, from someone who’s been at the coal face.

Speak loudly and clearly. Raise your hand high. Don’t be put off by those bidding against you. And if possible, have Singo’s wallet in your pocket.

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.

Step aside for some famous faces. The rules on how to deal with big names at the track.

January 21, 2012

They put down their race books, and parted as if Royalty had arrived.

And she had. Racing Royalty. Gai had joined us.

No second name required. Like Madonna. Except the famous trainer is ageing better.

She’d just finished one-two in the Gold Coast Magic Millions. Lost the protest, and won the protest.

Dressed like the stage star she once was, Gai swept into the room, and we all stopped talking.

She has this ability to silence a crowd. With those quick steps, and a golden smile.

My mate, a giant of a man who was fearless on the footy field, was giggling like a schoolgirl. He may have even brushed his hair.

“I just had my photo taken with Gai!”, he announced breathlessly. Best win of the day.

It takes plenty to make punters look up from their form guides. A bunch not easily impressed. Only the special need apply.

Singo fits the bill. They actually follow him around. Everyone wants a chat. He usually obliges.

It’s what happens when you are known for shouting a racecourse. Thirsty racegoers have long memories.

We see plenty of sporting stars at the track. And not just the youngsters.

I’ve mentioned before how Richie Benaud had the members cheering a few years ago. Everyone wanted to shake the great man’s hand.

Leigh Matthews is another. With the AFL legend, they tend to admire from a distance. You hear the whispers before you see him. He doesn’t seem to mind.

I remember finding Gus Gould at Wyong races years ago. When he was club coaching, not commentating. Shorts and thongs. Pie and a beer. A happier man you would never have seen.

A mate of mine invited former Manly league hard man Terry Randall to a big Gold Coast race day a while back. For those too young, or following the wrong sporting code, let’s just say he was one of the game’s true tough guys.

But not this day. The bloke they called Igor had a kind word for everyone. I mean, EVERYONE. They were lined up at our table all day. No one missed out on a chat.

He shared a cool drink with them too. Memorable for the fact that each of those beers looked like thimbles in his giant paw.

Not everyone is so humble. I had the pleasure of visiting Hollywood Park last year. Only so the girls could go star-spotting without me grumbling in the back seat.

I talked my way into the club’s ‘special’ area, after explaining that I was a part-owner of a famous Australian horse named Beartracker.

Using my best Bazza Mackenzie accent, I explained to the gateman that this superstar stayer that would soon start favourite in the time-honoured Melbourne Cup. Still can’t believe that worked.

Anyway, sitting a few rows up from me was Mel Brooks. Sadly, the famous comedian was in no mood for laughs. In fact, the Blazing Saddles genius may have been having the worst day ever experienced at a punting venue.

He ended up with a face like thunder. No chatting. No beers. Don’t you dare take a photo.

A few months later, I discovered that you don’t have to be a famous actor or a football star to be mobbed at the races. Far from it. Actually, you can be a trainer from the Queensland bush, in a big hat.

It helps if you’re in charge of the world’s best sprinter. And you don’t mind saying g’day to a few thousand people.

That’s what Peter Moody did at Doomben, the day Black Caviar blew us all away. He stood there for what seemed like an hour, meeting all those fans. More Charleville than Caulfield.

Fawned over like a rock star. And the sentimental bushie loved every minute of it.

The scenes that day will take some topping. Unless the great mare returns this year. Remind me to invite Mel Brooks if she does. He might finally get to back a winner.

Million dollar baby. The trouble with famous parents and tight genes.

August 20, 2011

The midwives would have been lining up for autographs. Mum was a freak. Dad one of the best ever.

Baby was a bouncing 52 kilos. Heavier than some of the jockeys who’ll end up riding him.

Can you imagine how jealous the other youngsters at trackwork will be, when he lets on who his parents are?

They booked the Royal suite the night Lonhro put his best moves on Makybe Diva. What a match up.

They were two of the very best. Champions. And big shoes for junior to fill.

A confession here. I’m no breeding expert. I’ll back the progeny of my favourite sires, but that’s about it. I can tell you more about Mister Ed than Seattle Slew. Actually, Mister Ed could tell you himself. How did he do that?

Anyway, back to the Golden One. This is something special. A match the gurus are salivating over.

I enjoy it when dreamers fork out a million for a young horse at the sales. You have to admire their courage, and the thickness of their wallet.

It’s the ultimate gamble. No guarantees in this business. The size of the prize tag doesn’t mean you have yourself a winner.

So much can go wrong. Sometimes they don’t even make it to the track. Imagine trying to explain that to the missus.

John Singleton is one of the great breeding dreamers. Every match is carefully thought out.

He once showed me a strapping youngster at the Gold Coast sales. Bred from his beloved mare Sally Magic.

She’d run second in the 1999 Magic Millions two-year old classic. Beaten by the hulking Testa Rossa. Singo hates running second.

He decided the best way to win his own race, was to play matchmaker. With the placegetters. So Testa and Sally became more than good friends.

In Singo speak, this compared to getting Ian Thorpe and Giann Mooney together, so they could produce our next Olympic flyer. As convincing as he sounded, I’m pretty sure that never happened.

Anyway, the racing union produced the well performed galloper Publishing. He won a couple. But not the one Singo wanted.

And that’s the problem at the top end of the breeding business. As foolproof as a plan might be, it doesn’t always work.

Cheapies and no-names can still win. Even in our biggest races. Australians love that. We can buy a share with our mates, and dream. All without breaking the bank.

You and I won’t own the Lonhro-Makybe Diva colt. That’s ok. He has a long way to go. And there are plenty of others to go around.

He might be a champion. Or a dud. Time will tell. But can he talk? Now that would be worth a million.

Singo on the warpath, and ready to win a Doncaster.

April 15, 2011

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.