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.