By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
GOOD friend Jim Jarvis best summed up the contribution Kel Conell had made to racing during yesterday's memorial service in his honour.
"They say that racing is the sport of kings," he started.
"To me 'Snow' is a king of the sport."
A lifetime in the game as a highly respected jockey and trainer meant that there was no shortage of people at Coffs Harbour Racing Club yesterday to pay their respects to a man who owed the sport nothing.
"He was a colourful, happy-go-lucky, knockabout bloke," Jarvis continued.
"But when it came to his horses he was a complete professional, a perfectionist."
'Snow' Connell suddenly passed away a week and a half ago aged 69 and such was the high esteem that he was held in, many are still unable to come to terms that they can no longer pop into the Connell stables at Princesimo Lodge and say hello and always receive a warm welcome.
One man struggling to hide his emotions through the service was top jockey Glen Colless who thought of Connell as a second father having spent many years of his apprenticeship under Snow's watchful eye.
Colless though still had no trouble making the 300 people gathered laugh at the many humourous memories that he will always hold.
Many wore a look of disbelief when the gun hoop let out of the bag that his boss one day actually took a horse to the base hospital and had it x-rayed in the car park.
Snow's lifetime partner Val even admitted that thanks to Connell she's always wary of the squash that is served in the members bar at the course.
On a race day she'd be saddling up the horses while Connell was talking to the owners only to return to the stable a little worse for wear.
His explanation of having only a 'couple of squashes' usually was dismissed quickly the moment the master trainer would make a mess of adjusting a saddle.
The owners of Connell trained horses that were present yesterday ignored the stifling conditions to almost line-up to tell of their admiration of the ability of the man to prepare their horses.
Lines like 'the best conditioner of horses I've ever seen' and 'jockeys were always keen to ride one of his horses' were among the many superlatives used by a group who genuinely felt 'better people for having met him'.
Coffs Harbour racing is a lot poorer for the loss of Connell as well as fellow trainer Mal Gerrard just over a year ago.
What is comforting is the thought that the great friends of many years have been reunited and the pair of larrikins are once again up to their old tricks and remembering the many great days that they've shared in the game.