Dangers faced by jockeys

by John Cochrane

ASIDE from recognising the achievements of those in the racing game, last Sunday's NRRA awards presentation at Coffs race club also served as a reminder of the great dangers faced by jockeys.

Along with outgoing chairman Stan Hayes, retired jockeys Don Terry, Peter Stanley, Gary Kliese and Coffs' Stuart Craig were awarded life memberships of the Association.

Don Terry, now wheelchair bound and Stanley have had a crack at training, Kliese is busy around the traps broadcasting for 2KY and Stuart Craig is actively involved with racing here at Coffs after a nasty trackwork fall also ended his riding career when it was in full bloom.

A runaway youngster pitched him into a brick wall.

As a relatively late starter at 17, Stuart began his apprenticeship with Sydney trainer Vic Thompson before transferring to Noel Nelson at Coffs where he quickly saw success and claimed an apprentices' premiership.

As a senior rider, Stuart won the NRRA title twice during a career in which he won races throughout the region including a couple of James Kirby's at Grafton, a South Grafton Cup, a swag of minor Cup races and a Coffs Harbour Cup on Play David.

Among the best horses Stuart rode was Lightning Bend.

After his fall in 1989 he was in a coma for many weeks and as he recovered in hospital, Lighting Bend claimed Group 1 glory in Melbourne's William Reid Stakes with winning jockey Wayne Harris calling Stuart to thank him for the ride.

The two are still mates.

Today Stuart is a popular and respected figure in local racing.

Seventeen years down the track , the injuries from his fall still give him a little bother but you never see him without a grin on his face and that grin was never bigger than at last Sunday's presentation.

As Stuart stepped up to receive his award to loud applause, Max Burt leaned over the table and made a comment I've heard many times when Stuart's name has come up, 'Geez , that fella could ride !'.

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TODAY Coffs trainer Trevor Hardy is heading north to Doomben for the sixth with temperamental gelding Fleet Baron which is resuming from a lengthy spell.

While Fleet Baron was a little disappointing last campaign, he was never far from the money and raced in some strong company.

There is no doubt that the horse has ability and he also has form both first up and in rain-affected going.

Fleet Baron is drawn nicely in gate five for this afternoon's race, has Scott Galloway aboard with only 53kg's to carry and will be suited by the 1000m of the sprint, so if the 10/1 being quoted this morning is still on offer at 4pm this afternoon he might be worth a little each-way.

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IF Coffs race-caller Damian Seaton ever tires of travelling all over the North Coast, there might be a career in comedy awaiting him.

Following Sunday's NRRA awards function, Damian entertained the audience with some stand-up comedy which included impersonations of racing figures like Ian Craig and Ken Callendar as well as other sports commentators like cricketer Richie Benaud and his team.

Damian's various voices were as good impersonations as you're likely to hear and had the crowd in stitches.

Perhaps there's a career as an after-dinner speaker in the wind, but next time you do Kenny Callendar, Damian , be sure to include his most famous spray, 'It's Sunshine Sally at sixty-six to one'.

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HORSE of the year, Famous Dane, is already back in light work.

In fact he didn't really have a spell after his last rigorous campaign at all.

Famous Dane doesn't do well in the spelling paddock and misses the company of the working stable so trainer Phillip Minter is already working on his next campaign.

Only having been lightly raced as a youngster, Famous Dane's best could be still ahead of him and there are some nice staying races on offer in town during the festive season if the horse which spends much of his time on the float is forward enough by then.

Minter won't be at home resting on any laurels though and is off to the Gold Coast with jockey Jasen Watkins and gelding Serene Beau, an outsider for the 900m Class 4 up there this afternoon.

TODAY'S W S Cox Plate from Moonee Valley will be the highlight of the racing year for many punters and the clash has had enormous coverage in the press this week, most of it centred on mighty mare Makybe Diva.

The champion knockers have come out of the woodwork in almost in as big numbers as Wests Tigers' supporters but this afternoon we could witness a victory that will go down in racing folklore.

Picking the trifecta is the challenge.

A few weeks ago I had a little bit on outsider Desert War at fixed odds and hopefully he can sneak into a place behind the mighty mare and God's Own.

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