GOLD COAST based stipendiary steward, Geoff Lane was known nationally as the Golden Boy of Australian racing in the 1950s and 60s.
He was to become internationally renowned as a jockey, trainer (Hong Kong and Macau) and in between served as a stipendiary steward in Hong Kong.
Last week he received the ultimate award in racing. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in a glittering ceremony in Melbourne but for some unknown reason, it went unnoticed in Queensland.
Your columnist Terry Butts has been a friend of the former jockey for more than 40 years. He rode winners for Butts’ father at Albury including a horse named Cheerywood who finished an unlucky fourth in the 1955 Albury Cup before winning the Wagga Gold Cup (33/1 to 7/2) by six lengths two weeks later.
They later met again and became mates in Hong Kong in the late 1960s where Butts was a racing correspondent for newspapers and TV, radio and on-course commentator at Happy Valley. He was one of the hundreds to ring, congratulate and have a yarn to his old mate...
UNLESS you gleaned it from the southern press, you are probably unaware a Queensland racing steward was inducted to racing’s illustrious Hall of Fame last week in Melbourne.
The fact that Geoff Lane a part time steward on the Gold Coast was the recipient of the coveted gong failed to attract a single par in Queensland‘s mainline press and, unforgivably, was ignored on Queensland Racing’s own website.
There were, however, congratulations from QR chief stipe Wade Birch, one of the 600 in attendance at the sell out ceremony on Thursday that attracted every worthwhile name in the industry - and more.
It must be stressed that Lane who rode all over the world, trained for many years in both Hong Kong and Macau and for six years worked was a steward in Hong Kong -is not a permanent steward with QR. In fact his vast experience is often and surprisingly overlooked. Apparently he was called up only three times in the past three months to assist at the Gold Coast.
Ironically he was rostered- on last Saturday, and though he had known for several weeks of his induction date (and bound to secrecy) he dutifully hurried home from Melbourne to fulfil his function at Gold Coast races.
I am sure most in his situation would have stayed for the Blue Diamond and squeeze some more moments under the spotlight.
He was scurrying up the stewards’ towers at the Gold Coast when the Blue Diamond was being run - and he certainly doesn’t do it for the money.
It is ironic too that it was Blue Diamond Day. One of Lane’s highlights during a sterling international riding career was winning the race on Impulsive trained by his master, the immortal Tommy Woodcock of Phar Lap fame in 1959. It was his first ride as a fully-fledged jockey and the race in those days was known as the Merson Cooper Stakes-the forerunner to the Blue Diamond.
Of course Impulsive was the mother of the legendary Reckless that Tommy Woodcock also trained to win every major cup in the country - except the elusive Melbourne Cup.
But back to the jockey.
One wonders if the raceday crowd at the Gold Coast on Saturday actually were aware that the fit looking 73-year-old on duty, was the same man they were watching nationally on television two nights earlier.
Possibly not, because the man who had no equal on or off a racehorse, has never been known to blow his trumpet. That’s him.
It is worth mentioning here the gentle giant of the game one day, unprompted and beyond the realm of duty, pulled aside a young female apprentice at Gold Coast races.
”She was just doing a few things wrong, so I pointed out some of her mistakes and explained how best to count during a race,’ said the unassuming Lane.
That little apprentice is Tegan Harrison recognised widely as the most improved rider in the state. Then last Saturday he gave a Melbourne newspaper cutting of his induction to his latest “pupil” Michael McKenzie who he has also been helping.
The kid had no idea who it was so keen to offer help.
“I am sure he didn’t even know my name.”
BUT thousands do and over the past few days the former jockey has fielded calls from all over the globe. One was from New York, a lady who was his translator when Lane rode under contract in Germany for the Baroness von Oppenheim
“You know that’s more than 50 years ago,” Lane said.
There were dozens of calls and messages from the Far East, mainly Honkong where he is still well remembered. Others from England, Ireland and of course New Zealand and other far flung places.
They remembered the boy who won three Victorian Derbies, had a succession of wins on the unbeatable weight for age stars, Lord and later, Golden Doubles.
The one who went so close but never notched a Melbourne Cup. Dhaulagiri was his closest third in 1961.
Of course life hasn’t been all wine and roses. There were some low spots along the way- and he had a tough battle with weight in later years but one of his virtues is a matchless resilience.
I recall once he came to Darwin - way back in the mid-1970s when the single on course facility at Fannie Bay - post Tracey - was a large tin shed that that served as the secretary office, bar and function room.
It was during the off season in Hong Kong, so yours truly, then a resident of the frontier city talked his old mate from Hongkong to come over “for something different and told him to bring his gear.
The jockey arrived and was booked for a horse named Lord Tiny in the cup but there was just one problem. Geoff had been enjoying the off season break in Honkers and arrived about 3kg overweight and the cup was two days away.
Most jockeys would have given up the ride and joined the party. But he chose to strip off and in the blistering Darwin heat single handedly moved a huge pile of sand into some stables on the Fannie Bay racecourse.
He made the weight and won the Darwin Cup.
Geoff enjoyed Darwin so much he returned the next year- and won the Darwin Cup on Final Hope.
In the scores of races he has won, the racecourses on which he has ridden and the quality of horse he has won on, Darwin would be on the bottom rung. But the memories are right up near the very top.
That’s the man. A man for all seasons, now a Hall of Famer just in case you didn’t know.