IT’S been a tough time with the passing of former journalistic colleague Blair Chadwick (72) on Sunday, October 28, and Thoroughbred breeder Basil Nolan Jnr (43) on Melbourne Cup Day, Tuesday, November 6.
Add in the death of our beloved 11-year-old Basset Hound Humphrey on Melbourne Cup eve and it’s been a case of my face ‘being longer than a beaten favourite’!
I’d like to say that my career followed in Blair’s footsteps as we both went to Queensland Agricultural College near Gatton before working at Queensland Country Life and the Department of Primary Industries Public Affairs Unit. But that’s just paying lip service to Blair when his service to agriculture was immense over a 36-year career at QCL and DPI – giant steps that few journalists could ever hope to fill.
A keen rider and polocrosse player with an expert eye on how to photograph horses based on attending countless country shows for QCL, Blair wasn’t ‘into’ racing. Yet horse racing in particular and the wider equine world in general were major beneficiaries in late September 1994 when the DPI Public Affairs Unit led by Blair shared in an achievement award for outstanding contribution to combating the Equine Morbillivirus Horse Disease Emergency (Hendra virus).
The novel symptoms and rapid spread of the disease and its appearance in both horses and humans brought together teams of scientists and veterinarians at the DPI and the CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory. The virus was initially called equine morbillivirus, but later renamed Hendra virus after the suburb where the outbreak occurred. Twenty-one horses became infected – 13 of them fatally. Alarmingly, the disease also spread to two people and one of them, well-known racehorse trainer Vic Rail, died after a severe influenza-like illness.
Liaising with the Office of the Minister for Primary Industries, the Director-General and the Chief Veterinary Officer, DPI Public Affairs provided strategic communication advice and emergency situation information management.
As part of the core group of four journalists/communication specialists, I had active involvement including media monitoring. In fact, I vividly recall being summoned by the Chief Veterinary Officer on Thursday, September 21 to detail probable racing venues on Saturday, September 23. The next day, Friday 22, all race meetings in southern Queensland were cancelled due to the outbreak.
With the unit winning awards for successful campaigns such as Hendra virus and the Papaya Fruit Fly Program, Blair was recognised as a leader in emergency disease communications and served as a member of the National Disease Emergency Network and the Queensland Government Communications Coordination Committee.
While Blair’s obituary appears elsewhere in the paper, I want to offer my condolences to Blair’s wife, Desley, daughter Sam, son Nathan and their respective families.
Basil ‘ticked all the boxes’
MANY tributes have been paid to Basil Nolan Jnr since his death in a farming incident at Raheen Stud, Gladfield on Melbourne Cup day, November 6.
Let me add my own.
Some 10 years ago, Basil rang me to tell me about the acquisition of a new sire – Mearas. Justifiably excited Basil stated “He ticks all the boxes”.
‘All’ can’t cover the number of boxes Basil ticked – generosity, loyalty, passion, professionalism and community spirit to name but a few.
From a racing perspective, I had several layers of involvement with Basil as a journalist and client. From a personal level, I also grew up in the Warwick district while my stepson Angus Noakes played rugby league with Basil in the same Warwick-based team Collegians.
My first racing association with Basil occurred in 2001 when I was involved in a syndicate formed by Toowoomba trainer Tony Sears that bought a yearling colt by King Ivor – a son of Fairy King – from a Crown Jester mare Crown Madge. I had the privilege of naming him. Being an imposing yearling with regal relatives, I chose Thy Kingdom Come and he delivered by winning eight races including the Rockhampton Tattersall’s Gold Cup. Often, when I saw Basil he’d ask “How’s the holy horse – bred by catholics and raced by protestants?”
The spiritual association reached its pinnacle with an omen quinella on Easter Saturday, 2004, in the last race at Eagle Farm when Thy Kingdom Come led virtually from ‘go to whoa’ only to be pipped on the post by Bishop Bill – a horse named after former Toowoomba Catholic Bishop Bill Morris and trained by Basil’s cousin Michal Nolan.
Having being part of another successful partnership that raced quality filly Hialeah Star, I consequently bought her dam Hialeah Gold who was prepared for sale at Raheen and subsequently boarded there until she died. In 2011 she delivered a colt by Publishing. Foaled on a Thursday, I saw him two days later on route to Clifton races but within the week Basil had to ring me with tragic news – the colt was found dead in the paddock with a snake bite the probable cause.
During the phone call, Basil made the matter-of-fact statement that everyone who comes off the land knows: “You have live stock – and dead stock!” But at all times, I knew my mare and foals were well cared for by the Nolan family and staff.
My sincere sympathy to his wife, Nicola, and their four children, parents Basil snr and Dianne, brother Tim and sister-in-law Celie and all members of the wider Nolan family.
Country Cups Challenge nears completion
ONLY one heat remains in the Country Cups Challenge after a further three qualifiers held at Charleville, Kumbia and Cairns on Melbourne Cup day.
The Challenge will bring together the winners of 16 Country Cups held across Queensland between September and November. All eyes will now be on the Roma Cup (November 17) before the $70,000 final to be run at Doomben on George Moore Stakes Day (December 1).
The final will be run under the conditions of a Quality Handicap (1600m) race, with qualifiers required to have competed in no less than three non-TAB races in the 12 months immediately preceding acceptance date for that qualifying race.
Despite winning the Cairns City Cup, the Stephen Potiris-trained Bold Kingston is ineligible to compete in the final under the conditions of No Metropolitan Wins in the Last Two Years, having won a $60,000 2YO race at Doomben in April 2017.
In another test of the series conditions, the judge couldn't split Darryl Ward-trained Land Office and Bevan Johnson's Still The Same in the Kumbia Cup. Land Office needs to run in another non-TAB event to become eligible for the final.
The conditions read: “Should there be any dead-heats in the qualifiers, preference will be determined on the following basis:
- The horse with the highest RQ rating.
- If two or more horses have the same official RQ rating they will be balloted by lot.”
The Leslie Baker-trained Eschiele took out the Charleville Cup and has also qualified for the final as did recent Yeppoon Newmarket Open Handicap (1400m) winner Artie’s Shore also trained by Bevan Johnson.
New 3YO Stayers Series
HIGHLY respected Gold Coast trainer Bryan Guy has thrown his support behind a new series which aims to give emerging three-year-old stayers the chance to test their 2019 Queensland Derby and Oaks credentials during the Queensland Summer Racing Carnival.
The Eagle Way 3YO Stayers Series, named in honour of Guy and his son Daniel’s 2016 Queensland Derby winner, will culminate in a $100,000 Final (plus QTIS bonuses) at Doomben on December 22.
The first of three heats began at the Sunshine Coast on November 10, with horses qualifying for the final on a points-based system. QTIS restricted finalists will race for up to $152,000 (fillies) and $135,000 (colts and geldings) with an additional $20,000 bonus – split 80/20 between owner and trainer – if the winner is a Queensland-trained horse.
The first heat – a QTIS 1600m handicap – was won by Coastal Prince (G3 Real Saga/Noosa Princess) trained by Toby Edmonds with Lope For Joya (F3 Lope De Vega (Ire)/Thermopylae) second and A Man To Match (C3 High Chaparral (Ire)/Pregrada) third.
Guy said the timing of the series was ideal, with trainers able to set their horse for the winter carnival three-year-old classics should they show signs of encouragement during the summer.
“Everybody wants a speed horse due to the money in races such as the Golden Slipper or the Magic Millions but not every horse is a speed horse. This series will give Queensland trainers the opportunity to discover whether their horse will be a stayer and allows them to then set the horse for a target, like the Derby, in the future,” he said.
Racing Queensland Thoroughbred Racing Manager Ross Gove said the series was developed after consultation with the Queensland branch of the Australian Trainer’s Association (ATA) after the end of the 2017/18 summer carnival.
“This series aims to give trainers the opportunity to qualify for Queensland’s winter three-year-old classics well in advance and then plan their winter preparations accordingly. The advent of the series not only provides a great new opportunity for trainers with budding stayers but is an extension of RQ’s commitment to a continuation of the development of its Summer Racing Carnival,” he said.