Gympie racing icon on Glen Boss and other Turf Club nuggets
TANSEY property owner and Gympie racing icon Barry Fitzhenry wrote his first Turf Topics column in The Gympie Times on February 27, 1968.
Those notes recorded how the Gympie race meet had to be delayed due to a shortage of jockeys at the Gympie club.
Fitzhenry wrote how trainer Perc Murray had continued his winning sequence with a double. The Gympie Turf Club secretary at the time was Jack Herron.
On the front page of The Gympie Times that day 50 years ago was a story on how the town's 150 railway men had pledged their support for the fight to prevent the transfer of 50 men from the local depot. Also, 135 tonnes of pineapples had been dumped near Amamoor.
Fitzhenry first became involved with the Gympie Turf Club in 1965 due to some family genetics.
"Racing is a genetic disease,” he says, no doubt with a grin.
"My family has been involved with racing for years and it was my father who brought me into it.
"My father and I raced horses and I still race some today. There have been plenty of ups and downs, were more downs than ups but we have had some handy horses over the years.”
Indeed, there have been many significant highs.
"The increase in prize money and the community involvement,” he says of the highs.
"The lowest point was when I was president of the Turf Club. We got into financial trouble in early 2000 and Racing Queensland suspended our races.
"When we started racing about a year after the community appreciated it after that, because they had lost it.”
Gympie is a breeding ground for apprentice jockeys and Fitzhenry said the most famous Gold City export had been Glen Boss.
He rode Makybe Diva to win three consecutive Melbourne Cups.
"Boss was an apprentice jockey in Gympie, working with trainer Terry Chinner, and when he rode, horses just ran for him. He was just naturally talented.
"You don't find many like Boss. Right from the beginning he had potential. Gympie is a good training ground for apprentices because they can get a ride up here, which they might not get on the Sunshine Coast or Brisbane.”
As the Turf Club celebrates 150 years of Gympie racing this weekend, there have been challenges.
"There has been a change in demographic of the crowd. There are more young people today,” Fitzhenry said.
"It is a place you can go and dress up and the era of Gympie bookmakers has gone.
"In the 1960s, bookmakers in Gympie could turn over $1 million a month but these days they just ring a corporate competition which has resulted in a decrease of bookmakers at the Turf Club.”
The 150 year celebrations will culminate this weekend with a gala dinner tomorrow night and the last race day of the year on Saturday. Gates open 11am.