Written by Ken Callendar
PLEASE note I am not retiring from writing my three racing columns per week in The Daily Telegraph although I am very flattered the AJC is planning plenty of fun at Randwick this afternoon for my last day as a television broadcaster after 35 years on screen.
I am most appreciative of the AJC's plans, but at the same time just a little embarrassed.
Hopefully we will all have a big day at Randwick which will be helped if I can tip a few winners.
Darren Beadman, the leading hoop who I nicknamed 'The Dazzler', summed it up best when he rang on Wednesday morning on his way to Japan to wish me all the best.
But he added quickly: "I know it is only the TV you are giving up and I know you will be still there at the races every week to have a go at us in the Telegraph if we ride bad races."
As you will read later in this story I think Beadman is the best jockey I have seen.
My television career commenced in the early 1970s when football writer Geoff Prenter recommended me to Ron Casey saying I was somebody who would speak his mind.
Looking back I think I probably had too much to say.
Nevertheless I started on Ron Casey's World Of Sports and The Clarence The Clocker Show with my good friend John Tapp and I was a member of the Wide World Of Sports team through its golden years.
I also made plenty of appearances on the Footy Show after Billy Birmingham drew a lot of attention to my lisp and my inability to correctly pronounce the letter S in his 12th Man recordings.
For the past two years and nine months I have worked on the pioneering racing channel TVN on cable television.
I gave TVN 12 months notice that I would be quitting at the end of 2006 and I let all of you Telegraph readers know in September.
TVN kindly asked me to consider still working at major meetings and being a member of their Sunday Racing Review panel, but I think when you quit you should pull the plug completely.
I will be 62 next week and I have no other reason for finishing up than I think it is the right time.
My son Richard and the other TVN presenters are doing a great job.
The editor has asked me to list the best of the best in my career at the track, which started with News Limited in 1963, and I hope my observations make interesting reading.
Kingston Town, Tommy Smith's champion was something very special.
He could win from 1200m to 3200m, he could make two, or even three sprints in race, and he had the heart that lifted champions above the pack. One in a million.
It has always been fashionable to say George Moore, but I don't want to live in the past and I think Darren Beadman is edging past the great Georgie Porgie.
I cannot imagine anyone riding better than Beadman is at the moment and he is riding against some top hoops.
Has to be Tommy Smith. He came to Sydney with absolutely nothing except a fabulous knowledge of the horse he had learnt helping his father with a team of work horses who cleared land in the bush. His rise to win 34 Sydney premierships was almost a dream.
Miracle Malcolm Johnston was a product of the Theo Green school of jockeys which also produced Gordon Spinks, Ron Quinton, John Duggan, David Green, Billy Prain, Darren Beadman and James Innes.
They had to change the rules to stop apprentices claiming to halt Mal's progress.
BEST YOUNG TRAINER
John O'Shea came from Queensland to work for Gai Waterhouse and branched out on his own with not much more than hope to back him up.
Has the 'eye of the tiger' possessed by top fighters and I am sure he will be around for a long time.
MOST POPULAR HORSE
Super Impose, the wonder 'miler' who won four big Randwick 1600m races in succession, two Doncasters and two Epsoms.
Super Duper always seemed to give away too much start and the crowds loved him. His reception after the 1991 Epsom was deafening.
Terry Page, an out-and-out gambler, was the biggest and most fearless bagman in my time. Eric Conlon, who was fielding when I first started and is still going strong, deserves honourable mention for longevity. He only looks 55 but I know he must be older.
Kerry Packer put the most on, but he had a big back-up. Ray Hopkins, who went about his business quietly during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, has been the biggest punter in my time. 'Hoppy' had big days and ordinary days, but always he remained a champion bloke.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL FIGURE
George Freeman was described by Premier Nick Greiner as one of Sydney's leading criminals but would have needed to have been 10 men to have been guilty of half of the 'rorts' he was accused of.
George admitted to being an SP bookie and a commission agent.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL HORSE
Not just the stewards, but the police, quizzed punters after a horse called Mr Digby landed a huge plunge to win at Canterbury 25 years ago.
Mr Digby, owned by the aforementioned George Freeman, produced a remarkable form reversal to stroll in by seven lengths.
BIGGEST HEARTED HORSE
I wonder if Octagonal really did know exactly where the winning post was or whether he just wanted to get his photo taken out in front, but John Hawkes' champ never gave in and won so many races by small margins. He must have had a heart the size of a watermelon.
A dead-heat between two great AJC Derby finishes. In 1973 Imagele nosed out Leica Lover and Grand Cidium after a fabulous struggle and, in 1997, Octagonal beat Saintly, Filante and Nothin' Leica Dane in an equally heroic contest.
Might And Power's win in the 1998 Group One Randwick Queen Elizabeth Stakes by 10½ lengths. This champion also won a Caulfield Cup by 7½ lengths and a Flemington Queen Elizabeth Stakes by seven lenghts. What a horse. Nothing could beat him on his day.
MOST DISAPPPOINTING MOMENT
Lonhro being beaten by Grand Armee in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick on his farewell day on April 17, 2004.
Lonhro, who won 26 from 35, was one of my favourites. He won 11 Group Ones and I think he was one of the all-time greats.
AUSTRALIA'S BEST RACE
The Melbourne Cup by a mile. Even people who are not interested in racing know about the Cup and to think Makybe Diva was good enough to win the race three years in a row shows why she should unhesitatingly be called a champion.
Bart Cummings has won 11 Melbourne Cups starting with Light Fingers in 1965 and going through to Rogan Josh in 1999. I am certain this is one record no trainer will break. I think the best of Bart's mighty 11 was Galilee in 1966.
MY FAVOURITE RACE
The AJC Derby. A race run over a classic distance at level weights by mature young racehorses.
It is a race for the purists, but the Golden Slipper is outstripping it as a race that produces the top sires of the future. Does this show our emphasis on speed?
Lee Freedman telling the VRC committee he would not run Makybe Diva in the 2005 Melbourne Cup if the track was too hard and was not watered.
Come on Lee, I reckon you could sell ice to the Eskimos.
Whether we like betting with it or not, the TAB which started in NSW on December 9, 1964 gave racing its financial lifeline and paid the industry's bills.
The big question for the future is whether we can protect this money source?
That racing administrators are losing sight of the culture of racing.
Sure it is called the Sport Of Kings and rich owners pour in big amounts but it is also, and always has been, the sport of the working man, the little punter who does not get thought of much by those in charge.
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