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Grey-letter day as Slate On Edge wins for Brett Thompson at Moonee Valley

Tired of the drought and intent on trying his hand full-time at the thoroughbred game, Brett Thompson was a happy man even before his “Gulgong Grey” won under the bright lights of Moonee Valley on Friday night.
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Walking the track with Black Caviar’s trainer, Peter Moody, was always going to be good enough for him.

Said Thompson: “We went down there and walked the track earlier and looked up at the crowd and said, ‘Did you ever think we would be here the night before the Cox Plate walking the track at Moonee Valley? How good is this?’ “

That Slate On Edge, jokingly dubbed the “Gulgong Grey” by his trainer in reference to Gunsynd, known as the “Goondiwindi Grey”, won the greys’ race on Cox Plate eve only made it even sweeter.

Thompson dove into the professional ranks 2½ years ago, leaving behind the frustration of the farming game and life as a publican at nearby Mudgee to concentrate on the horses.

His stock has risen, both figuratively and literally, in that time. He now has 40 horses on the books as opposed to four when establishing the family-run stable.

“I was a shearing contractor and a farmer,” Thompson said. “I sold my farms because I was sick of the drought so I bought a hotel in Mudgee and got it going, and then I sold it. Then I sold my shearing run and my wife said, ‘what are you going to do?’

“I had bought a horse called Hewentwhoosh and broke him in and won the big Scone challenge with him as a hobby trainer. I said, ‘I’m going to have a crack at training full-time’.

“And it’s all because of hard work from everybody – my staff, my kids, my wife – they all work for me. I appreciate all of [my owners, too] … they’re all bush owners who work and race horses for the fun of it.”

Thompson will stay in Melbourne to run Slate On Edge in the popular greys’ race on Victoria Oaks day.

“I’m a bush trainer with bush owners,” he said. “What’s one month out of your life when you might not get another chance to have a crack?”

Atomic Blaze rivals out for revenge in Coonabarabran Cup

Coonamble Cup champion Atomic Blaze will help to fly the local flag in the $40,000 Coonabarabran Cup on Monday as a host of those left in his wake last start line up for revenge.

Mick Cox’s seven-year-old sprinted away with the Coonamble Cup last start and is one of two Coonabarabran hopes in the feature.

Wayne Martyn has entered last-start Mudgee winner Doctor Oh.

Private Taber (second), Are You Sure (third), Mossamine (fourth) and Dusty’s Felt (fifth) all chased home Atomic Blaze in the Coonamble Cup and head to Coonabarabran, too.

Cox will use Catherine Markwort’s 1.5-kilogram claim on Atomic Blaze from barrier five.

TAB meetings

Sunday – Queanbeyan. Monday – Coonabarabran, Port Macquarie. Tuesday – Scone. Friday – Bathurst, Moree. Saturday – Ballina, Dubbo.

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Overworking has high costs

Overloaded: Taking on too much work upsets the balance you need to lead a healthy lifestyle. Overloaded: Taking on too much work upsets the balance you need to lead a healthy lifestyle.
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Overloaded: Taking on too much work upsets the balance you need to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Overloaded: Taking on too much work upsets the balance you need to lead a healthy lifestyle.

It can be hard to balance a healthy work and life schedule with the demands placed on us in today’s society. There is a saying, “what we focus on is what we get” so this is why we get stuck in a loop of living an unsustainable life.  If we focus 100 per cent on our work/business, we are doing so at the detriment of everything else such as our health, friends, family and relationships.

This is where the dangers of being a workaholic become very real. It isn’t just the health dangers that being a workaholic affects, the dangers can also be to your happiness, your relationships and your social life.

Both men and women can be equally able to work too much. With men, it is often their own expectations that to be the provider and high-income earner he needs to do whatever it takes to “bring home the bacon”. It has also been society and parental imprinting that men are breed for working. With women, they are often of the belief that they need to work even harder than their male counterparts to be seen to be as valuable.

We all strive for a successful career, but at what cost? Here are a few things to think about if you are stuck in an all work, no play existence:

1.     Long hours = sedentary lifestyle – There is no greater risk to our health in the 21st century than not moving. Recent studies showed that not moving our bodies is as bad for our health as smoking. When we work on our computers, and there are so many that do in today’s online world, we become so absorbed in our online activities that we not only don’t walk around, we very often don’t even stretch our muscles. Neck and back pain, stiffness and blood clots are all dangers that can be directly linked to working too much.

2.  Eye strain – Staring at a screen for extended periods is dangerous to our eye health. When we fix our gaze on the computer, we blink a lot less than normal, drying out our eyes and leading to headaches and eye strain. We are more susceptible to our vision worsening and us relying on corrective lenses to keep the headaches at bay. Make sure you take a break from your computer for at least 15 minutes every hour and ensure that your overzealous commitment to your work doesn’t lead to a world of glasses.

3. Burnout – The saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is more important than ever to understand the words.  There is nothing sustainable about working 80-hour weeks. There is nothing that is worth that much. Sure, for a few weeks or even months, there will need to be a time that we have to get stuck in and put in the hard yards. However, if you do it for more than a short period, the chances of you burning out and becoming resentful towards your work is very high. Worse still, your chances of you suffering from adrenal gland failure(if you are unfamiliar with it please look up the seriousness of it) are extremely high.

4. Disconnection – Doesn’t sound dangerous now does it? Over my years in business I have seen so many relationships fail due to one partner becoming so focused on their career that they neglect everything else in their lives including their partner and even their kids. What you focus on is what you get and when you believe that work is the most important thing in your life, or you don’t believe it but your actions prove otherwise, the chances of you having a loving and fulfilling relationship are very low. Ask yourself, what is most important in your life and what would your life be like if you started loosing those that you love.

5. Self-loathing – This is quite intertwined with disconnection yet on a personal level. When you start to notice how disconnected you have become from those who  matter, it is very common for me to see people start on a pattern of self-loathing and punishment. This can do a great deal of damage to our own self-worth and get us stuck in a loop of hopelessness. It could well be time to take stock of why you are working the hours you do and start to understand the damage it can be doing to so many aspects of your life.

Stuart Denman is a lifestyle mentor who spends his time working with those craving a better, more balanced life. He is passionate about leadership and runs Ultimate 48 Hour Author, a book authoring mentoring program. Visit stuartdenman南京夜网.au.

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‘Inhumane and abhorrent’: activist slams troubled puppy farm

Puppies living in squalor at Frazer “puppy farm.” October 19, 2014. Photo: Debra Tranter A puppy waits behind bars at Frazer “puppy farm,” October 19, 2014 Photo: Debra Tranter
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A deceased pregnant dog lies unattended in its cell on October 19, 2014 Photo: Debra Tranter

Puppies living in squalor at Frazer “puppy farm.” October 19, 2014. Photo: Debra Tranter

Puppies living in squalor at Frazer “puppy farm.” October 19, 2014. Photo: Debra Tranter

Puppies living in squalor at Frazer “puppy farm.” October 19, 2014. Photo: Debra Tranter


A dog breeder has been allowed to continue running a puppy farm despite evidence that appears to show dire conditions inside the breeding centre in north-western NSW.

More than 100 dogs were left at the puppy farm near Armidale on Friday after RSPCA inspectors visited the rural property. The decision has outraged animal activists.

Debra Tranter, the founder of animal rights group Oscar’s Law, which provided the evidence to the RSPCA and Fairfax Media, described the conditions as “inhumane and abhorrent”.

RSPCA chief inspector David O’Shannessy said while the owner had not complied with the code of practice – which sets the minimum standards for breeding facilities – there were no breaches under animal cruelty laws.

“There are no immediate concerns for their welfare,” he said.

Mr O’Shannessy said the investigation was ongoing.

Fairfax Media understands that the NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, has requested a copy of the RSPCA’s findings.

Ms Tranter said her videos show a visit to the property in August when she found a group of puppies huddled in a bread crate with no bedding in temperatures of one degree Celsius. She said another video of a visit in October shows a dead dog found on the property.

The owner of the puppy farm has been known to authorities for  more than a year. In December the RSPCA raided the property and prosecuted the breeder, Jennifer Frazer.

Ms Frazer was charged with three counts of aggravated animal cruelty and four charges of failing to provide veterinary treatment. She was placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond, fined $11,500 and agreed to surrender 27 dogs.

Repeated attempts to contact Ms Frazer for this story were unsuccessful.

The vet report used in the RSPCA’s case against Ms Frazer last year, obtained by Fairfax Media, documented the condition of a number of animals who had to be put down.

The vet who attended the site reported a “barely conscious” female terrier being attacked and dragged around by a pack of dogs. “She had an abdominal wound from which her intestines had eviscerated. She had multiple puncture wounds over her body and bruising around her eyes. Her jaw was clamped shut and she had a trickle of fresh blood from her nose.”

Oscar’s Law had raised concerns with authorities since February.

Ms Tranter complained again last week after the group’s investigation found more than 100 dogs living in “atrocious conditions at the property.”

She said at least a further 10 dogs required immediate veterinary care.

“I don’t know what these dogs have to go through to get help. It makes me sick,” she said.

“No dogs should be left on that property. They’re still dying, they’re still in pain, they’re still [living] in inadequate conditions that don’t comply with the code of practice,” she said.

“The RSPCA had enough evidence for a full seizure and closure of that property but they chose to walk away and leave the dogs.”

A spokeswoman for the department of primary industries said that the RSPCA is the highest authority in the state when it comes to investigating accusations of animal cruelty.

“It is the RSPCA’s reason for existing. They are compelled to act upon complaints,” she said.  “If there is a complaint against the RSPCA, the next step is the minister.”

Ian Hughes, an inspector for the Animal Welfare League, called on the NSW government to create legislation that would require regular inspection and a licensing system.

“At the moment you can buy yourself 100 dogs and get yourself going as a dog breeder tomorrow,” he said.

Ms Hodgkinson said the NSW government had an in principle support for a breeder licensing scheme.

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England batsman Eoin Morgan believes Ireland won’t follow Wales in joining cricket board

Irish-born England batsman Eoin Morgan does not believe Cricket Ireland would want to follow the same path as Wales and link up with the English cricket board because the governing body has fought hard for future Test playing status.
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Ireland, who will open their third World Cup campaign when they play the West Indies in New Zealand next February, have been considered an emerging force and there have been hopes they would be granted Test nation status by 2020.

Morgan, who signed up with Big Bash League franchise Sydney Thunder during the week, doubted there would be any support for Ireland to join the England and Wales Cricket Board, because the team appeared to be on a solid path.

“That would be very harsh on Irish cricket, they’ve put in a lot of hard work over the last 10-12 years to the point where they have had a successful time and been given rewards in the form of funding from the ICC,” he said.

“But I think for some people to look at that as a possibility would be a huge compliment to Irish cricket.”

Morgan said until Ireland played Tests, Irishmen such as Ed Joyce, Boyd Rankin and himself, would follow the trail Leland Hone blazed in 1879 when he crossed the Irish Sea and was picked to tour Australia with Lord Harris’ team.

“The position I was in 10 to 12 years-ago meant Test cricket wasn’t going to happen for Ireland in my generation,” the 28-year-old said.

“If people have ambitions to play Test cricket, guys like Kevin O’Brien, Paul Sterling and William Porterfield – who have the ability to do it – will look elsewhere.

“If you look at the lower-ranked teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, Ireland could compete with them on a day-to-day basis,” Morgan said.

He believed Ireland would be well supported during the World Cup by the many Australians and Kiwis who boast Irish ancestry, and this view was supported by former Australian Test fast bowler Mike Whitney, who is president of the Randwick-Petersham club.

Whitney told Fairfax Media there was already an incredible amount of interest in the one-day warm-up game a Randwick-Petersham Invitational XI will play at Coogee Oval against the Irish on February 6.

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Hells Bells shook it all night longPHOTOS

Hells Bells shook it all night long | PHOTOS Crowds were thunderstruck by AC/DC tribute band Hells Bells at Bendigo Bank Stadium on Friday.
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Crowds were thunderstruck by AC/DC tribute band Hells Bells at Bendigo Bank Stadium on Friday.

Crowds were thunderstruck by AC/DC tribute band Hells Bells at Bendigo Bank Stadium on Friday.

Crowds were thunderstruck by AC/DC tribute band Hells Bells at Bendigo Bank Stadium on Friday.

Crowds were thunderstruck by AC/DC tribute band Hells Bells at Bendigo Bank Stadium on Friday.

Crowds were thunderstruck by AC/DC tribute band Hells Bells at Bendigo Bank Stadium on Friday.

Crowds were thunderstruck by AC/DC tribute band Hells Bells at Bendigo Bank Stadium on Friday.

Crowds were thunderstruck by AC/DC tribute band Hells Bells at Bendigo Bank Stadium on Friday.

TweetFacebookThunderstruck, You Shook Me All Night Long and Back in Black,the band was led by Donna G, withlead singer Wayne Curnow out of action.


Highway to Hells Bells

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Ugly Josh Childress forearm generates worldwide headlines

Match report: Childress, Madgen ejected as Wildcats thrash Kings
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It’s an incident so ugly that it’s made headlines around the world.

Sydney’s big-name recruit, NBA veteran Josh Childress, is facing the prospect of a lengthy suspension after striking Perth opponent Jesse Wagstaff with a sickening forearm in Saturday night’s NBL loss to bogey team Perth.

Childress and teammate Ben Madgen were both ejected as the Kings lost their 15th straight game to the Wildcats in front of 12,469 spectators at Perth Arena.

The biggest talking point was Childress’ stray elbow, just moments after Wagstaff put on a physical but legal screen.

The American forward appeared to connect with a forearm as Wagstaff was taking a jump shot late in the third quarter. Footage of the incident, in a game televised on Network Ten, has gone viral.

The USA Today website ran with the headline: “Josh Childress delivers the hardest basketball foul we’ve seen on helpless opponent”.

The author, Mike Foss, described the attack as “vigilante justice” and said “maybe next time his retaliation can be a little more subtle and a little less Mortal Kombat.”

American sports website Bleacher Report also quickly posted footage of what it described as “a nasty elbow to the face”.

Other global news outlets have also picked up on the story. Told of the adverse exposure, Kings coach Damian Cotter said on Saturday: “I didn’t know that. Some bad things happen on the court, I’ll need to take a closer look at it. But that’s a pretty big statement.”

Cotter was reluctant to comment on the incident but hoped NBL officials would consider the fact he was provoked in the lead up.

“In the context of the game, Josh got pretty frustrated and, if he had his time again, would do it differently,” he said. Wow. Josh Childress got his monies worth there. #nbl15#nblpervsyd — Ryan Mobilia (@RyanMobilia) October 24, 2014

Asked about the prospect of being without Childress for upcoming away clashes with Cairns and Wollongong, Cotter said: “We’ll deal with that as it comes along. Nobody told me coaching in the NBL would be easy and I’ve got the experiences to validate that.

“We’ll just deal with it and not worry about what we don’t have.”

Cotter, in his first season as head coach after taking over from former Boomer Shane Heal, was more expansive when quizzed about Madgen’s ejection.

“For a guy to be thrown out of the game for two techs on flopping, I understood there would be a warning on it,” he said.

“Other players were warned. I don’t understand that, I’m sure it’s being reviewed.”

Tim Hudson, Sydney’s head of basketball operations, said Childress’ actions were out of character.

“I’m sure once Josh responds, Sydney, the League and Australia will have a further opportunity to see the class of this man.”

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Maximan’s trainer eyes Miracle Mile start

Victorian trainer Andy Gath wasn’t thinking about the Miracle Mile when he brought stayer Maximan from New Zealand this year, but it is on the agenda after four wins from five starts in his new home.
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The son of Armbro Operative will step out for his biggest test in Sunday’s Kilmore Cup, where he is challenging Guaranteed for favouritism, with a Sydney campaign likely to follow.

“When we got him we thought he would be a bit dour and a race like this would be his cup of tea because he is so good off the stand,” Gath said.

“He has found speed since he has been with us and also got some gate speed now, so the Miracle Mile is a race you have to look at, if you have a horse that is strong with speed.

“We will get through Sunday, where he will be competitive, and then we will decide which way we will go.”

Gath admits Maximan is questionable at the top level as he couldn’t match horses like Terror To Love in New Zealand, where he won a couple of country cups.

However, he is hoping the improvement he has made will hold him in good stead and is favouring coming to Sydney to earn his spot in the Miracle Mile rather than staying in Melbourne.

“There is the Legends Mile here in a couple of weeks on the same weekend as the Newcastle Mile but I could win that and go in the 1.40s and it wouldn’t get me in. If I go to Newcastle and win in two minutes I get a run,” Gath said.

“It is the club’s [NSW Harness Racing] race and everyone understands they want to see the horses up there and I’m looking forward to get him to Menangle because I think the big track will suit him.

“If you look at the best milers there like Smoken Up, you have to have speed but you have to stay because it is on from the gate.

“I have no doubt that style of racing is going to suit him.”

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Blast of spring heat to hit Brisbane

Brisbane will get a blast of ht weather in the dying days of Spring. Photo: Glenn CampbellHot town, spring in the city?
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Brisbane is set for temperatures up to 10 degrees above average for the rest of the month, with Monday peaking at 36 degrees.

Kev Hutchins of the Bureau of Metrology said the south-east could thank a warm air mass, which will stick around for most of next week, for the above average temperatures, with the only relief coming on Thursday when the mercury will drop back down to a comparatively cool 28 degrees.

“We have a high in the Tasman Sea and that is directing warm northerly winds over much of eastern and southern Queensland and there is a really weak pressure pattern at the moment across the centre of the continent and there is nothing around it that is really going to change the air mass, or push it away,” the metrologist said.

“So this warmer air that is being generated, the sunny skies, warm northerly winds, this warm air mass will continue to circulate around the state and northern New South Wales and the Northern Territory, there is nothing really to sweep it away in the next few days.”

Mr Hutchins said a small amount of relief should reach the south-east on Tuesday night.

“We will see a surface trough move through the state reaching us probably on Tuesday – so we will see the wind direction change and the warm air mass will be replaced by one which is a little cooler,” he said.

“So basically, that is why it is just very unchanging at the moment. The warm air is just hanging around.”

October’s average is usually 26 degrees, with November warming up to an average of 28 degrees.

But Mr Hutchins said not to expect any relief at night – Saturday night will be the coolest, at 18 degrees, with temperatures not dropping much below 21 degrees once the sun goes down for the rest of the week.

Saturday – 31

Sunday – 32

Monday – 36

Tuesday – 34

Wednesday – 31

Thursday – 28

Friday – 30

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Tasmania jumps on board The Cleaner

Money comes and goes, much like good and bad horses. It’s the moments that define a man’s life.
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Like the rings of a tree trunk, the lines on the weathered face of 65-year-old horse trainer Mick Burles reveal he’s lived a life; not all of it happily and most of it tough.

We sit outside his ramshackle stables on the edge of Longford, a small village on the edge of Launceston, and morning sun helps to contradict the bite in the air.

[Hope of Tasmania: The Cleaner with trackwork rider Karl Rhodes.]

Hope of Tasmania: The Cleaner with trackwork rider Karl Rhodes.Photo: Mark Jesser

With his $10,000 horse picking at grass in the paddock out the back, he begins to tell me the story of his life.

“Big family. I was one of eight,” he croaks. “We had a little farm on the [Tasman] peninsula. The old man left home when I was born. And nan and mum raised us …”

He chokes back tears and drops his head. For all the gruffness and razor-sharp one-liners heard so far on this morning, there are two topics that cause the toughened horseman to melt.

[The Cleaner’s owners Jimmy Lowish, Paul Burt and Bill Fawdry.]

The Cleaner’s owners Jimmy Lowish, Paul Burt and Bill Fawdry.Photo: Mark Jesser

The first is his upbringing. “That shit gets me sometimes,” he confides.

He reaches for the packet of cigarettes he shouldn’t be smoking.

He suffers from emphysema, which has claimed the lives of most of his family and led to the death of his wife, Lynette, eight years ago. One of Burles’ lungs collapsed about a year ago.

Suggest to him he deserves happiness late in his life, and he shoots back: “Too late, mate. Anyway … it’s all good now.”

The good in his life is the $10,000 horse in the paddock. And that’s the second thing that makes Burles melt.

“I don’t know why,” Burles says of the emotion that grasps him each time he starts talking about The Cleaner. “He’s my best mate.”

The Cleaner won’t start as favourite with the bookmakers in the $3 million WS Cox Plate at Moonee Valley late on Saturday, but he will be in the hearts of thousands.

Partly, it’s because the Moonee Valley clubhas recently been offering half-priced beers if the horse wins.

Mostly, it’s because Burles’ seven-year-old is arguably the toughest horse in the country, always leading from the front, taking on million-dollar horses bred by affluent families and well-heeled owners.

Their thoroughbreds are prepared by mega-stables. This horse is prepared by a pensioner who is also a widower who lives in a demountable shed adjacent to his stables.

Racing is a billion-dollar industry, but the battling Longford trainer reminds us it’s a sport held together at the bottom by the little people.

“It’s not about money,” Burles says. “I’ve never had money my whole friggin’ life so why worry about it now? Money doesn’t worry me at all. I have enough to live on, that’s enough for me. I’ve got my pension. I don’t give a shit.”

Those familiar with The Cleaner fairytale will know what Burles is talking about: how he bought the horse for $10,000 at the Launceston yearling sales; how he couldn’t afford to pay the bill at the end of the month; how he offered the horse to three mates he plays golf with twice a week; and how he’s subsequently missed out on the $850,000 in prizemoney that’s since been won when he could have had every zac of it to himself.

Looking for a retirement horse at the sales, he looked at the bay colt and knew he was The One. Better than that, Burles thought he had a bargain.

“I just liked the stance of this fella,” he says. “A real upstart smart-arse. When I stand at the back of the horse, I like it if I can see their eyes. It means he can see 360 degrees. When he walked, his tail swung like a pendulum. That means he had good balance. I thought I’d have to pay 25 [thousand] for him. I got him for 10. I thought I’d pinched him.”

Then one of his owners took a dozen horses away from Burles, and his cash flow stalled. He couldn’t pay for the yearling, but he’d already broken him in and had him gelded.

After a round of golf, he threw out a line when they were back in the clubhouse. “Does anyone want a share in a galloper?” he said.

Burles says now: “They all jumped at it. Like a dickhead, I didn’t keep any share in it for myself.”

Golf is the only thing Burles does a few hours a week that doesn’t involve his horses. He plays off a handicap of 23.

“Rough – and often,” he cackles when asked how he strikes them. “I can still beat these bastards. At least it gets me away from the horses for a few hours.”

The trio of mates is an eclectic mix.

Bill Fawdry, 73, is a retired businessman whose company makes bricks. He picked me up from Launceston Airport on Monday morning and drove me to Burles’ stables. Would the connections of any other Cox Plate runner do the same?

Jimmy Lowish, 76, is a heavy-set New Zealander who used to play rugby, still adores the All Blacks and was the one connection dispatched to Moonee Valley on Tuesday morning for the barrier draw. They punched the preferred alleys into his fancy new Samsung mobile phone because they knew how nervous he would be when he was called on stage.

The outside gate of 14 was their fourth choice – not the end of the world as others have predicted.

Paul Burt, 51, is a pump engineer who works in the mines. He lost his wife to brain cancer around the same time as Burles lost his partner. Burt’s wife was only 35, and he now looks after their twodaughters.

The night before I met them, Burt and Burles had been at one of Longford’s three pubs, which service a population of about 400.

Burt – distinguished by his neck tattoo and Harley-Davidson belt buckle – was betting $10,000 a hand. On Keno. A week or so earlier, he’d won $300,000. On Keno.

“I broke even last night,” he reports, before adding: “I reach for the stars and if I don’t reach them I grab the moon on the way back down.”

Then Burles pulls out a wad of green $100 notes. “I won $3000,” he grins.

Money goes, but last night it came.

In the past fortnight, Fawdry has seized control of Burles’ mobile phone on the advice of Channel Seven and Longford local Neil Kearney, who could forecast the impending media storm.

There was a fear the runaway interest was going to wear Burles into the dust. This week, the phone has lit up about every five minutes. It’s usually a radio station wanting an interview, or a long-lost friend wanting to wish Burles good luck.

Last week, the buzz wore the trainer down so much he spent a few nights in hospital as he battled a cold.

“Every one of my siblings has died of emphysema or asthma, and only two of them smoked,” he says. “They’ve always told me I’ll get it. I’ve had it for 10 years. The last 12 months have been the worst since one lung shut down. I know what’s coming.”

An electronic vapour cigarette is tucked into the sleeve of his faded blue bomber jacket.

“I’m supposed to smoke this,” he grunts, pointing to it. “But it makes me sick.”

He adds: “But I don’t drink. I was a pisspot when I was young, chasing sheilas.”

When did you last have a drink?

“Well, I did have half a scotch last night.”

# # #

What about the name? Why “The Cleaner”?

Soon after buying the horse, the three owners had to come up with two options each.

“Burty’s got a beautiful young cleaner,” Burles explains. “She was 22 then. He’s got a stairwell, and his office desk is at the bottom of it. He was trying to think of names for this horse. He looked up, and there she was vacuuming the stairs in a mini-skirt. He wasn’t looking at the vacuum cleaner, I can tell you. He wrote down, ‘The Cleaner’.”

Burt refuses to let me publish her name, let alone interview her. “She’s an enigma,” he says. “She’ll be cleaning my place this Saturday, when I’m at the Cox Plate.”

The horse has many names. Burles calls him “Bill”. The racing media has dubbed him “The Longford Lion”, but those who tend to him everyday think he’s a pussycat. He nuzzles up to the trainer like one, not the ironhorse many consider to be the bravest in the country.

The Cleaner showed very little promise in his first five starts, sitting back in the field. Then leading Tasmanian jockey Steve Maskiell pulled Burles aside.

“That horse of yours doesn’t like others being around him,” Maskiell told him. “Get him out there leading on his own. He’ll be a better horse.”

He led at his next start, romped home by more than three lengths at Launceston, and then he was away, dominating the Tasmanian scene.

Burles started loading the horse onto the Spirit of Tasmania, making the 10-hour trip by boat across the Tasman, and he started to win in Melbourne, too.

Last year, the owners decided to take a different tack. If they were to going to keep racing in Melbourne, they should use a Melbourne trainer. Burles admits the decision broke his heart.

The choice was narrowed down to two: the stable of Peter Moody, who prepared Black Caviar, or Robert Smerdon at Caulfield.

“You’ve got an opinion of him higher than what he is,” Moody said, according to Fawdry. “If he comes here it could be two or three weeks and he’ll be heading back to Tasmania.”

And now? Moody is on record saying he wouldn’t race his horse Brambles against The Cleaner, fearing the effect the tough run could have on his horse.

The Cleaner went to Smerdon. He lasted four starts before the horse from the bush missed the country life as much as his old trainer.

There was also a belief Smerdon had worked the horse too hard. He’d lost weight, and didn’t like living in a box when he’d only ever known a paddock, eating the Longford grass.

“He thought he was in jail,” Fawdry says.

He was rushed back to Burles and the paddock at Longford. He put on weight again. He won again. In his last two starts, at the Valley, the toughness was back and it was there for all to see.

The Spirit of Tasmania crashed through seven-metre seas on the way to Melbourne before the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes on September 6, so much so it threw Burles out of his bed as he slept.

The Cleaner led from start to finish to win.

In the JRA Cup a month ago, he led again, they took him on when they straightened, but held on to win. That result confirmed the Cox Plate start.

It’s a familiar story. GPS technology reveals why the horse is rarely run down: he’s capable of running the same time in the last 400m of his race as the first.

When the horse returns to the mounting yard, his jockey is usually breathing heavier than a footballer at the fulltime siren. It’s usually taken them a quarter of a lap past the post to pull him up.

“He’s a tough horse, but you have to keep at him,” says Burles. “He expects it. If you stop, he’ll stop.”

Steve Arnold rode So You Think to victory in the 2010 Cox Plate for Bart Cummings, who called that champion horse “perfection on four legs”.

Arnold has ridden The Cleaner in his last two starts, and will ride him again on Saturday. This horse is not perfection, but he’s tough.

“I don’t think I’ve ridden a horse as tough as he is,” Arnold told Burles after winning the Dato Chin Nam. “He won’t give in. From the 800 metres, it’s a brutal gallop.”

“If you get a better ride in the Cox Plate, take it,” Burles told the jockey.

Arnold shook his head.

“I won’t get a better ride than this.”

# # #

The Cleaner will be out to create history in today’s Cox Plate.

It’s just after dawn on Tuesday, and Burles is parked in front of the heater in his tiny demountable home, a cigarette already smoked down to the butt.

“Haven’t slept a wink,” he says.

The breaking news of the day is that The Cleaner has been backed into $10. The suspicion is Burt has unloaded on him, although he later denies leading any massive plunge.

Longford might be a speck on the map, but the locals are proud about punching above their weight.

They will tell you this year’s Inter Dominion winner, Beautide, comes from just up the road. Richard Flanagan, who earlier this month won the Man Booker literary prize in London, is a local boy done good. Cricketer George Bailey grew up on a sheep farm here, too.

The Longford racetrack is the oldest racecourse still in operation in the country, with one meeting a year on New Year’s Day. The Cleaner won the Longford Cup here in 2012, but not even the drunkest man on the front lawn that day could have forecast a Cox Plate start.

By the time The Cleaner steps onto the track for his morning gallop on Tuesday, Burles has drained four cigarettes. The electronic one is nowhere to be seen. He plonks down on the wooden bench seat in the tiny grandstand with stopwatch in hand and starts to cough uncontrollably.

In the early morning light, the horse scorches through its 400 metres in 21.7secs. One of the local trainers quietly says a sectional like that has never been clocked on this track before.

Burles stops coughing and rises to his feet. “If he can’t win the Cox Plate with that, he’ll never win it.”

Should The Cleaner win the Cox Plate, Burles will receive about $180,000 and loose change for his trainer’s cut of the prizemoney. You sense, though, the trainer truly doesn’t care for money, as he claims.

Tasmania’s greatest horse will always be Piping Lane, who won the 1972 Melbourne Cup for George Hanlon in 1972. Sydeston (trained by Bob Hoysted) and Alpha (Cummings) are the only Tasmanian-owned horses to contest the Cox Plate.

Burles has never been to Moonee Valley on Cox Plate day. On Saturday, he becomes the first trainer from the island state to have a starter in the weight-for-age championship coveted by every horseman and woman in the country.

“And that makes me pretty proud,” he says, the emotion coming back into his voice.

Because it’s not about the money. It’s not about being the pensioner trainer taking on the giants of racing.

That shit gets to him sometimes, too.

“They asked me the other day about racing against [Irish trainer] Aidan O’Brien and Gai Waterhouse. I ain’t racin’ them. The f—ing horse is. He’s no better than me because he’s Aidan O’Brien and races horses for the friggin’ queen. I train for these three queens.”

That makes him laugh, and he reaches for another cigarette. Not the electronic one.

“Horses come and go,” he says. “This one just makes it easier to get out of bed in the morning. That’s the story of my life.”

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Through the lens, October 2014Photos

Through the lens, October 2014 | Photos Pict. outside Wagga RSL Club representatives from Relay For Life and Wagga RSL Club and Wagga Commercial Club Logan Franklin,Daniel Kisela,John Keyes,Dougal the Bear, Andrew Bell, Linda Hoey, Jo Thomas John Keyes is the President of Wagga RSL Club and Andrew Bell is the General Manager of Wagga RSL Club the other people in the photo are in the Wagga RSL Club and Commercial Club teams for the relay.
Nanjing Night Net

Miriam Dayhew Head of CSU campus Wagga with CSU Vice Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann dig in to a 25th anniversary cake celebrating the founding of Charles Sturt University in Wagga.

Member for Wagga Daryl Maguire and Member for Riverina Michael McCormack getting a “little dirt on their hands” following the announcement of the successful tender for the reconstruction of the Kapooka Bridge which can be seen over their shoulders.

At Sutherland Stables in Wagga, Lockhart Town Cup contender Aribaa pictured with Trevor Sutherlands’ fiancee and foreperson at the stables Stephanie Menzies and Trevor’s 8 year old son Leroy Sutherland.

Jordan Galvin 14yrs from Illabo on ride at the 2014 Illabo Show

Twisty the Kelpie with part owner Catherine Webb from Coolac,Twisty was entered in open yard dog trial seen here taking a break in the shade at the Illabo 2014 show.

In glasses Bree Furner and Olivia Baxter admired by Mitchell Cameron, all from Young, pictured between races at the Young picnic races.

Mary Johnson from Young with grandson Matt Gibbons 8 weeks from Young seek the cool shade at the Young picnic races.

Relay For Life event at night at Parramore Park in the EQUEX centre in Wagga.Hope sign with sunset.

Relay for Life event at night at Parramore Park in Wagga pictured giving her address to the crowd Annette St Clair speaking on behalf of the Amie St Clair Melanoma Trust.

Wagga boxer and fight promoter Joe Williams pictured during a press conference prior to his world title bout with his Indonesian opponent Rusmin Kie Raha.

New Murrumbidgee Turf Club directors Kerri Reberger and Kevin Cross pictured look to pick up tips for the next meeting during their photo session at the track in Wagga.

Costa Georgiadis special guest at Shaw Street Community Gardens in Wagga. Costa is seen here planting vegetable seedlings.

Hayley Wheaton with Tracy Finucane and the newly constructed Mosaic for the cafe at the Shaw Street Community Garden.

Paramedics Jamie Godwin and Tara Newman pose with the newest addition to the Wagga Ambulance fleet an ambulance and stretcher designed to carry larger patients.

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