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  • Provincial Racing NSW


HOW’S this for a wealth of racing experience?

The photo kindly sent to us by Gosford Race Club shows New South Wales’ oldest trainer Albert Stapleford (who will turn 93 next month) seated right, 90-year-old Gilbert Slattery on the left, and the “youngster”, 75-year-old Neil Ward, standing at the back with a cup of coffee.

“We call it the Hut Of Knowledge,” Ward said. “It’s the coffee shop overlooking the track.

“That’s where all the right decisions are made!”

All three trainers keep no more than a couple of horses in work each – and it’s their life.

“I’d die if I didn’t have a horse or two to potter about with,” said Ward, whose best horse was the 1984 Group 1 Epsom Handicap winner Riverdale.

“I had a triple heart bypass two years ago. I had a runner at Gosford races that day, but didn’t feel 100 per cent and called into Gosford Hospital for a check-up on the way.

“They told me: “You’re not going anywhere’.” “Albert’s son and stable foreman Brian kindly saddled the horse for me.

“I’m fine now, and wouldn’t know what else to do if I wasn’t going to the track.”

“I won two races with Noble Empress at Gosford in December and January, and have just retired Emperor Harada, who won five races for me (four at home and the latest at Taree last August).”

Stapleford won the 500th race of his legendary career when six-year-old mare Dissenter scored at home in late January in a 2600m Benchmark 64 Handicap.

More than seven decades of experience came to the fore when he backed her up a week later, again at Gosford, and she made it two in a row in a similar race, but this time over the shorter 2100m.

Stapleford houses his horses with Ward, and will have a runner at the Port Macquarie meeting on Sunday when four-year-old mare Toldyas I’m Lucky (apprentice Madeline Owen) lines up in the Class 1 Handicap (1200m).

Slattery’s most recent winner was Dancing Rachel at Kempsey on November 26 last year, and he has had only a handful of runners since.

“Dancing” figures prominently in the names of his horses; a result of he and his wife enjoying tripping the light fantastic in their earlier years.

We can’t accurately say how many winners in total this trio has trained, but they are truly gentlemen of the turf and a magnificent credit to their beloved industry.

*Words - John Curtis April 13, 2023*

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