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  • Provincial Racing NSW


LEGENDARY trainers Neville Begg and Clarry Conners have been inducted into the Newcastle and Hunter Racing Hall OfFame.

The inductions in the Trainers’ category were announced today at a special function at Broadmeadow racecourse to coincide with a midweek race meeting.

The other inductees were Jim Pike and Albert Shanahan (Jockeys), Roy Mahony and John Messara AM (Associates), and Samantha Miss and Ortensia (Racehorses).

This was the fourth round of inductions (held every two years) since the Hall Of Fame was inaugurated in 2017.

Neville Begg, now in his early 90s and born at Hamilton, a proverbial stone’s throw from the racecourse, trained at Royal Randwick and won 139 stakes races, including 39 Group 1s.

He had a particular affinity training fillies and mares, and won no less than 10 Oaks classics.

He also prepared the brilliant mare Emancipation, the 1984 Australian Horse Of The Year.

Clarry Conners, 77 and born at Lambton in Newcastle, trained for a time at Rosehill before moving to his Warwick Farm base, where he continues to train.

He has won 37 Group 1s – and four of them have been in the world’s richest juvenile event, the Golden Slipper Stakes at Rosehill Gardens.

Jim Pike, associated with the wonder horse Phar Lap, was the champion jockey of his time and will forever figure prominently in any list of Australia’s great jockeys.

Known as “The Master”, his skill in the saddle was such that “he rode it like J. Pike” became a regular catchcry when jockeys in following years produced masterful performances.

Albert Shanahan’s name was on every racing fan’s lips in the early 1900s, especially if you came from the Hunter.

He rode consecutive winners of Australia’s great race, the Melbourne Cup, in 2012 and 2013 on Piastre and Posinatus, the former owned in Newcastle and latter owned and trained at Morpeth.

Roy Mahony spent a record-breaking tenure of 35 years on the Newcastle Jockey Club Board of directors – the last decade as chairman.

Known as “Chairman Roy”, he was elected to the top post in 1975 at a time when the NJC was verging on insolvency and operating on the “smell of an oily rag”.

Using his many and varied contacts coupled with his renowned human skills, he set about turning around the club’s fortunes – and succeeded.

Of Italian and Greek heritage and born in Cairo, John Messara came to Australia when he

was 11 years of age and his memory of how he became so passionate about throughbredshas a real Australian flavour indeed.

His parents raced a few horses, but it was the evocative sound of racing on the kitchen radio on Saturday afternoons that drew his attention to the industry.

Messara not only established the magnificent Arrowfield Stud in the Hunter Valley entirely by himself and continues to be amajor player in the Australian breeding industry, but has also been a leading administrator at many levels, including being chairman of RacingNSW from 2011-16 and chairman of Racing Australia from 2013-16.

In May 2021, he became the first independent chairman of Racing Australia before relinquishing that role in March last year.

Kris Lees purchased Samantha Miss as a yearling for $1.5million on behalf of owner Ron

Croghan because he wanted a Redoute’s Choice filly, and she became a star of the turf, racing only 12 times before injury intervened, for seven wins and four placings.

Three of those victories were at Group 1 level in 2008 – the Champagne Stakes and Flight Stakes at Royal Randwick, and VRC Oaks at Flemington. She was also placed in the Group 1 Cox Plate at The Valley before winning the fillies’ classic at Flemington.

Samantha Miss was later sold as a broodmare to John Singleton’s Strawberry Hill Stud for what was a then record $3.85m.

Ortensia was to begin life as a broodmare, but put back into work under trainer Paul Messara at Scone, she regained form and embarked on a successful overseas odyssey.

A $50,000 yearling purchase, Ortensia was initially trained at Mornington by Tony Noonan, and won her first two starts as a two-year-old by wide margins, and overall eight races for him including the Group 2 QTC Cup at Eagle Farm and Winterbottom Stakes at Perth’s Ascot track in 2009.

She was also placed in the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap at Eagle Farm that year.

After failing in Adelaide’s 2011 Group 1 Goodwood Handicap at Morphettville, connections decided to retire her from the track.

But when she thrived with Scone trainer Paul Messara following a good spell, she embarked on another campaign and won three races in a row, including a second Winterbottom Stakes in Perth (then upgraded to a Group 1) and the Group1 Alquoz Sprint at Dubai’s Meydan racetrack.

Ortensia also won Group 1 King George Stakes at Goodwood and Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York in the UK.

She had two foals after retiring before sadly dying from a tumour on the lungs.

Ortensia raced 38 times for 13 wins, and raced in every Australian state as well as Dubai, Hong Kong and England.

. Wyong’s Brett Partelle and Damien Lane and Newcastle’s Mark Minervini kept the provincial flag flying high at today’s meeting.

Partelle won the Maiden Plate (900m) with Iconic Story ($3.50), Lane the Benchmark 64 Handicap (1250m) with the impressive Deep Opinions ($6), and Minervini the Conditional Benchmark 64 Handicap (1400m) with track specialist Super, who notched his sixth success at Broadmeadow.

Aaron Bullock’s treble on Iconic Story, Unravel and Super took him to 146.5 wins in a remarkable season.

*Words John Curtis, Tuesday May 2023 - Pics Newcastle Racecourse *

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