Queensland's Own Welcome to the best coverage of racing in Queensland Queensland's Best
Horse Racing Only
www.horseracingonly.com.au Horse Racing Only logo
Home Racing Queensland National International Blogs Photo Gallery Links Contact Us


By Graham Potter | Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Those outside of the racing world tend to see the industry as a betting medium where money rules and the financial return is all that counts … but that view certainly sells the industry short in general and does its thousands of participants a real disservice.

What is not readily recognised outside of the industry is the huge emotional investment on the part of the majority of those who deal directly with the thoroughbreds, working with them in the stables and at the track. That investment will have its good times, not necessarily related to or dependent on race results, but, at times in unfortunate circumstances, it can also turn into a devastating emotional cost in a worse-case scenario.

Take the story of Patches for example.

Patches was a much-loved member of the Michael Nolan stable and the time that he spent there perhaps best personifies the type of bond that is so often established between not only a horse and trainer … but a horse, the trainer, the trainer’s family, the entire group of stable staff, the owners and the owners’ families.

Patches had all that love and attention behind him and it would be no exaggeration to say that he became as much part of the stable family as any racehorse can do.

In fact, that family connection went back to day one.

“Patches was the last horse I bought from my cousin Basil,” said Michael Nolan. “Basil tragically passed away in November of that year after I had bought Patches in Rockhampton earlier in the year.

“We were sort of attached to him from early on, having bought him off Basil. He was such a kind horse. He had a bit of a personality of his own which endeared him to us.

“He also had these very strange markings. He was black with a white face. He had a full white sock right up to his knee and a patch of white on his stomach.

“For a thoroughbred to have those sort of colourings … well, he looked more like an appaloosa.

“So, he was already special from early on for a number of reasons … where we got him from, his temperament and his markings.

“He was always called Patch … but then, when we went to name him, we just named him Patches.

“I got a lot of first-time owners involved in the syndicate. Some of my mates here in Toowoomba got involved.

“Patches never left our Euston Road property very much. We got used to seeing him around all of the time, which was great. Like I said, he had personality. He was just a gem of a horse.

“He was a good horse to us. He was a good horse to all those first-time owners coming into the stable. He always performed to his best. He had five wins and ran a lot of seconds, six in all … including four in a row at one stage.

“He gave us all great pleasure in one race in particular. We got to town. We put Jim Byrne on. We finally drew an alley … and winning that metro race with him was just such a huge thrill.”

That would turn out to be Patches’ last run.

“He had some heat in his tendon after that run and we gave him six months off, so he had six months in the paddock and then he came back in for his next preparation,” continued Nolan.

“We had really big plans for him in the equestrian field when he had finished his racing career but, sadly, neither his return to racing nor his post racing career eventuated.

“Patches was nine weeks into the preparation when the accident happened.

“He was working at Clifford Park. All of his local owners were there to see him work … when he suffered a severe shoulder injury and he could not be saved. It would have been the saddest morning I have had at trackwork in all of my training career … and the saddness stayed with us for some time.

“He just meant so much to us.

“Those type of things don’t just happen in racing obviously. They happen in life in general and, of course, horses don’t have to be racing or in work to have an accident. It can happen in the paddock or in the most innocent of settings … but, when you don’t have any warning and can’t see it coming, the shock is all the greater … and that was the case with Patches.”

Trainers lose horses all of the time for a variety of reasons … they are moved to a new stable, they get injured and sidelined or they simply retire … but when a horse dies there is a sobering finality to it.

“The sadness at the time was almost overwhelming and plenty of tears flowed,” said Nolan. … but, as always, the coping mechanism does kick in eventually and you do get to enjoy the memories.

“And they are very fond memories!

“We miss him.”

*There will be countless people who can relate to this story. All credit to them for what they have done, are doing and will continue to do for these magnificent thoroughbreds. They will all know that sometimes an emotional price has to be paid along the way for the care, commitment and love that they show for their horses, but their love for what they do is unconditional and that’s what carries them through the tougher times.

More articles

Patches ...on his way to a metropolitan win on Febuary 20, 2021 in what was to be the last race of his career
Patches ...on his way to a metropolitan win on Febuary 20, 2021 in what was to be the last race of his career
Looking a picture on the way to the start
Looking a picture on the way to the start
Feeling the love
Feeling the love
Spreading the joy
Spreading the joy
Posing with the team
Posing with the team
Photos: Darren Winningham
Photos: Darren Winningham
Queensland's Own www.horseracingonly.com.au Queensland's Best