David Yaxley, Tasmania's most successful thoroughbred owner of the 1980s and `90s, died last week after a battle with cancer.
Yaxley, who was in his 80s, will best be remembered as the owner-breeder of Sydeston, whose 19 wins included the 1990 Caulfield Cup.
With stake-earnings of $3.1 million, Sydeston was the best-performed Tasmanian horse of the 20th century.
Yaxley was also a successful Devonport-based businessman whose advice was highly valued by fellow racing industry participants.
Top Queensland jockey Mick Dittman, who was Sydeston's regular partner, consulted with Yaxley on a major cattle business venture and Stephen Maskiell, who rode many of the owner's big-race winners in Tasmania, sought investment advice early in his career.
Despite his success in business and racing, Yaxley remained a deeply private man.
He never chased publicity, seldom gave interviews and rarely attended race meetings in Victoria, even when Sydeston was at the height of his powers and beating the best horses in the land.
In his last media interview in October, he told The Examiner his days as a racehorse breeder were over but he still hoped to buy another horse or two if his health improved.
He had been receiving treatment for cancer and had just won a race at Spreyton with Talaq Downs.
``I'm not very well but it always makes you feel a bit better when you get a winner,'' he said.
``I haven't had one for a while.''
The winners had flowed thick and fast a couple of decades earlier when Yaxley teamed up with two legendary trainers, Bob Hoysted in Victoria and Len Dixon in Tasmania.
Hoysted, a member of one of Australia's best-known racing families, trained Sydeston and numerous other Yaxley-owned horses when they campaigned in Victoria.
Dixon, a legend of the Tasmanian Racing Hall of Fame, trained most of his other horses during an era when Yaxley regularly won the state's leading owner award.
Their big-race winners included Formal Address, Group Decision, Don Raider, Don Bellotto, Party Game, Donvertrice, Dame Kingston, Valid Comment, Night Shower, Musical Game and River Don.
Dixon, who died late last year, regarded Yaxley as the perfect owner. ``I'd send him a bill and the cheque would arrive the next day,'' he once said.
Yaxley also had success with several other trainers including Barry Campbell, Terry Courtney and, in later years, Charlie Goggin.
He had a short involvement in racing administration, serving as chairman of the Devonport Racing Club and as a member of the now defunct Thoroughbred Racing Council.
Aiming high: Tasmanian mare Bel Price has been nominated for the $1 million Newmarket Handicap at Flemington on March 9.
Trainer Vicky Rhind said the four-year-old's Victorian owner, Graeme Gathercole, was keen to raise the bar if she maintained this season's unbeaten record in the $150,000 Bow Mistress Trophy at Elwick on Sunday.
``I know it would be a huge step up in class, but Graeme is keen to give it a go and I'd be proud to have her running in such a big race,'' Rhind said.
If she made the trip, Bel Price would have a lead-up run in Melbourne and that would mean missing the $100,000 Vamos Stakes at Mowbray on February 20.
``The Vamos is over 1400 metres and at this stage we'd prefer to keep her to shorter distances,'' Rhind said.
Fellow Spreyton trainer Barry Campbell is also considering a Melbourne trip for last week's Mowbray winner Visual Effects, although he would be aiming a lot lower.
Campbell said last season's Tasmanian Oaks placegetter was a dour stayer and he would like to try her in a low-rating 3000m race at Moonee Valley.
``I can't find one at the moment but I think she would be up to winning something like that,'' he said.
``She's not good enough for our local cups.''