If you listen long and hard enough, you think you have probably heard all the quirky and surprising racing stories worth hearing. But John Letts isn’t sure you have.
As a matter of fact, he’s pretty certain he can let you in on a few more he’s come across during his 60 years in the racing game.
Next Friday John will be at Clifford Park where he hopes to fill in some of those racing yarn gaps as guest speaker at this year’s TAB Calcutta Sportsman’s Lunch in the Clive Berghofer Grande Atrium.
John has been involved with racing since becoming an apprentice jockey in 1959. His high-flying days in the saddle produced 2,350 wins and were immortalised with Melbourne Cup victories aboard 40-1 chance Piping Lane and Beldale Ball.
The “Punters’ Pal” then became a familiar face and voice to television viewers as a Melbourne Spring Carnival post-race interviewer for Channel 7, aboard his pony and best mate “Banjo”.
Despite his vast race travels, John has never been to Toowoomba previously and is now looking forward to adding Clifford Park to his CV.
“This will be my first visit to Toowoomba and I’m looking forward to it – it has a lot of history,” John said during a break at Allora on his 2022 Melbourne Cup trophy tour.
“Bernborough and Jim Atkins are just two names I associate with Toowoomba which also staged Australia’s first horse race meeting under lights. My wife and I love doing the racing circuit.
“I’ve recently been to places from Singapore to Hobart and Wallaroo, which is the birthplace of George Hanlon, with the cup. The cup doesn’t come to Toowoomba this year, but I can’t wait to get there and tell some stories about myself and the Melbourne Cup.
“There are lots of other stories as well. Many just can’t or don’t happen anymore. When you talk racing, the stories are endless.
“Racing is a lifestyle that stays with you forever, once you’ve been a part of it. We love it.”
By Glen McCullough