“The Racing Game…… It is the sport of uncertainty. It throws up champions and duffers, aristocrats and vagabonds. It is a magnet for those who parade and those who punt.

But it is mainly about hope. Hoping horses will fulfil dreams, and hoping that you are on them when they do…….”


When you mention Wangaratta’s rich thoroughbred racing history, the name Hoysted inevitably crops up in conversation.

And why not ? For more than 150 years, from the time Harry Hoysted set up his stables in Grey Street, six generations of the famous clan carried on a remarkable sporting dynasty.

As trainers, jockeys, bookmakers, even race-callers….they did the lot.

Two of Harry’s sons – Fred (‘Father’) and Henry (‘Tib’), inherited the stables when he died in 1906. They got along famously until they had a disagreement at the Albury races in 1926, after Fred’s horse, Rakwool, beat the odds-on favourite, trained by ‘Tib’.

Fred moved to Melbourne, where he trained from his stables at Mentone for 39 years. His training establishment became the largest in Australia during the fifties. He won 17 Metropolitan trainers’ premierships. Probably the best horse to come through his hands was the mighty Rising Fast, with which he won a Caulfield Cup and finished second in a Melbourne Cup.

‘Tib’, meanwhile, remained a powerhouse in the country, with an occasional foray to city tracks. One of the finest moments of FullSizeRenderhis 50 years as a trainer, came at the Albury Gold Cup meeting in 1946, when he won 5 of the 6 races on the program. His son Hal won the other.

Hal Hoysted had always worked in his father’s stables, originally riding as an amateur before becoming an apprentice.

In less than three years he rode 112 winners, but increasing weight forced his retirement.

At the age of 84, in 1996, after more than 50 years as probably the best-known country trainer around, he finally handed in his licence. He had trained thousands of winners, including nine Wangaratta Cups, five Albury Gold Cups, and boasted 25 NEDRA trainers’ premierships.

Hal trained horses of the calibre of Aly Khan, Epsom Boy, Caesar’s Right and Gold Lad, which once won 13 races in succession.

But his best was Golden Doubles, which won successive William Reid Stakes and had many other wins along the way.

Hal’s son Roger was, naturally, destined to train. He worked at the Scott Street stables before and after school, then headed to Queensland for a couple of years. He worked for Tommy Smith and Bart Cummings, but received a letter from his Dad, asking him to come home to be his stable foreman.

Soon after that he gained his licence. His first city winner was Tiger Bolt, at Moonee Valley in 1974, but he trained a series of good horses. The pick of them was undoubtedly Lad of the Manor, which won 13 races, $1.6 million in prize money and was desperately unlucky in three consecutive Cox Plates.

He was preparing Lad of the Manor for another ‘Valley’ race when he succumbed to the cancer that had challenged him for almost 10 years. They said that the excitement of training ‘The Lad’ had prolongued Roger’s life and FullSizeRendergiven him a reason to go on.

Weight problems forced Jimmy Hoysted, Hal’s cousin, out of the saddle, after he had enjoyed a successful apprenticeship as a jockey.

“I shot up to eight stone. And if you were eight stone then, you were too damned heavy,” he once reflected. ” It was the depression and there were very few fat people around in those tough days. There were 10 to 15 fellows camped under every bridge.”

Jim was a classy footballer and roved in Wangaratta’s 1946 premiership side, under the coaching of Laurie Nash, before finally taking out a trainer’s licence in 1950. He eventually bought some land in Rowan Street and built a large stable complex to house his increasing team.

He focused on the North-East as his hunting ground and prepared a number of top horses. The best of these was Fuel, which he bought as a yearling for a local butcher, Harold Hahne.

It was estimated that there have been more than 30 trainers bearing the Hoysted name throughout the years.

I love the story of Des Hoysted, who was the son of champion Wangaratta jockey and trainer, Wally.

Legend has it that Des, who was racing-mad, would sit on the fence of the Grey Street stables and call imaginary races, as sticks that he had painted in racing colours flowed down the rain-filled gutter.

In the mid-thirties his uncle Fred trained a top galloper called Valiant Chief, which became Des’s favourite. Much to his delight, Valiant Chief came to Wangaratta to be the resident stallion at the Hoysted property.

“I used to ride him all the time”, Des once recalled. “When I came home from school at St.Pat’s, I would coax him over to the fence, climb up on the rails and jump on his back.”

“I’d then do phantom calls. I’d have Valiant Chief competing against the champions of the day. And, of course, he’d always win. At the same time I’d draw my knees up and put my hands on the side of his neck, as if I was riding him to victory. You know, the old bloke never turned a hair. Maybe he got a thrill out of ‘winning himself’.”

At 14, when he was old enough to leave school, he got a job with the P.M.G, then at 16, was shifted to Melbourne. He was in his element among the racing atmosphere. He continued to practice his race-calling and remembering horses’ and jockeys names became a fad of his.

The Christmas holidays of 1948 saw Des get his big chance. His cousin Henry, who was the course broadcaster at Wodonga, fell ill and Hal, another cousin, asked him if he’d like to have a crack at it.

He got a loan of Hal’s binoculars, called the whole program, and was on his way.

Hearing of his successful debut, A.B.C chief Mel Morris offered him a job as understudy to the renowned caller, Joe Brown.

Des was later to join Sydney’s 2GB and 2UE in a calling career which spanned 37 years and included the coverage of 32 Melbourne Cups.

Des’s exceptional recall of horses, jockeys, trainers and great races earned him the reputation as a ‘walking encyclopaedia of racing’. His name is still thrown up when experts recount the greatest race-callers of all-time.

The Hoysted tradition still continues, with Paul, the grandson of a fine trainer, Mick, and the son of another trainer, Michael, doing excellent work as the General Manager of the Wangaratta and Benalla Race clubs.

FullSizeRenderIt’s difficult to imagine another Australian family having had such a profound influence on their sport as the ‘Horsey Hoysteds’.







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