By Geoff Newling
Patrick Webster is closing in on another major milestone. Last year the Randwick-based trainer won his first Group 1 when Happy Clapper won the Epsom Handicap at Royal Randwick and hopes he can add a Doncaster later this year.
However, Webster, who is special guest of Quirindi Jockey Club at the February 15 Calcutta and February 16 Cup meeting, is set to break a major prizemoney barrier of $10 million. Since taking out his trainer’s licence in 1972, he's won 240 races worth $9,872,571 in prizemoney, and 16 of them have been Group 2 and Group 3s while Happy Clapper’s Epsom Handicap win is his only Group 1.
Happy Clapper, who is back in work and trials on February 12, has won nine races and $3.6 million in prizemoney. He’s run second in the past two Doncasters as well.
Pat may well reprise those wonderful winning memories when he attends Quirindi Jockey Club’s Akubra Quirindi Cup Calcutta at Quirindi RSL on Thursday February 15.
It’s sure to be an entertaining night with Pat, who is also a Drug and Alcohol mentor with Racing NSW, recalling some of the great moments of the turf.
Last year’s Epsom win with Happy Clapper was a watershed moment for Webster who had started his racing career as an apprentice jockey at Randwick in 1967 with Betty Lane. He was in the top three apprentices but then disaster struck: “I had a very bad fall at Rosehill,” Pat Webster recalled. “I was in hospital for 10 months.”
After recovering he worked various jobs, including on the docks before deciding to re-enter the racing game as a trainer: “I didn’t like paying tax,” he said. “My wife said that’d be fine because I wouldn’t earn enough training to pay tax. She was right, it’s a tough, hard game.”
However, he’s “hung in” at Randwick with a small team of between six to a dozen. These days he also helps with a mentoring role for the Racing NSW in Drug and Alcohol, as well with programs like Racing Mates and charities such as Kids with Cancer.
Helping the QJC promote its Cup meeting as well as help a charity such as the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service also adds more to the occasion, Pat said. “I’ve never had a runner at Quirindi,” he said. “I have ridden there a couple of times though. This is the first time I will have been back. Looking forward to it.”
His reminiscing and stories will help make the RSL Club Calcutta a big night and an even bigger Cup day on Friday February 16. The Akubra Quirindi Cup (1600m) itself is worth $50,000, the most the QJC has handed out, while there is a $40,000 Lightning, a $40,000 maiden and $35,000 2YO, sponsored by Emirates Park.
$285,000 in prizemoney will be on offer, the most the QJC has ever raced for while the meeting is also a fundraiser for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service. Tickets in the Cup Calcutta will be sold from 6pm at Quirindi RSL with dinner at 6:30pm and then the Calcutta itself.