Tony Gollan’s much-loved father passed away more than a year ago but his legacy lives on in TAB Stradbroke Handicap week through the never-give-up attitude which permeates through his son.
As Queensland’s premier trainer strives to win the race he craves more than any other – the time-honoured Stradbroke – memories of his horse trainer and publican dad Darryl come flooding back.
Tony grew up living in pubs on the Darling Downs and it was there watching his father train horses which instilled his strong work ethic and burning desire to succeed.
There is also a never-say-die streak in the Gollans, quite literally.
Darryl, who won the Doncaster as an owner with Dalrello in 1975, was at death’s door around the time his son won the Group 1 Doomben 10,000 with Spirit Of Boom in 2014.
The gravely-ill veteran horse trainer, who was battling heart problems and cancer of the oesophagus, courageously fought on for another six years until his death in April last year.
So it was a special family moment when Vega One won the Group 1 Kingsford-Smith Cup last month with Tony embracing his much-loved mum Paulette, 73, in the Eagle Farm mounting yard.
Darryl and Tony Gollan with Doomben 10,000 winner Spirit of Boom. Picture: Adam ArmstrongSource:News Corp Australia
Paulette, known to racing people for her former work as an operator in the local TAB, has battled her own health problems in recent times but was the proudest mother in the world and hopes Vega One’s success can be replicated in the Stradbroke.
“Tony gave me the biggest cuddle that I have had from him in a while that day,” Paulette giggles.
“I am so very proud of him, he is like his dad and he puts so much hard work in.
“It was a very special moment, a lovely time for Tony and I.”
Gollan, now with five Group 1s on his resume and hoping for another with Stradbroke fancy Vega One, is quick to admit he wouldn’t be where he is today without his family.
He remains in constant admiration of his father, the tough-as-teak trainer who needed two blood transfusions just to attend Tony’s wedding in 2014.
Teachings passed down the Gollan family tree are still bearing fruit today.
There are richer and more prestigious races than the Stradbroke.
Vega One (right) wins the Kingsford-Smith Cup for trainer Tony Gollan and jockey Jamie Kah at Eagle Farm on May 29. Picture: Trackside PhotographySource:Supplied
But the Stradbroke is the race that Gollan wants above all others and there are echoes of his dad, one of the doyens of Queensland racing, in how he goes about his training.
“Hard work was dad’s thing – he was a ‘harder you work, the luckier you get’, kind of guy,” Gollan says.
“He would never give up on his horses, if he had an injured horse he would always be trying to get a magic potion to fix it and get it back to full health.
“He was the same with his own health, he was so unwell in 2014 but he fought through all the way until 2020 and that was remarkable. We often talked about trying to win a Stradbroke and what it would take.
“It is always a race I have wanted to win.
“There is the Melbourne Cup and there is The Everest but if you are a fair-dinkum Queenslander, then the Stradbroke is your race.
“It’s a hard race to win because it’s a handicap so you’ve got to beat the handicapper to get your horse in at the right weight and you’ve got to have a horse good enough to win.
“It’s always a capacity field and it’s nearly always run like a proper race, up tempo, there is no place to hide in a Stradbroke.
“It’s a good horse’s race.”
After jockey Jamie Kah wove her magic to win the Kingsford-Smith on Vega One at Eagle Farm on May 29, bookies installed the Gollan galloper as the one to beat in the $1.5 million TAB Stradbroke at the same track on Saturday.
Tony Gollan and Jamie Kah celebrate Vega One’s win. Picture: Trackside PhotographySource:Supplied
In-form Sydney jockey Rachel King will ride Vega One, the horse Gollan thought would win last year’s Stradbroke but finished fourth after starting from a wide barrier.
Vega One had an extended lay-off following last year’s Stradbroke after injuring his suspensory but Gollan has got him back and firing better than ever.
It’s that never-give-up attitude, passed down from Gollan’s father.
“He has always been a bit of a tricky horse, he had a bleeding attack even before I got him so it certainly hasn’t been easy,” Gollan says.
“At the start he was very headstrong but in his first preparation for me he showed me some good glimpses, he went right through from a maiden to a stakes race in that one preparation.
“I thought he would win last year’s Stradbroke but the barrier probably beat him and then it was a long road getting him back after injury.
“I really do think he’s the one to beat this year. With Jamie (Kah) unable to make it back from Victoria (Covid travel restrictions), we are pretty happy we have got Rachel King.
“To be perfectly honest, I probably watch more of Rachel riding than I do of Jamie riding, and that’s because I watch more Sydney than Melbourne racing.
“Rachel is running third in the Sydney jockeys’ premiership and that probably tells me how good a rider she is.
“They are the best overall bunch of riders in Australia.”
Originally published asThe memories driving Gollan to win Stradbroke
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