Somewhere high above, popular racing identity Graeme Spackman was watching over Nowra races on Tuesday, January 10.
The Goulburn trainer, who called the Southern Highlands home, sadly passed away aged 73 on Tuesday morning after a short battle with cancer, but his legacy lived on in a galloper he formerly conditioned.
Hangover Monday scored an emotional victory for new trainer Tash Burleigh in the Shoalhaven City Council Benchmark 57 Handicap (1200m).
Burleigh was transferred most of Spackman’s horses in early November and was also an apprentice to the late trainer during her riding career. She was overcome with emotion after the triumph.
Experienced hoop Adrian Layt rode Hangover Monday to win and paid tribute to Spackman post-race.
"He was a true gentleman Graeme. He would give anyone a hand. A great horseman," Layt said.
"He's a big loss to the industry.
“I was just glad to win in his colours, on his horse."
Hangover Monday was geared up in Mr Spackman’s colours of yellow, red stars and cap and each of the other jockeys wore a black armband to commemorate Spackman’s life.
Mr Spackman was well known in country NSW as a quiet achiever and a good bloke. He enjoyed success across the Southern Highlands, particularly at the Bong Bong Picnic Races.
He became the second local trainer in history to prepare a Bong Bong Cup winner when five-year-old gelding Give Way took out the 2004 Bong Bong Cup. He again took cup victory in 2010 with Central Act.
Southern Highlander Geoff Goodfellow said Mr Spackman would be remembered “without doubt as the most outstanding all-round sportsman he had ever seen around the Highlands”.
“He was a superb horseman and one of the finest polocrosse players in the world. If my memory serves me correctly, he was also the NSW country table tennis champion, winner of around 10 first grade basketball premierships, an outstanding golfer and winner of district championships in both tennis and squash.”
Nick Campbell-Jones was a good friend of Mr Spackman and said he was the best horesman he had ever seen.
“I’ve been around horses all my life and no-one compared to Graeme. Most people would agree that he was the best Polocrosse player in the country. He played right through from 1954 up until about 10 years ago.”
Campbell-Jones, who grew up with Mr Spackman, said he would be sorely missed.
“He was a great friend and a very good man, he would never blow his own trumpet so to speak.”
Goulburn Race Club chief executive Robyn Fife extended condolences to Spackman’s widow, Judy, and family.
“It is an incredibly sad time for Graeme’s family, friends and the racing industry,” Ms Fife said.
“We have lost a true gentleman and a very talented horseman.”
Shoalhaven City Turf Club chief executive Lynn Locke said Spackman “must have been looking down on us on Tuesday when Hangover Monday took out the second race.
"It was an emotional win for Tash as she has ridden for Graeme and is now training on his behalf. There was a big cheer from the crowd when [jockey] Adrian Layt returned to the winner's circle on Hangover Monday.”
She sent condolences to the Spackman family. “We will miss seeing Graeme at Archer Racecourse and he will always be remembered here at Nowra."
Bong Bong Picnic Race Club secretary/manager Peter Hales said Spackman was a “stalwart of the club” and that the committee would “do anything possible for his family”.
Mr Spackman’s funeral service will be held on Saturday, January 21 in the main chapel at Chevalier College. The service will commence at 1.30pm.
In lieu of flowers, people are asked to consider donating to Riding for the Disabled.