Prince among men who loved the sport of kings

By Tatura Guardian

The recent and sudden passing of popular Kyabramite Laurie McCarthy has deprived the community of a charismatic personality who had a zest for life, people — and racehorses.

It was an interest in racehorses that cemented my ties with Laurie as a good friend and punting partner, not that he ever lacked either.

Our friendship was sealed forever some 20 to 30 years ago through an experience one night at Kyabram’s Albion Hotel.

I had gone to place some bets on the trots at the pub’s TAB and while Laurie’s main interest was in thoroughbreds he always sought out my opinion on the trots, many times I suspect to his regret.

This particular night Laurie asked the usual question: did I have a winner for him?

I replied, as a matter a fact I did.

I told him a punting mate in Queensland had just told me that in race three at Albion Park (Brisbane) that night, a pacer who had been sired by Fake Left was an absolute stone bonker to win the race.

‘‘Thanks mate, I’ll check the form sheet and find out what its name is,’’ replied a thankful and unsuspecting Laurie.

He went to the form sheets and quickly announced that in this particular race number one was in fact by the sire Fake Left and it was a 50/1 shot.

You could almost see the dollars in his eyes — until he read on.

‘‘Hey Gus, number two is also by Fake Left and so is number three, four and five... what’s going on here?’’ Laurie said, glancing at me with a quizzical look.

He got to horse number 11 before he finally discovered a runner that wasn’t by Fake Left.

Yes, in that race that night rather incredibly 11 of the 12 runners were by the stallion Fake Left.

Laurie admitted I had sucked him in properly and he had a great belly laugh about it.

And from that night our friendship grew to a stage where we travelled regularly to outback race meetings.

We spent many a Saturday afternoon at my home watching Sky Channel and having a bet in moderate amounts, but with great consistency.

Sometimes we won, sometimes we lost, but whatever the scenario we would always vote it a great afternoon.

One of our outback trips to the races took us to remote Louth, a tiny speck in god-neglected country on the Darling River up near Bourke.

We had hardly left Kyabram when Laurie had serious doubts whether we would get there or not.

I had decided to travel to Barmah to join up with the Cobb Hwy to make our way north.

Keen to get the long drive over as quick as possible I took an early short cut, which involved travelling on the Yambuna Bridge over the Goulburn River north of Tongala.

Trouble was that it had been a wet winter and floodwaters in the forest there thwarted our every attempt to proceed.

So we had hardly left home and were forced to backtrack to the Murray Valley Hwy and make a detour to Barmah and the Cobb Hwy and finally up to Louth.

From then on, Laurie often brought that experience up whenever I ventured onto back roads to attend race meetings.

He regularly sought confirmation that I was sure I knew precisely where I was and where I was going.

Laurie’s love of racehorses grew from his time in Tatura in the early 1970s where he worked as a car salesman.

He struck up friendships with trainers and the racing community there and was then hooked on the sport of kings.

One of the first racehorses he had an ownership interest in was a mare called Come On Dolly who provided him with his biggest thrill when she won at Caulfield one day in the mid 1970s.

Laurie loved that horse and his family found it fitting to replay the race as his casket was being lowered in front of a large crowd of mourners at the Kyabram Cemetery at his funeral.

And in keeping with a racing theme, funeral goers dispersed worthless betting tickets on his coffin, which I know Laurie would have loved.

Laurence Denis McCarthy, known as Laurie, Lozza or Loz, was born and raised near Devonport in Tasmania and was the youngest of nine children.

He had a great love for most sports and was a more than handy footballer who played in two premierships with the Forth Football Club.

There was also a stint with the stronger Devonport and East Devonport Football Clubs where he played with the legendary Daryl Baldock.

They became lifelong friends and whenever he revisited his home state he made it his business to catch up with Baldock who, I might add much to Laurie’s delight, had become a successful racehorse trainer in that state.

Laurie was never backward in coming forward whenever he crossed paths with people of some repute.

He reasoned that he had nothing to lose in approaching them for a quick chat and, I strongly suspect, to see what they were really like. He usually got the desired response.

Former US president Bill Clinton and champion racehorse trainer Gai Waterhouse were just two high-profile people who could vouch for this.

When Laurie was lured to Kyabram in 1975 by Peter Lyon — appointed the local football coach at the time — to work as a car salesman at the Ford Garage it became his workplace for the next 30 years. In fact, until the end of his working days.

Always immaculately dressed, Laurie and his late wife, Judy, raised three children, Peter and twins Mark and Susan, in Kyabram.

He was involved in Kyabram community life and was a stalwart of the Kyabram Football Club, for which he served a term as vice-president, and also had a stint as president of the Kyabram Lions Club, another community organisation he loved being involved in.

Yes, Laurie McCarthy certainly packed a lot into his 80 years on this earth.

He will be missed by many, particularly those countless mates he made and traded tips with on racetracks down the years.