Harry & Max
I decided to include this tribute to two of the legendary horse breakers over the past 70 years. Maybe that should read ‘legendary young horse educators’? It could also be named ‘the master and the master’s apprentice’. They both have an association with our area through their close alliance with Randwick and the Inglis Easter Yearling Sales which are dominated by Upper Hunter-bred yearlings. Harry worked a season at Sledmere Stud in the late 1940s where he was a mentor to the emerging tyro, young Harley Walden. I can also claim that I knew both of them albeit fairly casually. It would seem that the ‘real characters’ of this genre, gender and generation appear to be disappearing? Having just turned 76 I would say that wouldn’t I?
Also on this website is live video footage of the master yearling handler Harry Meyer in the ring at the Inglis Sales Complex. See: https://sconevetdynasty.com.au/the-vet-on-the-stud-farm/
The ‘phoenix rising from the ashes’ is that Cameron Crockett is relocating to Scone in 2019. Welcome to Scone Cameron!
November 27 2018 – 8:08AM
Vale Max Crockett: A master horseman and a character of the track
Talk to anyone involved in the racing industry and they’ll tell you Max Crockett was more than your average horse whisperer.
He was the master.
A master horseman, a master horse-breaker and a master trainer.
“When we were out at Gooree I used to peek through the cracks in the wall and watch what he was doing … he was gifted,” Max’s son Cameron recalls.
“He had a way with horses. He was the master.”
An undisputed legend of the industry, tributes flowed for Crockett after he passed away on Sunday morning surrounded by his family at Mudgee hospital after a long battle with heart and kidney issues.
The 74-year-old was born in Randwick and developed his love of horses after spending his childhood in and around the racecourse and old Inglis Sales Complex.
He developed into one of Sydney’s premier horse breakers and looked after a number of yearlings for famed trainers including Bart Cummings, Gai Waterhouse, TJ Smith, Jack Denham, Les Bridge and Neville Begg.
He moved to Gulgong in the 1980s and later into Mudgee where he worked out of the Gooree Park Stud, where he continued to break in horses for the industry’s elite.
Crockett took to training himself, preparing numerous gallopers for the Foyster family including top grade American-bred galloper, Seeker’s Gold.
The legendary horseman was particularly fond of his last good horse, Lancelot, who won 11 races including two Gilgandra Cups (2013 and 2017) and finished placings at Warwick Farm and Canterbury Park.
It’s a sad moment. He was a legendary horseman and horse breaker and a real character as well.
Gooree Park stud manager Andrew Baddock.
His last winner was in Orange in November, with Mackellar’s Love saluting at Towac Park. The five-year-old has been nominated to run at Narromine on Thursday.
Crockett’s passion for horses is nigh-on unrivalled.
“It didn’t matter how fast they were or how slow they were or what they were worth, he treated them all the same,” Cameron said.
“You forge your own methods and models but you base it all off what you’ve seen with other people and my main influence comes from Dad, without a doubt.”
“To watch him in a yard with a horse, people wouldn’t believe their eyes.
“He’d be standing there in the centre and have a wild horse bucking around him, spinning around him and he’d just stand there and not move.
“And within 25 minutes the horse would be there following him everywhere, the horse would be looking for him.
“He could connect with a horse, and that’s something a lot of people can’t do.”
He is survived by his wife, Cheryl, children Cameron and Yasmin, and his four grandchildren, Grace (five), Jack (four), Oliver (three) and Theo (nine months).
“Dad was a massive influence on Cameron and me; you don’t realise how well-respected someone is until they are gone,” Max’s daughter Yasmin said.
“He was always great mates with Les Bridge and although he spent most of his later life in Mudgee, Dad’s heart was always with all his ‘old-school’ mates at Randwick.”
As an owner of a lot of Crockett-trained horses, and a long-time friend, Des Kennedy can attest to that love of Randwick.
“The best part of racing horses with Max was the drive to the races and the tales he’d tell,” Kennedy said.
“If you went to Randwick races with him, which I did on numerous occasions, from the time you pulled up in the car park he knew all the old green coats, you’d walk past Bart Cummings and he’d say ‘G’day Maxy, how are you?’. You’d walk past Gai Waterhouse and she’d say ‘hey Maxy, how are you?’, and then the chairman of the ATC would pull up and ask him how Mudgee was … the amount of people he knew in the racing world was remarkable.”
Gooree Park stud manager Andrew Baddock said Crockett’s status in the industry is legendary.
It’s estimated he broke-in over 7000 horses in his career.
“It’s a sad moment. He was a legendary horseman and horse breaker and a real character as well,” Baddock said.
“He’s been in poor heath the last couple of years, but he broke in hundreds of horses for us and leading trainers in Sydney as well, including Golden Slipper winners.”
They say home is where the heart is, and I think that’s where it always has been for Dad.
Cameron Crockett on his father’s love of Randwick.
“Max Crockett was a legend in racing and many will tell you he was the best horseman in the country,” Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys added.
“Some of the great trainers of our time entrusted Max to break in their horses and he always did an exemplary job.”
Veteran Central District Racing Association trainer Peter Stanley reaffirmed Crockett’s status as “one of the best horseman” in the country, but summed up the man best.
“I rode a lot of winners for him. He was a gentleman and a great character. He was a great man,” Stanley said.
“His son’s training well, he’s very successful at it. He learnt a lot of his father I’m presuming. His wife is a very good horsewoman too, they’re a horse family and great people. Max was just a great person to know.”
Cameron will move his stable to Scone in the New Year, bringing an end to the Crockett’s time in Mudgee.
A service for Max will be held in Mudgee at a date to be confirmed, and Crockett’s ashes will be spread at Randwick Racecourse.
“They say home is where the heart is, and I think that’s where it always has been for Dad,” Cameron added.
Vale Max Crockett: Urban cowboy who broke in horses for the best
By Max Presnell
26 November 2018 — 1:08pm
A North Randwick cowboy, Max Crockett, who died on Sunday, educated more horses in Australia than any other breaker. Well, that’s a record I’m claiming on his behalf.
Even in his younger days Crockett looked like he had weathered many a Kidman trail drive, with 10-gallon Stetsons lathered in dust and riding boots that had more in common with mud than polish.
We went back to 1964, when Crockett was serving his apprenticeship with the great horseman Harry Meyer and I watched them work their methods on Jupiter, a record-priced yearling.
Horses prepared at Randwick by Tommy Smith, Bart Cummings, Neville Begg and Les Bridge responded to the Crockett touch before he went bush with Meyer.
Tagged by Cummings as ‘‘the colt breaker’’, Crockett moved to Mudgee around 30 years ago where he linked as equine educator with what was to become the Gooree Stud of Filipino squillionaire Eduardo Cojuangco, following a stint with Lloyd Foyster who developed this horse heaven.
Over the decades, the Crocketts – Max and more recently his son Cameron, now a trainer – have tuned over a thousand Gooree Stud thoroughbreds from green youngsters to racehorses ready for Australia’s top trainers.
Rare in his line of work, Crockett was injury-free for decades before being trampled by a group of his pupils, which eventuated in him having a broken back.
The dangers of the trade were emphasised during his association with Smart Missile – mad, bad and difficult to be around. Later, Smart Missile was scratched at the barrier in the 2011 Golden Slipper.
‘‘The first day he was restless,’’ Crockett recalled. ‘‘I put it down to him being a very horny sort of a horse, a bully. I went to pass him up to Cameron to start his leading lessons and he took off. He reared on his hind legs. He went bang, striking at Cameron. I had to run in and drag him off. He banged me up against the wall and cut all me elbow open …
‘‘We settled him down and I said to the stud groom, Vickie Cannon, ‘He’s the worst horse I’ve had on the lead. He’s dangerous, too.’ I told her, ‘We’ll have to tell the boss to cut [geld] this horse’.’’
Crockett was informed the colt was too valuable, with breeding to match his appearance, to tamper with his stud prospects, so Crockett returned to old breaker lore … Maybe Smart Missile didn’t make the Golden Slipper, but Vickie Cannon pays tribute to Crockett for his success as a stallion, valued at $40 million after his first season at stud.
‘‘When Smart Missile got his legs over the back on the barrier (before the Golden Slipper) he didn’t lash out due to the Crocketts’ [work],’’ Cannon recalled. ‘‘Other colts would have done irreparable harm.’’
However, the Fred Allsop-trained Alfalfa (1968), one of Crockett’s second placegetters in the Golden Slipper, was even more harmful.
‘‘Alfalfa was a buck jumper,’’ Crockett stressed. ‘‘He killed a drover bloke when they took him home [after his racing career]. I told them when they put a stock saddle on him he would buck. They laughed …’’
Much revered by Cummings, Crockett related how he went to the master trainer during Randwick races about an outstanding account.
‘‘Bart, if I don’t get the money I’ll go to gaol,’’ Crockett, with massive overheads and staff to pay, pleaded.
‘‘Long Bay will suit you, Max,’’ the Master replied without missing a step. ‘‘There’ve got colour television now and a hot meal on Sundays. Anyway, Cheryl [wife of Max] will appreciate the break.’’
Cummings settled the account next day.