Martin ‘Herbie’ Eveleigh: ‘Local Legend’
The featured image shows Herbie Eveleigh returning to scale to rapturous applause on his own horse Bo Yanko. The occasion was the Aberdeen Cup of 1989 run at White Park, Scone. Herbie received one of the warmest receptions of his long career. It helped lubricate the ambience that Bo Yanko started a short priced favourite. He was a very good racehorse.
Apparently he was christened Martin Eveleigh; but never known by his mother’s specially chosen Sunday name. He was always just ‘Herbie’.
During the time White Park was the official home for the Scone Race Club (1947 – 1994) Herbie Eveleigh graduated from apprentice rider to master jockey. No-one knew the not-so-sublime subtleties of the tight little course better than Herbie. His inaugural mentor (master) was the late Scott Johnston based at Tyrone Stud on the extreme northern edge of the township. Rumour has it that from the age of 14 or even less young Herbie walked across the paddocks from the Eveleigh family home on Noblet Road to ride work for Mr Johnston. School attendance became irregular. Herbie’s future was set. There were more regular ‘works outs’ and track-work commitments at White Park.
Knowledge of local conditions gave Herbie a significant advantage at the local meetings. However his skill set improved to the extent he became champion apprentice in the Newcastle, Hunter and Central Coast Racing Association. He graduated later to champion jockey (number of winners) within the same jurisdiction. This was a major achievement with jockeys of the calibre if Bill and John Wade based with major trainers at Broadmeadow in Newcastle. Herbie also rode regularly in the North and North West Racing Association area rarely venturing outside these two domains. There was enough to be done near home.
Most of Herbie’s early wins came at the behest of his master Scott Johnston. Scott had a great team to train on behalf of an elite clientele. Many owners were pastoral beneficiaries of the Korean War inspired ‘pound-a-pound’ wool boom of the 50s and early 60s. Many successful graziers from the Upper Hunter and especially the Merriwa district could indulge their every whim. For many this was the means to afford racehorses. ‘Pitlochry’ raced by Mr Geoff Hordern and ‘Farnham Castle’ owned by Mr S E Edwards were extremely prolific winners for all concerned. I think Herbie won about 40 races on each? It amounted to a great score for the little local champion jockey.
Trainer Alf Marks who arrived in Scone in 1968 with Sam Hordern was Herbie’s nemesis; but it was each-way traffic. Alf was skilled but succumbed to a chronic affliction. Exposed very early to the ravages of alcohol addiction Herbie resolved never to touch a drop in his life. He hasn’t; advantage Herbie. Alf was different. He struggled with his demons. He was always suspicious Herbie was ‘taking him for a ride’. I doubt it; but the gremlins persisted. ‘He’s seven fox power cunning’ was one of Alf’s favourite descriptors. ‘Mrs Kelly wouldn’t let Ned play with Herbert’ was another pearl. He claimed they both suffered from insomnia (‘the insomniac’ was his exact call). ‘He lies awake all night thinking how he’s going to outsmart me; and I lie awake all night thinking how he thinks he’s going to outsmart me. We can’t sleep at night’! They were interesting times.
Alf was my nemesis; but I really liked him. Late one night I received a call from Alf. He was suffering from the ‘horrors’ in his room at the Golden Fleece Hotel His old mate Jack Gill had been in town with Gill Brothers circus. Alf and Jack had been on a five day ‘bender’. Alf called me ‘Herbert’ when in the horrors. He claimed ‘they were after him’. ‘They’ turned out to be ‘imaginary weasels with faces thirty feet long, a long dark bloke in a corner’ and he ‘thought he had hepatitis’. He probably did. I called my friend Dr David Warden and described the clinical signs. David immediately diagnosed DTs.
He prescribed the tranquillizer ‘Largactil’ which I could pick up at the hospital. I did. It was now about midnight. I called to see Alf. He was in a mess like I hadn’t seen before. Glazed anguished expression and profuse sweating were obvious clinical signs. Then there was the diatribe about ‘weasels with faces thirty feet long, weird strangers in the room and claims of hepatitis’. I managed to insist he take the medicine while I looked on. I left and went back to bed. I lived not far away. About 2am my telephone rang. It was Alf again; same story. I didn’t want to disturb anyone. This time I took some animal/horse ‘Largactil’. I now knew the human dose. I watched as he took my embellished dose of ‘Largactil’. I left and went back to bed; again. Two days later I saw Alf. He acknowledged me and told me ‘he’d slept like a baby for 24 hours and when he woke up he was fine’! He no longer called me Herbert!
I digressed; but with Herbie Eveleigh and Alf Marks it’s worth it. There is no doubt Herbie Eveleigh is a local living legend of the racetrack. Now over 80 he’s a great credit to himself and his extended family. Still active and competitive he breeds, breaks, trains and races his own. He’s not strictly licensed; but who said anything about rules? On Noblet Road you make your own laws; and claim adjacent ‘Crown Land’ territory for grazing rights. Herbie has a very sharp mind and razor wit. I can only rarely match him. Recently my spouse Sarah and I were out leading our little Jack Russell ‘Joe’. Sarah ‘held the reins’. Herbie deadpanned: ‘You’ve got the chain on the wrong one’!
Herbie won the Scone Cup twice: on ‘Sky Sailor’ in 1967 for Ron Rose of Singleton and trainer A Cox plus ‘Norm Park’ in 1977 for trainer R Wann from ‘out West’.