Newcastle and Hunter Racing Hall of Fame
The Newcastle and Hunter Racing Hall of Fame was instituted in 2017 by Brian Judd (Chairman), Gary Harley, Greg Radley and Sam North (Research). I nominated George Ryder and the Thompson Family (Associates); Peter Snowdon and Pat Farrell (Trainers); Wayne Harris and Robert Thompson (Jockeys); plus Luskin Star and Beauford (Racehorses).
This year (Tuesday 7th May 2019) Sarah and I were extremely honoured to be seated at the same table as Bob Charley, Mrs Joan Dawbarn, Mr & Mrs Robert Thompson, Peter and Lyn Snowdon plus Antony and Katie Thompson (Widden).
May 7 2019 – 5:30PM
Racing: Kris Lees joins hall of heroes
Featured Image: CHAMPIONS: Former jockey John Wade and trainer Kris Lees catch up during the Newcastle and Hunter Racing Hall of Fame induction on Tuesday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Kris Lees was humbled to be inducted into the Newcastle and Hunter Racing Hall of Fame ahead of so many great local trainers and alongside a hero of his childhood in jockey John Wade on Tuesday.
Lees and Wade were among eight selections in the second induction into the hall during a luncheon at Newcastle Racecourse.
Wade and his father, Bill, both group 1 winners and multiple Newcastle jockeys’ premiership champions, were on hand to accept their place.
Lees and the late Roy Hinton were the trainers inducted, while Paul Perry-trained trailblazing sprinter Choisir and 1920s champion Beauford were the horses.
The two associates honoured were the Thompson family and veterinary surgeon and administrator Dr Bill Howey. Antony Thompson accepted on behalf of his family, who have owned and operated Widden Stud in the Upper Hunter for more than 150 years.
Lees, now Newcastle’s premier trainer, joined his late father, Max, in the hall. Max, Paul Perry, Robert Thompson, Wayne Harris, Rogilla, Luskin Star, Alf Ellison and Billy Hill were inaugural inductees in 2017.
John Wade had a remarkable strike rate of 1143 winners from 4463 rides but was most famous for his five group 1 victories aboard the great Luskin Star, which was trained by Max Lees.
“When I was growing up, John was the No.1, pin-up jockey in Newcastle,” Kris said. “Right through to my earliest memories, so it’s a great thrill to be inducted at the same time.”
Wade said it was terrific to be inducted alongside his father, as well as Hinton and Lees, who he has known since his childhood.
“I saw him riding the rocking horse,” Wade said of a young Lees.
Lees responded: “He said ‘You better be a trainer, you won’t be a jockey’.”
Hinton, who died age 92 in June 2017, and Bill Wade were also popular choices. They dominated Newcastle racing with eight and 13 premierships respectively.
“It is fantastic,” John said of being inducted alongside his dad. “And also with Roy Hinton, who I was apprenticed to for six years, so that makes it even better.”
Lees’ record of 15 group 1 wins is second only to his father, who had 20, in Newcastle and he sits fourth on the Australian premiership with 180 victories this season.
“I just read those names then and I feel very humbled to be up here,” Lees said of the trainer nominees.
“I’ve grown up on this track. I was born here and spent all my formative years coming to trackwork here and when I see some of those names that aren’t in this hall of fame yet, I’m very humbled, so I must thank everyone for their support in putting me in.”
Lees took over his father’s stable after his death in 2003.
Asked if he was ready then to take the reins, Lees said: “It was untimely but I’d had a very good grounding.
“I’d been very fortunate to be my father’s foreman for over 15 years so I think I was ready but I was certainly prepared to wait a bit longer.”
As for the secret to his success, he said: “Lots of horses.
“But I’ve got great people around me.
“I’ve got great family support and really good staff and I’m very fortunate to have great support from a number of owners Australia wide.”