Emma Bell with Team O'Brien and A Dependant after taking out the 2017 Alpha cup.
Emma Bell with Team O'Brien and A Dependant after taking out the 2017 Alpha cup.

Racing industry pays tribute to talented CQ horseman

POPULAR Blackall racing identity Dennis O’Brien, 69, has died after a short battle with cancer.

The horse trainer passed away on August 28.

O’Brien was well-known in Central Queensland as a quiet achiever who raced his horses in parts of Queensland and was a good bloke who enjoyed and deserved his racing success.

Capricornia Racing chairman Leon Roberts extended condolences to the O’Brien’s family.

“It is an incredibly sad time for Dennis’ family and friends and the racing industry,” he said.

“We have lost a true gentleman and a very talented horseman.”

O’Brien will be remembered without a doubt as an all-round horseman with country hall of fame trainer Charlie Prow having a massive influence on his life in racing.

Charlie in part through their association being both Blackall boys.

O’Brien arrived in Blackall in the height of the wool boom as a gun shearer from Woodna in South Australia and had a strong association with Harness Racing and Greyhound racing in South Australia.

He realised there was a good earn year round in Blackall, made it his full-time home shearing sheep until he was 57, a feat on its own.

He struck up an association with Don and Robert Grieves at Avonlea and Avonleigh stations who were strong racing enthusiasts and the rest is history.

O’Brien inherited the family’s colours, black and blue, that all his runners raced.

Charlie Prow and Dennis became the greatest of friends with Charlie sharing his knowledge of racing with Dennis in his pathway to becoming a horse training.

It’s only been in the past decade Dennis has been able to solely concentrate on training his horses with his shearing commitments keeping him extremely busy.

The end of the wool boom and a back injury saw Dennis with an in town job in Blackall at Landmark which gave him the time to work with his horses on a full-time basis.

Among the topliner horses O’Brien prepared and owned was prolific country cups winner Exploder who took out back to back Emerald 100s under his training banner in 2002, then under the care of Bluff trainer Bill Trimble in 2003.

Exploder had the rare feat of being one of only two horses to take out the Emerald 100 on two occasions sharing the honour with 1992 winner Pleasant Express.

Arguably Dennis’ biggest highlight in racing was taking out the 2015 and 2017 Alpha Cups as an owner with his once in a lifetime war horse A Dependant who won 22 races, close to $200k in prize money and several country cups.

Emma Bell also shared a great affinity with O’Brien and he was a great supporter of Bell in her early days they had a great strike rate together.

They made the earth rumble in the 2017 edition of the Alpha Cup with O’Brien training the gelding on this occasion with Bell holding on in an epic finish to beat fellow iron horse Fabs Cowboy in a thrilling finish and the honour of the only horse to win two Alpha Cups.

Charlie Prow said Dennis was the epitome of the many hardworking and passionate racing participants across the state.

He loved horses and he lived for racing, in particular the passion and camaraderie that it offered.

The 69-year-old trainer was a respected member of the Central Queensland racing community.

Ron Higganbotham, a longtime Emerald trainer now in retirement, said you would go a long way to find a guy like Dennis and he would be sadly missed by all in the Emerald racing fraternity.


Highlights from Emerald races:

Pioneer Park trainer Glenda Bell used her home track advantage taking out the first three races at Tuesday’s TAB meeting.

She kicked off proceedings in the first race on the program with Military Ghost ($11) who broke through for the buy me a pony syndicate which is led by Jay Edwards.

The syndicate, that waited eight starts to break through with the Spirit of Boom gelding haunting its rivals running away with Nathan Day in the saddle and looks set for more wins this prep.

Bell’s new stable addition All Native, $1.90, ran its rival’s ragged taking home $20,000 in prize money with ex David Vandyke galloper being QTIS eligible.

The former lightly raced South East Queensland galloper looks to have a big future and looks set to join the higher echelon of gallopers in Central Queensland.

The win made it a race to race double for Bell and Day.

Bell soldiered on with her track specialist Addicted who Bell declared as her best bet on the program to anyone who would listen.

The Bell disciples were well rewarded when Addicted made it a treble for Bell, winning comfortably at the luxury odds of $3.90 with apprentice Marnu Potgieter in the saddle.

One of the other highlights from Tuesday’s meeting was from Patrick O’Toole’s win with Hazar ($7) ridden by Beau Appo.

Hazar made it two wins in a row for his Barcaldine trainer who flew the flag strongly for Central West participants.


Rewarding trip for Vagg family:

The Vagg family from Bluff ventured on a 1000km round trip to Charters Towers on August 15 with the agony of a blown tyre and an injured horse (Tyrannize) who had to be scratched.

The family struck rewards for the day off Early Agony and then a flurry of ecstasy with Sixty One Tigers who took out one of the two benchmark 45 handicaps over 1000 metres on the program.

Wanderson D’avilia was in the saddle at the juicy odds of $9.

The Bluff train-driving family juggles their passion for racing with shift work and have a loyal syndicate of friends who race horses in the Bluff stable.