So, Lefty Matters reneged on our deal. The phone was on the hook and yes, he did answer the phone but it did me no good.
There was no way that he was having me write up a profile on him, even despite my quiet persuasion. Go see your father, he said.
So I went to see father and he said, no, they will think you are playing favourites. Well, he wasn’t getting away, so here you are.
The headlines of The Recorder’s sporting section in the 60s had often read things like “Pirie glamour mare wins again” or “Snippet to take the free-for-all”.
Snippet was a small built, bay mare who had won the hearts of many Pirie-ites with little old ladies often trundling over to the trots on a Saturday night just to see her run and maybe have a flutter.
She was a fiery little mare but one who would share her feeder with the chooks and give you a quick kick at the same time if you happened to walk behind her – something that you soon learnt not to do.
To Les Joyce she was, eventually, perfection, and he would be seen whispering in Genie’s ear the day of a race, asking her if she was going to win that night? (Genie being her stable name).
There had been motorbikes and then cars, so horses were probably the next thing on his list.
In 1957, almost a lifetime ago, Les had caught himself thinking about getting himself a pacer.
There had been a horse around at the time called Adjenite, and the thought of this horse was the beginning of it all.
The horse, a grey, had been owned by one Keith Raw at the time and in the end the only thing that had stopped Les from buying him had been the price they had been asking.
Les spoke to Moscow Forgan and Moscow said that he knew of a butcher in North Adelaide who might have a horse for sale that would suit him. The horse was called Barossa Robert.
Les spoke to Alby Holberton regarding the same but alas the horse was not for sale after all and was heading off to Victoria in the near future.
Soon after this Les and wife had been on holidays in Adelaide and had gone to the trots at Strathalbyn where they had seen a horse named Coronation Day running.
Les had a small wager on the horse but after galloping during the race, it wasn’t that impressive.
They had also gone to Kapunda to see him run, still without much luck.
However, around this time, Alby had said that he knew of a horse that was available for sale at one hundred pound but he couldn’t quite remember his name but asked Les if he wanted him to bring him up to the trots the next night as he was coming up from Adelaide.
He said he would ring the next day with the horse’s name.
Les was down the back when the phone had rung and his wife had called out that it was Alby Holberton on the phone.
Sure enough the horse’s name had been Coronation Day. Les said that he would sleep on it and by morning had decided to decline the offer.
Bill Cockburn eventually had bought the horse and had won quite a few races with him. Bob Clarke suggested that Les go to the Adelaide sales with him and buy Jackandi.
He did go but ‘Porky’ Arbon from Port Broughton had ended up with Jackandi and had gone on to win a good few races with him.
It was just as well as Les did not have a stable quite finished at this time but by the time the sales came around at Brooklyn Park, he had been ready to go.
Again Bob Clarke suggested a horse for Les to buy, Snippet.
Come Sale Day, the sale price had risen to two hundred and fifty pound, way out of Les’ reach but then the man who had been bidding shouted, no sale, and had walked away.
The auctioneer started over and Snippet had come under the ownership of Les Joyce for fifty quineas.
On bringing her back to the Warnertown farm, Les’ wife was shocked and on after finding out how much he had paid for her, Barbara had called her something like a ‘skinny bag of bones’ as there had been nothing to her.
Les would go to the Warnertown Hotel each morning to get the dregs from the beer the night before, anything to stimulate her appetite and get her to eat.
Bob Clarke, who had been in the game for quite a few years, had helped Les to gear her up properly and get her going.
She had a habit of hanging to the side and did quite a few things wrong when Les had got her, including being out of the draw.
But things did improve. She had been first nominated at Port Augusta, with Bob Clarke driving her and had scored two seconds on that track.
She had then been nominated at Port Pirie and after a second, she had run a race that had left everything to be desired.
Bob Clarke had spoken to Les and had suggested that he ask Bob Ahola to drive Snippet in the future.
Bob Ahola couldn’t get on the little mare quick enough.
You could pick Bob Ahola a mile off, he sat so straight and upright in the sulky.
Snippet had started again three times at Port Augusta, two seconds and a third.
Then she came to Port Pirie to race and had started winning.
She is the only horse to ever win twenty races on the Port Pirie track.
During her racing career she had started sixty four times and had only ever gone out of the loser’s gate four times.
A wonderful achievement. (But the four times out of the loser’s gate, Les had driven her.)
She had won three races before Les had got her, Bob Ahola had driven her to the podium seventeen times and there had been thirteen times that Les had driven her to into winning place.
After retirement, Snippet had bred two Sheffield Globe colts, both of them having won races.
Their prime races had seen Snip Ayr win two races at the Melbourne Showgrounds and Rommel had won at Globe Derby.
In the earlier days, Les had bought Hepburn Lass, the most gentle horse you would ever find, a lovely natured horse.
Buying her had enabled him to qualify for his Driver’s Licence.
She had only won one race at this time whereas Snippet had too many wins for him to qualify on her.
She ended up winning five races but had gone lame and had never recovered.
Her first foal, Red Score had gone on to win eighteen races, eight while Les had him and then ten after he had been sold.
Red Score was meant to have been nominated for the Hunter Cup, however, before this could happen he had cut his leg badly and had to be put down.
There had been six strongly built stalls at the Joyce property in Warnertown, one built and reinforced with steel sheeting and steel mesh.
On one side of this double stall had been kept a stallion by H.D.Hanover, Timor King.
His mother was a half sister to Radiant Venture.
Timor King had been the most beautifully proportioned and good looking horse that you could ever find.
His forelock needed to be plaited before a race, it was so long, he had the typical American stallion look.
And to get him in to the float – well, that had been another whole experience on its own.
Les never did much good with this stallion and he was eventually sold off, a real shame.
A wonderful career, a fantastic hobby a lifetime of stories and memories and believe it or not Les Joyce remembers almost every detail.
And how well he remembers when he had got Rommel back home after having leased him to Alby Holberton and Lefty Matters.
He had driven Rommel hard, and had ended up being tipped out during the race.
Les had not been in a good way and when they had taken him to hospital he had promised his wife that if he ever walked again, he promised to never drive again.
This had been a promise that he had kept but many times, in silence, had regretted keeping it.
Don’t forget trots this Saturday night, should be another great night of racing, hope to see you there.
- SUE PENNY