In an equine career which began as a 17-year-old, veteran conditioner Peter Ball is not about to hang up his trainer's cap.
The 81-year-old currently has two horses in work at the Mid North Coast circuit of Gladstone, north-east of Kempsey.
Peter's family operated a 400-hectare cattle farm in the Gladstone region, and along with wife Janice, who recently celebrated her 79th birthday, developed a joint love of breeding and racing Thoroughbreds.
"We used to breed (horses), but gave that away, that is too hard and you have to wait so long," Janice said.
Now the pair live on a more manageable four-hectare farm adjacent to the Gladstone track, a racecourse formerly used for racing until its closure in the late 1960s.
"The Gladstone track is one of the best tracks around here; it is grass all year and our friends put their cows on it and that is the best fertiliser," Peter said.
"We are the only ones now that use the Gladstone track."
Janice and Peter's two children are also involved, Tony who operates a stable at Taree, while Gaye is the major supporter in her Dad's stable.
Peter Ball's stable consists of two horses - consistent Smart Missile gelding San Marco (who has finished third at his last three starts) and their newest Lost Light.
Buying San Marco about 12 months ago, Gaye was encouraged that the five-year-old had two previous placings at the provincials, and she liked the breeding.
"He's done well for us - he's won in Sydney and has been placed at Hawkesbury, Scone and Brisbane," Gaye said.
The Ball's new edition and former Team Hawkes horse Lost Light, is a lightly raced first crop son of Deep Field.
"We still have a bit of green pick here, with yards and paddocks that we use to put the horses in after they work, and Lost Light is loving that, so far he likes the country life," Peter said.
Peter talked about some earlier talented horses he had trained. These included tough Purple Patch gelding Schwantz (78 starts for 15 wins and 31 placings), Dream Breeze (by Zephyr Zip, nine wins, 22 placings) and Minardi mare Villamill (seven wins including the 2013 Kempsey Cup).
"Schwantz - named after the bike rider Kevin Schwantz, was one of our better horses; the poor old fella only died last year (aged 31)," Peter said.
Watch for San Marco who has been entered to race at Coffs Harbour on December 5.
Vale Les Young
Breeding and racing enthusiasts are reflecting of the recent passing of Sydneysider Les Young, aged 76, a prominent industry figure via his bloodstock agency Doncaster Bloodstock, his journalist exploits, as a breeder, and a long-serving member of various Thoroughbred industry associations.
His influential voice was heard within Thoroughbred Breeders NSW, the Australian Thoroughbred Breeders Club, and was a founding member (in 1995) of the Equine Advisory Committee of the federal government's Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, which allocated funding for equine research projects.
Operating his own sales company for a time, Les managed the Sydney premiership winning combination of Bob Lapointe, Robert Sangster and Brian Mayfield-Smith, which under the Nebo Lodge banner at Rosehill finally ended Tommy Smith's 33-year reign as champion trainer.
Les was associated with numerous good gallopers including headliners Marscay, Snippets, Magic Flute, Handy Proverb, November Rain and champion race mare Emancipation.
He also bred some of his own successful horses, Les registering some under his own name with others under his Eclipse Stud banner. His Buena Shore mare Cloudway was a successful producer and included the stakes winning Zephyr Zip mare Cloudlet. Another Cloudway daughter, Cloudcrest, produced Sydney Group 2 winner Athelnoth (by Coronation Day).
For about 50 years his expert journalism has been seen in past editions of Australian Thoroughbred, Country Life and The Land.
More recently Les wrote his column 'Breeding World' in the Sportsman, and was a regular contributor to Bluebloods magazine. He also wrote eight editorials on an array of stallions in Great Thoroughbred Sires Of The World.
Les was an encyclopedia on pedigrees and encouraged young enthusiasts to become involved.