It's often said that the mould was broken after certain great characters were made. Sometimes you can take that claim with a grain of salt, but with the former mayor of Cobar, it is undeniably true.
Lilliane 'Lil' Brady was one of a type. She not only became one of Cobar's greatest citizens, ruling as mayor for 20 years and involved in all areas of the community, but she had a passion not everyone was fully aware of.
Racing can be a cruel game. It's not only inherently dangerous for trainers and riders, and also punters; losses are more common than wins. You must have a steely constitution to stick in the sport. In other words, retain a passion, if you can't retain the money.
For Cobar's 'Lil', she had a passion for racing in bucketloads. Sometimes so much so, it was in brown bag loads - filled with cash she'd won on the punt.
Now some would declare if you followed her racing tips you'd end up wearing cut-off jeans and thongs for the rest of your life. Others though were amazed by her racing enthusiasm, and big stings on the punt. If you were riding a horse for her you could either get a big kiss (as per Kody Nestor above), or a rap so large you'd be walking out of the mounting yard heading somewhere other than the scales first.
No one knew Lilliane Brady as well as Nyngan trainer Rodney Robb. He saw her racing enthusiasm unfold over 50 years and he gave some amazing insights into this Western Division firebrand.
This author himself talked to Lilliane only a year ago where she said she had horses "all over Australia, from Perth to Brisbane". In fact, one raced at Sandown only four days after she passed away last week. It was Arctic Shock, and though it ran second last, it'd had amassed over $180,000 in prize money so far. It was one of the Ontrack syndication horses that Lilliane had got involved with. She has a part share in another top colt, Pascal, that is with the Hawkes team in Sydney and hasn't raced yet. Lilliane always dreamed of having a topliner and it is sad she won't see this So You Think gelding race.
But it was in the bush and with Nyngan trainer Rodney Robb that she had all her glory and great times.
Nyngan-raised Robb was just a young teen when he first went to Cobar. There is always rivalry between Nyngan and Cobar, and within no time 'Mrs Brady' was interested in who this new Nyngan bloke (who knew a bit about horses) was.
Robb was working on the railways and Mrs Brady appeared out of nowhere. "What are you doing there," she asked the young Robb. "Woolhandling Mrs Brady," he said, knowing who she was. "Well I'll tell you one thing I'm not Mrs Brady, I'm Lilliane and I'm telling you to call me Lilliane. What are you doing that for ? (pointing at his work). You'd better come and shoe some horses for me".
Soon the young Robb was shoeing horses for 'Lilliane'. It was the start of a 50-year-long friendship where they talked amost every three weeks without fail.
She kept bugging him to do more shoeing. "I told her 'I can't do that all the time, I've got to work,'" Robb says. "But I pay you!," she responded, as if she couldn't understand why Robb needed to earn a living.
Robb moved back to Nyngan but ran into Lilliane frequently at pony club meetings where Lilliane's daughter Deirdre was a top class rider. The rivalry between the towns came out one day at a club meeting.
"I said to Lil, 'Looks like we're going to win most of the blue ribbons today'." 'I'll bloody show youse," she came back at Robb.
Robb said Lil had greyhounds in the early days and then moved into racehorses. After leaving Lake Cargelligo, she started a family in Sydney in the great racing days after the war when Tommy Smith's (the boy from Goolgowi) horses won all the races and racing was part of the public ethos.
She brought that ethos back to Cobar when she arrived in 1964 with her husband "Doc Brady", Cobar's long-time medico. The Bradys had a farm outside town and had horses.
One of her unusual early encounters in racing was with one of the most notorius underworld figures ever known, George Freeman, a big punter. She was selling raffle tickets to try and build a nursing home for Cobar when she accidentally ran into Freeman when she was in Sydney for the races.
She said in a recent podcast on her life: "I went down to the races (in Sydney) and I was in the members down with the race book, 10 dollars a ticket. This gentleman came up and said 'you shouldn't have a race book in the members end', and I said 'I'm trying to build a nursing home in Cobar'. And he said, 'Cobar ?' It was Theo Green (famous trainer). I'd never heard of Theo Green. It was the first time I had ever been to the races, and he took a ticket and he went and got this gorgeous looking man, white hair, white shoes, and he said I was born in Cobar and gave me 100 dollars and told me he would ring me every little bit, but I was never allowed to say (who it was). I thought, 'what bullshit he is trying to tell me', and when i went to my husband, I said 'I met this strange man. he gave me 100 dollars and said when he rings up the surgery, he will say 'Mr. George' because he doesn't want to embarrass me'. He said 'What's his name?'. I said 'George Freeman'. 'Do you know who George Freeman is?' , he asked, I said 'No'."
Little did Lilliane know she had been that close to one of the most dangerous figures in Sydney.
Lilliane finally got some good racehorses - and like Freeman - took up the punt. That's when she turned to Robb to train her horses. Robb found a few good ones that had been racing down south - Magic Bella and Fallon Street.
Robb was talking to Fallon Street's farmer owner one day and Lilliane was nearby. Robb wasn't over the line in buying the horse, and Lilliane was at his side interrupting the farmer and Robb. 'Buy it," she told Robb. 'Buy it,' she went again as they kept talking. "Buy it!"
They bought Fallon Street for $6000.
They set up another horse called Three Rah for a first up win at Tomingley.
"I'd set it up for a first up tilt," Robb says.
"Have a hundred each way," he told her. "A hundred ?," Lilliane exclaimed. "If I'm coming all the way down there I'm having more than a bloody hundred," she said. Indeed she did, splurging thousands and ripping out a motza from the stunned bookies' ring after the horse won. She had a big brown bag and plonked all the cash in it and met up with Robb. "You should have seen it, it was full," says Robb. Lilliane told him with a big smile: "I've got all their (bookmakers') money."
"She was always a punter, always loved a punt and she was good mates with punters in Sydney," Robb says. At this stage she also had part shares in greyhounds in Sydney and Melbourne.
The next time the horse ran Robb warned her it probably wouldn't win and wasn't up to the class. She wasn't so sure, but held back on the punt. To Robb's horror the horse ran down the outside and only missed winning by a short head.
It was always a thrill to ride for Lil
Robb says Lilliane came up to her and said : "If it had won I would have choked you !"
"I was never so glad to get beat in a race my whole life," says Robb.
Magic Bella would give Lilliane her biggest thrill in racing by winning her home town Cobar Cup in May, 2015. It had some good southern form, but it was unknown in the north of NSW. They'd kept her good form on the training track quiet and got set for a big kill on the punt at, of all places, Birdsville, up in the corner of Queensland. Lilliane was excited and rang Robb as he was heading up to the famous outback carnival. Robb said he was on his way. "I'll meet you at Bourke and give you some money to put on," she told him. Lil was duly there at a Bourke pub and handed over $2000 to Robb.
"And if you think it's that good, make sure you put 2000 on for yourself," she told Robb firmly.
Robb was in Birdsville early for the two-day racing carnival to help Magic Bella settle in, and enjoyed some fishing out of town and was in camp with one of the bookmakers but didn't mention anything about Magic Bella's chances.
When she started on the last day of the carnival she was unwanted and was at 7-1. Robb sent someone to put Lilliane's money on and got 7-1. The 'runner' also put another $2000 for himself, and other members of the camp also piled in. Kody Nestor rode her and won by four lengths. "She was going good and they all thought they'd get a good quid out of her," remembers Kody. The horse was eventually backed into evens. "There were a lot of bookmakers with a pain in their gut that day," Nestor, now a Dubbo trainer, says.
Robb rang Lilliane to tell her the good news. "So did you put your $2000 on at 7-1?" she asked Robb 'No I didn't get a chance after your money went on," he said. "Well you're a bloody idiot," she replied. Robb says: "She'd won about $18,000 and was still having a go at me !"
Magic Bella was then lined up for a race at Broken Hill's famous St Pat's meeting the next March. Lilliane was on course this time - and didn't the horse's jockey know it. It ran a terrible second last as a hot 2-1 favourite.
Allan Prisk, a Cobar trainer, was in the mounting yard at Broken Hill when the horse returned to scale and heard Lilliane's blast - she was no taller than the jockey who was copping it.
"An official came up to me and said 'What's going on with them two?'. I don't know but I wouldn't stand inbetween them," Prisk replied. "Good advice," the official said, who'd never come across Lilliane before.
Although Prisk was Cobar's main trainer he was too scared to train Lilliane's horses. "I couldn't cope with the blast if they lost," he joked.
He said a lot of her tirades were "just in jest", and she was a kind person underneath.
Kody Nestor remembers one time Lilliane was on the rails by the mounting yard as he was about to ride her horse. "Good luck today Kody, ride her well, and if you don't win, I'll cut your balls off!".
"She always good for a good sling," Nestor remembers. "She never minced her words and I reckon she was one of the biggest punters in the north." He said it was "always a thrill to ride for Lil.".
Lil's colours were yellow with a blue horseshoes and sleeves.
Lilliane was always there to cheer on Robb or meet up. One time she showed up after the races at his Nyngan stables with a carton of VB. "Well we couldn't have drink at the races, so I thought we'd have one here," she said.
Only three months ago she was still pulling off some great plunges. Robb was helping a trainer and mentioned he thought one had a good chance at Orange races. "I was at the track and I saw the horse's price tumble in from 12-1 to 3-1 on the NSW tote, and I thought 'Lil' !"
Later she rang him after the horse won. "I'd like to send you a parcel," she told him. He replied: "don't be bloody stupid. I only told you out of the goodness of my heart." Their relationship was built on a love of racing, not money. "That's mateship," he says.
Robb was one of the first people to know Lilliane had passed away. It was one of the great friendships and racing partnerships in the west. He will miss her. "It was a great ride in racing with a lady like Lilliane," he says. "I'll miss her phone calls very much."
No doubt Robb will be among the mourners up front at Lilliane's State Funeral in Cobar next Friday. It wouldn't be surprising if her family draped some of her coffin with her favourite racing silks.