It was late September when Racing NSW Country held its annual racing conference at Randwick, after which followed a quiet presentation of the 2022/23 NSW Country Racing Awards.
Nine varying award recipients were announced and acknowledged each of its significant contributions to country racing.
These included Northern Rivers racing stalwart Merv Mercer, a legend of the Coffs Harbour Racing Club (CHRC), who was honoured with the Simon Nivison Special Achievement Award in recognition of his 57 years of dedication to country racing.
However, I further learned Mr Mercer, aged 89, passed away last month.
A passionate racing enthusiast, Mr Mercer was a long-time committee member, held the CHRC's presidency for several years, as well as helped build and maintain several of the CHRC's facilities and stables.
Mr Mercer raced more than 200 winners but counted Just A Steal, which won the AJC Spring Champion Stakes-G1 in 1978 (trained by Tommy Smith at Randwick), as his most exciting.
Country Trainer Of The Year Award went to Dubbo's Clint Lundholm, jockey to Aaron Bullock, apprentice to Molly Bourke, while the Approved Rider Of The Year went to Leandro Ribeiro.
A regular on the picnic circuit, Ribeiro also won this year's State Championship Showcase Picnic Final aboard Inzaghi at Coonamble in October.
Bullock took out the State's Country Jockey Premiership as well as landing the Australian Jockey's Premiership, riding a mammoth 208 winners last season.
Moving from the Southern Districts to join John O'Shea at Randwick in May, Bourke rode 58 winners last season, 10 of those trained by Wagga Wagga conditioner Doug Gorrel.
She recently added another Sydney winner when she partnered with Felix Majestic to win at Randwick.
Murrumbidgee Turf Club was named Country TAB Race Club Of The Year, while the Tuncurry-Forster Jockey Club was also rewarded for its race day efforts.
There was an Outstanding Achievement Award to the Cooma-Monaro Race Club and a Special Recognition Award to the Narrandera Race Club.
Buyers may look twice at the 15 catalogued lots by Too Darn Hot to be offered at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale next month, as the Darley shuttler has been recently represented with his first Australian crop two-year-old winners.
Climate Change became Too Darn Hot's first winner when the filly won on debut at Geelong, while another filly, Arabian Summer, followed closely. Finishing second on debut in the MRC Debutant Stakes-LR, then third in the VRC Ottawa Stakes-G3, Arabian Summer won the $250,000 Magic Millions Two-Year-Old Classic at Ballarat.
Selling via Coolmore Stud for $220,000 to McEvoy Mitchell Racing and Belmont Bloodstock Agency at the 2023 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, Arabian Summer is now among the favourites for the $3 million Magic Millions Two-Year-Old Classic at the Gold Coast next month.
Coolmore will offer a half-sister to Arabian Summer at next month's Magic Millions' January renewal, the filly being by its high-profile GB shuttler Wootton Bassett.
A triple group one winner by Dubawi, Too Darn Hot has been in European news with his first juveniles, which include group winners Fallen Angel and Darnation.
Stravinsky, a US-bred stallion which shuttled during the 2000s to Cambridge Stud in New Zealand and which has left a legacy in Australia, has died from old-age infirmities in Japan at 27.
A dual England group one winner, Stravinsky, by Northern Dancer's champion sire son Nureyev, sired 75 stakes winners, nine of which won group one races, including Serenade Rose (won VRC and AJC Oaks-G1, and Arrowfield Stud Stakes-G1), and NZ-bred Keeninsky.
Another good Stravinsky horse was the group three winning Australian-bred stallion Oratorio, which found much stud fame in Western Australia.
Stravinsky has also left a legacy of good producing daughters, including group three winner Estelle Collection - dam of the Newgate Farm, Aberdeen, stallion Russian Revolution, and Australian Horse Of The Year Lankan Rupee.
Christmas is over, now onto the New Year, and one which provides winners for all.