IN his popular column, ‘SILKS & SADDLES,’ published by the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER, respected racing writer TERRY BUTTS has written a wonderful tribute to one of the real characters of country racing in Queensland.

Rex Robinson, who died recently on the Sunshine Coast hinterland, will best be remembered as the ‘man in the sugar bag suit.’ Stories about him are legendary as are many of his punting exploits involving some of the biggest plunges landed in country Queensland

Butts also reports on a prominent punter whose investments have been cut to $8 by Bet365, which promotes itself as the biggest corporate betting agency in the world, all because in a short time he proved too successful.

Here is the Butts column:

 

THE MAN IN THE ‘SUGAR BAG’ SUIT WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN IN THE COUNTRY

HE will be remembered as the man in the sugar bag suit.

Rex Albert Robinson, known by many names but mostly as ‘Rexo,’ passed away recently in the hills of Peachester on the Sunshine Coast.

He was 82 and just two nights before his sudden departure, ‘Rexo’ was talking to SKY race-caller Russell ‘Brolga’ Leonard about doing the trip north again this year for the winter carnival.

To his old happy hunting grounds of Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns where he was a virtual legend.

As a punter (of great renown), yarn spinner, and most of all known as a bloody good bloke.

‘Brolga’ will always remember that phone call.

“I said: ‘What are you doing?’

“He said: ‘I’m having a chomp on my pipe and a schooner of VB. And the ‘weed’ is top grade’.”

‘Rexo,’ despite his octogenarian vintage, loved his pipe and VB was his favorite elixir on which he imbibed daily.

On his 81st birthday last year he downed 10 schooners at lunch before tottering off for his granny nap.

 ‘Rexo’ was known up and down the coast and there are hundreds of stories to be told.

He has been described as a drifter, nomad, fisherman, punter, miner, airline clerk and for 14 years the cook for the Telstra gang that laid the cable from Brisbane to Cairns.

It was during these years on the roadside camps that ‘Rexo’ became so familiar with the publicans and race-goers on tracks from Cannon to Corbould Park and a lot of little places off the beaten track.

 

‘REXO’ WON PLENTY ON BLACK KNIGHT IN THE CUP AND SENT A PRESENT TO THE HORSE

BACK in 1984 ‘Rexo’ reckoned he had sorted out the Melbourne Cup winner. He began backing Black Knight for the Cup months before the race and told everyone ‘it was a moral.’

On the Saturday before the big race, Black Knight was reported as being injured in his final lead-up race.

Old ‘Rexo’ was devastated. The following day he rang trainer George Hanlon (didn’t know him from a bar of soap), introduced himself, and told him he had backed Black Knight to win a small fortune – and asked if the horse was OK.

Hanlon, known universally for his sheer conservatism told ‘Rexo’ ‘to keep putting more money on.’

And he did, much to the chagrin of the Rockhampton bookmakers who suffered what became known as the ‘Black Knight Blackout.’

The day after the horse won Brolga was with ‘Rexo’ when he walked into Woods Produce Store and bought a bale of hay. He then  headed over the bridge to the post office.

Rexo said to ‘Brolga’ at the front door of the PO: ‘Are you coming in?’

Brolga said ‘No, I’ll be right thanks’ and bolted back to the Anchor Hotel to tell the bar that ‘Rexo’ had just thrown a bale of hay on the counter at the PO and asked that it be sent to George Hanlon, horse trainer, Geelong.

With an incredulous gasp, the clerk, with some reluctance, did as he was asked.

Much later, in a radio interview, Hanlon told how he got a telephone call one day from Australia Post to ‘come and collect a large parcel.’

It cost $5 for the bale of hay and $250 to post it.

 

‘REXO’ WAS RECRUITED FOR SOME OF THE BIG PLUNGES IN COUNTRY QUEENSLAND

OLD ‘Rexo’ was known for his betting-ring guile and was once ‘recruited’ by Mackay publican Tony Brown to handle a commission for a horse named Pioneer River at the Cairns Amateurs.

Everything was set for the sting until ‘Rexo’ turned up at the track in his new suit – made entirely from genuine CSR sugar bags.

It was a standout – but that’s exactly what Brown didn’t want.

He needed someone unknown and incognito.

So while alternate plans were hastily formulated to execute the plunge, ‘Rexo’ was in the members’ enclosure being photographed with all the ladies who queued up for a snap with the man in the dapper suit.

Oh yes, the horse ridden by the now high profile NSW trainer Danny Williams duly won.

But only after the jockey politely refused to ‘hold it’ after someone jumped in early and knocked the price off.

But that’s another story.

There are hundreds of racetrack yarns that involve ‘Rexo’ and unfortunately he never completed the book that he was writing on his association with Queensland country racing.

Hopefully someone might one day get hold of the text and finish it for him.

And no doubt it would include his latest exploit. Last December he was asked to do a commission on a horse at Texas.

‘Rexo’ landed on track in a mini bus with a crew of ‘agents’ and they reportedly took over $20,000 from the ring when Foretoken from the Tom Dougall stable duly saluted.

Not a bad ‘sting’ in this current climate, especially at a tiny track like Texas.

But sadly there will be no more racetrack visits and stings by the man in the sugar bag suit.

‘Rexo’ has gone to that special place reserved for special people – and racecourse characters who loved a bet and a drink, and who send Melbourne Cup winning trainers a bale of hay in the post.

And we won’t see the suit again either. It was sent with him - naturally.

 

HOME HILL MISSED AN OPPORTUNITY TO PROMOTE SUNDAY AS ST PATRICK’S MEETING

IT is quite probable that time was against the Home Hill Club but really it was a lost opportunity to promote last Sunday’s rescheduled meeting with an Irish atmosphere – even an Irish band.

It was a very lack-lustre affair down on the Burdekin and made worse by the fact there was no totalizator operating on southern events. There was absolutely no attraction for the punters and of course they stayed away, no doubt preferring the pub tabs, and who could blame them.

Racing is an industry that survives – to a very large degree – on tote turnover.

You just wonder what the RQ hierarchy, who provide the prizemoney, might think about Home Hill’s decision to close the tote on Sunday to ‘save expenses.’

 

HONG KONG PUNTERS WENT ON A BETTING SPREE ON DERBY DAY

TALKING of tote turnover – did you see what the punters bet on Sunday’s Derby meeting in Hong Kong?

Total turnover was $HK1,305 million ($A176mn) of which the Club retained $HK58m ($A7.5m)n for expenses and charity distribution.

No corporate bookies over there, just a tote, like we should have – a national tote.

 

NO SYMPATHY FOR BET365 IN THEIR BATTLE WITH ‘DOGS PLUNGE’ PUNTER

THERE has been an interesting turn of events in Darwin where a punter, Steve Brunker, is suing Bet365 over its refusal to settle a $73,000 gambling debt.

The punter backed a first four but two of the favorites finished a long last – in fact have never been heard of since and stewards are still investigating why one went like a ‘drunken sailor.’

Not a lot of sympathy for the betting agency however.

And even less from the good punter who was invited to open an account with them just last week.

He deposited $4,000 – and after he backed a few winners – was informed on Friday that the maximum he was allowed to invest with Bet365 had been reduced to $8 (that’s right, eight dollars) and he was barred from betting the exotics.

What is it that they claim to be in their advertising – the biggest betting agency in the world – who are they kidding?

AND is the mail right that Ladbrokes, who bought out Sportingbet for hundreds  of millions last year, have now purchased Tom Waterhouse.com?

That’s the rumor – but it’s very strong.

 

NORTHERN BUYERS MADE PRESENCE FELT BUT MANY REGULARS MISSED QTIS SALE

THEY were not present in large numbers but northern buyers made their presence felt at the QTIS 600 sales at the Gold Coast last weekend.

Mackay trainer Daryn Symons was the big buyer, picking several youngsters over the two days.

Roy Chillemi paid $31,000 for a Red Dazzler youngster and clients of Ben Williams’ Charters Towers stable were also active.

But on the downside, a lot of regular buyers at the sale were noticeably absent this year, with complaints of the lack of Three-Year-Old QTIS races, particularly in the north.

 

COLUMN COURTESY OF TERRY BUTTS AND THE NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER, one of Australia's leading rural newspapers.

TERRY BUTTS can be contacted by e-mailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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