John Bourke off to the big smoke for clerking gig

John Bourke (right) will be clerk of the course on A Tissue A Tissue at Royal Randwick on Saturday. Photo: Bradley Photos.

Moree horseman John Bourke will get the opportunity of a lifetime on Saturday when he strides out on his grey gelding A Tissue A Tissue as clerk of the course at Royal Randwick.

Bourke, who has spent many years clerking in North West NSW, has never ventured to the ‘big smoke’ for his work, but he will get the ultimate experience when working on Randwick Guineas Day. 

“It’ something different that’s for sure,” Bourke said. 

“I’m excited about it. I feel privileged that I can do that. It is certainly different to what I’ve been doing up this way and I’m looking forward to it and to experience the crowd and such a big race day; there will be nothing like it.”

Bourke will ride A Tissue A Tissue, who he raced with Andrew Gray in Moree, and the veteran clerk explained that he educated the beautiful grey gelding before he was sent to town to work with the Australian Turf Club team and fellow country boy and clerk of the course, Guy Tribe.

“I’ve got my horse down there, A Tissue A Tissue; we raced him a while back and he won a few races for us,” Bourke said. 

“I clerked on him around Moree and all these places and then he went down to Sydney and Guy Tribe uses him down there. 

“He was always a good horse and when we retired him, I worked him around cattle and taught him how to relax.

“There was a bit of a process there, and for a year or so he would go behind the barriers and the heart was still thumping under him because he thought he was going to race, but he worked out nicely and he is a good clerk’s horse.”

It was Tribe who got Bourke down to Sydney to clerk at the Randwick Guineas meeting and he joked that A Tissue A Tissue would be the more experienced of the two this time round.

“It has been on the backburner for a while for me to go down there,” Bourke said.

“I went through all the process, and they rostered me on for Guineas Day with Guy and another fella there I haven’t met.

“It will be different, and he (A Tissue A Tissue) might have to give me a few tips since he has done it all before.”

Bourke, who was training in Moree up until recently – tasting success with the likes of Ringside and Vertical – had to stop training due to an illness in the family, and while times have been tough, he was looking forward to his day in the spotlight.

“I have clerked for most of my life, but I was training recently,” Bourke said. 

“I still have a trainer’s licence, but my daughter (Jody Bourke) is really sick, and I’ve had to put the training on the backburner.

“It’s been hard, but I am excited to go down there and see what it is like.”

Tribe, who clerked with Bourke before making the fulltime move to Sydney, believes his good friend deserves the opportunity.

“He is a very good old horseman. He deserves this and a whole lot more,” Tribe said.

“He is as good as they come and has been doing it for years and he can read the play, which is a big thing.”

Tribe, who knows Bourke well, hopes this experience lifts the spirits of a family doing it tough.

“When I was down here, Johnny always said he would love to do it and we helped organise it, and I thought with his daughter Jody being sick, I hoped it would give her a spark seeing John down here,” Tribe said. 

Bourke will ride A Tissue A Tissue, who has become an instant ATC favourite, and Tribe said the 12-year-old would go on to work at some very big meetings. 

“Johnny and I are great mates, and we were short of a horse, and always looking for a horse and that’s how we ended up with A Tissue,” Tribe said. 

“I knew A Tissue from our days at Moree and Johnny wasn’t doing a lot with him when he was training at the time, and I asked him if we could use A Tissue and I picked him up and brought him to town.

“I started him at his first city meeting at Canterbury and he is one of our main horses now. 

“He will be going out for the big days, and he has had a little spell but he is back tomorrow, and the best thing is, Johnny will be riding him again.”