You can take the boy out of Queensland, but never Queensland out of the boy!
A proud native of the “Sunshine State”, Tamworth’s Norm Stagg on his “home” track today won his second race since relocating to New South Wales and taking up training again after a hiatus of nearly 19 years.
And he had a simple though understandable explanation for leaving his beloved Queensland to head south.
“I did it for love,” he told NSW Country and Picnic Racing after scoring with a mare he bought from a leading Melbourne stable for only $7000.
The unusually-named Fenyx ($6), nothing to do with Stagg’s fencing business as she was already named when he purchased her online in February, bolted home by nearly three lengths in the Maiden Handicap (1600m).
“I spent my first 55 years in Queensland, and my last 10 in Tamworth,” Stagg said.
“My wife Jane had a good opportunity with her work to come south, and I thought I may as well follow.
“But I’m always a Queenslander.”
To say Stagg has led a colourful life would be some understatement!
An experienced horseman, his earlier time in rodeos and campdrafting took him to many parts of the world.
In his own words, he “won a few bush races” as an amateur jockey and for a time also broke in horses for the then leading Brisbane trainer, the late Bruce McLachlan.
When training at Townsville in north Queensland, he recalls waking up one morning with 15 horses in his stable.
“Some of them were slower than the rodeo horses I rode,” he quipped.
“I decided to cull my team and within two days had only four left.”
Stagg currently has four horses in work at Tamworth, and mixes that with his fencing business.
“I’ll do anything in regards to putting fences up,” he said. “I did a lot of work for Mel O’Gorman (fellow Tamworth trainer, who coincidentally won the following race today after Stagg scored with Fenyx) at her property and am back there at present doing some more work.”
Stagg took a break from training after his Crown Jester mare Jessie finished fifth at Townsville on July 26, 2002. She had won at the same track a month earlier.
He did not start a horse again until January 3 this year when Zounami raced at Gilgandra.
It wasn’t long before he broke through in NSW, scoring with former South Australian mare Observance ($18) on a rain-affected track at Scone on February 16.
Smart Missile mare Fenyx (Grant Buckley) was having her seventh start today for her new trainer after a solid second over 1400m at Tamworth at her previous start on December 12.
“I liked the mare and was keen to buy her,” Stagg said. “Her dam Showstoppa was a cracking mare and won four races (including Sandown and Flemington) and was placed 10 times.
“Danny O’Brien trained Fenyx in Melbourne, and Craig Williams (twice) and Damien Oliver rode her at her first three starts.
“They decided to put her on the market after she failed at Ballarat in February.
“Fenyx is a big mare, and had a few tricks up her sleeve when she arrived.
“I had to a fair bit of farrier work on her feet, and she doesn’t like racing inside horses.
“I often work her inside another horse, but she doesn’t like being crammed up in her races.
“Grant (Buckley) was able to give her plenty of galloping room today, and she was strong at the finish.”
Whilst Stagg is looking forward to hopefully winning another race with Fenyx in the near future, he is already planning another challenge away from the racetrack.
“I’ve bred a cutting horse from a world champion, and he is two and a half years of age,” he explained.
“He is already doing things I have never seen a horse do.
“I have competed in Cutting Futurity events in Queensland, but not down here.
“Perhaps I will give him to someone who knows what they are doing with these horses or at least get some help, as these events are conducted by the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) and feature the best cutting horses around.
That’s my next adventure. It’s exciting and will surely be a lot of fun.
“Isn’t that what life’s all about?”