A Very Special Connection

The first race on Australian Guineas Day is the Listed Very Special Kids Plate. Here we look at the lovely connection the charity’s founder and Patron, Sister Margaret, has with racing.

Very Special Kids (VSK) is an incredible organisation that provides respite, family counselling and end-of-life care to children with life-threatening conditions, and the VRC has been a proud partner of VSK for the past few years. In a lovely coincidence, the charity’s founder and Patron, Sister Margaret Noone has roots in racing that extend back many decades.

The passion to care for others was something that Sister Margaret always felt, leading her to join the Loreto Sisters. She was inspired by her father, a dentist who did a lot of work for people who couldn’t afford dental care. 

It’s also through her father that her family can boast a connection to one of the icons of Australian racing, and having played a small part in its history. When she was a girl, Margaret’s father was persuaded to take a one-third interest in a horse called Bragger. “The trainer, Tommy Smith, was a young man from the country and so was my father, so he thought he’d give him a go.” Smith, then a young fledgling ex-jockey, thought he would try his hand at training, and found a bay gelding by Windbag while he was working for the Sawyer family in the Riverina. Told that the horse was too wild and unrideable to be trained, Tommy had a sense that it actually had something special, and dedicated hours to breaking him in himself. Story has it that when he parted ways with the Sawyer family, he sent Bragger to Sydney on a cattle truck, reuniting with him at Darling Harbour where the pair proceeded to walk along the public roads to Kensington as he couldn’t afford a float. 

For two years, Tommy trained only Bragger. The gelding’s first race was in 1942, where he came last. “Bragger seemed to be one of those horses that either came first or last!” Margaret recalled. But Tommy didn’t give up, and five weeks later they had a win. This first win turned into more, and thus began the career of one of Australia’s greatest trainers. It was also the start of the vision of the famous dark green and blue Smith silks that would dominate Sydney tracks for years to come. “That horse really put TJ on the map,” Margaret says.

Join us for Australian Guineas Day on Saturday 27th February to see who will win the 2021 Listed Very Special Kids Plate (1000m). Find out more about the race day here.