Tributes are flowing for legendary Queensland horseman Norm ‘Whopper’ Stephens who has died a week short of his 88th birthday.
Stephens, an institution at the Deagon training facility, enjoyed a 40-year career in the saddle before turning his hand to training in the 1980s.
Though small in stature, Stephens conquered Queensland’s greatest race as a 16-year-old apprentice when he won the 1948 Stradbroke Handicap aboard 8-1 shot Ballyvista.
He would go on to win many more Queensland features before turning his attention to training; his highlight coming with a win in the 1987 STC Silver Slipper Stakes with Ballock.
Recently, Stephens trained popular Open Class sprinter Ringo’s A Rockstar.
Long-time friend, legendary hoop and Queensland Jockeys Association spokeswoman Pam O’Neill has remembered Stephens as a legend of Queensland racing.
O’Neill said ‘Whopper’ took her under his wing when she was finally granted a license to compete in races on an equal playing-field with the men.
“He’s been an icon of racing for years and will be dearly missed,” O’Neill said.
Fellow Deagon trainer Pat Duff told AAP that ‘Deagon and Queensland racing won’t be the same without him’.
“The best way to describe him is that he was part of Deagon and Deagon was part of him. He wasn’t just great with horses but he was also a great story teller,” Duff said.
“There probably could have been four books written with his stories.”
Racing Queensland GM Corporate Affairs and Policy Mary Collier said Queensland racing was richer for 'Whopper' Stevens having been a part of it for over 70 years as a jockey and trainer.
"He'll be remembered as one of the greats who possessed a fabulous sense of humour and would hold your entranced recounting stories from the past," she said.
"The only thing 'Whopper' loved more than his horses was his family and on behalf of the industry, RQ extends its deepest sympathies to his family and friends during this difficult time."
Stephens’ best wins as a jockey included the Stradbroke Handicap (Ballyvista), QTC Derby (Minto Crag), Healy Stakes (Academy Star), Tattersall’s Cup (Bright Shadow), Ascot Handicap (Gai Smoke, Prince Gauntlet), JHS Barnes Plate (Refulgent), Brisbane Handicap (Ryes Hope), Recognition Stakes (Ryes Hope), Bernborough Stakes (Scotian), Doomben Stakes (Thurlow), Tatt’s President’s Handicap (Refulgent), O’Mara Stakes (Todwana), Lilley Handicap (Todwana), Hopeful-Meynink Stakes (Malarno, Glenrowan, Top Unit), Wattle Brae Stakes (Crocus Bud), Hall Stakes (Grist), McDougall Stakes (Right Vibes, Blue Roc), Albion 2000 (Rathdrum), Bribie Handicap (Misty Shadow), ITC Bloodhorse Breeders’ (Crocus Bud), Easter Cup (Refulgent), Moreton Handicap (Refulgent) and June Handicap (Refulgent).
- Alex Nolan