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Peoples clan knock up a special victory for late trainer

18 June 2024

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Persevere scores under the guidance of Jim Byrne.

By Jordan Gerrans

The colours that Neville Peoples made famous through the Central West for decades made a profound impact at Caloundra on Sunday just hours after the revered horseman passed away.

Peoples – or known as 'Nocka' throughout the bush - was a Birdsville and Townsville Cup-winning trainer in his heyday.

Nocka passed on the training touch to his son David who has handed it to his son Louis.

Louis now trains in partnership with his mother Kristie Clark at the Sunshine Coast.

At 93 years of age and having battled ill health for some time, the Peoples clan made the quick decision last week to change the racing colours of one of their gallopers to the silks used by Nocka’s horses when he was still training.

It was decided that Persevere would carry Nocka’s colours - red, white and black diagonals with a black cap – on Sunday at the provincial meeting.

The respected and popular racing identity passed away early on Sunday morning.

With top hoop Jim Byrne in the saddle, Persevere did the rest in Benchmark 65 Handicap grade to deliver a heartfelt victory for the entire family.

Caller Josh Fleming – who hails from Barcaldine – made special mention of the late conditioner as Persevere got the money on Sunday.

“That one is for Nocka,” Fleming said.

“Persevere has won by two and a half. That will be a highly emotional win that one, Persevere. In the colours of Nocka.”

Nocka’s grandson Louis has only had his training licence for the last few months and his decision to ditch the stable’s usual colours for the occasion proved a master-stroke.

While the gelding won like an absolute good thing on Sunday, Persevere had never won past 1400 metres leading into the contest.

He might just have had a little extra help on this occasion.

“It was very special as leading into the race we knew he was very crook and that he may only have a few days left,” Louis said.

“This was the only race that suited the horse, 1800 metres and the quick back-up, and he had never backed up for us before or gone further than the mile.

“There was a couple of question marks for us in the race but seeing that Pop did not have long left, we went that way.

“Before I put acceptances in for the race, I changed the colours for this horse and got his colours in from Longreach – it all worked out really well.

“The horse got the good barrier, got the gun run from Jimmy – he steered him perfectly.

Jim Byrne aboard Persevere on Sunday.

“It was very good to watch.”

Persevere usually races in the same colours as recent Clarke and Peoples stable winners Centaur and Cailin Alainn.

While Nocka was regarded as a top horseman and trainer of thoroughbreds, there were many other aspects to his life that made him a famous name in the bush.

He was known as Nocka as he cut his teeth at Nockatunga Station, most commonly known as Nockatunga, in South West Queensland.

“He had a very fulfilling life – he was a hall of fame football coach and was one of the first inducted into the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame at Longreach,” Louis said.

“He had plenty of accolades as a horse trainer as well. He worked all over the land really.

“He was a publican, ringer, horse trainer and football coach – he did it all. He was always a social figure in the communities he was a part of as he owned a few pubs over the years.”

The late Nocka claimed the Townsville Cup of 1989 with Holmebrook at Cluden Park.

Racing And Sport’s statistics have Holmebrook finishing his career with 23 victories – and 28 minor placings – with a 25 per cent winning strike rate.

Kristie Clark & Louis Peoples Next Racing

He prepared another four horses to double figure victories as well.

He went back-to-back in the Birdsville Cup in 1995-96 with Snedden.

The Peoples family are an institution at Birdsville with Nocka securing his cherished camp site in 1987 that his children and grandchildren have used almost every year since.

"We have a ball here every year, it's magnificent," he told the ABC back in 2015.

"We meet up with old friends, the racing's always good, the prize money's good, and where all the horseman camp, it's one big family."

Nocka last started a horse in his own name in the middle of 2000.

While the Birdsville and Townsville Cups are the headliners on his training resume, he also claimed an array of bush Cup and sprint races around the state.

The late Neville 'Nocka' Peoples.

He had success when he took horses to town as well as basing his stable at Gympie for a period of time.

“Wherever he travelled and took a team, he was always competitive and successful,” Louis said.

“He was very well-known out in the Central West areas with his stable.

“He knew that many people across the state because of the different things he was involved with – there is not many people who wouldn’t know him from out that way and up to North Queensland as well.”

Nocka’s legacy in racing will live on forever through his grandson’s emerging training career.

Louis’ younger brother Ollie is also a talented horseman. 

And, if Louis or Ollie ever need a word of advice from their late grandfather, all they have to do is read it.

Nocka wrote his son and grandchildren books filled with his knowledge around horses and how he trained them at his peak.

The books include counsel around feeding horses, how to swim them effectively as well as treating a horse for illness.

Louis Peoples and Kristie Clark.

Louis is only in the infancy of his training tenure and will often turn to the pages Nocka gave him.

“He passed down everything he knew to my father and he has passed that on to me,” he said.

“From a knowledge point of view, it is quite sad to think about how much knowledge is buried when someone like him passes – the knowledge that he had was just unreal.

“I think that comes with being a stockman for all those years, they really fine-tune their eye looking at livestock and transfer that into horses and it is just a bit of a sixth sense really.

“The things that he would pick was unreal and so many others wouldn’t be able to see it.

“He was definitely very good at that with horses and livestock, he tried to install that into my father and me. You are always learning in this game and he believed that.”

After having their first starter as a team in late April, Kristie Clark and Louis Peoples have quickly collected three victories since.