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"Dream come true" for Charleville trainer in Country Stampede Final

IMG-6955.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

When it comes to racing in the bush, Charleville’s William Pugsley is a jack of all trades.

In his many decades in the industry, the man they call “Pugs” in the Downs Country Racing Association, has called the races, he has trained winners, he has strapped as well as taking wagers in the betting ring.

“I am a jack of all trades and master of none,” Pugsley said with a laugh as he prepared to drive towards Brisbane on Thursday morning.

After fulfilling countless roles within racing, the 60-year-old is in a training phase of his passion and has been for the last three years.

Pugsley trained for three decades before having a break while his work and family commitments increased, but has been back around the stables more the last three years.

He has quickly found a smart one, with bay gelding Tourmaster winning four times in the back end of 2021, on top of running second in a Country Stampede qualifier at Barcaldine in late October.

That was enough to land him in this Saturday’s Final at Doomben – which will be worth $75,000 and run over 1100 metres – and to have a starter on a Metropolitan day in the 2021-22 TAB Queensland Summer Racing Carnival is something the larrikin had long been eager to do.

“This is a dream come true for me,” Pugsley said.

“A friend of mine bought this horse and his son was involved too and I said, 'why don’t we have a crack at qualifying him for the Stampede?'

“If I had drawn an alley in the Final, I would have been a lot more confident.

“It is a hot field but he likes he trip and the wet and if Taylor can get him a nice run up on the speed, you never know.

“Dreams are made to come true aren’t they.”

Owner Daniel Twist purchased the five-year-old, who was previously trained by Bjorn Baker and Stuart Kendrick earlier in his career, online for just under $10,000.

Pugsley made his name in the bush as a race caller at tracks such as Charleville and Cunnamulla almost 40 years ago.

He gave it away some 36 years ago – handing the callers binoculars to Brett Moody – before coming out of retirement for a one-off appearance at Cunnamulla earlier this year.

“I had a go and everyone said how well I went,” he said.

IMG-6956.jpgHe originally gave away the calling duties all those years ago to work as a bookmaker, quickly realising he could make a better dollar in the betting ring than he could in the caller's box.

While Pugsley described a chance to claim the 2021 edition of the Country Stampede as a dream come true, there is another race he would have preferred to win earlier this year.

Back in early August then stable newcomer Tourmaster went towards the Jim Pugsley Memorial race at the family's home track, an event that is named after William’s late father, who was a long-term contributor to the racing industry in the region.

While Tourmaster did not get the cash earlier this year, the trainer is hopeful another stable newcomer – Lasco – might be a contender for the prestigious event next year.

“Second-up, Tourmaster went to Charleville in my father’s memorial – that is the only race I ever wanted to win in my life,” he said.

“Dad was a trainer and looked after the Charleville race track for a long time. He ran fourth in that race and then he put four on the bounce after that.

“Dad was a big influence on me and my life, all those old remedies.”

Pugsley has booked Brisbane hoop Taylor Marshall for Saturday’s Country Stampede Final.

The trainer noted his mother always followed Melbourne Cup- winning rider John Marshall – Taylor’s father – in his riding days so he was more than pleased to have him ride his galloper.

With his kids grown up and with less work commitments these days, Pugsley is enjoying being back training.

“My son and my son-in-law are in these horses with me, they all give me a hand,” he said.

“It is a family thing here as they all have strappers licences.

“With them wanting to help out, I got my licence back and went from there.”