By Jordan Gerrans
Cluden Park race days won't be the same without the respected Mike Mills shooting the photo finish while standing on the outside of the running rail.
That is the view of many within the north Queensland racing community with the experienced photographer set to retire from his post as regular race day photographer at several clubs this month.
The popular snapper shot his final Townsville meeting last Tuesday and will be on course at Cairns’ Cannon Park on Tuesday before sailing off into retirement.
After shooting racing in north Queensland for 13 years, Mills and his wife are set spend time travelling across to Western Australia where they have family based.
In his time in the north, Mills was the club photographer at Cairns, Townsville, Innisfail, Gordonvale as well as filling in at other clubs when required.
Townsville Turf Club president Malcolm Petrofski described Mills moving on as the racing industry losing a piece of history.
“Mike Mills seems to have been at the races in Townsville longer than Cluden itself, he has always been there,” Petrofski said.
“It is not a race day at Townsville unless Mike is there.
“He has captured and seen more memories of great horses, trainers and jockeys than we are ever going to see.”
Reflecting on his 13 years involved with the racing industry in the north, Mills says he will especially miss the people he has met over the years at the races.
Award-winning Cairns-based photographer Brendan Radke worked side-by-side with Mills on the winning post at many a north Queensland track for the best part of the last decade.
“We shot races together at Cairns and several other country race clubs around the area, including Innisfail and Gordonvale, and I always found him a really personable bloke to deal with,” Radke said.
“He was always easy to get along with and nothing was ever a problem for Mike Mills.
“Mike had a really good rapport with all jockeys, trainers and owners.
“He was always willing to offer advice about racing and happy to lend a hand wherever needed.
“There were lots of times where I could not get to the track myself because of conflicting appointments and Mike was always happy to provide us the photos we needed.”
Mills was known for his generosity and selflessness, always going out of his way to help the racing industry and its participants.
He would often provide his images to local media outlets free of charge just so the clubs and its trainers and jockeys got their fair share of coverage.
Long-time Cluden boss Petrofski remembered a time where Townsville was at its knees and the veteran photographer quickly put his hand up to help the club.
“When we had the floods in Townsville a few years ago, the club needed some photography done to document the damage to our facilities, Mike said 'no worries, I can do that' as soon as he was asked,” Petrofski said.
“He documented all the damage we wanted to make note of.
“Mike did not see the racing industry as a business for him to just make money, he was part of the fabric of the Club and the way things went.
“Mike has captured many a memories of racing in the north over the years.”
One moment that sums up Mills’ generosity and care was an afternoon at Cairns’ Cannon Park a few years ago.
A local jockey’s daughter, still in primary school, was buzzing around the mounting yard snapping photos on her camera and talking to participants about her dream of one day becoming a photographer.
Mills sat with the keen photographer for some time that day to guide and educate her on a craft he had worked on for decades.
Townsville trainer-jockey Bonnie Thomson declared Mills was a valuable member of the racing community in the north.
“We are all going to miss Mike because he is a bloody good photographer,” Thomson said.
“He always took awesome photos.
“Racing was his passion and he was always wanted to make sure everyone had access to the photos.”
Townsville Turf Club's Vice President Ross Donovan led a presentation between races on Tuesday at Cluden to thank Mills for his contribution to the club and the wider industry in his 13 years in the role.