Anthony Lanskey, who is principal of Gympie State High School, says, “My uncle, Paul, bred it and when it went shy of the reserve at the Inglis Sales, he said, ‘This is a good horse. Would you be interested in putting a syndicate together?’
“So it became ownership by mates.
“For 20 years, I have been coaching or managing regional and state teams to selection trials for Australian Schoolboy teams and been part of the executive of the Queensland branch, treasurer and now president of the Australian association.”
He’d catch up with Goodman, who is principal at Assumption College, Warwick, as well as fellow Gympie resident Leitch, another teacher who doubles as the town’s deputy mayor and unofficial scout for the Broncos.
They’d have a few beers, discuss the talent they’d seen play at the trials and whimsy about owning a racehorse. Vow and Declare became their first.
But they’ve had some first-up success on the football field as well.
Penrith wunderkind Nathan Cleary and powerful Broncos forward David Fifita represented Australia on one of the three tours Lanskey has managed, a four-week tour of England, another to New Zealand and a home series.
“There’s a great crop of boys coming through,” he said of a group of 16 and 17-year-olds who beat a New Zealand under-19 team this year 32-20.
“Sam Walker, son of Ben Walker, is an outstanding half and has already been signed by the Roosters and Jackson Topine, a kid from Western Australia, has been picked up by the Bulldogs. A couple have been taken by the Broncos.”
Asked how a principal could get away with wagging school to travel to Melbourne and risk being spotted on TV, he said, “Four months ago, when Vow and Declare was preparing for the Tatts Cup, the trainer decided to set him for the Melbourne Cup. I thought to myself, ‘I’d better get a week off and take long service leave. If the horse doesn’t make the trip, I’ll cancel the leave.
“It needed a bit of forethought.”
He agreed a “Made in Australia” victory was desperately needed and his horse approached the race as a humble, yet brave supplicant at history’s doorstep.
After all, Vow and Declare’s victory was the first by an Australian-bred horse since Shocking in 2009.
Racing can be a cruel game, often granting a joyful ending, not to the little man but the giant, yet the 2019 victory saw mates enjoying their own company in a small Melbourne hotel, just as they had done on those footy trips.
“By the time we got home from Flemington, we thought about going out on the town but we decided to just sit around and have a quiet night,” he said.
Maybe it’s the 30 years of being a teacher, or setting a good example to those kids he doesn’t want to see give the game a black eye, but he added, “I didn’t want to do anything ridiculous.”
Asked his reaction as the horse surged in a final stride to win, Lanskey said, “I was stunned. Even now it’s still sinking in.
“The feeling of exhilaration is almost overwhelming.”
Better than winning a grand final?
“It’s even a greater feeling than that.”
Roy Masters is a Sports Columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.