from "The Coffs Coast Advocate", 24th February 2006
THE Australian racing industry has lost one of its greatest characters with the death of former Coffs Harbour trainer Val Faggotter on February 17.
Born in Broken Hill, the young Faggotter began his working life in Sydney racing stables in the 1940's.
In a stroke of good fortune, during his first year as an apprentice jockey he rode two of the greats of Australian racing, super sprinter San Domenico and champion mare, Flight.
"Getting on one great horse was unexpected as apprentices didn't get many opportunities in those days," he once said in a local radio interview. "But to get on two good ones? I couldn't believe my luck."
Faggotter left Australia in the 1950s and rode overseas for more than 20 years, winning more than 2000 races in England, France and India before returning to Australia in 1974.
A close friendship with legendary jockey Sir Gordon Richards saw Faggotter wearing the royal colours for the Queen and Queen Mother, then gaining a mount in the English Derby at Epsom Downs.
He was especially proud of becoming one of the few close friends of the brilliant but difficult Lester Piggott. "Exceptional men are always a little difficult to understand," he would say of that flawed genius on horseback.
Retired to Coffs
Returning to Australia in 1974, Faggotter rode briefly for a period in Brisbane before 'retiring' to Coffs Harbour.
But with the racing bug still in his system, Faggotter took out a trainer's licence and found a number of good horses.
The best was Misty Sarah, owned by local businessman John Samios, with a string of race victories to its credit.
Faggotter often said the best protege in his stable wasn't equine, but a young apprentice named Glen Colless.
"I always knew he had special ability but thought he wouldn't ride for long," Faggotter said. "He was tall and had a big build but gee, could he ride."
Amazingly, the Colless career has boomed against the odds with one Brisbane riding premiership already secured and the top position held in the current season.
In 1997, Val and Lorraine Faggotter retired for a second time to Cooroy on the Sunshine Coast.
He was 78 at the time of his death.
Val is survived by Lorraine, children Helen, Brad, Desley, Jim and their families.