"THE sad death of veteran trainer Vic Thompson Snr revived memories of one of the most famous episodes in Australian turf history. When Fair Patton won the 1964 Brisbane Cup, owner Claude Hawke strode into the winner's circle and declared what a wonderful trainer Thompson was. But only a matter of minutes later, he walked up to an elated Thompson and declared he was taking the horse from Vic and would, henceforth, train it himself. The reason for the shock move was not publicly revealed for another nine months, until it finally exploded into a major court case. In a nutshell, Hawke had discovered that Thompson tipped Fair Patton to a man later described in court as "a punter named Tyler." Hawke not only immediately took the horse from Thompson, but then refused to pay him a 10 per cent trainer's commission of 1,000 pounds for the nag's victory - and Thompson duly took Hawke to court over it.
During the case Thompson, in the witness box under cross-examination by "Big Bill" Dovey (for Hawke), initially denied there were punters associated with his stables or that he had received presents as a result of information given about races. But later, under further cross-examination, Thompson finally admitted he had lied when earlier denying he'd in fact received 200 pounds from the punter Tyler. Thompson then told Judge Brennan: "I am ashamed of myself. I feel faint." After an adjournment, the parties informed the judge they had agreed upon a settlement, the terms of which were not to be disclosed. Yesterday at Rosehill Sydney Turf Club vice chairman Don Storey recalled the Fair Patton saga and Thompson's dedication to the champion: "To get Fair Patton to Brisbane that year, his young son Vic Thompson Jnr had to ride up in the train with the horse, because they couldn't afford a float. For 15 hours, Vic stood and held Fair Patton's head because the horse was trying to bash it against the sides of the container. Then, when they got there, they couldn't find a jockey to ride it. Ray Selkrig ended up with the mount. In the race, it was 22nd around the turn, but then flashed down the outside fence for an incredible victory. It was so wide on the track everyone thought it ran third, and the owners of Bore Head (which actually finished second) were already celebrating when the photo finish came through and Fair Patton was announced the winner. Piper's Son ran third....Hawke trained Fair Patton himself for almost 12 months after he took it away from Vic Snr, and the poor old thing ran last in the Melbourne Cup that year. Then he gave it to T.J. Smith and it won the Brisbane Cup again in 1965. It was a great horse."First published in: