Talk to anyone involved in the racing industry and they’ll tell you Max Crockett was more than your average horse whisperer.
He was the master.
A master horseman, a master horse-breaker and a master trainer.
“When we were out at Gooree I used to peek through the cracks in the wall and watch what he was doing … he was gifted,” Max’s son Cameron recalls.
“He had a way with horses. He was the master.”
An undisputed legend of the industry, tributes flowed for Crockett after he passed away on Sunday morning surrounded by his family at Mudgee hospital after a long battle with heart and kidney issues.
The 74-year-old was born in Randwick and developed his love of horses after spending his childhood in and around the racecourse and old Inglis Sales Complex.
He developed into one of Sydney’s premier horse breakers and looked after a number of yearlings for famed trainers including Bart Cummings, Gai Waterhouse, TJ Smith, Jack Denham, Les Bridge and Neville Begg.
He moved to Gulgong in the 1980s and later into Mudgee where he worked out of the Gooree Park Stud, where he continued to break in horses for the industry’s elite.
Crockett took to training himself, preparing numerous gallopers for the Foyster family including top grade American-bred galloper, Seeker’s Gold.
The legendary horseman was particularly fond of his last good horse, Lancelot, who won 11 races including two Gilgandra Cups (2013 and 2017) and finished placings at Warwick Farm and Canterbury Park.
It’s a sad moment. He was a legendary horseman and horse breaker and a real character as well.Gooree Park stud manager Andrew Baddock.
His last winner was in Orange in November, with Mackellar’s Love saluting at Towac Park. The five-year-old has been nominated to run at Narromine on Thursday.
Crockett’s passion for horses is nigh-on unrivalled.
“It didn’t matter how fast they were or how slow they were or what they were worth, he treated them all the same,” Cameron said.
“You forge your own methods and models but you base it all off what you’ve seen with other people and my main influence comes from Dad, without a doubt.”
“To watch him in a yard with a horse, people wouldn’t believe their eyes.
“He’d be standing there in the centre and have a wild horse bucking around him, spinning around him and he’d just stand there and not move.
“And within 25 minutes the horse would be there following him everywhere, the horse would be looking for him.
“He could connect with a horse, and that’s something a lot of people can’t do.”
He is survived by his wife, Cheryl, children Cameron and Yasmin, and his four grandchildren, Grace (five), Jack (four), Oliver (three) and Theo (nine months).
“Dad was a massive influence on Cameron and me; you don’t realise how well-respected someone is until they are gone,” Max’s daughter Yasmin said.
“He was always great mates with Les Bridge and although he spent most of his later life in Mudgee, Dad’s heart was always with all his ‘old-school’ mates at Randwick.”
As an owner of a lot of Crockett-trained horses, and a long-time friend, Des Kennedy can attest to that love of Randwick.
“The best part of racing horses with Max was the drive to the races and the tales he’d tell,” Kennedy said.
“If you went to Randwick races with him, which I did on numerous occasions, from the time you pulled up in the car park he knew all the old green coats, you’d walk past Bart Cummings and he’d say ‘G’day Maxy, how are you?’. You’d walk past Gai Waterhouse and she’d say ‘hey Maxy, how are you?’, and then the chairman of the ATC would pull up and ask him how Mudgee was … the amount of people he knew in the racing world was remarkable.”
Gooree Park stud manager Andrew Baddock said Crockett’s status in the industry is legendary.
It’s estimated he broke-in over 7000 horses in his career.
“It’s a sad moment. He was a legendary horseman and horse breaker and a real character as well,” Baddock said.
“He’s been in poor heath the last couple of years, but he broke in hundreds of horses for us and leading trainers in Sydney as well, including Golden Slipper winners.”
They say home is where the heart is, and I think that’s where it always has been for Dad.Cameron Crockett on his father's love of Randwick.
“Max Crockett was a legend in racing and many will tell you he was the best horseman in the country,” Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys added.
“Some of the great trainers of our time entrusted Max to break in their horses and he always did an exemplary job.”
Veteran Central District Racing Association trainer Peter Stanley reaffirmed Crockett’s status as “one of the best horseman" in the country, but summed up the man best.
“I rode a lot of winners for him. He was a gentleman and a great character. He was a great man,” Stanley said.
“His son’s training well, he’s very successful at it. He learnt a lot of his father I’m presuming. His wife is a very good horsewoman too, they’re a horse family and great people. Max was just a great person to know.”
Cameron will move his stable to Scone in the new year, bringing an end to the Crockett’s time in Mudgee.
A service for Max will be held in Mudgee at a date to be confirmed, and Crockett’s ashes will be spread at Randwick Racecourse.
“They say home is where the heart is, and I think that’s where it always has been for Dad,” Cameron added.