Queensland Derby winning trainer set to celebrate 100th birthday

He was an introverted highly respected trainer-driver, best known for winning a Queensland Derby, and now Arthur Lawrence is about to celebrate his 100th birthday. 

Born September 6, 1922, the humble trainer, who now lives at Wollongong, started in the 1960s in NSW. 

In a very short time, Arthur (pictured) built a reputation for being very studious and patient with delicate horses, before he settled in Queensland in the early 80s. 

However, even before he called Brisbane home, he announced himself to Sunshine Coast harness racing in 1976 with accomplished pacer Nicks Lad. 

Nicks Lad raced into the record books alongside the great Paleface Adios (1973) when it won the 1976 Queensland Derby, which was subsequently won by Rip Van Winkle (1977).  

By the time Arthur set up at Hendra, he had formed a close bond with champion driver Vic Frost who would steer one of the stable’s most formidable pacers Glenmore Nelson. 

Arthur, who still has a vehicle driver’s licence and is very independent, fondly remembers Nicks Lad who gave him his first major win. 

“He was one of the best,” Arthur said. 

“I was only ever a hobby trainer, but I loved the sport and my horses. 

“The difference between today’s racing and back then, is that they were smaller and tighter tracks.” 

Exceptionally talented Glenmore Nelson was the ‘heir apparent’ to superstar pacer Wondai’s Mate, according to race caller David Fowler who was the trots writer for The Telegraph in the 80s. 

Wondai’s Mate was a star of the 80s, winning 73 races including 43 at Albion Park and was the first Queensland pacer to win an Inter Dominion heat, which he achieved at Alexandra Park, Auckland in 1983.  

Fowler said Glenmore Nelson was known as the ‘Black Flash’ and Arthur (pictured feeding Glenmore Nelson) as the friendly trainer of few words who had high regard for his horses and patience personified.  

“Arthur was one of those trainers who were painstakingly patient and let the horse tell him when it was ready,” Fowler said. 

“He was an old-school horseman, and there’s not many around these days, who was very friendly, and I respected him highly, and he only said what he had to so say. 

“No doubt Glenmore Nelson, which was called the ‘Black Flash’, was heir apparent to Wondai’s Mate.” 

According to Australian Harness Racing records, which can be incomplete, Glenmore Nelson, pictured winning with Arthur in the sulky, won 13 of 20 starts over five years including the Queensland Sires Stakes in 1982 and the Queensland Breeders 3YO, Redcliffe Derby and Harold Park Guineas in 1983. 

Frost not only remains in touch weekly with Arthur, but also drove winners for his best mate, saying Arthur used to “fly under the radar”. 

He said Arthur was a wharfie in Brisbane, Port Kembla and Fremantle before he took up training.  

“I knew him as a mate, and he had a great horse called Glenmore Nelson,” Frost fondly said of Arthur. 

“He built stables on the other side of my property at Dapto and that is how I became good friends with him, and he would do anything for you and not want anything. 

“He knew how to prepare a horse to win. 

“He used to fly under the radar a little bit and he was pretty shrewd and used to love a bet and he would get them ready and not show them up too much, and when they thought he was in the right race, he would have a bet. 

“I drove plenty of times for him and he had a horse called Half A Crown which won the Pot of Gold at Rocklea which I drove.” 

Arthur’s kindness extended well beyond how well he treated horses and his contemporaries. 

Even though he has no children, there is one lady who has called him “Dad” for decades. 

His generosity and selfless nature led to an inseparable bond with a young girl, from a broken family, who moved to Brisbane in the 80s and had a love of horses. 

Jacklyn Bengtsson, pictured with Arthur while his nieces and their partners sit with the centurion in his racing silks (below), recalled how her parents had split and her mother moved the family from North Queensland to live next door to Arthur’s stables at Hendra. 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec

Not only was it an emotional upheaval for the then eight-year-old, but her mother sold her pony in the divorce, Jacklyn said.

“It was mum, my sister and I, and she bought a house at Hendra and our back fence was Arthur’s side fence because he had a big property with stables,” Jacklyn recalled. 

“Mum asked Arthur and May (his then wife), if I could go over and pat the horses and from that day in, they took me in, and he and May bought me a pony. Mum had sold my pony in the divorce. 

“May passed away when I was about 15 and, basically after that, Arthur and I did everything together. He has been the only father that I have had and that it is why we are so close. 

“On Sundays, his only day off, he would take me at four or five in the morning show jumping and gymkhanas, and it did not matter how far I wanted to go. 

“He has a heart of gold.” 

By Darren Cartwright