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Inductee 2010: Paddy Connolly

Hall of Fame

Patrick ('Paddy') Andrew Connolly was born in 1866 in Ophir, New South Wales, the fourth child of his Irish-born parents Patrick and Agnes. Although records from Paddy's time as a child are sparse, it is believed his mother ran a hotel in country New South Wales and Paddy liked to spend his time riding the family's horses at race tracks in the district.

Following a stint as a stockman in Queensland, Paddy joined the gold rush to Western Australia in 1894 and on arrival in Kalgoorlie entered the carrying trade. He married his wife Alice in 1898, however they were to divorce in 1924.

Paddy's time in Kalgoorlie proved to be financially rewarding and in 1900 he moved to Perth, leasing a Hotel in the inner city and purchasing a large property on the edge of Perth. In the ensuing years, Paddy acquired a portfolio of hotels, pastoral stations and tin mines.

Although a successful businessman Paddy's first love was horses and in 1903 he purchased a brown stallion at the yearling sales in Sydney. This horse, named Blue Spec, was to push Paddy to prominence on the national racing scene. Blue Spec won the 1904 Kalgoorlie and Perth Cups before travelling to Flemington and becoming the first Western Australian owned horse to win the Melbourne Cup.

In the years following Federation Paddy dominated racehorse ownership in Western Australia, winning every feature race on the calendar, including seven Perth Cups, seven Karrakatta Plates, five Railway Stakes and four Western Australian Derbies. In the 1908 season his horses won all of these four major races. In addition to Blue Spec, Paddy also successfully campaigned many of his other horses in Sydney and Melbourne, including Jolly Beggar who won the 1913 Doncaster Handicap at Randwick.

Paddy purchased a controlling interest in the Helena Vale Racecourse in the early 1920s which he operated for almost 30 years. During this time there was many a public battle between Paddy and The Western Australian Turf Club over race dates and the lack of supervision by Stipendiary Stewards. At one point the Club simply dismissed its three Stipendiary Stewards following a difference of opinion with Paddy. He also battled with politicians over the threat he believed S.P. Bookmakers posed to the local racing industry, calling for a Royal Commission. Not one to mince words, The West Australian newspaper reports several incidents where Paddy was sued by the W.A.T.C. and jockey's for libel.

Paddy's devotion to racing was to end in the early 1940s. One of the last horses he owned Remarc, following a successful career on the track, went on to sire the great Raconteur. In his latter years Paddy became eccentric and a recluse from society, going to the extent of building a barricade around his home behind the Kalamunda Hotel to 'protect him from his enemies'.

Paddy passed away in a hospital in West Perth in December 1946, aged 80. Such was his prominence in national racing circles that his death was reported in every daily newspaper in Australia. Ending his life a lonely man, Paddy's estate of almost £150,000 was bequeathed to childrens charities and country hospitals.

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