Legendary Queensland jockey and trainer Norm ‘Whopper’ Stephens has died aged 87.
Stephens hit the headlines in 1948 when as a teenage apprentice he won the Stradbroke Handicap on Bally Vista.
He went on to win hundreds of races at a time when there were only two meetings a week in Queensland.
Stephens formed a successful partnership with George Benn and won on many leading horses for the trainer including Reflugent, a top galloper in the 1960s.
He had a special knack with two-year-olds and won the feature Hopeful Stakes five times.
Stephens also won the 1968 Queensland Derby on Minto Craig for Bart Sinclair Senior.
As a trainer Stephens, who spent the majority of his life based at Brisbane track Deagon, had a steady line of winners with his best horse the 1987 Silver Slipper winner, Ballook.
Fellow Deagon trainer Pat Duff said Stephens had been along time friend who was respected throughout the racing industry.
“The best way to describe him is that he was part of Deagon and Deagon was part of him. He wasn’t just great with horses but he was also a great story teller,” Duff said.
“There probably could have been four books written with his stories. Deagon and Queensland racing won’t be the same without him.”
Stephens picked up his life long nickname when he turned up for the first day of his apprenticeship and one of the stable hands quipped: ‘Gee, you’re a whopper’.
Brisbane Racing Club racing manager Bart Sinclair said Stephens would be remembered as one of the true greats of Queensland racing.
“I remember Whopper got taken off a horse called Right Formula who was favourite for the Derby so Dad put him on Minto Craig,” Sinclair said.
“Whopper rode like a man possessed to win easily.”
Melbourne Cup winning jockey Larry Olsen, who knew Stephens for 50 years, said he would be remembered as a true horseman and great character.
Funeral arrangements are expected to be announced next week.