Dream comes true for Lyall Appo

DREAM REALISED: Lyall Appo with the Melbourne Cup.
DREAM REALISED: Lyall Appo with the Melbourne Cup. Tobi Loftus

FOR Lyall Appo, returning to Eidsvold to witness the Melbourne Cup come through his home town was a dream come true.

The Eidsvold racing legend said it had been his dream to touch the cup since her was 15.

"To every professional jockey that's our holy grail," Mr Appo said.

"When you're a 15-year-old kid and you're starting your apprenticeship off, they come up and say to you I hope you win a Melbourne Cup.

"That's our dream, something we strive for - some achieve that dream, some don't, but they achieve so much more.

"For me coming from this little community, to be able to see the Melbourne Cup, to touch it and see it in front of my friends and family who have seen me grow up, it's a very special day today."

The 52-year-old said he started racing in 1980.

"I started in 1980 at the age of 15 through connections here in Eidsvold (that trained horses)," he said.

"The connections gave me the opportunity to go to Brisbane.

"The rest was history."

Mr Appo said the highlight of his career was the first day he rode out onto the track at Eagle Farm in Brisbane.

"I've had a lot of highlights, but probably my favourite was to ride my first horse at a metropolitan meeting at Eagle Farm, the number one track in Queensland," he said

"To trot down the straight and look up in the grandstand in 1982, to look up and see all the people and to see the crowd and just to reflect on where I came from and to where I was at that time, I was extremely proud of what I achieved.

"I'll always remember that moment."

Mr Appo shared that experience with his son.

"When my son started riding at Eagle Farm that was one of the first things I said to him," he said.

"When you trot down the straight and you look up at the grandstand, look up and think of me.

"My son races, my brother races, I'm very proud of both of them."

Mr Appo's mother, Wakka Wakka elder Aunty Yvonne Chapman, said she was immensely proud of her son.

"My father was the first clerk of the course out here," Aunty Yvonne said.

"(Racing) runs in our blood."

Mr Appo said there were many challenges he had to face throughout his career, including racism, though he embraced all challenges with a positive attitude.

"(Racism) was there but I surrounded myself with positive people and it was the Eidsvold upbringing that brought me into that positive environment," he said.

"Racism to me was there, but I found some other way to deal with it.

"That's what I teach my kids and family."

Mr Appo was close friends with another North Burnett racing legend, the late Kenny Russell.

"Kenny was a very good friend of mine, I was only a young fella when he passed away, but he was an idol to me," he said.

"Before I'd even met him, he said that's Lyall Appo, we're the Burnett Boys.

"That connection was there, I understood what that meant then.

"We never let people doubt that; we told them we're the Burnett Boys."

Aunty Yvonne said she remembered following Lyall and Kenny around with Kenny's mother.

"They were so little they had to have a weight on them because they were too light," Aunty Yvonne said.

"That was in Dalby and Toowoomba.

"Me and Mrs Russell we used to just laugh at them, but we were so proud of our sons."

Mr Appo said he had achieved all of his dreams in life.

"You have dreams and if you believe in those dreams they come true.

"Life is about opportunities and if you take those opportunities and go forward with that, your dreams will come true.

"I say that to a lot of young people, if you believe in your dreams then those dreams will come true."

Mr Appo, who now lives in Brisbane, still races to this day.

"I still race today, I'm 52 years old and who knows (when I'll stop)," he said.

"I could give it up tomorrow, but I'm enjoying myself and as long as my body keeps allowing me to do what I'm doing than I'll keep doing it."

Topics:  jockey over 50s racing

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