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Ken Russell – King of the Coast, all round great bloke and all-time great Queensland jockey

Two weeks ago tomorrow Kenny Russell, one of the greatest Queensland jockeys in the history of racing, was rightfully inducted into the Queensland Racing Hall of Fame during a ceremony held at the same Queensland Racing Awards where a Sydney filly who’d never raced in this state was named as our best horse.

Yankee Rose may not have been a Queenslander, but Kenny Russell sure was, a dyed in the wool maroon to his bootstraps genius from the bush who came to town after riding 1000 winners on dusty outback tracks and took the racing game by storm. He was a legend Ken, one of the best jockeys you would ever hope to see in the saddle, and one of the most humble and decent gentleman you could ever hope to meet as well.

Kenny’s entry to the Hall of Fame was long-overdue and absolutely well-deserved, and the official ceremony conducted to confirm what all racing people already knew – that he was a legend – should have been a proud and joyous celebration for his wife Carol and his three kids Daniel, Christopher and Sara, who had the terrible misfortune of being at the Rosehill track on the 9th of October 1993 and watching their beloved husband and father die.

The Russell family lost the love of their lives that horrible day when his mount Tuig snapped its leg and the horse on his back ridden by Corey Brown didn’t have time to stop and crashed straight into and over him. In the blink of an eye the Russell family’s father, lover, hero, mentor. provider and best mate was gone.

Gone, but never forgotten, and 24 years later the time came for Ken’s brilliance to be rec recognised and rewarded by his elevation to the pantheon of Queensland racing greats. Like I said, it should have been a night of joy for Carol and Ken’s kids, a night when they could put the sadness of their loss aside and celebrate their father’s achievements in the sport he loved and for which he died.

Yeah, it should have been the Russell’s night, and it would have been too except for one tiny huge thing.

Racing Queensland forgot to invite them.

I kid you not.

What a bloody disgrace. Every single bastard involved should be sacked.

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Carol Russell (above) with a couple of Ken’s mates at his memorial statue in Monto

The Russell family didn’t even know that their hero was going to be inducted as a legend until the day before the ceremony when someone must have remembered that Kenny had a widow and kids who were there at the track the the day of the tragic fall, and gave Carol a call to let her know.

The f*cking day before.

Can you believe it?

Carol Russell was in Sydney when she received the call from Racing Queensland on the Friday afternoon 2 weeks ago. You can only imagine how she felt when they told her Kenny was being inducted into the Hall of Fame the next night. The poor bloody woman, how on earth could she be treated so badly?

Mrs Russell jumped in her car at the dawn the next morning and drove all day to get to the awards ceremony. She loved her husband, and wouldn’t have missed it for quids, and her kids wouldn’t have either except for the fact that they have families and jobs and lives of their own and live all over the countryside, and 24 hours notice just ain’t enough to afford good people the opportunity to arrange to get to Brisbane unplanned.

You can only imagine how they were feeling Saturday night a fortnight ago too.

Let me say it again. What a disgrace. You wouldn’t think that it could possibly get any worse, and then it did.

A formal invitation to the ceremony sent by Racing Queensland arrived in Carol Russell’s email inbox that night.

It was addressed to Mr and Mrs Ken Russell, and warmly invited them to attend Kenny’s induction ceremony.

Be a bloody good trick wouldn’t it?

Racing Queensland step forward.

Enter the Hall of Racing Shame.

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G’day Darrin 

I have received information that I intend to publish in regard to circumstances surrounding legendary jockey Ken Russell’s induction into the Hall of Fame a couple of weeks ago.

What I have been told, and have verified from another source, is that Ken Russell’s widow was not advised of the intention to bestow the honor on her late husband or invited to attend the awards function at which he was inducted until the day immediately prior to the ceremony (Friday 8 September).

At the time Mrs Russell was contacted by RQ she was in Sydney, and told RQ of this. No offer of travel or transport assistance was made to her, and in order to attend the ceremony she had to drive from Sydney to Brisbane at such short notice. Her son, who I am told would very much have liked to attend and see his father honored in such a meaningful way, was unable to attend on 24 hours notice as he was pre-committed to a wedding.

When the formal invitation to Mrs Russell to attend the function arrived by email on the Friday night it was addressed to “Mr and Mrs K. Russell”.

Ken Russell of course tragically died in 1993 in a race fall. Mrs Russell was at the course to witness the awful events that left her a widow.

I seek your general comments on the matter, and specifically invite your responses to the following questions.

  1. Is the substance of the story outlined above true?
  2. If yes:

(a) how and why did this happen?

(b) has Racing Queensland issued an apology to the Russell family about the matter?

(c) does RQ intend to offer Mrs Russell some form of reimbursement for the travel, accommodation and any other costs she incurred in attending the event?

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Statement by Racing Queensland

Once the voting process was finalised for the Queensland Racing Hall of Fame inductees, Racing Queensland (RQ) encountered some difficulty in locating Mrs Russell to invite her to the 2017 Queensland Thoroughbred Awards.

RQ apologised to Mrs Russell for the delay in locating her and advising her that her late husband was going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

There was an administrative error in the formal invitation issued to Mrs Russell.

Mrs Russell accepted the invitation, attended the night and accepted the award on behalf of her late husband, Ken Russell.

Award nominees were invited to attend and were provided with complimentary tickets to the event. No travel subsidies were offered to any award nominee or winner.

Editor’s note: With one email and a single phone call I found Carol Russell’s contact details and those of two of her kids in less than 60 seconds. That’s because I actually tried.

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