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Jockeys with the hearts of Phar Lap

Daily Telegraph racing editor Ray Thomas talks about one of racings most heartwarming stories - Corey Brown and Hugh Bowman meet the kids at Redfern's Settlement and announce that proceeds from the NSW Jockeys' Calendar will be donated to The Settlement. The story is taken from the print edition of the Daily Telegraph 4 December 2009.

This isn't the usual story found on these pages. It's not trying to give an insight into a trainer, jockey or racehorse, It's not about trying to find a winner at the races tomorrow, either — it's more important than that.

Just ask champion jockeys Corey Brown and Hugh Bowman. On the racetrack, both are renowned for their ice-cool temperaments, nerveless riding and fierce competitive spirit

Racetrack regulars have become familiar with their tough, steely determination but both jockeys revealed a different side to themselves, a very human side, when visiting a children's refuge in inner-city Redfern earlier this week.

Brown and Bowman forgot, albeit for a short time, what was supposedly all-important to them like riding winners, chasing Group One glory, winning jockeys premierships.

They will still keep pursuing these personal goals with the same zeal and determination which has made them so popular with punters and admired by their peers. Make no mistake, each jockey will be trying as hard as ever to ride winners at Rosehill Gardens tomorrow.

But they now have a very different perspective on what is truly meaningful in life.

I have empathy for Brown and Bowman because visiting The Settlement does that to a person. It's a humbling experience.

The Daily Telegraph's acclaimed photographer Gregg Porteous, who took the images for this story, and I were invited by the jockeys to join them for the visit. It was something the both of us won't forget, can't forget.

Neither can Brown nor Bowman. They were visibly moved as they met the children at the neighbourhood centre.

"What struck me was the sheer joy on their faces," said Brown, himself a father of three young girls. "They might not have a lot of the material things we take for granted but it doesn't matter to them, they all seemed so happy, playing and laughing with each other."

Bowman said he had not heard of The Settlement before accepting Brown's invitation to the meet-and-greet session. "It has certainly opened my eyes I didn't know it was here and didn't know what great work they are doing for the kids," he said.

The refuge is a century-old terrace house that acts like an oasis for local children, a safe haven in a suburb notorious for its history of crime, drugs, violence, unemployment and poverty.

A community-run, not-for-profit organisation, The Settlement has 12 full-time staff and five volunteers to mind and care for the children, who use the centre to do homework, play sport and enjoy arts and craft. For some kids, this is home.

"We provide them with afternoon snacks and hot meals," said executive officer Vicki Winters, a real-life saint if ever there was one. "Some kids just come here to eat because they might not have any food at home. But the kids are happy, they enjoy being here and that's the main thing."

Brown first learned of of The Settlement when watching Channel 9's The Secret Millionaire.

The jockey and his wife Kylie were deeply moved by the story and the plight of the children in the local area, many of them Aboriginal, and vowed to do something for the cause. "We saw it on TV, I'd never heard about it before but we just felt it was a great cause," Brown said

"The Settlement keeps the kids entertained, keeps them off the streets.

"It's a great place place for them to come and play in a safe environment"

This is when Brown saw an opportunity to make a difference.

Newcastle jockey Andrew Gibbons, also a part‑time photographer, had been working for some months on a NSW jockeys calendar that he hoped could be sold to raise funds for charity.

Gibbons, with the help of popular racing photographer Steve Hart, spent hours of his own time driving all over the state to take photos of jockeys Brown and Bowman, Nash Rawiller, Kerrin McEvoy, Chris Munce, Blake Shinn, Kathy O'Hara, Josh Parr, Tim Clark, Jay Ford, Jeff Penza, Grant Buckley, and apprentices Tom and Nathan Berry, Blake Spriggs, Mitch Beadman and Jamie Quinnell.

"I started to get into photography a couple of years ago and was looking for an excuse to do something with my hobby," Gibbons said.

"Then I came up with the idea of doing a jockeys calendar."

However, at the 11th-hour, the Australian Jockeys Association decided not to endorse the calendar, leaving Gibbons without funding to have the calendar printed.

Gibbons had already taken pictures of Brown — provocative nude photos of the champion jockey riding a mechanical horse — and phoned to apologise for wasting his time.

"When Andrew contacted me, I told him straight away not to worry about it, I'll fund it," Brown said. "I guess it has cost me around the $5000 mark but I reckon it is money well spent

"We've all decided that the money we raise from the calendar be donated to The Settlement."

Brown and Bowman then paid the Redfern children's refuge a visit earlier this week to deliver the news.

"It's fantastic what people like Corey and Hugh are doing for us. You can't put it into words," Vicki Winters said.

"To have them acknowledge us in this way and to offer to help is unbelievable really.

"We can't survive on government grants and the struggle we are having at the moment is trying to refurbish the building.

"So what the jockeys are doing is very special to us and very special to the kids."

Brown, who took along his trophy for winning the Melbourne Cup on Shocking, and Bowman were swamped by the kids at The Settlement when they visited this week.

Both jockeys patiently signed autographs on the back of the children's school shirts, on their arms and school books, and posed for photographs.

Most of the kids were in awe of Brown's Melbourne Cup.

"I get to ride in the Melbourne Cup and I was lucky enough to win it this year, but to see the look in the kids' eyes when they got to see the trophy and hold it was just priceless to me,"

Brown said: "You could see the joy in their faces. "It was gold."

Bowman said he was glad he took up Brown's invitation to visit the Redfern refuge.

"This is Corey's idea and he asked me if I would be interested in coming along and seeing what it is all about," Bowman said.

"I'm really glad I came along, it's been an amazing experience.

"Corey really should take the credit for this. What a good idea it was by him to choose this organisation to support and try and help a bit

"If The Settlement doesn't get some financial help then it wouldn't be able to carry on which would be terrible for the children of this area.

"I just hope people support it by buying the calendar."

The NSW Jockeys Calendar is officially launched and goes on sale at the Wyong Magic Millions meeting on Sunday. The calendar can be purchased at a number of NSW race meetings this month and is also available to order at

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