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Trainer Les Ross singing for Magic Millions glory

Thu 6 January 2022

By Jordan Gerrans

Les Ross’ vocal cords led to his long-term association with big-time owner and breeder Mike Crooks so it is only fitting that when he does finish up training, he will sail into the sunset while singing.

Originally from Cunnamulla, Ross is this month preparing for his second last ever Magic Millions tilt before the veteran horseman calls time on his training career early in 2023.

The Ross and Crooks combination are well-known around Australia for racing their babies for the Mishani Enterprises team, chasing QTIS races around the Sunshine State with the aim of making their mark on The Star Gold Coast Magic Millions Raceday.

Leading into the famous day in 2022, the team are likely to have at least two in the 2YO Classic and they head to Aquis Park, among other tracks in Queensland, this weekend to further increase that number.

The Ross and Crooks relationship has only grown over the years, starting out in a pub while the trainer was singing karaoke, and has led towards their Beaudesert operation being the envy of many stables around the state.

Businessman and horse lover, Crooks, long pestered the trainer about training for him and now a decade on they boast impressive facilities – including a water walker and treadmill - to prepare their team of youngsters.

“It has been a work in progress, when we first came here there was no track and now there is a straight grass track, a 1100-metre grass track as well as a 1100-metre sand track,” Ross said.

“Mike has tipped in millions to this facility. He has a passion for horses and just loves horses.

“I was very lucky to come across him, he is a down to earth bloke, knockabout bloke.

“It is good to be able to train for one bloke mostly, it is much better than the old days when I had 60 horses with 150 owners on the books.”

Crooks, who Ross describes as someone who loves a drink, a punt and his horses, has poured millions of dollars into the racing industry over the years through breeding, sponsorship and ownership.

Ross has a stable in town at Hendra – which he is in the process of selling – and boxes out at the Mishani property at Gleneagle, outside of Beaudesert.

Simone Shultz manages the Gleneagle operation and believes the gallopers' time at the farm helps freshen them up, leading to better performances on race day.

For example, first-starter Mishani Spartan won on debut at Ipswich on Friday and was quickly out to Gleneagle for a few days before returning to Hendra for his second-up assignment at the Gold Coast this weekend.

“It clears their head; Spartan, who won on Friday, he has been out here bucking his brain off over the weekend,” Shultz said.

“It really helps. It is beautiful, they go out to their day yards and then come into their stables at night.”

The stalwart trainer laughs that his gallopers enjoy their experience a little too much at Gleneagle and has to limit their time out of the city to keep their mind and fitness where he wants it to be.

“It is the best of both worlds really,” Ross said.

“They get to stay in the paddock with lovely green grass and be a horse for a few days and then they head back into town.

“It is not as pleasant in town as it is out here, but we go between both during the week.

“It is a big benefit for the horses as well as me being the trainer, with the two properties I can have 40 in work instead of just the 20 boxes I have at Hendra.

“The horses do enjoy it; it is horses paradise out here.”

With Ross in the twilight of his training career these days, he will soon have more time to focus his attention into another of his passions – singing karaoke.

That might sound like a joke but Ross – who is nearing 60 years of age and still rides track work most mornings – is deadly serious about his singing.

He can regularly be seen at bars or pubs breaking the ice early in the night to get other people involved in the concept that he loves.

“I am a pretty ordinary singer,” he said with a laugh.

“I like to sing and have a crack at it. I have been doing it for over 10 years now and I think I have improved a little bit.

“When I do hang up the bridle in a years’ time, the plan is to buy a bus and do a bit of karaoke, travel around Australia while singing a few songs.

“I do enjoy it, seeing people sing, having a laugh and having a good time.”

The plan is for Ross to call time on his training career following The Star Gold Coast Magic Millions Raceday of 2023, giving him a couple more opportunities to have the Mishani name up in the lights.

Mishani Warfare and Mishani Persuasion are inside the top nine for the famous $2 million Gold Coast Magic Millions 2YO Classic with the team hopeful of qualifying one or two more over the next few days.

Persuasion has run in the money on three occasions in the chestnut gelding’s five career starts, including a metropolitan victory second-up, and Shultz says he showed promise from a young age.

“When he was a foal, he was one of my favourite foals we had,” Shultz said.

“He was just so easy to do anything with and after he got broken in, he got a bit of an attitude.

“He is getting better but he can be a bit stubborn. He is going really well and always tries his heart out.”

Mishani Spartan is aiming to book his spot next to his stablemates next Saturday in the 2YO Classic by winning the Aquis Gold Nugget for two-year-old colts and geldings over 1100 metres this weekend.

Having three starters in the 2YO Classic would be a significant achievement for the stable and their hard-working staff, according to Ross.

“If Mishani Spartan can run in the first two or three, he might be able to jag a start in the Millions after winning at Ipswich last Friday,” he said.

“The others we have going to Caloundra and Ipswich this weekend, if they make the Millions field, we will run them on the big day.

“Mike buys and breeds only QTIS horses and we pick out 10-15 a year to go to the Millions. This year we have really had a dig.”

Filly Yankee River has also won a race  - on debut at the Gold Coast in late October – and is hopeful of also pressing her chances for a 2YO Classic berth with another victory on the Sunshine Coast on Friday evening.