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18/06/02 Six Finalists Announced for Personality of the Year
The winning trainer and jockey or both the Melbourne Cup winner Ethereal and the Cox Plate champion Northerly are among six finalists to be announced as the Personality of the Racing Season which ends on July 31.

Sheila Laxon and Scott Seamer of Ethereal fame and Fred Kersley and Damien Oliver from the Northerly camp are four of the six on the short list.

The other two are Sunline's devoted strapper and track rider Claire Bird and leading New South Wales trainer Bede Murray.

0619claire&sunline.jpg (14340 bytes)CLAIRE BIRD

Claire would have to be one of the world's most recognisable strapper. She and champion New Zealand mare Sunline are inseparable.

Claire does the majority of the track work on the Desert Sun mare at home and on training tracks around Australia as well as performing all of the race day duties with the dual Cox Plate winner.

The pair teamed up to win three Australian Group One races during the season - the Coolmore Classic, the Doncaster Handicap and the All Aged Stakes, all in Sydney. She also finished second to Northerly in a memorable Cox Plate at Moonee Valley in Melbourne.

r7damien&fred.jpg (16509 bytes)FRED KERSLEY

Was better known in the racing industry through his talents as a harness trainer and trotting driver before he unearthed a promising lanky Serheed gelding at the gallops in Perth.

Just a couple of seasons later Northerly has established himself as a household name in racing. He met both Sunline and Ethereal twice during the season and beat them each time. His best win in the past season came in the WS Cox Plate at Moonee Valley when he survived a double protest to take the trophy.

Kersley is well respected by his peers and the media alike. His honesty and down-to-earth attitude shines nearly as much as his diamond studded earring.

r8sheilalaxon2.jpg (12348 bytes)SHEILA LAXON

Well hasn't the past twelve months been a turning point in the life of this Welsh born lass. Previously only known as the wife of leading Singapore based trainer Laurie, Sheila sent her own name up in lights when he Queensland Oaks winner from last season Ethereal made the next step.

After surviving a protest to win the Caulfield Cup she then unleashed a powerful burst to down the international invader Give the Slip in the Melbourne Cup at her very next start. The pair then went to Sydney and beat the talented Universal Prince in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Laxon, who admits to feeling "weird" in a pretty dress and glamourous hat, was the toast of the racing world when she became the first woman trainer to win the Cup in November.

r3bedemurray.jpg (8377 bytes)BEDE MURRAY

It's been a huge past twelve months in many ways for the Kembla Grange wonder trainer Bede Murray. Last season he trained Universal Prince to score a devastating win in the AJC Derby and again that galloper scored a win at racing's highest level in Sydney this season.

But Murray would always have to wonder what would have been after his horse was denied a start in the Melbourne Cup after stewards deemed the horse was lame.

Murray captured a number of other races along with way with his other stars including Half Hennessy, Victory Vein (a certainty for juvenile of the year) and Recruiting.

r3doliver.jpg (8216 bytes)DAMIEN OLIVER

Melbourne's premier jockey Damien Oliver again had another incredible season. But you certainly come to expect that, as he seems to be doing it year in, year out at the moment.

Currently enjoying a break from the saddle Oliver topped the list of Group One wins for jockeys thanks to a team which included Northerly, Don Eduardo, Mr Murphy, Pillaging, Amalfi, Falvelon and Tully Thunder.

There were also feature wins on the likes of Moon Dragon, Sky Heights, North Boy, Ugachaka, Recruiting and Blur for the former Western Australian.

r8scottseamer.jpg (14424 bytes)SCOTT SEAMER

Seamer was the only jockey to come close to rivalling Oliver for a season of domination. Not only did he team up to win the Group One Cups double with Ethereal, but he also won Group One's on the likes on La Bella Dama and Barkada, and in New Zealand with Vapour Trail and Leica Guv.

Another of his feature wins came in the world's richest juvenile race, the Golden Slipper aboard Calaway Gal. His luck with the juveniles also extended to winning the Gold Coast Magic Millions with the subsequent dual Group One winner Lovely Jubly.

Seamer took up an opportunity to ride in Hong Kong earlier this year, but tragically fell early in his stint and was seriously injured. He has not ridden since, but can be expected back in the saddle very soon.

PICS - Quentin Lang.

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