When her eyes closed for the final time last Friday night, thus ending the terribly sad health misfortune that had beset her in 2013, the Queensland thoroughbred racing industry lost one of its greatest devotees with the passing of 70-year-old Helen Coughlan.

It was only a few years ago – 2009 to be exact – that Helen and had been commissioned along with highly respected Brisbane racing photographer Noel Pascoe to document the history of the Queensland Turf Club. The end result was their wonderful book entitled “Queensland Turf Club A Place In History”.

A statement on the back page of that book by then Queensland Turf Club Chairman Bill Sexton simply stated, “Helen Coughlan, Noel Pascoe and their colleagues have completed a splendid reference to major moments of the past 146 years of the Queensland Turf Club. I am sure this book will be read with interest many scores of years from now.” No one would dispute what Bill Sexton wrote as being factual, but Helen Coughlan had already written interesting racing stories “scores of years” before she got commissioned to write the Queensland Turf Club book. She was a valued and regular contributor to Racetrack magazine and to that end I came upon an interesting article that she wrote about a thoroughbred sales complex that she suggested was going to be built at the Gold Coast in an article that she penned way back in the January 1979 edition of Racetrack. It’s history now that she was proven right with the passage of time – as the end result of her writings is today what is the internationally recognised Magic Millions company major sales complex on the Gold Coast.

A respected authority on thoroughbred breed, Helen Coughlan was a regular guest on the then QBBS (Queensland Bloodstock Breeders Sales) segment of the late Ian Baxter, which aired weekly on RadioTAB. Thoroughbred breeding was a subject near and dear to Helen. She was proud to be the advertised “syndicate manager” of Bletchingly’s son Shedad when that originally 1988 foaled stallion stood at stud in Queensland at Willowbend Stud at Beaudesert. There’s a photo of Shedad’s stallion page from my 1998 Queensland Thoroughbred Stallions book on the www.brisbaneracing.com.au website today. Whilst Shedad never threw the champion that Helen would have hoped, he was a handy bread and butter sire throwing well-known and talented Open class metropolitan Brisbane horses the ilk of Scenic Wells (12 wins and $236,035 in earnings) and Counter Agent (11 wins and $244.275 in earnings). Shedad was also a handy broodmare sire. As a broodmare sire he produced mares like Imagica and of course that mare is the dam of dual Toowoomba Weetwood Handicap winner Miss Imagica.

Today in Helen Coughlan’s honour and to show her writing style to those who didn’t have the pleasure of meeting her along the path of life, here is what Helen wrote in an article entitled “Annual Queensland Yearling Sales 1979.” It’s hard to believe that as at January next year it’s 25 years since Helen Coughlan penned this article for Racetrack – and her pushing the barrow of the Queensland thoroughbred industry is blatantly apparent throughout the article, albeit she had a top Queensland filly named Scomeld that she could go to town over. Helen wrote in part:

“The Annual Queensland Yearling Sales 1979 will again be held at the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds. Earlier reports of an exciting new complex to be built at the Gold Coast have unfortunately not developed beyond the planning stage. However, I am informed that there are but a few complications to be ironed out, and that the proposed complex is very much a reality. When constructed it will benefit the thoroughbred industry throughout the state of Queensland.

The format for the 1979 Yearling Sales is somewhat different from that of past years. Sales will be held in both February and March with Primaries Mactaggarts and the Australian Estates offering yearlings in February, and then Australian Estates selling again in March.

The February Sales will begin with a parade on Sunday February 18 with Primaries Mactaggarts parading their yearlings first. Australian Estates will open the selling on Monday February 19, conducting day and evening sessions. Primaries Mactaggarts will sell on Tuesday February 20, once again with a day and evening sale.

The March Sale will begin with a parade on the 25th, which is a Sunday. Selling will continue on Monday March 26 and Tuesday March 27 with day and evening sessions.

The Australian Estates are currently involved in preparing a promotion campaign for their two sales, the magnitude of which has not been seen before in this state.

The International Sports Management (Qld) Company which is handling the promotion for Estates has mapped out a program which is designed to show off the Queensland bred yearlings, not only to Queensland and other Australian states, but to influential thoroughbred interests overseas.

The Principals of International Sports Management, Mr Wayne Reid and Mr Barry Maranta are currently working on an extensive advertising campaign.

Outstanding performances by the Queensland filly Scomeld in Melbourne during the Spring Carnival have come as a timely reminder that the Queensland bred thoroughbred can take its place in the front ranks of top performers Australia wide. The Queensland Yearling Sales will again give discerning buyers the opportunity to purchase well-prepared horses of outstanding pedigree capable of emulating the performances of Scomeld, Dalrello, Grey Affair, Tails, Mode and so many more.

Scomeld, a daughter of the Smokey Eyes stallion Scotian from the Lysander 11 mare Supreme Meld from Proost by Good Brandy, won the McDougall Stakes at her first start and then went on to defeat horses of the class of Karaman, Parade and Career in the 1600 metre Marlboro Stakes at Eagle Farm in June last year.

Taken to Melbourne for the three-year-old fillies’ classics, Scomeld was a fine second in the Manifold Stakes, and then came out and defeated the boom filly Kapalaran in the Wakeful Stakes over 2000 metres at Flemington.

The Queenslander set the seal of her championship status with a runaway win in the VRC Oaks at Flemington, becoming the first Queensland bred filly to win this classic, and once again leaving Kapalaran to fill a minor placing.

On the day after Scomeld’s great win in the Oaks, Queensland farewelled her sire Scotian, as he was loaded on to the boat destined for a stud career in Japan. Primaries Mactaggarts negotiated the sale on behalf of the Japanese interests, and disclosed that the price for the sire was a high five figure sum.

Buyers at the 1979 Queensland Sales will not have a great deal of opportunity to buy the progeny of Scotian, but those available include a colt from Circuit Success, a filly from Dhoness, a filly from Miss Iris and a filly from Trust Again, all on account of Bellfields Thoroughbred Stud, Dalby, and a good chestnut filly from Auriel Star on account of Fairwill Stud, Warwick.

Lyndhurst Stud, breeders of Scomeld will offer a grey colt by Grand Chaudiere from Proost Again, a half-sister by Smokey Eyes to Supreme Meld, dam of Scotian. This colt is only one of an outstanding draft from Lyndhurst.

Another filly that is being freely tipped by the experts as a potential sale topper is by the first season sire Halicas from the brilliant Crossardee, who is also a half-sister to the dam of Scomeld, being by a Smokey Eyes from Proost.

This filly, which will be offered on account of Greenvale Park Stud, Greenmount is the standard bearer for one of the finest drafts of yearlings I have seen.”

Funeral details are yet to be advised for Helen Coughlan and I for one will miss her occasional email and phone call throughout the course of a year. Helen’s sad passing demonstrates yet again the brevity of life – as when her Queensland Turf Club historical book turned up in my mail box, on her business card she had simply written, “Thank you for all your help Phil. Enjoy the book. Helen”. I didn’t think for one moment when that book turned up that just a few short years later I’d be putting up a tribute to her on my website.

Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there’s the first of two montages of photos from racing at Doomben last Saturday. On www.sydneyracing.com.au you can test your racing knowledge with a quiz and the answers go up tomorrow on the same website. On www.melbourneracing.com.au Matt Nicholls looks at Victorian racing