Norm ‘Whopper’ Stephens died in March this year aged 87 years.
Members and visitors to the Brisbane Club would be familiar with the portrait of a jockey on level 2 of the Club. It is an Archibald Prize winning portrait of one of Queensland racing’s great characters.
Norm won Queensland’s most famous horse race the Stradbroke Handicap at just 16 years of age in 1948 on board a horse called Ballyvista.
After a successful 40-year career as a jockey he became a trainer in the late 1980’s. At the time of his death Norm was training a horse named Ringo’s a Rockstar whose sire is Drumbeats. It says a bit about Norm’s astuteness as he bred the horse as part of a syndicate at a very modest cost. Ringo had won just under half a million dollars in prizemoney at the time of Norm’s passing.
Some of the old timers in Deagon where he lived often quipped that Norm owned half of Deagon. An exaggeration perhaps but what is true is that he invested his winnings wisely and has left a secure financial future for his children.
There is a great story in Queensland racing folklore about the day Norm was called before the Stewards on a dangerous riding charge. The Chief Steward said to him ‘Mr Stevens that was a very skinny gap you tried to take between horses on the turn into the home straight. What do you have to say for yourself? Norm responded, ‘ Yes sir I did go through a skinny gap, but I was riding a very skinny horse’. That quick-witted response so typified the great character that was Norm ‘Whopper’ Stephens.