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Home / Sport / ‘Gerry was the biggest punter in Sydney’: Inside Singo and Harvey’s 52-year friendship

‘Gerry was the biggest punter in Sydney’: Inside Singo and Harvey’s 52-year friendship

“During those days, Gerry was flamboyant,” Singleton says. “He imported flash American cars. He lined his pockets full of cash. He had special pockets down past his knees to put more cash in from his auctions. This is all true. The biggest gamblers at the illegal clubs then were, in this order: one, Gerry Harvey; two, Rupert Murdoch; three, Kerry Packer; four, me.”

Perhaps we should start with this disclaimer from Harvey, who knows the great Singo better than most.

John Singleton and Gerry Harvey have realigned with Libertini in the $15m The Everest.

John Singleton and Gerry Harvey have realigned with Libertini in the $15m The Everest.

“He’s mad — and he’s getting worse,” Harvey, 81, laughs. “I said to him the other day, ‘Your mind is so wonderful, you have this incredible memory. There’s only one problem: it’s never the truth’.”

The memory tends to fade when you’ve lived and shared so much life as these iconic Australians. They’ve had many successes in business and racing over several decades but winning The Everest (1200m) would cap off a remarkable, profitable and hilarious lifetime together.

“I’ve watched Gerry invest huge amounts into this industry,” Harvey’s wife, Katie Page, says. “He’s the biggest, most consistent supporter of this industry. It’s his time. He deserves this. The best part is he can do it with his best mate. They both deserve it.”

Much has been written in the past week about how Singleton came to be the half-owner of Libertini, but even then the lines are blurred.

The best we can work out is that Singleton slipped some paperwork on Harvey’s desk, transferring half-ownership of the horse to Singleton. In exchange, Singleton would give Harvey half-ownership of his well-bred mare, Girl Tuesday.

One day, Harvey’s phone buzzed. It was Singo.

“Mate, have you signed that paperwork yet?” Singleton asked.

“What paperwork?” Harvey replied.

“Where you signed half the horse to me?”

“Oh.”

“I’m giving half of Girl Tuesday to you.”

“Can you give me half of More Joyous?” Harvey said referring to Singleton’s champion mare that won eight group ones.

“No, no, no!”

“This is a lopsided agreement.”

Harvey is still shaking his head about it.

Harvey and Singleton at the Magic Millions sales in 2002.

Harvey and Singleton at the Magic Millions sales in 2002.Credit:Fairfax

“When he was having this golden run with More Strawberries and the like, and I was having a rough run, I’d get a text with an article attached about him being the world’s best breeder and how I was the worst,” Harvey says. “He’s having a bad trot and his only salvation is to give him half when I get a good one. Now Singo is listed as the managing owner of Libertini!”

More recently, he visited Harvey’s Baramul Stud in the Widden Valley, arriving via obligatory helicopter.

“I flew up,” he says. “They drove up in their Holden Commodore. The silly bastards …”

Singleton spotted a magnificent yearling in the paddock.

“Jesus, he’s up himself, that bloke,” Singo said to Harvey.

“That’s Libertini’s full brother,” Harvey said.

The plan had been to take the horse to the Magic Millions sales on the Gold Coast early in the New Year where the yearling was predicted to earn top dollar.

“Why don’t you race it?” Singleton said.

Before long, Harvey agreed to sell half the horse to his mate for $1million. Deal done.

I ask Singleton if doing business with Harvey has always been this easy.

“We’ve never had a blue,” he says. “Gerry’s always right. It took me 50 years to realise that.”

Page, however, roars with laughter when it’s suggested they don’t argue.

“Oh god have they had some blues!” she says. “Oh my god. One time, at a party, Singo was about to headbutt Gerry. I climbed into the middle to stop it. There have been many times when I’ve saved their friendship — and their lives.

Libertini at trackwork on Thursday morning.

Libertini at trackwork on Thursday morning.Credit:Getty

“I met them when I was very young. I was still in my teens. I thought they were just a couple of old blokes. I’m thinking, ‘Who would ever get involved with these two?’ I realised quickly that when you take up with Gerry you also take up with John and vice versa. They’re an old married couple. I’m just the appendage.”

The pair first met at Harvey’s store on Parramatta Road at Leichhardt in the late 1960s. Singleton, who was 26 at the time, plonked down on a roll of carpet and explained how he could double Harvey’s business with advertising. He handed Harvey a brochure, which Harvey promptly used as an ashtray for his cigarette.

Years later, as both of them made millions of dollars off each other’s success, Singleton told Harvey how he’d been hurt by the gesture.

“You showed me no respect,” Singleton told him.

“Mate, I wasn’t interested in your brochure,” Harvey said. “I was interested in you.”

Harvey was also interested in horses, although Singleton was not. In 1975, he joined Harvey at the Inglis Sales under the fig tree at Newmarket.

As Harvey looked to buy horses, Singleton went to the bar to buy beers and pies. When he returned, Harvey had bought three yearlings.

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They had some early success with horses like Best Western and Gypsy Kingdom, but when Singleton bought up Princes Farm and started breeding they became competitors.

“It could be argued that I’ve won a lot more for a lot less since then,” Singleton argues. Gerry’s had 500 to 600 at the one time when I’ve had 20 maximum in work at any one time. But we now agree, with Kate’s encouragement, that we have a lot more fun together than when we are apart.”

Now they’re back together, Harvey and Singleton are still trying to pull off unlikely deals.

Last week, it was unclear which slot-holder Libertini would belong to: Chris Waller or James Harron?

Harvey came up with the idea of the “Libertini Toss”. Let a coin decide. Singo loved the sound of that. So did Racing NSW boss Peter V’landys.

There were discussions about the toss being held on 2GB’s Ray Hadley Morning Show. Then the Matty Johns Show on Fox Sports.

“Chris Waller is so shy, so gentlemanly, imagine him going on a show to toss a coin to get a spot,” Singleton said. “Chris had the good sense to pull out, although he won’t if it gets up.”

Harvey says Harron, who ended up securing Libertini, also wasn’t keen on the idea.

We will see if Harron made the right decision on Saturday. Both Singleton and Harvey, along with Page, will be there despite COVID-19 concerns. Libertini has drawn barrier 12 — not ideal — but they all figure the tricky alley will make winning even sweeter.

Perhaps Singo will shout the bar as he famously did at Rosehill after Belle de Jour won the Golden Slipper in 2000, just moments after tackling former prime minister and part-owner Bob Hawke in the mounting yard.

Or maybe they’re too old for those shenanigans.

Harvey and Singleton settle their differences at the Magic Millions in 2005.

Harvey and Singleton settle their differences at the Magic Millions in 2005.Credit:Fairfax

“I’m the one who will be making sure they’re together in the nursing room when the time comes,” Page says. “But I won’t be there: I’ll be skyping from the south of France.”

In the meantime, there are $15m races to win — and even ones of less value, too.

When I spoke to Singleton earlier this week, he was watching some of his horses racing at Warwick Farm.

“Beautiful horse. Would win the Easter Show. Just won’t try,” he said of one his charges.

As the horse crossed the line well back in the field, Singo chuckled.

“I might give Gerry half of that,” he said. “In fact, I will! It’s only the right thing to do.”

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