The Deane of tipsters

CONQUERING adversity has become a habit for Deane Lester, the man widely regarded as the best thoroughbred racing form analyst in Australia.
Despite battling serious medical issues throughout his life as a result of being born with the congenital condition spina bifida, the 41-year-old Cranbourne South tipster has fought his way to the top in racing journalism.
His racing commentary is now published across the country every week and he is also heard on radio in most states, previewing meetings and supplying punters with the inside word on what to expect in each race and why.
Deane’s strike rate is amazing but luck has little to do with it.
Like most success stories, dedication and effort are the keys.
Deane’s life-long interest in horses and the racing game is a result of his upbringing, however his reputation is based on meticulous study and a work ethic that few, if any, so-called experts would entertain.
“I was born into horses basically. My parents (Bob and Sandra) owned stud farms in a variety of places. We were at Dromana, then moved to Officer and then Gembrook when I was young. I was around horses all the time,” Deane recalled.
When his parents separated, Deane moved to a five-acre property at Cranbourne South with his mother.
He went to school on the Mornington Peninsula and got away from horses for a while, concentrating on other sports including cricket, football and golf, which he excelled at and admits was his other main passion in life.
However when his father moved to Kooweerup with his new partner, a racehorse trainer, Deane began working with the gallopers and soon wanted more.
“I started riding a bit of slow work on weekends as a 14-year-old and it just got into my blood,” he said.
“There was one old retired horse there and I brought him home and decided to see if I could get him going. Mum got her trainer’s licence and we soon had a horse that raced around the picnic meetings and ended up winning a race. That was great fun.”
“I started going to the track a lot and learning how to work horses and what to look for. Trainers – good trainers – were happy to talk and, maybe it was because I was so young, but they never tried to hide anything from me.”
Deane credits late Epsom trainer Bill Allan with a big part of this hands-on education.
“Bill was an old bloke when I started going down there but he was an absolute master at the craft,” he said.
“I learned so much by just watching what he did. He was like a mentor and was all about the horse. He only had three or four in work but he was absolutely meticulous.”
At Cranbourne, he would watch the way others including veteran trainer Colin Alderson handled their charges and developed friendships with many of the local industry’s main players including top jockeys Simon Marshall, Peter Mertens, Noel Callow and Mark Flaherty, all of whom he has managed.
He regards riders as the toughest and most focused people involved in racing and has seen, first-hand, what they go through to ply their trade.
“Some of the things they do to themselves to do their job you wouldn’t believe,” he said.
“One day I took Simon (Marshall) to Yarra Glen. He rode three or four winners that day but going to the races he was stuffed. It was a really hot day but we had the heater on the whole way so he could sweat and lose a bit more weight. He then got out and rode in every race.”
Deane became seriously ill due to his condition during his final year of school in 1986 and was unable to complete his HSC.
He had major surgery as a 20-year-old and then spent a month in hospital, putting paid to any thoughts of pursuing physical activities in his adult life.
It was then that a chain of unlikely circumstances combined to give Deane his break in the media.
“I was a lost soul for six or seven months. I had no idea what I was going to do or even wanted to do,” he said. “It was then that Graham Schofield, who did track work reports from Cranbourne for The Sporting Globe, Truth and 3UZ, got really sick and had to retire. Jenny Simons (secretary of The Sporting Globe) had just done pre-birthing classes with (Cranbourne trainer) Ken Keys’ wife and she rang Ken and asked if he knew anyone who might be interested in the job. Ken said to try me and by the end of the day I was filing racing comment for several media outlets.”
“It was a week before my 21st birthday and it was the best present I could ever have wanted,” he said.
Deane started with The Winning Post in August 1989 and also worked for The Sportsman, Herald-Sun, 3UZ and Sporting Globe.
In the early days he would collect reams of computer form from Racing Headquarters at Queens Road in Melbourne, type up form comments and fax it through to each outlet for manual setting.
“Some of the meetings in country New South Wales had 350 nominations! It was a lot of work but it was also a good grounding in the game,” he said.
As technology advanced so did Deane’s reputation as an expert in his field and he now concentrates on his regular radio work, together with consultancy work in racehorse syndication management and daily form analysis for punters.
“I wanted to brand myself away from just being a track man. It was nothing against anyone but your life takes all these turns,” he said.
Deane now has a home radio studio and some advanced computer equipment to aid his study, but again, it is the work he puts in that sets him apart from the pack.
“I draw the speed maps for each Saturday meeting on Thursday and then I download and go through each horse’s videos that night and on Friday. You can win how ever you study the form, but you have to stay true to what you believe in and don’t sway.”
Deane has also enjoyed the thrills of success as a horse owner and continues to look for his next stable star.
“My biggest thrill was Big Pat winning the Saab Quality in 2003, but I’ve had a few highlights when I look back. Busby Glen winning the Grand National (Hurdle) in 2006 and a horse called Go With The Flow was my first decent horse. He won nine races for us and five of those were in town after we bought him as a tried horse. I had Declare with (Cranbourne trainer) Robbie Griffiths and he was also a good galloper and there’s one I’ve got now called Fourdee that also goes okay,” he said.
Deane remains positive about the state of racing in the local district but warned that all in the industry, particularly those in power, needed to maintain vigilance to ensure the health of the sport in the future.
“I think locally racing is a big chance of being in great nick soon,” he said. “It’s a very fertile area with the new Nar Nar Goon project and the possibility of night racing at Cranbourne in the future too.”
“But racing in general is at the cross roads. I think the basic product is still pretty strong but there’s a lot of work to be done to improve the strength and perception of where the punting dollar goes.”

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