Queanbeyan trainer Frank Cleary toasts his fallen 'betting buddy' Phillip Hughes

Queanbeyan horse trainer Frank Cleary fondly remembers Phillip Hughes brandishing a Best Bets more than a cricket bat. 

When Cleary was training at Rosehill in Sydney, a young Hughes would trudge into the Palace Hotel at Mortlake, order a lemon squash and show the seasoned punters at the bar how it's done.

Cleary's son Joe won his first Queanbeyan Cup with Landlocked on Saturday, and the track's flags flew at half mast to honour Hughes after his tragic death on Thursday. 

One of the biggest days of the Cleary's lives was tinged with sadness, but it  hit home to the family to chase your dreams while you can. 

"You only have to see what life can deal out for you with Phillip Hughes the other day; you don't take anything for granted in this world," Cleary said. 

"We knew Phil pretty well when I had the stable in Rosehill. He'd come and have a few bets with us at the Palace and we often laughed we couldn't beat him. 


"He'd have his Sportsman and Best Bets laid out and would get all his bets organised. He was about 16 or 17. 

"He had a unit across the road and I think Michael Clarke lived there, and Brad Haddin for a short time as well."

Cleary was grief stricken when he heard the news that has rocked the cricketing world. 

"You're just numb, there's no reason for a young man, 25 years old and everything in front of them [to be gone so soon]," he said. 

"He was going to be in the Test team and it was unfolding for him again, he was such a hard worker. 

"You just don't know what cards are in the pack."

Cleary was oblivious to the fact Hughes was a talented cricketer until he announced he had to go to Australian juniors training after watching the races at his favourite watering hole.  

"I didn't even know he was a bloody good cricketer until one day in July, he said he had to go to cricket training," Cleary said. 

"I asked him why he needed to go to training at that time of year and the publican said 'he's the next big thing'. 

"My son Ben drummed him into one of his indoor cricket sides, and he won a few games for them."

Hughes was a registered horse owner and jockeys at Queanbeyan wore black armbands on Saturday as a mark of respect. 

"His family and his farm was his first loves, then his cricket, and then probably his horses," Cleary said.  

"You see that many near misses [in horse racing as well], it's a dangerous industry but we've just got to look after each other."