There was never a crossroads moment that put Joe Cleary on the path of following in the horse training footsteps of his legendary father Frank.
It was more a seismic change in the direction of his life, which occurred midway through year 10 at Queanbeyan High School.
"I headbutted the school principal," Joe Cleary says with his customarily brutal honesty.
"He accused me of smoking dope at the school social. I've never touched a cigarette in me life. Franko said, 'What'd you do'?' I said, 'I f---ing headbutted him'.
"I went from being school captain at Marist Brothers in year 6 to getting the arse halfway through year 10 at Queanbeyan High."
Within a year of being expelled, a fresh-faced Joe had already proven to his father he was a valuable asset to his burgeoning training empire which had grown so successful it had moved out to Canberra.
In 1991 Frank shelled out $33,000 at the Gold Coast Magic Millions sales and landed a boom juvenile by the name of Clan O'Sullivan.
A year later father and son both ventured north for the 1992 Magic Millions Classic. Clan O'Sullivan won by five lengths. His time of 1min 8.46sec is still a record.
That kick-started a three-decade-long love affair between the Clearys and the Gold Coast.
"I took Clan O'Sullivan to the Gold Coast, I was 16 I think," Joe recalls.
"I told a story at the Carbine Club it was quite funny, when Girls Are Ready raced in the Magic Millions [in 2019].
"I said 'Franko won his first Magic Millions and on the same night I broke my maiden on the beach'. The whole joint collapsed."
Just a few short years later, Joe became a fully qualified horse trainer himself. It was his 21st birthday and Frank hatched a devilish plan.
"I went to the stewards and said, 'this bloke has been doing a terrific job as a foreman, you wouldn't have to look to hard to give him a trainers' licence'," Frank says.
"We kept it hush-hush until his 21st. And I gave it to him. I said, 'you'll either love me or hate me for this'."
It's a moment Joe will never forget.
"It came in a little booklet back then," Joe says.
"I opened it. I thought it was tickets or airfares or something, but it was a trainers' licence. I thought I was going to Hawaii. I wasn't going anywhere. I was going to work."
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Twenty-three years on, Joe has surpassed his father as Queanbeyan's leading trainer and has made his annual pilgrimage to the Gold Coast where he has three runners on Saturday.
Girls Are Ready runs in the Rising Stars class 4 handicap (1300m). Stable star Hard Core is contesting the $250,000 Magic Millions Cup (1200m), while Kiss My Swiss runs in the Gold Coast Quality (900m).
Joe always tries to make sure he has at least one horse in action on Magic Millions Day, and the memories of Clan O'Sullivan still burn as brightly as ever.
And while the glitter strip is a far cry from their home in Queanbeyan, Frank and Joe remain fiercely proud of their roots.
Frank has seen it all in his 72 years. A recent heart attack wasn't enough to deter him from last month's annual Boxing Day races at the Queanbeyan Racing Club.
His almost 2000 career winners also include the 1999 Golden Slipper-Black Opal double with Catbird, but it's perhaps two Queanbeyan Cup days that shine brightest in his eyes.
Ask Frank what his home town means to him, and subtle tears start to well in his eyes - much like they did when he claimed the Queanbeyan Cup after almost four decades of trying in 2009 with Bomber Command.
At last year's flagship meeting, he witnessed his son train an astonishing four winners which included another triumph in the Queanbeyan Cup with Havaduel.
"It's just a great town," Frank says.
"On Queanbeyan Cup day when Joe got the four winners, the whole town was so proud. He works hard. Nothing comes without hard work."
For Joe, every winner he trains creates another cog in the Cleary legacy.
"It's quite funny, people say you live in your father's shadow and I say, 'well it's a very proud shadow to live in'," Joe says.
"Surprisingly enough we've got separate clients. Dad's had his clients and I've never had any of his clients come here.
"I don't make comparisons to what dad's done because there's no one in this town that will ever achieve what he's done - and I throw the Canberra boys in on top of that, too.
"You don't chase that. You've just got to keep getting out of bed, doing what you do and try and get yourself a handy horse. I just keep the family name going."
Joe plans to ultimately settle down on the Gold Coast one day, but his link to Queanbeyan will never be severed.
"It's just the 2620 postcode seems to stick with everyone," Cleary says.
"You go into a pub, it's just got something about it, Queanbeyan. Everywhere you go has got such a good culture.
"You go across the border and things are different."