Prominent Wollongong-based owner Mick Lavalle is being remembered as a family man who used to make bookmakers "shake in their boots" after his sudden death at the Moruya races on Saturday.
Lavalle had driven to the South Coast track to watch two of his horses race before becoming ill. He was 50.
Lavalle raced many horses with Kembla Grange trainers, most notably the Poidevin-Laine stable, but was renowned for his fearless attitude when it came to taking on the bagmen.
"It's well documented and everyone knew he loved a bet," Carl Poidevin said. "He used to make a few bookmakers shake in their boots when they saw him walking towards him.
"Plenty of times we walked home licking our wounds, but we had plenty of good times. Even outside of racing he was really good to our family.
"He helped us in all areas - not just racing - and he used to watch my boy play football. He was a very generous guy and was very passionate about his racing."
Lavalle was famously told to "go back to the bush" by Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy when his filly Setta Rocks tailed off a long last in the Group 2 Magic Night Stakes on debut in 2010.
Setta Rocks was the subject of some large bets to win the girls' version of the Golden Slipper's last-chance saloon - and the Slipper itself - before the Magic Night.
So it was with a fair bit of satisfaction Lavalle took Setta Rocks back to town for subsequent starts before the horse went on to win the Queanbeyan Cup in late 2012.
Lavalle owned a construction business in Unanderra and also raced the well-performed Lady Lonhro, a Keith Nolan Classic runner in Brazilian Pulse's victory in the Illawarra Turf Club's flagship race.
ITC chief executive Peter De Vries echoed many trainers' sentiments in the region, saying Lavalle's death had "shocked" the racing community.
"I think he's been a great supporter of the Illawarra Turf Club through his support of the Poidevin-Laines largely."