Back in the big smoke: Gilgandra trainer Bruce Parker.Back in the big smoke: Gilgandra trainer Bruce Parker.

One of the last times Bruce Parker ventured to Sydney was “maybe back in the 80s or 90s”.

He can’t quite remember the date – and an inspection this week of a Horse of the Year trophy he picked up on the night for Rajes Lover didn’t reveal the date.

“Old T.J. Smith was there that night,” Parker recalled. “We pulled up at the big hotel outside the front door and the doorman came out while we were walking in and a mate of mine said, ‘who’s that bloke?’ He pulled up right to the door and you only had to look at his number plate to realise it was T.J. Smith. I met him first before we went into the do.”

Rajes Lover won 14 races in his career for Parker, the now spritely 79-year-old from Gilgandra finally venturing back to Sydney with an unfashionable gelding for the $300,000 Country Championships final on the opening day of The Championships.