Racehorse Akwazoff returns to scale after winning 1997 Grafton Cup, jockey Gary Baker. 10/07/97.Turf
Racehorse Akwazoff returns to scale after winning 1997 Grafton Cup, jockey Gary Baker. 10/07/97.Turf HAVERKAMP ROY

Grafton Cup training legend Corliss passes away

COUNTRY racing has lost one of its true gentlemen, with the death of the trainer of Grafton Cup legend Akwazoff, Tamworth Cups King Merv Corliss.

Clarence River Jockey Club executive officer Michael Beattie said he could remember Corliss, who died on Sunday, aged 93, when he first became involved in the racing industry in the early 1970s.

"Even then he was a highly successful trainer who always had a lot of good horses,” Beattie said.

Beattie said he wasn't in Grafton during the time Corliss became known as the Cups King and Akwazoff scored his famous win in 1997.

"Even before Akwazoff, Merv brought top horses to Grafton for many years and continued to do so for many years.

"Indeed his daughter, Lesley Jeffriess, brings horses to a lot of Grafton meetings and like her dad is a regular at the July Carnival.”

Jeffriess said Akwazoff, who also placed third in two other attempts at the Grafton Cup (in 1996 and 2000), totalled 36 wins and half a million dollars in prizemoney by the time he retired, was always a favourite with her father.

"Dad won many races in the city and had a lot of very good horses including Steelswitch (who won 34 races including two at Rosehill), Victory Charm (12 wins), Dollar and Durie Blue,” Jeffriess said.

"But he always had a soft spot for Akwazoff who was an amazing horse. Dad trained his mother Akwitana who also won a stack of races.”

After retiring from racing, Akwazoff became a mount for the NSW Police Force and spent 11 years in Sydney and another two in Tamworth "in semi-retirement”.

He died of a heart attack in Tamworth in January, 2011.

Beattie said Corliss was a true gentleman.

"Merv was always a good bloke,” Beattie said. "These days when someone dies, their reputation instantly becomes twice as good.

"Merv wasn't one of those people. He's always been a true gentleman.”

Beattie lamented the passing of many of the country racing legends, like Corliss, in the past decade.

"When I got into the game I was a kid trying to make my way and these trainers were in their prime, young men making their reputations.

"Now there are not many left and the way things are, I don't think we'll see the likes of them again.”

A funeral service for Corliss will be held at Tamworth Racecourse commencing at 11am on Monday, February 19.