Bec Baldock’s very personal farewell to her grandfather, renowned horse trainer Merv Corliss, was a touching tribute to a man she loved deeply – someone who had left an indelible mark on her life and on the lives of many people.
When Bec Baldock got married, the man she chose to give her away was the same man who had given her shelter and imparted on her his considerable knowledge and wisdom.
It was the same man who earlier this year came to her as she slept and complained of having chest pain. “He walked out to the ambulance,” Bec said. “He goes, ‘I’m right, I can walk.’”
And it was the same man she watched die quickly and peacefully, just as he had desired, as she stood around his Tamworth Hospital bed with other family members on February 11.
Merv Corliss, the legendary Tamworth horse trainer, was Bec’s grandfather. But he was also a father figure to her who taught her so much about life and the horse racing industry. His passing has left a big hole in her heart.
“We were all very close to him,” Bec said, “but my mum [Tamworth trainer Lesley Jeffriess] and myself actually lived with my grandparents my whole entire life until I went to uni and then come home and got married and stuff like that.
“I’ve pretty much seen him every day of my life. And he was just such a gentleman, just the best friend. He’d do anything for you if he could.”
In return, Bec would do anything for him – taking him to doctor appointments, for example, after Merv’s wife, Joan, died. She said her father, Col Jeffriess, was grateful Merv was so instrumental in her life.
“He said, ‘I’m just so glad you had him in your life when I couldn’t be,’” Bec said.
She quoted a Facebook post from her friend: “Wherever Merv was, there was happiness and laughter.”
“That one comment got to me,” she said, “because I was like, You know what, that’s pretty damn true.”
Merv died at age 93. Racing NSW issued a statement: “Merv Corliss will be remembered as an outstanding trainer and horseman,” chief executive Peter V’landys said.
Merv is best known for his association with Akwazoff, whom he trained to 16 country cup wins in the early 1990s. His last winner was Glenbarra Boy in the 2010 Warialda Cup.
Journalists called Merv the Country Cups King. Family and close family friends called him Dada.
Bec said: “He said all the time, ‘I’ve had a great life. I’ve been here for a long time’. It didn’t matter what circle he was in. Whether he was at golf or he was at the races [people adored him].”
Like her mother and her cousin, Bendemeer trainer Jane Clement, Merv’s eldest grandchild, Bec followed him into the racing industry. “Grown up with it, born and bred,” she said.