GRAFTON CUP REGULAR: 95-year-old 'Hamburger' Max Johnston with his daughter Tracey at the Clarence River Jockey Club for the 2019 Grafton Cup.
GRAFTON CUP REGULAR: 95-year-old 'Hamburger' Max Johnston with his daughter Tracey at the Clarence River Jockey Club for the 2019 Grafton Cup. Jarrard Potter

'Hamburger' Max a Grafton Cup legend

SINCE 1947, 'Hamburger' Max Johnston has hardly missed a Grafton Cup race day, and even before that he only missed a few due to his enrolment in the Army.

And at 95 years of age, Max isn't about to miss any more Grafton Cup's any time soon.

Sitting in the Members Bar with his daughter Tracey, Max remembered the time he had a chance at claiming the famous race in the 1970s with the horse he owned, Bold Mariner.

"I had a lot of horses over the years, raced a lot of horses, and won a lot of races here, and I was going to win the Grafton Cup in 1974 I reckon,” he said.

"A week before the cup the damn horse fell in a race and broke his ribs, and so he couldn't run, but amazingly the following year he won the Christmas Cup at Coffs Harbour. He got over his injury and won that the following year.

"He was a good horse, won me about 23 races I think.”

Growing up south of Grafton he relocated to Sydney during his time in the Australian Army, but still made the effort to visit Grafton during the July Carnival.

Now at 95, he lives with his daughter Tracey in Nowra, and the pair are regulars at their local pub, spending their Saturday's watching the races around the country.

Max said he was glad he could still come to Grafton for the Grafton Cup with his daughter.

"I've still got my own home (in Grafton) and my daughter likes racing so we keep that going,” he said.

"I stay with her at Nowra, sometimes we go up to Nowra races but every Saturday we're down at the hotel to watch the races and we look forward to this trip up here. She likes the atmosphere and to dress up and we both like watching the races.”

As for the nickname 'Hamburger'? Well, that comes from his time operating his own take-away store, where the burgers were so good he earned the moniker 'Hamburger Max'.

"I used to have a business here after I came back from out of the Army,” Max said.

"I was in the take-away food business and over a period of 12 months here everybody in the district went through my shop, so everybody knows me.”

A life member of the Clarence River Jockey Club, Max said he has met a lot of incredible people through racing.

"It's amazing, you get to know everybody, but age has caught up with me but I'm damned lucky I can still enjoy the races,” he said.



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