Vale Barry James

It is with great sadness that Racing Victoria acknowledges the passing of Barry James, a highly respected stalwart of the Victorian racing industry. 

Barry, who passed away at the age of 89 after a lengthy battle with illness, was an icon of the Ballarat racing community as a trainer, owner and breeder.

He amazingly held a trainer’s licence in Victoria for 62 years. He was first issued with an owner-trainer permit in 1955 and worked closely with his father Roy and Arthur Smerdon in his formative years.

In the latter years of his training career, Barry entered a partnership with son Glen from 2013 to 2017 with the pair enjoying a day to remember on New Year’s Day 2015 when claiming the local Burrumbeet Cup with Asset Hound as part of a training double.

Among his proudest achievements were two national strike rate awards won in partnership with Glen in 2014 and 2015.

Barry enjoyed great success as a hobby trainer while also running two successful businesses - Barry James Smash Repairs in Ballarat from the age of 20, before later opening Barry James Mobile Cranes in Melbourne. 

Best known for his horses that carried the ‘Sylvan’ moniker, Barry intriguingly enjoyed success with two horses named Sylvan Lodge – the first a Flemington winner in 1976 and the second an Avoca Cup winner in 2011. 

Among his other standout ‘Sylvan’ performers were Sylvaner, who won back-to-back Group 2 Marsh Classics at Morphettville in 2002-03 and the Group 2 Sunline Classic in 2004; Sylvan Heights who won the 2002 and 2003 Galleywood Hurdles and 2001 Burrumbeet Cup; and Sylvan O’Reilly, who won the Ararat and Tatura Cups.

Other performers that held a special place for Barry and the James family were Royal Athery, a Sandown Country Cup winner in the 70s, and homebred River Rage who overcame limited expectations to win on Ballarat Cup Day in the mid-90s.

The James family remains well entrenched in Ballarat and the Victorian racing industry with Barry’s daughters, Anita Frawley and Kelly Amoore, assuming control of the aptly named Sylvan Lodge in 2018 where they now operate a pre-training, rehabilitation and agistment business for thoroughbred racehorses. 

RV Chief Executive, Giles Thompson, said: “On behalf of the Victorian racing industry, I would like to extend our heartfelt prayers and condolences to Barry’s family and friends following the sad news of his passing. 

“Barry was a highly respected member of the Ballarat racing community and I know that the many colleagues and friends garnered over his career in racing will be saddened at his passing but take comfort in the knowledge of a life well lived. 

“Barry’s passion and dedication to the racing industry is epitomised by the fact that he held a trainer’s licence in Victoria for over 60 years which is an amazing feat.

“The industry is indebted to Barry for his commitment to the sport over a lifetime and it is pleasing to know that the James family remain active participants within.”

Barry is survived by his wife Lois and six children – Glen, Anita, Kelly, Brendan, Gavin and Lisa.