18 October 2012 - Bendigo will turn back harness racing’s clock with a driver’s list that could be right out of a Melbourne Showground or early Moonee Valley racebook, when the Club celebrates the 58th year of racing at Lord’s Raceway on Saturday night 3 November.
The Bendigo Harness Club has assembled one of the best lists of ‘master’ drivers available in Victoria to compete in the Qantas Holidays Veteran Driver’s Challenge Trot, one of three feature races at the Anniversary Cup meeting. The other features being the $10,000 Major In Art Alabar Anniversary Cup C5-C7 Pace and the Travelcentre Bendigo Victorian Monte (Ridden Trot) Championship (1st Leg). The Veteran Drivers Challenge Trot, a TAB race is certain to be a great spectacle on the big harness racing card with the drivers’ list including well known reinsmen who have played a significant part in Harness Racing’s Inter Dominion history and Victorian racing in general over the past four decades. The veteran competitors driving records read like a ‘Who’s Who’ of major race wins with six Inter Dominion victories, Hunter Cups, Breeders Crowns, Oaks, Derbies, Country Cups and just about every other major race feature listed on their career records. Victoria’s oldest licensed driver Eric Hurley is a starter. Hurley from Parwan near Bacchus Marsh tuned up for the race last Saturday night at Bendigo. The 85 year-old reinsman is best remembered for his partnership with the great Minuteman, a champion that raced more than four decades ago. Hurley and Minuteman won the Inter Dominion final in 1964 and had dual success in the world’s richest standing start event for pacers the Hunter Cup, in 1964 and 1966. One of Victoria’s most celebrated drivers Jim Barker is also on the starting list. The Gordon Rothacker Medallist for 2004, Barker hails from Hamilton. Longlea master reinsman, Brian Gath who has more than 3000 wins to his credit, and dual Inter Dominion winning driver Jim O'Sullivan who recently relocated to Maiden Gully from Queensland are also in the star studded line-up at Bendigo. The wizard of Great Western Peter Manning, a perpetual state leading trainer and on several occasions topping the national rankings and super veteran Peter Wells who made his name on the tight Royal Melbourne Showgrounds circuit along with Tatura-based Russell Thompson will don their silks along with Inter Dominion winning driver Cliff Powell (Elmore) and well known locals and respected horsemen Keith Pratt from Junortoun, Graeme Dalton (Sedgwick), and Colin Redwood (Bridgewater). The emergency in the star studded field is Inter Dominion winner Graeme Lang. Harness Racing Victoria got behind the spirit of the Anniversary race meeting and supported the Veteran Drivers race, a trotting handicap, substituting the event into the 3 November program, instead of a restricted race that was previously programmed. Victoria’s Coalition Government has also put their weight behind the celebrations providing funding for entertainment through the Raceday Attractions Program.
On the Anniversary Cup night, one lucky race fan will win a Trip for Two to New York, with Qantas Airfares and accommodation at the Holiday Inn on 57th Street included, simply by being on track and entering the competition using the Bendigo Advertiser coupon. There is also Cash Prizes in the Owner for A Night Competition to be won. The Anniversary Event includes a Children’s Carnival, Fashions, a Busking Competition, Pony Trotting and much more.
Bendigo’s Veteran Driver’s Challenge field:
A long time Western District (Hamilton) trainer-driver, Jim commenced his career as a hobby trainer in the 1960s, and has been training professionally for some four decades.Jim won his first Melbourne race at the Showgrounds in 1974 with Colleen Moss. He has won five Mount Gambier Cups, a Hamilton Cup and a heat of the Victoria Oaks. Best horses include Athol Bret, Morello Lad, Blurrmidge and Jolaura.
Belongs to a three generation harness racing family. Father Lester trained Dollar Gift among others at Lord’s Raceway. Graham Dalton trained and drove Wendy Robin when she won the 1979 Shepparton Gold Cup, and the 1979 Maryborough Cup. Graeme made his name with Family Silver, Rathsilver and Wendy Robin, while nephews Leigh and Ross Graham have made successful careers in the harness racing industry.
A member of the famous Gath dynasty, Brian drove his first winner at the Royal Melbourne Show in 1960. Brian has trained and driven multiple champions from Corop McEwen, to Rocknrolla. He won the 1978 Inter Dominion Pacers Final with Markovina and finished second with Franco Tiger (1992-2nd) and Shakamaker (2002-2nd) and he has driven at the Meadowlands in the U.S.A.
Born in South Australia 1927, Eric won his first race driving Modulation at Kadina, S.A. in 1952. He went on to win the 1964 and 1966 Hunter Cups and the 1964 Melbourne Inter Dominion with the great Minuteman, winner of over 30 races. Other top line horses in Eric’s team were Modulation and Ballon D’Essai.
Master trainer of juveniles before expanding to train a large team at Great Western, Peter has been the leading state and national trainer on a number of occasions His three training/driving daughters include world record setting driver and emerging trainer Kerry Manning. Standout horses include Kathryn Dancer, Pelicanrama and the champion international trotter Knight Pistol.
Former Kiwi, based at Tatura. Russell trained and drove Banana Spring in 1971 to wins in the Central Victorian Championship and HR Boyd Cranbourne Cup. Holy Smoke was a star of the stable in 1987-88 when it won the Victorian Sires Stake and Nyah Cup. Holy Smoke’s trotting relatives Son Of Flair and a Touch of Flair each won Victoria Trotting Derbies, while Might Maori won the rich Vicbred 4yo Trot.
Jim was the leading Australian trainer in 1978 and 79. Jim recently relocated to Maiden Gully from Queensland. During his outstanding career Jim has trained and driven standout horses including Margaret Shannon, Quite Famous and Its Motor Power. He is a dual Inter Dominion winning driver winning the 1987 Inter Dominion Pacers Final with My Lightning Blue and the 1989 Trotting Final with Yankee Loch.
Cliff trains at Elmore. His first winning drive was at Bendigo behind Convive. He drove Derby Royale to victory in the 1978 Inter Dominion Trotter’s final Melbourne. Cliff also educated the champion Tony Bear, and has trained and driven top notchers Our Grattan, Modern Man, Belgian Accent, and Taronga.
Keith’s father Cyril was the original Lord’s Raceway track curator. Keith, a HRV Distinguished Service Award recipient in 2011, was a long time Clerk of Course at Lords Raceway. He drove his first winner at Echuca in 1966. Still trains and drives a team from his property, less than 2km from the track. Keith rates Crystal Sunset, Pannoo Lass, Torvanger and Arrogant Al among his best horses.
Colin Redwood .
Colin first drove in 1954 and is a member of Bridgewater’s Redwood family, immortalized by the annual Redwood 2yo trotters’ classic at Maryborough, named after Colin’s father Hugh. Colin and his brothers all trained and drove successfully. Colin’s trotter Rock N Dale raced in two Inter Dominions: 1976-4th and 1978-8th. Other trotters of note including Mount Alm, He represented Australia at the 1996 World Amateur Drivers Championship in Italy. He is best known these days as a trainer having prepared over 200 winners since taking out his licence in the mid-1970’s.
Peter is best known for his long-time association with trainer Charles Bell as a trainer-driver partnership at the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds, they were responsible for Noir Fille. Peter Wells won the 1964 Geelong Cup on Waitaki Hanover, and the 1966 NSW Sapling Stakes on Meadow Lad. He drove for the strong “Skipper” Taylor stable.One of his better horses was Koranui. More recently, late in his career, Peter is driving smart young square-gaiter Donkiri.
Graeme Lang (Emergency)
Graeme started in our industry as a teenager at Watchem in the Mallee. He dairy farmed while training and driving at Wonthaggi, before moving to Romsey and then Melton. He was the leading Australian driver in 1979. Graeme is the father of leading trainer/drivers Gavin and Chris, grandfather of Chris Jnr. Graeme trained and drove Inter Dominion standouts Billboard (1980-4th), Scotch Notch (1983-1st, 1984-2nd, 1985-1st), Dark Edge (1992-8th), Wagon Apollo (1996-3rd, 1997-2nd), Desperate Comment NZ (1997-5th). Took Champion Scotch Notch after she recorded 156.6 to the US.in 1986.