Day At The Track

Old mates renew acquaintances five years on

10:00 AM 23 Feb 2021 NZDT
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Frank and Gaita Pullicino with the stable favorite Lovable Larrikin, Harness racing
Frank and Gaita Pullicino with the stable favorite Lovable Larrikin

An old harness racing warhorse has given South Australian champion reinsman Mark Billinger back-to-back wins - albeit nearly five years apart!

Fourteen-year-old bay gelding Lovable Larrikin (Western Terror-Eden Chanal (Albert Albert) led all the way at Adelaide's Globe Derby Park on Saturday night.

"I've landed a lot of what I would call memorable sires wins and some other big races, but to get Lovable Larrikin over the line for Frank and Gaita Pullicino just meant so much," Billinger said.

"It was a huge thrill because Gaita just loves the horse, he's her favorite. And the old fellow actually felt super so there's no reason why he can't continue on for a good while yet."

Lovable Larrikin has now raced 201 times for 35 wins and 42 placings for stakemoney of over $241,000.

Having competed in three States over the years, "Larry" (his stable name) has been driven to wins by 14 drivers - but his association with Billinger is unique.

Prior to Saturday night's victory, records reveal that the last time the pair teamed up, they won the Natras Remote Services Pace at Port Pirie on April 22, 2016.

"Lovable Larrikin got the money in a fast class race up there and that was a bit under five years in between drives on the horse for me. I don't think many others would have done that," Billinger said.

"I've known Gaita for a long time. She's now permanently based over here, but I think back then they may have been campaigning a team of horses and I was their number one driver," he said.

"I asked Gaita what she wanted me to do last Saturday and she just told me to get to the front and let him bowl."

Lovable Larrikin bounded out of the tapes in the standing start race to land 20 metres in front, then did the job nicely from there. Billinger rated the old-timer to perfection with splits of 30.2, 30.8, 28.8 and 29.2 to score a comfortable win in 2.01-8 for the 2230m trip.

The Pullicino stable has raced Lovable Larrikin since claiming him in a race at Cranbourne in January, 2013.

"Our son Tony came home one day when we were living in Kilmore and said he wanted to claim a horse. So he went off and ended up with Lovable Larrikin," Gaita said.

"The horse was with Wayne Potter, who had done a good job with him, and I think Tony paid $12,000. Wayne won 15 races with him and we've got 20 out of him now," she said.

"There's no doubt that he's got special qualities because he won three or four at Melton and was coming from up the back of the field all the time.

"He's part of the family that's for sure. He hasn't got any issues, touch wood, and he's light on his feet, so I think he'll keep going for ages."

Mark Billinger and Lovable Larrikin get the money at Globe Derby Park      (Walter Bulgya photography)

The Pullicino stable is training 15 horses currently from their Mallala base.

"It's hard for Frank and I to do those numbers these days so we have some great helpers in Samantha Pascoe, Joe Cufone and Tim Ward," Gaita said.

"Over the years we've bred a few as well. We have three yearlings and while we like all of them a lot, we've pretty much decided that we won't be doing it anymore."


Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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