Day At The Track

2019 WA Hall Of Fame #10 - Bob Pollock

08:43 AM 18 Feb 2019 NZDT
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Bob Pollock has one record that can never be eclipsed - as the first Western Australian to drive an Inter Dominion winner.

With some 846 winners as a driver and 603 as a trainer Bob Pollock put together an outstanding career as both a trainer and driver between 1939 and 1998 when he retired.

His tally of 483 Perth winners saw him fall agonizingly short of becoming a member of Perth’s elite 500 Club for drivers with 500 metropolitan successes and it was a number of quirks of fate that conspired to rob Pollock of a major milestone.

In 1939 Pollock enlisted in the army and returned in 1945 with the rank of sergeant. In 1954 a horse Pollock trained returned a positive swab and he received the then mandatory five year disqualification. A similar occurrence now for a first offence would receive far less a penalty and probably a fine.

In 1985 Pollock was forced from the sulky as he reached the then mandatory retirement age of 65 and he didn’t drive for 12 years. When the anti-discrimination laws changed in the late nineties Bob Pollock returned to race driving as a 77yo and won a couple of races driving the appropriately named Worth The Wait.

Had Pollock remained active in harness racing for each of those missed 22 years there is no doubt he would have passed both the 1000 career wins and 500 Perth wins milestones. When forced from the spider in 1985 Bob Pollock ranked as the ninth most successful reinsman in the State’s history.

What cannot be taken away from Pollock is that he was the first Western Australian reinsman to drive an Inter Dominion Grand Final winner when he was successful with Captain Sandy for trainer Dinny Nolan at the 1953 Inter Dominion at Gloucester Park.

Champion New Zealand reinsman Freeman Holmes was the regular race-driver for both Captain Sandy and the outstanding New Zealand mare Blue Mist which had also qualified for the final. She had been far more impressive through the heats and she had won on the first two nights of the Championship.

Pollock was quickest to realise that Holmes would drive the more fancied Blue Mist in the final and, urged on by a well-meaning mate, he approached trainer Dinny Nolan. A somewhat hesitant Nolan gave Pollock the drive on the 10yo gelding in a trial before engaging him for the Grand Final drive.

The 1953 Inter Dominion was run in front of a huge crowd who crammed every vantage point to watch one of the all-time great finals.

In addition to Captain Sandy which had won the 1950 Melbourne Inter Dominion, the field included the NSW champion Ribands (unbeaten in the heats), the dual WA Pacing Cup winner Beau Don and the first 2:00 performer on Australian soil in Avian Derby.

Ribands led and Bob Pollock drove the race of his life to push Captain Sandy through the narrowest of gaps (beating Freeman Holmes and Blue Mist to the position) to have the gelding poised just three lengths behind Ribands and Kellett turning for home.

Renowned for his vigour in a tight finish, Pollock asked Captain Sandy for an extra effort in the straight and the old warhorse responded as only a champion can to grab Ribands about 50 yards from the line and then draw away to win and become the first dual Inter Dominion champion in track record time.

Blue Mist remained in Perth after the Inter Dominion carnival had finished and as Freeman Holmes had returned to New Zealand Pollock was engaged by trainer Claude Fairman to drive the mare.

The pair combined to win two Free-For-Alls and the 1953 Easter Cup at Gloucester Park.

Pollock’s father Robert H Pollock drove the first of his 50 Perth winners behind Otahuhu at the Claremont Showgrounds on 15th February 1913.

Bob Pollock’s first win as a driver came behind Tommy Dillon which his father had purchased for £35 in the twilight of the horse’s career. Tommy Dillon, a 15yo when the 19yo Pollock saluted the judge behind the 50/1 chance, had won the WA Pacing Cup nine years earlier when in the stables of Arthur Gaukroger.

While Pollock never won a Perth Drivers or Trainer’s Premiership he was placed on a number of occasions behind the likes of Hall Of Famers Jim Schrader, Frank Kersley, Fred Kersley and Phil Coulson.

During the sixties Bob Pollock was a force to be reckoned with and during this period he won a WA Derby with the filly Hill Oro, two Sires Produce Stakes with Pagan Lord and Bank Street, a Brennan Cup with Tony Hall and a Christmas Handicap with the brilliant Chief Attain.

In 1980 Pollock trained and drove the sensational 2yo Tommy Steel which set a new Australian Record for a 2yo over a mile with a time of 2:00.8. Tommy Steel was the most prolific of Pollock’s Gloucester Park winners notching 14 wins at Gloucester Park.

Pollock has a somewhat unique record in the in addition to his win behind Captain Sandy in the 1953 Inter Dominion he also won races behind two other Inter Dominion winners in Binshaw and Preux Chevalier.


Alan Parker

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