Most 74-year-old gentleman are either well into a career in Lawn Bowls, trimming the roses for their picture perfect garden or dabbling in weekly games of bingo. But not the Riverina's Wal Manning, harness racing veteran is acting like a spring chicken and winning races at the trots, not just training but driving them to boot.
And although a win bobs up just now and again, Manning is the man of the moment training and driving a winning double at Leeton Paceway last Saturday night.
Set up on 87 acres near Gainman, 55 kilometres North West of Wagga between Narrandera and Coolamon, Manning typifies the hobbyist.
“I generally only have one in work, so this is my first ever double,” an ecstatic Manning told HRNSW.
And, it was by pure tragedy and accident that Manning entered the trotting industry.
Manning’s brother, Horace, was killed in a car accident 36 years ago and he was a passionate trotting man.
“I didn’t have much of an interest in the trots and when Horace was killed I took the responsibility of his horses,” said Manning.
“Even at that time I wanted to fatten them up and sell, but no one was interested so I decided to take the plunge and have never looked back.
“It’s a pure hobby for me and I love it.”
The former Shearer and Farmer lives in the small town of Ganmain along with 500 other locals and was disappointed that a rushed trip to Melbourne for family reasons interrupted his winning celebrations.
“To grab a winning double was bloody beautiful, “ he said
“The only thing is that I didn’t even get to have a drink to celebrate but I will make up for that when I get back.”
Manning, a former Resches drinker, can now be seen downing a few schooners of Carlton Draught at the Ganmain Bowling Club.
“I wasn’t too pleased when they took the Resches off tap, but Carlton is not a bad drop,“ he said.
Manning reckons he will cop a bit of stick off the locals and they will use their usual line of “you’ll be lucky to get tour hat on your head, alluding to a big head after such a big windfall.
“They are a great bunch of lads and like any small town they like to see the locals win and then take the Mickey out of you.
“I will just keep plugging away with my two horses and with the double at Leeton I have now scored my yearly average, so who knows it might be a record year.”
Manning scored in the opening race with Lizards Mate and six-year-old Full Of Trumps who finished strongly taking out race three over the 2147 metres.
The Wal Manning’s of this world are an encouraging and inspiring sign for anyone. Let’s hope Wal can double his yearly average before seasons end.