Day At The Track

Charlie Walker delivers satisfying success

06:21 PM 30 Apr 2020 NZST
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Charlie Walker,Harness racing
HRV Trots Media

Long-time harness racing aficionado Ken Whelan was back in the winners’ stall yesterday at Ballarat trots.

The astute horseman produced four-year-old trotter Charlie Walker to win the TAB, Long May We Play Trot.

Driven by John Caldow, Charlie Walker (pictured) settled three back on the fence from the pole as a 50-1 shot in Well Deserved set the pace.

Turning for home Caldow was angling for runs, and when Well Deserved galloped he was able to steer around that horse and manoeuvre into the gap for a narrow triumph.

The victory was win No.1 for Charlie Walker at his 12th start, but there’s no doubting his ability, showing several glimpses of a breakthrough before yesterday.

“When I broke him in, I thought he’d be really smart because he could skip over the ground pretty good without asking him to run and he’s never been a silly horse,” Whelan said.

“He is a bit hesitant to do something new on the racetrack and he shies a bit, but I think he’ll make a nice racehorse.”

And Whelan would know. The horsemanship history among his family goes back generations.

His father’s parents and grandparents had the “cabs and coaches” business at Maryborough dating back to the goldrush days.

“They would tell me that they often would carry 50 or 60 miners pulled by eight horses in hand and my father drove the cabs from the station as a boy and the hearse to the cemetery,” Whelan said.

Whelan’s father, Bill Whelan, “WJ”, trained horses successfully over many years, picking up club premierships at tracks like Maryborough, St Arnaud, Charlton and Ouyen and having periods of dominance at the Showgrounds during the 1960s.

“We had nice horses back then. I think we had about five horses go to free-for-all company. We had Doxa Joe too, who was the fastest Australian bred horse ever to go America at the time, named after the Doxa Youth Centre at Malmsbury and its founder Father Joe Giacobbe,” Whelan said.

“Geoff McDonald was very friendly with him and he bred Doxa Joe and Robin Guy. We had them both. Doxa Joe was sold to American and went 1:53.0.”

Ken and his father had an enormous setback in 1985 after the central Victorian bushfire, which started in Avoca, burnt out their property.

“I shifted to Smeaton, which is now Lawrence, and started up,” Ken said.

Some of his best winners along the way since have been Gerry Leigh, Kenfig Boy and Puhinui Jim

“They were handy horses. Puhinui Jim was first class but he had a bad accident one night at Moonee Valley and only ever won one race after that. He won 18 or 19 races from about 24 starts and broke two minutes most times he went around,” he said.

In September of 1995 Whelan broke his back in a race fall when at the peak of his powers, having won multiple club premierships in the weeks leading up to that accident.

“I crushed vertebrae and was in lot of trouble for a long time. I still wear a brace. A horse fell on top of me upside down on the cart,” he said.

Whelan also explained that long-time harness figure Len Baker and his father raced numerous horses with the family over the years.

Asked about his best memories, Whelan said a win of Roman Chapel one night at Globe Derby was “pretty special” driving for Trevor Spry.

But those wins such as Charlie Walker are the most satisfying.

“When you break one in, get him going and then train him, it doesn’t matter what race it is, that is the greatest pleasure you get,” Whelan said.

One of Charlie Walker’s owners, Geoff Walker, has a grandfather whose second name is Charlie, Ken explained, adding “he was going to call him something ridiculous and my wife, Merna, said, ‘Why don’t you just call him Charlie Walker?’ So that’s how he got his name.”

Other winners at Ballarat were Indigo Dancer (A Rocknroll Dance-Tauto Jane) for Ricky Ryan and Caldow, Ofortuna (Majestic Son-Fortunate Phoenix) for Craig Demmler and Jodi Quinlan, Better Boppa (Betterthancheddar-C C Bopper) for Emmett and Richard Brosnan, Jobells Image (Always A Virgin-Arts Image) for Emma Stewart and Greg Sugars, Abouttime (Art Major-Limerick Star) for Stewart and Sugars, Im A Denny Too (Art Major-Pricillas Girl) for Dennis Grieve and Sugars, and Pradason (Shadow Play-Stylish Jasper) for trainer-driver Allan McDonough.

At Shepparton last night the winners were Santa Casa Beach (Somebeachsomewhere-Lombo Sleek Street) for Russell Jack and David Moran, Hateitwhenyourrite (Lucky Chucky-Adhesive) for David Abrahams and Brent Thomson, Well Well (Well Said-Johnola Babe) for Rosemarie and Paul Weidenbach, Hanover Sunshine (All Speed Hanover-Beverley Button) for Mark Buckingham, Sofala (Safari-Sass And Bling) for Donna Castles, Blingittothemax (Art Major-Alldatglittersisgold) for David and Josh Aiken, Alta Mach (Mach Three-Alta Vista) for Shayne Eeles, and Golden Sand (Somebeachsomewhere-Fususi) for trainer-driver Laura Crossland.

First-Starter Form

A quick guide to today’s trots debutants

Bendigo tonight

Race 1

Keilah (3yo filly by Art Major out of Shakeilah, trained by Luke Stapleton and driven by Alex Ashwood)

Out of a Bendigo debutant winning daughter of In The Pocket, who has already produced 13-time winner Thatswhatisaid (by Well Said) and I Will Rock You (by Rock N Roll Heaven). They went 1:51.4 and 1:52.5 respectively. The mare has a 100% strike rate for her foals to the races, so that suggests there’s a win in this girl at some stage.

Roxy Royale (3yo filly by Pet Rock out of Baroda Bess, trained and driven by Ross Graham)

This filly is out of an unraced Armbro Operative mare, who has so far produced Animated (1:53.6, 21 wins from 103 starts and still racing well) and Sports Bounty (eight wins, 1:55.5).

 

Race 2

Tellmesumthingirl (3yo filly by Julius Caesar out of Parisian Operative, trained and driven by Dylan Marshall)

This filly is from a one-time winning daughter of Armbro Operative who has not yet produced a foal to the races.

 

HRV - Cody Winnell

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