Day At The Track

Driven to honour Gavin Lang today

01:06 PM 09 Mar 2020 NZDT
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Gavin Lang, ready to take the reins of a Kerryn Manning trained runner in a heat of the 2016 Horsham Invitation Championship,Harness racing
Gavin Lang, ready to take the reins of a Kerryn Manning trained runner in a heat of the 2016 Horsham Invitation Championship
Tony Logan

Ten of Australia's finest drivers will assemble at the Horsham Racing Centre this afternoon to contest the 30th annual Decron Horse Care Noel Smith Memorial Horsham Invitation Drivers Championship but with one notable absence.

Legendary reinsman Gavin Lang has been a regular part of  Horsham's Invitation Drivers Championship since its inception in 1990. 

Gavin was there under the lights at the old showgrounds track when Gaita Pullicino took out the first Golden Pacers Horsham Invitation title. He also drove in the first edition staged on the new 1000m circuit at the Racing Centre in 1993.  

Gavin saw the "Noel Smith Memorial" banner assigned to the event in 1995 and has been a constant through changes of sponsors to the current era of Decron Horse Care's support. 

Apart from being a regular competitor, Gavin was often called on by the Horsham Club to act as "taxi driver" for interstate competitors and "courier" for trophies, equine products and merchandise prizes.

Success in the event came Gavin's way in 1991 (dead-heat with Jim O'Sullivan) 1992, 1996 and 2014.  Incredibly, he's missed only four of the 29 championships to be staged - 1993, 1999, 2013 & 2019 - due to injury, the wrath of stewards or family commitments.

However, 2020 is a far different kettle of fish. With Lang currently battling a rare type of lymphoma, the trots industry has rallied in recent months to raise nearly $100,000 towards the incredibly expensive treatment which is  being sourced from USA.

A Sportsman's Night at Tabcorp Park Melton on Tuesday March 17th will further boost the fundraising tally to support Gavin and his family.

Fellow reinsman and organiser Stephen Cleave says the event “promises to be memorable” and “full of great yarns”.

Hosted by AFL great and harness aficionado Mick McGuane, GoodForm’s Jason Bonnington and RSN’s Gareth Hall, the evening will feature multiple ‘all-star’ panels telling stories about one of harness racing’s genuine all-time greats. Tickets @ $25 are available on 03 8746 0600.

A mega raffle and on-line auction is running in conjunction with the gala event, with tickets and bidding available now at https://app.galabid.com/gav/items

While Victorian drivers Chris Alford, Kerryn Manning, Greg Sugars, Kate Gath and Jason Lee together with WA's Chris Voak and Ryan Hryhorec (SA) have participated in past editions of the "Noel Smith" the 2020 lineup also sees three "first-timers" in the mix.

Swedish national Kima Frenning (Vic) has enjoyed great success as both driver and trainer since coming out to Oz to ride in a few Monte (saddle trot) races. 

Young Queensland driver Nathan Dawson currently leads the 19/20 state and metro tally boards with 99 victories (23 metro) and former Victorian, Mark Yole (TAS) took out the 18/19 state premiership with 88 wins and is enjoying another successful season.

 

Tony Logan

 
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