Day At The Track

Flashback Friday....champ with staying power

06:02 AM 12 Sep 2014 NZST
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GAMMALITE,Harness racing
Former champion Gammalite will be honoured at Tabcorp Park Melton

TODAY Harnesslink kicks off a new column...FLASHBACK FRIDAY...which will appear on a regular basis and will be written by multiple award-winning journalist and our Australian Editor-in-Chief, PAUL COURTS. If you have any past champions or magical moments you’d like to relive, contact Paul who will be glad to hear from you…enjoy!


Hot on the heels of the retirement of one of the greatest harness racing stayers of the modern era – Smoken Up – another champion known for his seemingly endless supply of stamina will be honoured at Tabcorp Park Melton tomorrow night.

Victoria’s premier racing circuit will host The Gammalite, naturally named after the tough campaigner of the 1980s.

To be staged over a gruelling 2760 metres, a distance Gammalite would thrived on, the standing start feature has attracted a solid field, headed by up-and-comer Exciteusinthecity.

Regarded as the ‘party pooper’ after his free-for-all win last week, therefore relegating Smoken Up to fourth in his farewell appearance, Exciteusinthecity will be the punters’ favourite this time around.

Ironically, Exciteusinthecity is prepared at the Terang property Gammalite made famous after being purchased by trainer Darren Cole following Leo O’Connor’s passing.

O’Connor bred and trained Gammalite, which died in 2006, throughout his illustrious career

In all respect to Exciteusinthecity, at this stage of his career, he can barely occupy Gammalite’s shadow, let alone the position the former champion holds at the stable.

By Thor Hanover from High Valley, Gammalite was a dual Inter Dominion winner, securing the prestigious event in 1983 and 1984 to become the third multiple winner of the Championship and the second to win the title in consecutive years.

Captain Sandy was the initial dual winner of the time-honoured series, scoring in 1950 and 1953.

Affectionately known as the Bathurst Bulldog, Hondo Grattan was the first pacer to successfully defend his Inter Dominion title, winning in 1973 and 1974.

Fittingly, Gammalite’s farewell performance was in the 1985 Inter Dominion at his favourite track, Moonee Valley, when fourth behind boom pacer, Preux Chevalier.

Victorious at the Valley on 24 occasions, Gammalite won in each Australian state except Tasmania, scoring at 23 of the nation’s tracks. He also had a tremendous affiliation with Adelaide’s Globe Derby.

The first pacer to pass the $1million mark in the Southern Hemisphere, Gammalite joined champion thoroughbreds, Kingston Town and Manikato, as the only Australian equines to break the barrier ‘Down Under.’

Gammalite also claimed the mantle as the richest stallion bred in Australasia, including thoroughbreds.

Second on debut at Moonee Valley on October 21, 1978, Gammalite was unplaced at his two following starts before opening his account at Bendigo on December 12.

The amazing pacer showed a liking for doing it tough early in his career, backing up three days after his maiden victory to score at Stawell from a 10-metre handicap.

Having 18 starts as a two-year-old, the gritty chestnut was triumphant 11 times, with five placings and earnings of $41,003 also to his credit.

Gammalite’s freshman purse was second only to star unbeaten West Australian, San Simeon, which pocketed $50,162.

Sam Simeon also topped the three-year-old earnings list, with Gammalite his closest rival.

Winning 12 of his 20 starts at three, Gammalite started a sensational affiliation with Globe Derby by securing the South Australia Derby.

The colt’s victory was overshadowed by a failed betting plunge, which saw a little-known pacer named Popular Alm, backed from 33/1 to 9/4 at his debut for Bob and Vin Knight.

Gammalite staved off the fast finishing Popular Alm to score by a head.

The archrivals engaged in a further 18 battles, with Popular Alm winning 17 of the encounters.

Gammalite’s other success over ‘Poppy’ - regarded as the best pacer produced on this side of the equator - was in the 1983 Inter Dominion at Alexandra Park.

As for Gammalite’s liking for Globe Derby, it included an astonishing four South Australian Cups between 1982 and 1985.

A winner of nine Grand Circuit races, Gammalite’s victories include the Auckland, A G Hunter, West Australia, Cranbourne, Ballarat, Geelong and Fremantle Cups.

The first horse to claim two Australian Horse of the Year titles, Gammalite was also the first to be crowned Grand Circuit Champion three times.

Another little known feat was Gammalite’s achievement of becoming the first pacer to earn a bonus on top of his stakes.

The stallion achieved the feat by completing a clean sweep of the two, three and four-year-old Bonanza Finals at Geelong, collecting a $50,000 bonus with his deeds. West Australian galloper Asian Beau was the only other horse in Australia to collect a bonus.

Boasting a best rate of 1:55.8, Gammalite was driven to glory by seven reinsmen, with Bruce Clarke his regular pilot, partnering the champion to 65 wins.

Gammalite enjoyed a handy career at stud, siring several classy campaigners, but none could match their “old man’s” record.

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