Day At The Track

Hard work and dedication – Gareth Rattray Part 1

02:17 PM 29 Oct 2020 NZDT
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Gareth Rattray,Harness racing

It’s been a huge week for Hall of Fame reinsman Gareth Rattray who drove five winners including both Group 2 features in Hobart on Sunday, which came on the back of his fourth child arriving the day before.

Jamie Cockshutt has the story on Gareth Rattray who always seemed destined for a career in racing but had to work hard to get there. In the first part of this two-part series, they take a look at Gareth’s introduction into racing and the biggest influences, his family.

The racing bug

Gareth Rattray’s parents Barrie and Denise recall that Gareth had the passion for racing from a very early age.

“He just loved everything about racing and it even extended to bath time as he would get his toys to race around the bath and it got very serious between the boys as you could imagine,” laughed Barrie and Denise Rattray.

“Gareth would use the rubber ducky as a microphone to commentate the race and he was quite good at it too so we are sure that if he didn’t become a driver then he definitely would have become a race caller.

“Even when the boys were outside playing, it had to be a race of some description so Gareth could practice his race calling skills,” added the proud parents of four boys.

What started as a bit of fun in the tub became something more serious later on for Gareth Rattray.

“He would sit down and watch all the replays and would even commentate them over the top of the race caller and by doing that he started learning the form of most of the horses that were racing at the time,” said Barrie, joking that Gareth knew the form just as well as he did.

“Even though he was only 10-12 years of age at this time, whenever we headed to the races I would ask Gareth about our runners and he would give me a full run down of the other runners which was just unbelievable for such a young boy,” Barrie recalled.

In the late 1990’s Barrie remembers that Denise and himself were second guessing their future in the racing industry, a decision that wasn’t going to sit well with a young Gareth.

“We had an industry meeting where we sat down and talked about what we would do,” Barrie recalled.

“Gareth overheard us talking and he got up and said something along the lines of, I haven’t had my go yet dad so make sure you tell them what to do so they have to keep us all involved,” said Barrie, remembering that Gareth was pretty fired up at the time.

Barrie and Denise pushed for Gareth to take up another profession or look at getting a trade after he left school, but that was never going to be the case.

Gareth Rattray always wanted to be a professional reinsman, so the challenge then turned to giving him every opportunity to make it to the top.

Gareth recalls his early years

Listening to Gareth talk about his early years gives you a good understanding of how he became the champion reinsman he is today.

“Mum and dad bought me a Shetland pony when I was about six years of age, he was my best mate and his name was Macko,” said Gareth.

“I just adored him as he was my little racehorse and when dad and pop would be getting ready to work the team of horses, I would be gearing up Macko and getting him ready to take them on.

“I would be waiting at the top of the back straight for them to come around and when they got close to me, I would click up Macko and I would take them on down the back straight.

“This was about two hundred metres and we would go flat out, and it was clear to me then that all I ever wanted to be was a driver like dad and pop,” added Gareth who fulfilled a lifelong dream when he joined his dad and pop (Wayne) in the Tasmanian Harness Racing Hall of Fame.

To further outline his obsession with the industry at a tender age, Gareth collected the race books from every meeting for at least a 10-year period, in addition to all of the Harness Racing Weekly’s that Barrie had bought so he could study all the form and horses that were racing across Australia.

“I started doing my own form on the local races that dad and pop were driving in as I used to love watching all of the replays after the meetings had concluded every week,” said Gareth alluding to his form study which has always been a great strength.

Introduction to driving

It was when Gareth was 11 that Barrie finally gave in and started teaching him how to drive, a moment that was pure joy for Gareth.

Fortunate enough to have such great role models in his dad and pop, Gareth would spend every second he could with his grandparents.

“I loved it when the school holidays came around as I was able to go and spend them at nan and pops on their property at Bangor, I was very fortunate to spend this time with pop as I just idolised him and he taught me so much in my time at the farm,” said Gareth.

“Pop had a great team of horses at that time which included Admiral Karalta who won a Tasmanian Derby with Andrew Arnott in the gig and I got the chance as a youngster to drive him in track work which was a huge thrill,” said Gareth remembering the 1997 Derby winner.

“The other horse of note from that time was Karalta Shine who I was also able to drive in track work out at pops and he later became a special horse to me.”

Gareth was 15 when he had his first drive at the trials and it happened to be aboard a horse called Gorse Bush who is now better known as the dam of Beautide.

Gareth remembers one of the first things he had to learn was how to rate a horse and use a stopwatch.

“Dad would not let me drive in trials until I was comfortable in doing those things,” Gareth said.

Gareth drove in 30 trials before getting his license. The day for his first race drive finally arrived when he was 16 on a mare owned by the family called Barringtonboutique.

“It was on 4 November, 2001 at Devonport and it turned out nothing like I pictured my first drive would be as nothing went to plan and honestly it’s a day I prefer to forget,” explained Gareth on the pacer who would finish seventh in the race.

“After the race, I was so upset with myself, I really took it to heart and from memory I slept in my driving pants that night. I wasn’t sure after that race if I was cut out for this caper.”

It may not have felt like it at the time, but it wouldn’t take much convincing to keep Gareth in the sulky and just three weeks later he drove his first winner which was Karalta Shine in Launceston.

“That is a date I will never forget as the monkey was off my back now,” said Gareth.

The family

Understandably Gareth’s family have played an enormous part in his career and still do to this day. Gareth reflects on the influence that the key figures in his life have had.

Wayne Rattray “pop”

Wayne Rattray had an illustrious career that resulted in his induction to the Tasmanian Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2016.

“My Pop is someone I have idolised since my very early years. He has taught me so much and all of the advice he has given me is something I will never forget as I still use it in my driving today.

“We have always had a special bond of pop and grandson unlike most. Nan and pop have been a rock for me all the way through my life and I can’t thank them enough.

“I always enjoyed Nan and Pop’s company throughout my life but another thing I really loved was nan’s cooking as she was a great cook, I will always be indebted to them.”

Barrie Rattray “dad”

Gareth followed his father’s footsteps into harness racing and their joint induction into the Hall of Fame in 2014 is something that neither of them will ever forget.

“I simply would not be where I am today without dad’s support and encouragement as he has taught me so much in all facets of the Standardbred.

“He sacrificed his own driving career as he wanted me to get every chance, so I did a lot of the stable driving when I first came on to the scene and I’m forever grateful for that.

“Dad has been a tough task master to all of us which was great as it ensured that we took nothing for granted and he also gave me the determination to succeed after all of the work he put into me, and I like to think that I have made him proud with my achievements to date.”

Mum and nan

“I would like to give a special mention to both my mum and nan as they have done so much for me throughout my career. They would accompany me on my trips away being underage, especially my first trip abroad to New Zealand.

“That was a great trip for all of us and the icing on the cake was that I was lucky enough to take out the title.”

Melissa Maine

Gareth and his partner Melissa have four children, with the newest arrival only joining them in the last week. Gareth describes Melissa as the rock behind their family.

Melissa was an accomplished trainer/driver in her own right, having a very good grounding in the industry being the daughter of Tim and Susan Maine who have been involved in the industry for many years.

Gareth and Melissa drove against each other when they were both coming through the ranks as juniors so had known each other for a long time.

It was towards the end of 2012 they took their relationship to the next level by purchasing a property at Latrobe on about 60 acres.

“We decided to set up our own training complex which took plenty of hard work and money, but we wouldn’t change it for anything as we both just love the horses,” explained Gareth.

The arrival of Kayden on the weekend to join Jackson, Lauren and Kenzie means that Gareth and Melissa certainly have their hands full, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Gareth credits Melissa and the sacrifices that she has made for a great deal of his achievements.

“Melissa has sacrificed a lot since we have been together to let me continue my driving career and is a major part of my success.

“She is also one of the most professional and dedicated trainers I have ever had anything to do with and I’m not being biased because she is my partner,” said Gareth proudly.


Jamie Cockshutt for Tasracing

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