Day At The Track

Lionel came from 'best school'

09:30 AM 15 Jun 2019 NZST
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QT trot columnist and harness racer Denis Smith
QT trot columnist and harness racer Denis Smith

Harness racing folk have long memories and there are plenty of people around today who would remember the closing years of the track at Ipswich showgrounds.

They would also remember a trainer/driver who learnt his craft under the strict eye of the "Queen of Rocklea” Molly Bryant.

There could be no better school, and our man was seen to advantage with Chipani, Kinta Lad and the well travelled and consistently successful Phosphor Bronze towards the end of his career.

The family duly moved to a property at Amberley flat with a big barn which still stands some 40 years on.

From this barn came the breadwinner Battle Brigade and his half brother First Storm, the sisters Southern Splash and Splash Again and, arguably, one of the biggest horses ever to negotiate the tight Ipswich track, the 18 hand monster Moobie Zae.

In this era, when show racing was a significant part of the Queensland scene, our man teamed with the Nita Zahnow trained Hammersley to take the "Top horse and Driver” at the EKKA.

His career tapered down after a bad fall at Ipswich resulted in severe facial injuries, as our man put family first.

His colours were purple with gold Maltese cross and gold striped sleeves, and his name was Lionel Atkinson.

Lionel would have been 77 years of age next month, but sadly, he passed recently after a short battle with lung cancer.

A lot of us who saw Lionel in action in the sulky remember him as a decent bloke, one of those who held up the base of the pyramid in those times.

He raced for the love of the sport, pure and simple. He was one of an army, which is now only a platoon.

He will be sorely missed.

Dramatic change

WHO said there was nothing new under the sun?

History was made in our local world of harness when Minden-based trainer/driver Tim Gillespie, and his Q bred filly "Shegotsass” took out the first 2yo trotters handicap ever run in Queensland.

While there have been a number of traditional trotters which raced against pacers in the Sunshine State since day dot, including the 30 year hiatus of the 1930's and 40's when "Show” racing was the only form of light harness contest available north of the NSW border, recognition of the diagonal gait as a distinct form of harness racing, occurred only as recently as 1998.

A number of representations to previous Racing Queensland harness control bodies, to run low prize money non-betting races for 2yos at TAB meetings were rejected out of hand.

There has been a dramatic change in mindset at RQ, and the square trotting folk will no doubt be delighted.

The current program, which culminates in a two heat $30,000 Final series, is just the plan of attack. It's likely to trigger an influx of Victorian juveniles which, although trotting soundly, just lack that smidgin of extra speed to be consistent earners at home.

If I'm any judge, this first 2yo series will ensure that we are programming 3yo races in their own right in the 2019/20 season to come.

For the breeding buffs, or someone looking at a dabble in that direction, Shegotsass is by the Vicbred Downunder Muscles from a daughter of Majestic Son, and can be said to have "it'' on both sides of her pedigree.

As a spectacle, the three horse race did our image no harm. Apart from a short gallop on the part of third place- getter First Offence, the runners trotted well. They will go ahead on the back of this experience.

Parklands 'scandal'

THE following is an excerpt from last Monday's Courier Mail. It is taken from a piece by top sports journo Peter Gleeson and possibly mirrors the prevailing mindset of many current and recently departed participants.

It is not what the administration is telling us, as we are continually told that turnover is way up and that good times are just around the corner, when the expected punting bonanza resulting from the switch to a "ratings” programming system, modelled on the gallops, kicks in.

What is fact is that harness is trying to peddle a product, which has little or no appeal to the recreational punter.

Get over that hurdle and we might make it to the next one.

"The code that is wallowing in mediocrity is harness racing and it's no coincidence that its poor performance came off the back of the closure of Parklands in 2013 to make way for the Commonwealth Games.

"Since the closure of Parkl-ands, there has been a vacuum in harness racing leadership in the Sunshine State. This lack of vision has manifested itself into a tired, cumbersome industry that has consistently had to fight off integrity and welfare scrutiny.

"The lack of foresight and planning has resulted in harness turnover plummeting, prizemoney declining and a breeding industry in free fall.

"The closure of Parklands is a scandal.

"Parklands was the brainchild of former Bjelke-Petersen Racing Minister Russ Hinze, a dual harness and greyhound facility that was regarded as the best of its type.”

Handy tips

FOR Albion Park tonight (by Ben Crosby).

Race 1: 4 Its Just Kenny.

Race 2: 4 Holy Camp Clive.

Race 3: 8 Our Memphis Mac.

Race 4: 8 Lucky Lyla.

Race 5: 1 Spike Bromac.

Race 6: 4 Colt Thirty One.

Race 7: 3 Vasari.

Race 8: 2 Im Rocknroll Magic.

Race 9: 9 Elle Yeah.

Race 10: 1 Empire Bay.

Race 11: 6 Soldier Of Fortune.

Honour board

As we batten down to face the Winter Carnival assault, it's well-tried faces on the leader board this week. Top driver is Pete McMullen, with a solid six wins. His wife Chantal Turpin headed up the trainers, producing four of the best. Most pleasing was Mitchell Dawson and Banny Gatt-Bouquet combining to land Unassuming Champ on two occasions in the seven day period.

Ipswich factor: 24/46.

Redcliffe, June 7: Unassuming Champ (Danny Gatt-Bouquet for Mitchell Dawson); Escalera (Darrell Graham).

Albion Park, June 8: Clarry (Danielle McMullen for Steve Cini); Getoutnwalk (Danielle McMullen for Ryan Veivers); Tom Me Gun (Narissa McMullen); Karinya Mully (Narissa McMullen for Mark Rees); Maybe To The Max (Narissa McMullen for Ron Sallis); Slippery Jade (Pete McMullen for Bill Crosby).

Albion Park, June 11: Shegotsass (Tim Gillespie); Northern Muscle (Adam Richardson for Denis Smith); Greg The Great (Pete McMullen for Graham Dwyer); Devouged (Nathan Dawson for Doug Lee); Ima Birubi Boy (Adam Richardson for Chris Monte); Cardles From Heaven).

Redcliffe, June 12: Unassuming Champ (Danny Gatt-Bouquet for Mitchell Dawson); My Secret Torque (Pete McMullen for Chantal Turpin); Signor Jujon (Adam Sanderson for Grant Dixon); Mach Torque (Pete McMullen for Chantal Turpin); Just Joshin (Nathan Dawson for Aileen Smith); Trojan Banner (Hayden Barnes for Alistair Barnes).

Redcliffe, June 13: Impetuoso (Nathan Dawson for Ken Belford); Torque With Esteem (Pete McMullen for Chantal Turpin); Heavens Hurricane (Pete McMullen for Chantal Turpin); Invite Only (Adam Sanderson for Darrell Graham).

Trot Tactics by Denis Smith

Reprinted with permission of The Queensland Times

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