Day At The Track

Lions getting plenty to roar about

05:00 PM 01 Nov 2019 NZDT
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Marg and Jason Lee,Harness racing
Marg and Jason Lee
Geelong HRC photo

Powerful mother-son harness racing duo Marg and Jason Lee are kicking goals with a successful young ownership group now aligned with the Western District stable.

The dynamic captain of the Brisbane Lions AFL team, Dane Zorko, and top players Darcy Gardiner, Ryan Lester and Lewis Taylor (who recently became a Sydney Swan) race a number of pacers with the Lee team.

And star young reinsman Jason and his highly successful trainer mum Marg are giving their Lions mates plenty to roar about.

The footballers are currently racing two horses with the Lee team, based near Terang, and both have been more than handy acquisitions.

“They actually purchased the horses – Iam Erik and Yankee C J – at the same time so they are having a good ride so far,” Jason said.

“Iam Erik (Shadow Play-Invigorate (Artsplace) has shown that he’s prepared to tough it out. We’ve had two wins and five placings with him from nine starts,” he said.

“Yankee C J has been a model of consistency as well.”

Yankee C J (American Ideal-Focussed (In The Pocket) scored first-up for his new owners at Ararat back in April. He was again successful at Hamilton in June and has posted seven placings as well in his past 11 outings.

The Lees’ association with the Brisbane team mates stemmed from a lifelong friendship between Jason and Lewis Taylor.

“We were school mates. We played four or five years of underage football together and Lewis actually lived with us for a bit,” Jason said.

“He worked here on and off for a couple of years doing farm and stable work. Mum let him drive trackwork and put him on some of the good ones, so that’s where he got the bug!

“When it was obvious that he had a bright football career, he would be off to Geelong twice a week training with the Falcons. Then it all became very hectic, but he’d still pop out once a week and help out.”

Jason, a passionate Brisbane Lions supporter, said he wasn’t surprised by his friend’s AFL success.

“If there was anyone I ever thought would be drafted, it was Lewis. He was just a freak on the footy field. When he was 15 or 16, he played seniors for Terang-Mortlake and won an elimination final off his own boot,” he said.

“The opposition were quickly onto his outstanding talent and he’d often be tagged with two players to try and subdue him.”

Taylor in 2014 edged out Western Bulldogs superstar Marcus Bontempelli by one vote to take the NAB AFL Rising Star Award, but Marg described him as “an absolute gem of a kid”.

“He has never forgotten where he comes from and when he’s home in Mortlake, he always comes out to visit us,” Marg said.

The success with the Brisbane Lions boys has also helped Marg, one of the best conditioners in the sport, to edge towards a significant milestone of her own.

She’s now within a whisker of an impressive 500-winners in her stellar training career. The champion horsewoman is sitting on 496 winners and 585 placings from just over 1900 starters for an impressive $4.5 million in stake-earnings.

The family-focused harness racing operation has about 30 in work at present, but also combines the horses with running a big dairy and a gravel pit.

“We run about 500 cows. We have two workers who start in the dairy before us. We are up and helping with the cows at about 6.30am, and then it’s the horses. It’s a long day,” Marg said.

“I don’t travel to the trots meetings like I used to. I tend to leave that these days to my boys, Jason and Paddy, and my nephew Glen Craven.”

Marg (7 wins and 12 placings this season) and Jason (20 wins and 15 placings) are prominent on the harness racing tables, but youngest son Paddy is certainly a quiet achiever with 10 wins and four placings as a trainer from 16 starters this a top three strike rate of 87 percent.

Marg’s husband Damien, while a loyal supporter of the horses, prefers sprint cars and trucks. Eldest son Jack shares the same interest.

Marg acknowledges the tutelage of Great Western training legend, Peter Manning, but a good deal of credit for launching the family’s success must also go to her first ever winner – a chestnut mare named Melita (Whats Next-Another Jensen).

Melita finished her racing with 11 wins from 30 but did her best work in the breeding barn with numerous handy performers – including the standout, the Holmes Hanover-sired Keayang Hanover with 22 wins and $173,000.

Many of the horses bred and owned by the Lee family carry the moniker Keayang as part of their race name— Keayang is an historic pastoral property in the Western District, owned partly by the Lees.

“It’ll be nice (to reach the 500-win milestone) but I don’t pay much attention to those things,” Marg confessed. “I really didn’t have any idea —we just keep doing our best and enjoying it along the way.”


Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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