Day At The Track

New faces at Maryborough

04:00 PM 06 Sep 2019 NZST
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Mick Clover (left) and Les Chapman,Harness racing
Familiar and long-serving Maryborough HRC identities Mick Clover (left) and Les Chapman are “clocking off”
Claire Weston photo

One of Victorian Harness Racing's success stories, the innovative Maryborough club, has some new faces at the helm.

Long standing secretary-manager Les Chapman and track curator Mick Clover both retired at the end of the season after 50 years of dedicated loyalty between them.

The club is best-known for its flagship event the Redwood All Trotting Carnival and it will be enthusiastic industry participant Michelle Eastman who takes over stewardship of the iconic event as the Maryborough club secretary-manager.

Michelle holds an A Grade trainer's licence and has prepared horses with her husband Dale at nearby Shelbourne, for over 30 years, but most of her working life has been in the banking industry.

"I certainly know my way around the Maryborough facility because we've raced and trialled here for a long time," Michelle said.

"The people around the club are just fantastic. I'm so lucky to have landed the job and can't wait to get right into it."

Already Michelle has several new initiatives and ideas in the pipeline.

"The committee is a really positive group and I'm excited about trying to get more bums on seats. We hope to outsource our function centre, develop some innovations around our Cup and big Redwood weekend and do more with social media," she said.

"Several people are working as volunteers here three days a week and another calls in a few days and takes care of the gardening. This is just awesome, and it's great to see them enjoy it because they love harness racing."

Michelle is well-known as the former trainer of champion trotter Aleppo Midas, a winner of 16 races and $142,000. The mare is the dam of exciting young square-gaiter Alpha Male (5 starts for 3 wins, 2 placings and $64,000) prepared by Emma Stewart.

Likable Mick "Pa" Clover is well-known at Maryborough, having a 35-year association at the club, the last two decades as track curator. He has also been the starter at regular trials for nearly nine years.

"I've enjoyed it immensely and have worked with a lot of people over that time - but once Les Chapman took over as secretary, we just gone bigger and better," Clover said.

"He's been a terrific administrator and the fact that everything runs so smoothly is due largely to him. The club, our race days, our cups and, of course, the Redwood carnival are all a credit to Les and the committee," he said.

But Clover should not be selling his own contribution short, with participants across Central Victoria paying tribute to his work, ensuring the track surface is in optimal condition for speed and safety.

His curator's role is just one of the many experiences the 80-year-old has crammed into his colorful life, from racehorse trackwork rider and strapper, to successful harness racing trainer-driver in both Queensland and Victoria.

"I would have loved to have been a jockey, but I was always too big," Clover said.

"I enjoyed working for the late Ernie Foster in the Western Districts. He used to look after the horses that were sent over to the war on the boats," he said.

"One of the biggest influences in my life was legendary trots horseman Bill Davies. I went there to borrow a float, he offered me a job and I stayed for three years!

"I learnt so much with Bill in that time because he was a good trainer, good feeder and taught me how to be a farrier. Another great teacher was Jack Moore, of Maryborough, who was also a very astute horseman.

"Later I was talked into shifting up to Queensland by good friend and champion reinsman Keith Addison. He helped me out, along with Rod Belford. I used to go shoeing everywhere up there and then started getting more drives as a freelancer.

"We leased a place at Deception Bay, starting with two horses and a year later that had blown out to 30. One of the highlights was representing Queensland twice in invitational drivers races and in the last one at Townsville I was victorious, beating them on a 30/1 shot."

After 18 years in the Sunshine State, Clover returned south to Eddington and continued to be successful, particularly in discretionary standing-start races. He then moved to Carisbrook where he has been since with wife Cheryl.

"We love caravanning, so we have a big trip over to Perth planned after Christmas. And of course, we enjoy following the career path of grandson James (Herbertson), who is shaping as a reinsman of the future."

A favorite son at Maryborough in Tim Mortlock has taken over the role of track curator. Tim has a 40-year association in the sport with his late father Rob and grandfather Jack Hargreaves both successful horseman.


Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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