At the starts of the racing season trainer Chris Howlett was on the verge of retiring his stalwart free-for-aller Jilliby Rio.
Most pacers who reach the age of 12 are usually long retired but Jilliby Rio is one of the exceptions to the rule and his performance record suggests he might still have wins to come.
In Launceston last Sunday night the gelding led all the way to win the Kohnke Products Claimer with the trainer’s son Matthew Howlett in the sulky.
It was the gelding’s 27th win with his record also including 46 minor placings for stakes of $218,000 from 182 starts.
Jilliby Rio is owned and raced by the trainer’s parents-in-law Paul and Elizabeth Geard who also own and race thoroughbreds and they snared a double in that code in Hobart on the same day courtesy of wins by Geegees Velvet and Geegees Doublejay.
“At the start of the year I thought this horse was getting to the end of the road and I suggested to Paul (Geard) that we might have to retire him,” Howlett said.
“But after I freshened him up for a couple of weeks he came out and won at his next start and he’s won another three races since.”
“Like most horses of that age he has got his issues but he tries very hard and that carries him a long way but he also loves to race,” he said.
Jilliby Rio has become almost a family member so whenever he does retire there is no doubt he has a home for life roaming the fields of one or many of the paddocks on property owned by the Geards at Broadmarsh about 40 kilometres north-west of Hobart.
By Peter Staples