A close association with All Stars going back 12 years will end in July when Blair Orange strikes up a new career combining training with driving.
Blair has entered into an agreement with Ken Barron to operate a training/driving operation similar to that which Ken enjoyed with his mentor John Lischner which resulted in Ken ultimately taking over the training operation. Blair will continue to drive free lance where he can and is sure to be seen in the All Star colours again-but not as a stable associate which he has been since 2002.
"The only reason for my leaving is that this is an opportunity too good to miss” Blair said.
"It was always going to come to this sooner or later because I intended striking out on my own. This is just an ideal way to take the next step. Mark and Natalie have been involved through the process and we part on the best of terms. I have been grateful for what happened to me during my time at All Stars. It lifted me into the big time you could say and gave me great opportunities I would not have got otherwise. We have always had a good relationship and that will continue. But you have to keep moving forward. I was due to do that. I am looking forward to the challenge''
Blair was approached by Ken after the latter decided he would take a step back from race driving and concentrate more on stable administration.
Both Mark and Natalie offer Blair all the best in his new venture.
As Natalie put it "We wish Blair all the best. He had been with the stable 12 years or so after all and has always been an important member of Mark's team and he justified that confidence and was very loyal. There always comes a time when you move on and this is a good opportunity for him''
Blair joined All Stars within a couple of years of leaving junior driver ranks. In December 1997 he drove his first winner, Whizza Nova, at Reefton, trained by Tim Butt who was then his employer. His winning total in stakes was just over $7000. By 2007 his winning drives had topped $1m a season in earnings having built steadily during his stay with All Stars and have rarely dropped below that figure.
Blair has set a stack of personal records including seven Harness Jewels wins and set such marks as four of the last 8 runnings of the Welcome Stakes. All Stars have helped him push his total wins to 929 and he should join the 1000 club before the end of the year. Even if the 1000th winner does not come in All Stars colours Blair would be the first to say its contribution to his career has been crucial.
By David McCarthy (Courtesy of ALL STARS STABLES)