Day At The Track

Phil Ellery's trotting career is mobile again

02:52 PM 16 Mar 2017 NZDT
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Phil Ellery and Trish Lammens
Photo by Kyle Galley

Cardinia builder Phil Ellery has been a familiar face on trotting tracks in Gippsland and beyond for many years, but not only as a trainer and driver of horses.

Phil is a regular driver of the mobile starting barrier at a handful of tracks. In fact he drove the vehicle for the first mobile start in many years of the famed A. G. Hunter Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton last month.

Last Wednesday, Phil was on hand as usual piloting the starting car at the Warragul Pacing Bowl. And he managed to make the most of his "down time" during the running of the one standing start event on the program, the trotters handicap.

Phil produced his trotter, Just Hold On, as one of the entrants in the race. And for good measure, he won the race too, ending a drought of almost 20 years since his last racetrack success.

The majority of punters gave Just Hold On very little chance of victory on Wednesday afternoon, and the eight-year-old veteran of only seven race starts went around as the rank outsider in betting at odds of almost 60-1.

But Phil knows his horse best, and proved that Just Hold On does have some ability. And just hold on the gelding did, defeating fellow local Innocent Fling by a narrow margin after a stirring battle for the length of the home straight.

Another Gippsland horse, Gavlenn Sunset, ran third to produce a local trifecta.

Pleasingly, the three placegetters have all given their local connections confidence that similar performances might occur in their upcoming starts.

The trotting ranks are gradually strengthening again in Gippsland and Phil Ellery will be hoping his next winner is not too far away.

His last success before Wednesday was with Carlewis at Moonee Valley in September 1998, although he has not had a lot of horses race since.

Fellow local horseman Ray Mathews bred Just Hold On, raced by Phil and his partner Trish Lammens. The pair also secured a $1500 Victorian Harness Racing Sports Club bonus as lucky owners in one of the Sports Club's sponsored races last Wednesday.

Talented junior reinsman Darby McGuigan will no doubt rank Warragul as his favourite track after a driving double on Wednesday.

McGuigan, who drove two winners at the February meeting, after a further winner at the season opening program in December, steered Gozo Beach and Gozo Lighting to victory for trainer Bill Galea.

Cranbourne trainer Jayne Davies produced the quinella in the third race with Soho Beijing beating Ravello Rock. Winning connections also received a $1500 VHRSC owners bonus for their win.

Bongiorno Boys showed a welcome return to form in winning the first race for trainer Beau Tindale and driver Michael Bellman, while Graeme and Gavin Lang combined with Warminster to gain a narrow victory in the final event.

Harness racing fans in Gippsland are now beginning to count down to the biggest day for the year at Warragul with the Pacing Bowl Cup meeting next along on Easter Sunday afternoon, April 16.

Kyle Galley

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