Former leading harness racing driver Damian Wilson makes his racing return at Shepparton tonight. After being given the ‘all clear’ by doctors, Wilson is back after almost two years on the sidelines as a result of injuries he sustained during a horrific fall at Kilmore in October 2012. Wilson has two drives on the card, beginning with outsider, Apple Beach, in the opening event. The multiple Group One winner will then partner Smokinoff in the sixth race. “It’s been a long road back, but I’ve finally been given the all-clear and I’m pretty anxious to start driving again,” Wilson said. “For a long time it felt like this day would never come, but I’m rapt to be back in the sulky and I’m looking forward to start racing.” Admitting he is worried about ‘racing rust’, Wilson is confident he can recapture his best form as he gains more drives. “I am a little nervous and worried about rust, but I’ve been doing plenty of track work and have been at the trials a fair bit,” Wilson declared. “Hopefully I will crack off any rust pretty quickly and get back into the normal routine of it all.” Although frustrated with the past two years, Wilson stated the alternative could have been a lot worse. Rushed to the hospital with a broken leg from the fall, Wilson was soon informed by attending doctors he was in danger of losing his limb. Surgeons were concerned about the risk of infection settling into Wilson’s leg, which was extensively damaged from the accident. Wilson didn’t just break it - he “snapped” his fibula, tibia and ankle. “It wasn’t good there for a while and I’m just thankful they didn’t take off my leg,” Wilson said. “The last two years have been tough, but I’m just looking to put that behind me and focus on the road ahead.” PAUL COURTS
After almost two years in harness racing wilderness, former top driver Damian Wilson is ready and raring to go. Sidelined since his horrific fall at Kilmore in October 2012, Wilson is hoping to be back in the sulky by Tuesday, September 9. “I’ve got one more trial drive to complete my 10, which I will get done during the weekend, then hopefully Harness Racing Victoria will process my licence on Monday and I’ll be good to go on Tuesday,” Wilson explained. “It’s been a long road back, but I’ve finally been given the all-clear and I’m pretty anxious to start driving again. “For a long time it felt like this day would never come, but I’m rapt to be back in the sulky and I’m looking forward to start racing.” Although frustrated with the wait, Wilson admits the alternative would have been a lot worse. Rushed to the hospital with a broken leg from the fall, Wilson was soon informed by attending doctors he was in danger of losing his limb. Surgeons were concerned about the risk of infection settling into Wilson’s leg, which was extensively damaged from the accident. The multiple feature race winning reinsman didn’t just break it, he “snapped” his fibula, tibia and ankle. “My leg wasn’t just broken, it was snapped in half,” Wilson said. “Given the open wound, the doctors were worried about infection from the dirt getting in. “They started talking about amputating my leg, which thankfully never happened. The instant feeling of despair and fear as soon as they mentioned amputation is hard to describe. “You could say it hits you like a brick wall, but a brick wall would have felt a lot more comforting.” Relieved his leg was spared, Wilson then sank into a stage of depression as he faced the reality of his situation and battle ahead, combined with the uncertainty of his future. On top of it all, Wilson’s mind was ready to return to work despite the fact his leg – and doctors – weren’t! “It got very depressing for a while as you want to do your normal routine, but instead you pretty much can’t do anything,” Wilson declared. “The pain aside, being stuck in bed, not knowing how long it will take to get back to normal, or if you ever will, is pretty difficult.” After 18 months of rehabilitation, Wilson is finally primed to return to what he does best - driving winners - but that poses another problem for the comeback reinsman. “The first hard part now is letting people know I’m available to drive again,” Wilson said. “The second part is attracting drives. “A lot of my regular drives have been filled by others during the past two years, so I can’t expect to just walk over and be handed the reins. “I’ll just have to get out there and do the best I can and hope the drives steadily build up again.” Attracting drives shouldn’t be a problem for Wilson, who is blessed with natural ability in the sulky…a rare feat for a person with no family ties to the industry. Citing a career with horses as an interesting and exciting path, Wilson enrolled in the prestigious Bendigo Training Centre, where his skills were nurtured and moulded. “I enjoyed having a bet and heading to the races, so I thought I’d have a go,” Wilson recalled. “I learnt what I could from the school before getting a job with George Mance.” Never looking back, Wilson has worked with some of Victoria’s leading trainers throughout the years, which has seen him register numerous Group One victories. Selecting Hazza Bazza, Lively Moth, Living On Fire and Ohoka Nevada as the best he has driven, Wilson’s biggest success ironically came at Kilmore in the 2009 Cup. “I’ve been fortunate that I’ve worked for some of the best trainers around and driven some top horses along the way,” Wilson said. “The Kilmore Cup with Ohoka Nevada is my favourite win as it is a terrific race and terrific day. “Hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy major race success again one day.” PAUL COURTS
Melton harness racing trainer Damian Wilson who was badly injured in a horrific race fall at Kilmore on October 28, was successful with honest 5-Y-0 John Street North/Trouble Chaton mare Latoya Lass at Cranbourne on Tuesday January 15, taking out the Farmhand Pace for C2 class over 2080 metres.
Australasian Breeders Crown Grand Final Day is only 12 days away, with the feature afternoon of harness racing taking place at Tabcorp Park Melton on Sunday August 19.
Horses from the Western District dominated at the Horsham harness racing fixture held on Wednesday July 25, with five winners in the eight race program.
Monday's (January 30) harness racing at Warragul in the heart of Gippsland, came to an abrupt holt after only three races, when torrential rain caused the rest of the six race program to be abandoned.
Harness Racing Victoria conducted a restricted grade meeting at Tabcorp Park Melton on Thursday, with mixed results during the afternoon.
Monday (November 28) harness racing was held at Horsham in the Wimmera District of Western Victoria, with a seven event card being held. Four year old John Street NorthTrouble Chaton mare Latoya Lass, a short priced $1.80 favourite, greeted the judge in The Wimmera Roadways Pace for C1 class over 1700 metres.
Astute Elmore harness racing trainer Keith Cotchin enjoyed a happy day at Charlton on Monday November 14, winning a double with Living Life Lombo taking the Rothacker Medal November 19 Pacers Handicap for C1 or better class over 2100 metres and Bebop the Charlton & District Community Bank Pace for C3 & C4 class over the same journey, both driven by Greg Sugars.
Central Victorian harness racing was held at Maryborough on Monday October 3, with three heats of the Seelite Windows & Doors Trotters Handicap for T0 or better class highlighting the restricted program.
Wallan's Ruth and Chris Shinn were successful at their home track of Kilmore on Tuesday September 20, when Yankee Paco/Sophisticated Rhythm filly Tai Chi brought up a hat-trick of harness racing wins in taking the George Brosnan Memorial 3-Y-0 Trotters Handicap over 2150 metres in a rate of 2-08.3.
Popular Cranbourne was the venue for Thursday harness racing with most winners coming from the other side of the Yarra Valley. Former South Australian Hombre Higgins which started his career in Victoria, was successful in the Schweppes Claiming Pace over 2080 metres.
Former Kiwi 4-Y-0 Falcon Seelster/Stronechrubie gelding Bressingham was an impressive harness racing winner of the Geelong Australia Pacers Handicap for C1 or better class over 2100 metres at Geelong on Wednesday August 24.
The Inter Dominion picture is coming together nicely for Victoria's leading pacer, Smoken Up. His harness racing trainer/driver Lance Justice received his first slice of good news when the star of his Melton stable drew a front-row barrier (six) for Friday night's first heat at Auckland's Alexandra Park with nominal favourite Mr Feelgood outside the second line in 11.
Bendigo's harness racing track was on fire last night Saturday the 15th of January. The blue-blooded Ransom Olds provided a debuting track record performance for the Tony Peacock and Roy Barbaro owned and Tony Peacock trained New Zealand bred Artsplace-Adios Dream colt in a stunning 1:54.9 win.
Whilst all eyes were on the Cranbourne Cup and Bill Collins Mile at the huge Saturday December 11 night harness racing fixture at Cranbourne south of the Yarra, Kilmore trainer Tony Peacock finished the weekend on a high note, with a winning treble on the program, all handled to perfection by stable reinsman Damian Wilson.