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The champions of season 2017-18 will be honoured at the 2018 Gordon Rothacker Medal night at Crown Palladium on Sunday October 21. Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) has made October 21 a race-free day to allow all industry participants the opportunity to celebrate this wonderful annual event. HRV also encourages the industry to nominate individuals who meet the following criteria for Gordon Rothacker Medal 2018 consideration: Contribution to harness racing in Victoria (past and present) Length of industry involvement Held (voluntary or paid) key positions within the industry Demonstrated excellence within a chosen field Significant personal achievement Service as a role model/mentor Integrity If you wish to nominate someone for consideration for the 2018 Gordon Rothacker Medal, please email the name of the nominee and a brief summary of supportive information (achievements, positions held in the industry, length of service etc) to Angela McCallum (AMcCallum@hrv.org.au) by close of business on Friday September 7. Tickets for the 2018 Gordon Rothacker Medal night will shortly go on sale, so stay tuned for an announcement from HRV.   Harness Racing Victoria

The rise and rise of harness racing trainer Emma Stewart continued unabated at Gordon Rothacker Medal 2017 on Sunday night. Stewart’s powerhouse operation, top-three on the national top 20 chart three years running, was honoured with numerous Victorian season accolades at Crown Palladium. And while Stewart’s third successive metro and state trainers’ Victorian premiership double had the champion trainer both thrilled and full of praise for her dedicated team – including husband Clayton Tonkin, who she said was “the backbone of the operation” – it was the announcement that Stewart was the 2017 Angelique Club Pearl Kelly Award recipient that had her most taken aback. “I’m accepting this award, but everyone who works for me is involved, family, owners, it’s their award as well. I’m so humbled to get this. It’s something I never thought would happen,” Stewart said. “Our parents – both our mums – look after Willow, and our dads are really important as well. “Our staff are terrific … we’ve got so many good people who work for us. And with our big numbers you need people you can trust and we’re so lucky they love our horses as much as we do.” Stewart spoke of her career beginning with legendary Great Western horseman Peter Manning and declared one of her stable’s biggest opponents on the track, Natalie Rasmussen, as the woman in harness racing she “especially looks up to”. “I started out with Peter and he was terrific to me. Kerryn (Manning) and Natalie at the time were dominant drivers. We’ve always had great female role models,” Stewart said. “In fact it’s a female dominated sport you could probably say, which is just terrific.” Stewart’s role in the sport today transcends the winners she produces on the track. She has charisma in spades and has embraced the media and promotion of the industry wholeheartedly in recent years. Both are traits that also embodied the late, great Vin Knight in an era many describe as the halcyon days. Stewart-trained horses won four Horse of the Year titles on Sunday night, Poster Boy (2yo pacing colts & geldings), Nostra Villa (two-year-old fillies), Our Little General (three-year-old colts & geldings) and Heavens Trend (four-year-old mares). And season 2017-18 looks set to be another Stewart success as she is already leading the way on the national premiership with a phenomenal 42.5 per cent strike rate. Jim O'Sullivan was awarded the Gordon Rothacker Medal on Sunday night, while HRV honoured Doug Gretgrix for his years of service by awarding the long-time starter the HRV Disitinguished Service Medal. For a full recap of awards, click here. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Jim O’Sullivan is the toast of Victorian trots after last night becoming the 17th Gordon Rothacker Medal recipient. The popular horseman had his name immortalised, etched alongside an illustrious list of legendary harness racing luminaries at a gala function at Crown’s Palladium room. The chorus of congratulatory messages for O'Sullivan was unsurprising. He is as famous for his willingness to provide advice and assistance to fellow participants as he is for his association with My Lightning Blue and a cavalcade of other stars. “I love this game,” O’Sullivan said. “My dad was in it – he ran second in a Harold Park premiership in 1941 or something. I was about five when dad gave it away … then when I got older I’d work a horse before school … it’s been a magic ride.” O’Sullivan was 15 when he started working horses, and today at 71 he’s still training and driving. “People say ‘when’s the next champion coming along’, and I tell them she’s right here,” O’Sullivan said, pointing at daughter Shannon, who only recently made her debut in the sulky. “She’s driving exceptionally well … and if you’ve got a horse you should put her on." He also sang the praises of daughter Tracey, who, notably in 1990, won a Hunter Memorial aboard Our Brenray (which Jim trained). “I remember that well because she beat me,” he recalled (Jim was driving Its Motor Power, which finished a half-head in second). The 1987 Inter Dominion Grand Final win of My Lightning Blue at Christchurch remains O’Sullivan’s most famous triumph, but Quite Famous won 22 cups himself and holds a special place in the horseman’s heart. “There wasn’t much between them actually,” he said comparing Quite Famous with My Lightning Blue. “Quite Famous was a magnificent looking horse. He was beautiful. If you could pick a horse on looks he’d be the perfect racehorse.” O’Sullivan and My Lightning Blue also won the New Zealand Trotting Cup in 1987, and it took until 2015 for another Australian driver to capture that race. It was Rothacker medallist Kerryn Manning who broke O’Sullivan’s title as ‘last Aussie NZ Cup winner’ when she guided Arden Rooney to victory. O’Sullivan’s association with owner Alan Hunter served him extremely well in the heady trots days of the 1980s and 90s. Hunter’s willingness to tip in good money to ensure O’Sullivan had quality stock ensured a steady stream of talented racehorses in the stable. “Alan was a great winner but he was an equally great loser, too, and you have got to be able to take the good with the bad in racing,” O’Sullivan said. In 1991, O’Sullivan combined with trotter Yankee Loch to win the Trotters Inter Dominion at Moonee Valley, another career highlight. But there have been many, with other top horses like Its Motor Power, Margaret Shannon and Our Brenray (who won three Terang Cups and is the only horse to have done so) also providing fantastic memories, silverware and photos on the wall. Stormy Morn’s win in the 1981 Australasian Trotting Championship Final at Moonee Valley too holds a special place in O’Sullivan’s heart. His deeds on the racetrack are well-known to long-time trots fans, but the Rothacker Medal is never awarded for that alone, and O’Sullivan’s model integrity record and willingness to volunteer his time (in addition to helping anyone who asks, O’Sullivan spent 15 years on the Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association executive, two as Vice-President) certainly carried weight. Like Carl O’Dwyer (2016 Rothacker Medal recipient), O’Sullivan is also a trusted farrier for many stables. In fact, his trots knowledge across just about all facets of the industry would be as close to encyclopaedic as we have. “It’s funny, when I was in Brisbane I won the Australian trainer’s title twice … and I trained no more than 25. I drove them all myself,” O’Sullivan said. “It was a little bit different. People now train 60-odd horses … I don’t know how they do it.” O’Sullivan is based in Heathcote and continues to train a team of horses. Find out more about Harness Racing Victoria's Gordon Rothacker Medal Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Harness Racing Victoria encourages Gordon Rothacker Medal nominations from Country Clubs, Kindred Bodies, Industry Participants and/or Individuals. The criteria for the Gordon Rothacker Medal is as follows: Contribution to harness racing in Victoria (past and present) Length of industry involvement Held (voluntary or paid) key positions within the industry Demonstrated excellence within a chosen field Significant personal achievement Service as a role model/mentor Integrity If you wish to nominate someone for consideration for the 2017 Gordon Rothacker Medal, please email the name of the nominee and a brief summary of supportive information (achievements, positions held in the industry, length of service etc) to Angela McCallum (AMcCallum@hrv.org.au) by close of business on Friday September 22. Click here to view more info on the Gordon Rothacker Medal Cody Winnell HRV Communications/Media Manager

The horse who has captivated a nation attracted the audience’s applause one more time when Lennytheshark was crowned harness racing 'Victorian Horse of the Year'. The David Aiken trained, Chris Alford driven, Martin and Kevin Riesley owned seven-year-old was awarded the major equine honour at Sunday night’s 2016 Gordon Rothacker Medal celebration at the Crown Palladium. The award was reward for Lennytheshark’s outstanding 2015-16, in which his successes included winning the Perth Inter Dominion and Good Form Victoria Cup, in addition to second placings in the Miracle Mile and Len Smith Mile. “It’s quite humbling to be up here,” part-owner Martin Riesley said. “The horse has done a fantastic job. “After the season, you have a look at the horses who have gone before and won these awards and it really puts it into context how special it is.” Gammalite, Popular Alm, Shakamaker and Sokyola are but some of the superstars of the trots whose company Lennytheshark rightly shares, having on the night also officially received the Harness Racing Australia Horse of the Year award. “It’s an absolute credit to the whole team that goes behind Lenny,” Mr Riesley said. “The way that David (Aiken) and the whole Aiken team manage him from the time he spends in the water walker to our vet Simon Robinson, Patrick Ryan when the horse was coming back – he spent I don’t know how many kms just walking – and the whole team has just put in an awesome effort.” And it’s also a family affair, not only for the owning father-and-son, but for many who have been adopted into the wider Lennytheshark family. “It’s not only our immediate family, staff at our work, cousins, distant cousins who you don’t even know come out of the woodwork. I went to Flemington races yesterday, I was on the bus and someone wanted to come up and talk about Lenny with me who I didn’t even know. It’s just fantastic and we all enjoy it.” Lennytheshark, who will soon head to Perth to defend his crown, won the honour ahead of fellow Victorian Horse of the Year nominees Ideal For Real, Rocknroll Magic and Keystone Del. The winners of the horse of the year categories were as follows: Two-year-old pacing filly: Petacular (trained by Michael Stanley) Two-year-old pacing colt and gelding: The Storm Inside (Emma Stewart) Two-year-old trotting filly: Kyvalley Kyrie (Brent Lilley) Two-year-old trotting colt and gelding: Illawong Byron (Jodi Quinlan) Three-year-old pacing filly: Rocknroll Magic (Emma Stewart) Three-year-old pacing colt and gelding: Dont Hold Back (Mario Attard) Three-year-old trotting filly: High Gait (Nicole Molander) Three-year-old trotting colt and gelding: Cruisin Around (Michael Hughes) Four-year-old pacing filly: Delight Me (Emma Stewart) Four-year-old pacing colt and gelding: Ideal For Real (Emma Stewart) Four-year-old trotting filly: Endsino (Andy Gath) Four-year-old trotting entire and gelding: Sparkling Success (John Meade) Aged pacing filly: Nike Franco (Dean Braun) Aged pacing colt and gelding: Lennytheshark (David Aiken) Aged trotting filly: Maori Time (Brent Lilley) Aged trotting entire and gelding: Keystone Del (Brent Lilley) Victorian Horse of the Year: Lennytheshark (David Aiken) Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Long-time industry all-rounder Carl O’Dwyer was the harness racing recipient of the 2016 Gordon Rothacker Medal last night at a packed Crown Palladium. The famed farrier and administrator was acknowledged for his involvement in the Victorian industry over almost 60 years in which time he’s had several roles. On the track he drove Fiery Luck to win the 1975 E.B. Cochran Cup and twice won the Kilmore Trotters Cup behind the same horse in 1975 and 1976. As a trainer he put the polish on 1977 V.L. Dullard Cup winner Albey Logan and 1979 A.G. Hunter Cup winner Hanna’s Boy. As an administrator Mr O’Dwyer spent time on several committees and boards, most notably on the Harness Racing Victoria Board between 2001 and 2011. Mr O’Dwyer also served his local club at Kilmore on the committee from 1975 to 2001, as committeeman, vice-president and president. Also a member of the Rural Research Development Committee (1997 to 2001) and the Victorian Country Clubs Association as president in 2001, Mr O’Dwyer has never shirked at the opportunity to give his time to his passions. But despite all his successes and many roles within the sport at an administrative level Mr O’Dwyer is most notably known as a master farrier. In 1971 Mr O’Dwyer formed O’Dwyer Horseshoe Sales Australia because he saw a need for mechanically produced horseshoes. He specialises in problem horseshoeing of performance horses and shoeing standardbreds, both pacers and trotters. “I’ve been involved in the industry since I was 15 … I think I drove my first winner at 16,” Mr O’Dwyer said when interviewed after receiving the Victorian trots’ highest individual honour. “He used to flog his knees so I got into shoeing horses and, hopefully, I’ve learnt a little bit from that.” Mr O’Dwyer in fact spoke of his relationship with the master horseman whose name adorns the medal, Gordon Rothacker, and how he used to shoe horses for Rothacker. “I’m extremely grateful,” he added. “You don’t do these things for rewards, you do it because you enjoy the industry." Mr O’Dwyer thanked his wife and made special mention of his daughter and son-in-law, who “didn’t let me know this was happening tonight”. He also thanked the HRV Board for the honour. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Despite two Group 1 triumphs in the three top-flight open-age mares’ races on the 2015-16 national harness racing calendar Victorian pacer Nike Franco failed to take the Australian Aged Pacing Mare of the Year gong in the recent national awards. The brilliant daughter of Mcardle gets her chance to atone however at the Victorian industry awards night at Crown’s Palladium on Gordon Rothacker Medal Night, Sunday November 6. The gala event will celebrate the high achievers of season 2016-17 across all Horse of the Year categories, as well as the leading trainers, drivers and the Victorian country clubs and administrators. Harvey Kaplan, who is among the Nike Franco ownership, said the mare’s connections were excited about this year’s Rothacker Medal night. “We’re really looking forward to it. I think it’s a great idea to have the night return to the city and at a salubrious venue such as the Palladium. We’re looking forward to celebrating the top-line horses throughout the evening,” he said. Kaplan said Dean Braun-trained Nike Franco achieved an enormous amount in season 2015-16 and the team was immensely proud of her work. “There were only three Group 1 open-age mares’ races nationally and Nike Franco won two of them and placed third in the other. She won over the longer trip, the shorter trip, in Western Australia. She also defeated the boys in the Warragul Cup in track record time,” he said. “She had a great season and we had a lot of fun with her. We were very proud of her performances.” The prestigious Gordon Rothacker Medal will be awarded to a long-time industry achiever on the night, while the Pearl Kelly Award and the Distinguished Service Medal will also be presented. Bruce Morgan took out last year’s Rothacker Medal, following on from Kerryn Manning in 2014. CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR TICKETS TO ROTHACKER MEDAL NIGHT @ THE PALLADIUM Gordon Rothacker Medal Honour Roll 2002: Ian McCallum 2003: Geoff Hill 2004: Jim Barker 2005: Ron Pocock 2006: Matt Donaldson 2007: Peter Manning 2008: Bruce & Elizabeth Clarke 2009: Les Chapman 2010: Arthur Graham 2011: Ted Demmler 2012: Neville Welsh 2013: Graeme Lang 2014: Kerryn Manning 2015: Bruce Morgan Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

The trots’ biggest awards night will be given its biggest showcase on November 6 when the Gordon Rothacker Medal is staged at Palladium at the Crown. Tickets are now on sale for Harness Racing Victoria’s (HRV) celebration of its outstanding performers and contributors, with offerings including considerable early bird and group booking discounts. CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS AND TO BOOK The night will be an opportunity to laud those who have separated themselves from the pack, with presentations including the Horse of the Year awards, country club awards and state and metropolitan premierships. HRV Chairman Dale Monteith said it was also a chance to honour those often behind the scenes through the Gordon Rothacker Medal and Pearl Kelly Award. “The Gordon Rothacker Medal night is a fantastic opportunity to laud our participants who have toiled so hard throughout the season and achieved so much, as well as shining a light on the often unsung heroes of the trots,” Mr Monteith said. “It’s a chance for participants, owners, breeders and trots fans to come together and celebrate all that is great about this sport. I encourage all industry participants to make the night as it will be special. The fact it will be staged at the Crown for the first time, the state’s centre for major events, will only further add to the prestige of the night and I’m looking forward to a great night of celebration, dining and entertainment.” In addition to a three-course meal, beer, wine and soft drink, the night will feature live music among its entertainment, and will be hosted by TAB media manager Adam Hamilton and commentator Michael Guerin. Those that book before October 1 will receive the early bird discount price of $130, a saving of $20, or a table of 10 can be booked for $1000. For tickets and more details click here.  Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

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