Day At The Track

12yo gives rivals a lesson at 133/1

07:06 AM 09 Jun 2020 NZST
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Gloria and “Ruddy” at Bridgewater Beach
Gloria and “Ruddy” at Bridgewater Beach

A 133/1 shot win by Western District cult-horse Australian Bite might have surprised punters at Terang - but for his trainer Gloria Council it's exactly the magic that keeps her in love with harness racing.

It takes a special sort of commitment to get out and train a team on an icy, blustery, wet Portland day, but Gloria laughs that she bounced out of bed the day after the 12-year old pacer's blowout win last week.

"When it's bitter wind, rain and hail, you don't enjoy that one bit, but when you get a win that's the thrill of it, and the pleasure of the sport, it's what keeps you going. It's not about the money, it's about the love of it and the people, and I think everyone on track congratulated us that 'Ruddy' had won," Gloria said.

"The horse just kept giving and giving and young Jason (reinsman Jason Ainsworth) did a brilliant job from pretty much an unwinnable position. It was a terrific drive, but the ducks really did just line up for 'Ruddy' the other night!

"It was a really good feeling and that's what it's all about."

To watch the video replay of Australian Bite winning click here

Gloria was born into harness racing, with her dad (the late) Tim Bourke, and her brother (the late) Barry Bourke both long-term trainers in the region.

"I used to go down to the beach with dad when I was a kid and ride them in the water for him," Gloria said.

"He trained from the time he was about 14 with friends down here, Teddy and George Jennings, then my brother Barry got involved.

"I went off to teacher's college, so I stopped with the hands-on involvement for probably 30 years. But my niece Donna has also been a trainer and my nephew Heath is a driver so I always stayed interested, and eventually I found my way back into it.

"Now, my sister (Coral Muldoon), who's 79, is my sidekick at the trots and although she can't be there at the moment (with COVID-19) she just loves it. My cousin Neil trains them with me and he's my strapper."

Gloria and her cousin/strapper Neil after Australian Bite’s boilover win at Terang

Incredibly, when Gloria took the decision to get her trainer's licence about 10 years ago, Australian Bite was one of the first horses she trained.

"I was training a couple of two-year-olds and one had to be turned out. At the time, my nephew Tim owned Australian Bite and my niece was training him," Gloria said.

"He wasn't going much chop, and my niece decided not to continue with him, so Tim offered him to me, to work with my young one.

"He wasn't too flash there for a while, but he was quirky little fellow (he's named Australian Bite for a reason) who did always show a little bit of something and we did get him to run second in the Mt Gambier Battler's Cup!"

But Gloria said she clearly remembered the day that she discovered, almost by accident, that Australian Bite didn't appreciate the whip.

"We'd taken him to the track for fast work and we were running quarters in about 40 and not looking like going much faster. In frustration I hit the whip on the dust-sheet and he just took off! Literally," she said.

"We tried again the next week and we clocked him doing 27 quarters. So we just went from there. That was the key to him."

Soon after, Australian Bite (Jet Laag-Ella Jane (Golden Reign) won a heat and final of the VicBred Platinum four-year-old series, and has gone on to win more than $57,000 in stakes.

"You just have to hit the dust sheet - it's the only way he'll go. And he does have to have races run to suit him. But if they run along early and he can get out, he will be there at the finish - that's been the case right through his career.

"And it just goes to show you can never give up on them, because he's probably running as well now as he was when he was four."

Gloria, who retired about six years ago after 26 years as principal of Portland's All Saints School, said getting back into the horses provided both a routine and an outlet.

"It's been fantastic to come back into them. The first day back in the cart was a bit hairy, but once you've done a few laps of the track it comes back to you. The first day doing fastwork, I'll admit I was petrified," she said.

"I'm training three at the moment, and I've had up to six. We still take them to Bridgewater Beach, although I drive them in the sulky rather than ride them these days!

"I just get a thrill out of being involved and I've never regretted it for a minute. Even when I had an accident about four years ago, when a dog appeared on the track and tipped me out, it was the horses that got me back.

"I had a bleed on the brain, a fractured pelvis and shoulder and it was a lot of surgery and rehab, but if it hadn't been for the horses and wanting to get out there and train and drive them, I would never have got back to being as fit and agile as I am now."

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura



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