Day At The Track

Leon enjoying life at Lancefield

12:00 PM 16 Nov 2019 NZDT
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Leon Conway,Harness racing
Leon Conway who tasted success recently at Kilmore
Claire Weston photo

Veteran Victorian harness racing owner-trainer Leon Conway has a spring in his step at the moment - and deservedly so!

Conway and his partner Lisa Horton prepare a small team at Lancefield, 70 kms north of Melbourne, and lately all their dedication and hard work has been paying dividends.

A trip to the Yarra Valley meeting on Melbourne Cup Day resulted in six-year-old gelding Cantbetold (Major In Art-Illawong Kaye (Golden Greek) finishing second, while stablemate eight-year-old gelding Forever And A Day (Dawn Of A New Day-Rumbleon (Bookmaker) grabbed a third placing.

Between them this season, the pair had weighed in, without a win, on nine of their combined 15 race starts.

But at Kilmore last Wednesday night, Forever And A Day, one of a small number of free-legged pacers going around in the country, registered an impressive win for his popular owners.

Reinsman Rod Petroff was at his best, easing away from the fence early to land one out and three back when the field settled. He then took all the short cuts, weaving through the field to make up an enormous amount of ground before finding himself three back on the pegs swinging for home.

When the sprint lane came, Petroff was ready to pounce and Forever And A Day ($13) zipped home to run down Silky Smooth Excuse and race favorite El Boston.

"He really has been a model of consistency this season because he's been third on four occasions as well as two fourths and a fifth - he's a lovely little horse," Conway said.

"Apart from having terrific gate speed, he also has a great sprint. We've now won seven races with him for nearly $40,000 so he has certainly proved to be a bargain buy at $1500," he said.

"I think he's had two goes at Melton and ran third once in a tick over 1.54. He worked home nicely, but it took a bit out of him. Anyway, we might give it another crack one day."

The Conway name is a prominent one in harness racing over a long period. The late Maurie Conway (a cousin of Leon's dad) was well-known as a former bookmaker, trainer and studmaster, standing such sires as Bon Adios, Tarport Low and Pure Steel.

Maurie's son Ross raced brilliant horses including Nicholas Branach, Voight, Copper Satin, Sonya Malai and Jonells Son.

Conway, who was born in the Mallee wheat growing township of Hopetoun, spent a few years as a child in Kerang and lived in Adelaide in 1960. But he "didn't like it and went home to Hopetoun" where he was a popular local butcher for many years.

"I ended up having two shops there for a while, one at Hopetoun and one down the road at Beulah," Leon said.

"I sometimes used a track around the local football ground to train my horses and then later I shifted out a bit on a 3000-acre farm.

"Apart from having the horses, I farmed with the help of my son Clint and we grew wheat, peas, lupins and practically everything else. We also had cattle and sheep.

"But when I lost my wife Joy about 10 years ago - the day after I closed our Beulah butcher shop - it was a pretty hard time and I found my way down to Romsey.

"I'd got to know (trainer) Vince Vallelonga when he had lived at Rainbow, not far from Hopetoun, years ago.

"Vince gave me a call and he was fantastic - I lived on his place and helped him for about 18 months and that's where I met Lisa.

"Now I'm the track manager at Lancefield and along with Lisa, we always seem to have a few horses poking about. We are just loving it - and it's even better when we manage to get a winner!"


Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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