Day At The Track

Return may loom for harness racing great

09:30 AM 08 Jul 2020 NZST
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Jukebox Music and Daryl Douglass,Harness racing
Jukebox Music and Daryl Douglas

One of Australia's greatest ever harness racing drivers Daryl "Dasher" Douglas could be on track to reignite his career.

Douglas, who was only relicensed a few days ago, competed in six of seven official trials at Bendigo on Monday night, finishing with three wins and two placings.

The six-times leading Australian driver made his previous appearance at a racetrack on January 28, 2015, when he finished unplaced on Art Of Locksley for trainer John Nissen, at Maryborough, later stepping away from the sport.

But being away from it for well over five years didn't present any problems at the trials for Douglas.

"I suppose it's a bit like riding a bike. You just hop back on and away you go," Douglas, 47, said yesterday.

"To be honest, I haven't set any plans or anything like that. If it all happens and I get back to the races one day, it will have to work in around my day job," he said.

"I'm working with roads maintenance crews, which involves a bit of truck driving. I really love it and I get to work all over the State."

Douglas said there was no chance whatsoever of returning to the heady days of the 2000s when he would do 18 to 20-hour double-header days at opposite ends of the State.

It was nothing for him to compete in some early races at a day meeting at Kilmore and then turn up for the night fixture at Mildura. On another occasion he landed the first four winners at Stawell and then drove a full book at Geelong later that night-but didn't increase on his tally.

Douglas was doing over 100,000 kms each year driving to meetings and after a series of speeding tickets (which, if they continued, weren't going to have a happy ending in court) he elected to charter a small plane and pilot to get to-and-from the venues.

"When I was in the top half dozen in the State, I was driving more than 2100 horses a year. The others in Chris Alford, John Caldow, Brian Gath and the late Gavin Lang were doing around the 1200 mark, so I was going close to two to their one," he said.

"And I can say that in the past five years since I've been away from harness racing, I've had just one speeding ticket!"

Douglas enjoyed a meteoric rise in the sport, which started gathering swift momentum from the late 1990s.

"When I was growing up, I was never going to be a driver. I started jogging horses when I was a 12-year-old at my parents (Keith and Judy Douglas) Sebastopol property," he said.

"Then when I couldn't get a job after turning 16, I stayed with the horses. It wasn't until I was 18 that I thought I may as well get my licence-so I guess had I been real keen I would have jumped at it earlier when I could have."

It took Douglas only a short time to land himself in the winner's circle, breaking through at St Arnaud on a horse named Bad Land in 1991.

Trainers began noticing his uncanny ability and after picking up more and more drives, he posted 80 wins in 1997/98.

He then smashed the century mark the following season with 149 (fifth on the national premiership). From there until 2014/15, Douglas was in the top two drivers most seasons.

In the 2008/09 season, he drove his best ever tally of 388 winners. Along the way he posted the quickest century of wins (now held jointly with Chris Alford), taking two months and 26 days. He followed up with the quickest double century (five months, 15 days) and one of his quickest triple centuries, recorded in nine months and 19 days. He shaved two weeks off this remarkable feat in the 2010/11 season.

Daryl later joined his younger brother Glenn as one of the sport's most formidable partnerships. Glenn concentrated on training, preparing big numbers for his father-in-law and owner Eric Anderson.

It was then left to Daryl to consistently put the stable runners in the winner's circle, carrying the familiar Anderson letter A royal blue and white racing colors.

And come they did, in the form of superstar Franco Tiger, Make Mine Cullen, Bold Cruiser, Hanover Zip, Saint Flash, Brigalow Bush, Bold Stefan, Our Pocket Liner and others.

"For now I'll just keep coasting along and see where it all takes me," a laid back Douglas said.

"I loved having a catch-up with B. Gath and a few others at the trials. I enjoy the really nice people in the sport."

 

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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