Seven Western Australian harness racing legends were inducted into The West Australian Racing Industry Hall of Fame last night, before an audience of more than 450 people, at a gala function at Perth’s Convention Centre.
Heading the list was Australia’s representative in the 2011 World Driver’s Championship, Chris Lewis and he was joined by legendary Western Australian trainers Cliff Clarke and Bill Johnson.
A further three horses were inducted headed by four-time WA Pacing Cup winners Village Kid and Pure Steel and the champion mare Daintys Daughter.
Dr Ern Manea, former President of the International Trotting Association, Australian Harness Racing Council, Inter Dominion Harness Racing Council and WA Trotting Association was inducted in the Category of Associate.
There were also seven thoroughbred inductions in jockey’s John Miller, Frank “Tiger” Moore trainer Bob Burns Snr and champion gallopers in Aquanita, Placid Ark, Jolly Beggar and leading thoroughbred owner from the 1920′s in Paddy Connolly.
Champion distance greyhound Afro Freeway and greyhound trainer Grant Langston were also inducted at the tri-code function.
Chris Lewis is the only Western Australian to drive more than 4000 winners and has won more State Premierships than any other Australian reinsman. He has driven 100 or more winners in a season on 22 occasions and has won more than 40 Group One status races.
He is the only Western Australian to won two Inter Dominions after the success of Carclew in 1976 and Village Kid in 1986.
Lewis has won eight Perth Driver’s Premierships and has an unprecedented 27 successive Top Five finishes on the Perth Premiership between the 1983/84 and 2009/10.
He has won a total of 14 State Drivers Premierships surpassing the previous record of 13 shared by Fred R Kersley (WA), Ross Sugars (SA) and Tony Turnbull (NSW).
Lewis earned further national honours in 1995 when he beat Victorian ace Chris Alford to claim Australia’s Leading Driver Title (wins) with a then Australian Record tally of 211 winners.
Cliff Clarke had few peers as a trainer, heading the Perth Trainers List six times. Only the legendary Frank Kersley – seven premierships – bettered Clarke’s record between 1924 and 1952.
Clarke trained 390 Perth winners during this period while Kersley trained 366.
Only Fred R Kersley and Frank Kersley have won more Perth Trainers Premierships than Clarke.
Born in Devonshire England in 1895, Cliff Clarke became involved in harness racing in 1923 and had an immediate impact topping both the Perth Reinsman’s and Trainer’s Premierships in his first full season.
No other trainer/driver has headed the Perth Premierships in their first season. Clarke topped the Perth Drivers Premiership four times whilst being runner-up eight times. He amassed his total of 341 Perth wins as a driver in just 25 years as a heart condition brought a premature end to his career in the sulky.
He trained 412 Perth winners in 32 years heading the Perth Trainers List six times. He was also runner-up on five occasions and third twice.
Clarke’s record as a trainer of quality horses is exceptional and he was the first trainer to qualify three runners for a WA Cup – a feat only repeated a handful of times since.
He trained and drove Belalie to win the 1936 WA Trotting Cup and repeated the success with giant pacer Will O’The Wisp in the 1939 Cup. Will O’The Wisp was a son of Clarke’s 1929 WA Derby winner Willowcliffe.
Cliff Clarke and Bill Horn share the Fremantle Cup training record with four wins apiece. Clarke won the race twice as a trainer/driver and twice as a trainer.
A Gallipoli veteran who died in April 1981 at the age of 90, Bill Johnson had an almost fanatical desire to win an Inter Dominion and travelled the length and breadth of the country chasing his dream.
Commencing with Perth in 1957, Johnson started horses at seven consecutive Inter Dominion Championships including trips to Adelaide, Melbourne, Christchurch and Sydney in his quest for harness racing’s ultimate prize with his stable star Kiwi Dillon qualifying for four finals.
While W F “Bill” Johnson began training and driving horses in the late 1920′s, and drove some 70 winners in Perth, it was as a trainer that he excelled.
Johnson topped the Perth Trainers Premiership five times, in addition to being runner-up six times, between 1949 and 1964.
The first of the more than 600 winners (474 in Perth) trained by Johnson came at the old Richmond Park track in Fremantle in 1928.
Bill trained WA Pacing Cup winners in Royal Shadow and Heroic Action and won his hometown Fremantle Cup three times with Imperial, Admiral Royal and Sylvia Mint.
The stable star Kiwi Dillon qualified for four Inter Dominion finals (1958,1960, 1962 and 1963) and may well have equalled the five finals record of Caduceus had the gelding handled the travel to Christchurch in 1961.
Kiwi Dillon, competing in six series, won two heats and a consolation. Johnson also won heats with Sultana and Kodak (finalist in 1959), both consolations of the 1958 Championship with Sultana and Calendar and a consolation with Interview in 1962.
This record is more remarkable considering the primitive travel arrangements at the time whereby a combination of air, sea, road and rail was the norm to get from State to State and New Zealand.
In March 2010, Bill Johnson was recognised nationally with the awarding of the “Brian Hancock” Distinguished Service Award for his outstanding contribution to the Inter Dominion in its formative years and establishing its profile in Western Australia.
During harness racing’s golden era, between 1965 and 1975, Western Australia’s fast-class ranks included the likes of Binshaw, Blue Pennant, Radiant Oro, Roscott, James Eden and Renaud.
Only one of this galaxy of stars enjoyed the type of adulation afforded to Mount Eden at that time – Daintys Daughter. The champion mare would then respond to her fans by nodding and bowing as she returned to salute the judge.
Bred by her owner/trainer Jock Coleman at his Cunderdin farm and foaled in 1963, Daintys Daughter began her career as a 3yo in the summer of 1967 and brought up the first of her 36 wins at Kellerberrin.
Transferred to the stables of Coleman’s great mate Bernie Cushing as a 4yo, Cushing was at the reins for 29 of her 33 Perth wins.
In a century of harness racing in Perth no other mare has won more than 25 city class races.
In the 1969 Meteor Mile at Gloucester Park Daintys Daughter set a new World Record mile mark of 1:58.8 for a mare on a half-mile track bettering the 1:59.2 set by Countess Adios at Delaware, Ohio in 1960.
It was just the third sub-2:00 race mile in Australia, bettered only by stallion Halwes which ran 1:58.6 in the 1968 Miracle Mile. She bettered the 1:59.0 run by champion New Zealand mare Robin Dundee in winning the 1967 Miracle Mile.
Her performances earned her the honour of being the first Western Australian horse invited to compete in the Miracle Mile.
When Daintys Daughter won the 1970 WA Pacing Cup by an ever-widening margin of 12yds, her time of 4:07.0 for the two miles from a standing start bettered the previous World Record of 4:07.6 set by New Zealand legend Johnny Globe in winning the 1954 New Zealand Cup.
She amazed racegoers with a remarkable win in the 1971 Fremantle Cup overcoming a 24 yard handicap and coming from near last at the bell, four and five horses wide on the saucer-like Richmond Raceway track, to win running away by eight yards from Comet Again.
Daintys Daughter remains the only mare to win the WA Pacing Cup/Fremantle Cup double since World War 11.
Rarely has a horse carried a more appropriate name than Pure Steel.
His hard as nails racing characteristics, combined with an amazing will to win against the odds, endeared him to legions of fans across Australia as he mercilessly ground his opposition down in the home straight and then held off the sit and sprinters.
Pure Steel was born in New South Wales in 1971 and purchased as a yearling by Perth bookmaker and businessman Russell Roberts for $2,400.
Pure Steel won the WA Derby and, as a 4yo, was taken to Adelaide for the 1976 Inter Dominion carnival with a record of 10 wins in just 15 starts.
He set an Australian Record for 1800 metres, when winning a heat on the opening night, but despite drawing the coveted pole position for the final, he was unable to run down the front-running Carclew.
While the biggest prize in harness racing was to continue to elude Pure Steel, almost every other major prize fell his way and often more than once.
He won four successive WA Pacing Cups in 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979 and remains the only three-time winner of Victoria’s A G Hunter Cup.
Pure Steel’s 1978 AG Hunter Cup win in World Record time, after racing outside NSW champion Rip Van Winkle, is still regarded by many as the greatest race ever run at Moonee Valley.
Pure Steel was an amazing athlete over a distance and in 1977 he won the 3300 metre Victorian Marathon rating 2:02.1.
The race is no longer run over 3300 metres, as it was considered too hard on the horses – perhaps mortal horses but never too hard for Pure Steel.
While Pure Steel was the undisputed staying champion of Australia he could also sprint at the highest level as evidenced by his win in the 1978 Miracle Mile. Pure Steel was the fastest horse in Australia in 1978 and again in 1980.
He was voted Australian Harness Horse of the Year in 1980 and was regarded by many as unlucky to not take this title in 1978 when honours went to the trotter Maori’s Idol.
Village Kid raced for 10 seasons and won 93 races including more Group One races than any other Western Australian horse.
The almost perfect racehorse, blessed with terrific manners, high speed, incredible stamina and durability, as an 8yo he became the first and only horse to win all three heats of an Inter Dominion twice. Some of his rivals in the championship that year were half his age – it mattered little.
Village Kid was foaled in New Zealand on 4th December 1980 and, acting on the recommendation of Perth farrier Dudley Anderson, was bought for a little over $36,000 Australian dollars and commenced racing in Perth as a 4yo.
Later that season, as an M2 class 4yo, Village Kid won the 1985 WA Pacing Cup beating a very short-priced favourite Preux Chevalier.
A month later he finished a luckless second to Preux Chevalier in the Inter Dominion but then won the Inters the next year as a 5yo in Brisbane.
Village Kid owns the greatest winning sequence in Australian harness history after winning 19 successive races between February 1987 and February 1988.
While others may have won more in succession, all of Village Kid’s wins came in fast-class races and included four Group One races across three States.
He shares the record of four WA Pacing Cup wins with another legend in Pure Steel and may have won five successive WA Cups had a barrier draw malfunction not caused the 1987 WA Pacing Cup to be re-drawn after Village Kid had originally drawn barrier one.
Village Kid is the only Western Australian pacer to have won two NSW Miracle Miles and his total of 13 Group One races is also a WA record.
Village Kid’s 5yo, 6yo, 7yo and 8yo seasons saw him acknowledged as the best pacer in the Southern Hemisphere across each of those seasons.
From the time Village Kid turned 4yo until the end of his 8yo season he had 100 starts for 70 wins and 22 placings.
During this period he was twice voted Australian Harness Horse of the Year and was the first horse to be voted Australian Aged Pacer of the Year on three occasions.
DR ERN MANEA AM AO:
Ern Manea has served harness racing locally, nationally and internationally as President of the WA Trotting Association, President of the Australian Harness Racing Council and as President of the International Trotting Association over a period of more than 50 years as a breeder, owner and administrato
Born at Albany in 1926, Ernest Cosmo Manea graduated as a Bachelor of Medicine (MB) and Bachelor of Surgery (BS).Establishing a medical centre in Bunbury in 1952 resulted in Dr Manea becoming a breeder when one of his patients defaulted on money loaned for a service fee and he was given the resultant foal.
He founded Marden Stud Farm, standing several stallions and at one time owning 21 brood mares. His best horse in that era was the smart mare Marden Miss which won a Bunbury Cup.
As a highly popular Mayor of Bunbury his views on politics and planning were frequently sought by various Premiers and Ministers of the State Government, including on the many issues that affected his beloved sport of harness racing.
Between 1979 and 1987 Dr. Manea was President of the WATA which later led to Presidency of the Australian Harness Racing Council (1984-2000) and the Inter Dominion Harness Racing Council (1987-2000).He served a term as President of the International Trotting Association (1991-1993) and was made a Life Member of that body in 1997.
In 1992 the AHRC acknowledged Dr. Manea with its Stratton Award for his on a national and international level.
In 2000, on completion of his Presidency the IDHRC awarded him its Gold Medal, and renamed the award the “Ern Manea Inter Dominion Gold Medal”.One of the many tributes at the time came from The US Trotting Association:
“Dr. Manea has not only been a leader in Australia, but is equally respected and recognised on a world-wide level. Ern Manea IS harness racing around the world.”
While renowned as a brilliant orator, Ern Manea’s great ability was to foster progress and development, in an era of great technological change, culminating in major advances and a more truly national philosophy.
His contribution to the community and local Government was recognized in 1985 when he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) and made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1998.
Courtesy of Alan PARKER (RWWA)