Day At The Track

Rhys finds early touch at new base

10:00 AM 17 Sep 2020 NZST
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Rhys Nicholson, harness racing
Rhys Nicholson, fresh from a winning double, has a full book of drives on Friday night at his new base of Mildura.

Talented young Melbourne harness racing driver Rhys Nicholson has decided to make Mildura his home-for at least six months anyway.

With a shortage of drivers in North West Victoria during COVID-19 regional racing, Nicholson has wasted no time at all in establishing solid books of drives at the weekly Friday meetings, and couldn't be happier.

"In the long term, we'll just see how it works out. I've only been up here for a little while, but I'm loving it. Down the track we will definitely have a look at our options. I may settle in the area and have my own team, or otherwise we could run a satellite stable."

That would involve his dad, experienced trainer-driver for many years, John "Bulldog" Nicholson, who prepares a team near Melton.

The Mildura experiment is off to a handy start. Nicholson was all smiles last Friday night, landing a winning double at his now home track. He scored with The Defiant ($3.10 fav) and Pur Dan ($1.50 fav). Honors for the meeting went to trainer Scott Garraway and his driver Simon Jardine with a treble.

"It was a long night but that's great because the local trainers were giving me a go. I actually had a drive in each of the 10 events and I have nearly a full book again this Friday night," he said.

And despite being familiar with the much bigger tracks of southern Victoria, Nicholson said driving on the 810-metre Mildura circuit hadn't proved to be a problem.

"I'm learning the pattern of racing as I go. The calibre of horses is very different and I'll change my tactics to suit. It feels like sort of horses for courses," Nicholson said.

"But there's nothing wrong with the smaller tracks and I've driven on quite a few. When I was 16 or 17 years old, I'd fly over to Tasmania to drive. There were some small ones over there and it taught me a lot.

"I also come across a few up in New South Wales when I was working in Sydney."

Nicholson was always going to make harness racing his career with his family involvement.

"I left school when I was 13 to go off and do the horses. I've been lucky to have worked with some of the best," he said.

"After starting with dad, I worked for Tony Peacock. I then went back home for a bit before landing a job at the Aiken stables.

"I learnt a lot at those stables, because everyone seems to have a style of their own and when it works, they stick with it. I spent two years in Sydney and that was a big learning experience."

Nicholson said he was stoked to see his father land a recent winner in trotter Atego Titan at Cranbourne.

"He doesn't drive all that often, but he goes okay. He's getting a nice little team together, with a couple of youngsters showing heaps of promise."

"Bulldog" has prepared 18 winners and 29 placegetters for nearly $200,000 this season and is closing in on 650 career victories.

While Rhys said he was enjoying the mild and sunny days in Mildura at the moment, he'd been warned about the area's notorious hot summer days.

"It will be a case of early starts to beat the heat. I used to get up early when I was breaking-in gallopers, so I guess I'll be getting back to that."

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura







P 0498 490 672








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