Day At The Track

Bill is just trottin' along beautifully!

05:30 AM 16 May 2019 NZST
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Bill Milner,Harness racing
Reinsman Chris Alford, trainer Bill Milner and Dellsun with long-time mate Kevin Dixon – “92 years young”
Shepparton Harness Racing Club photo

Jovial Bill Milner of Kilmore is strictly a trainer only of square-gaiters these days - and loves every minute of it.

"I'll have to be honest and say that a fair amount of patience is required with them at times, but I just keep poking along and mostly they are enjoyable," Milner said.

And Bill's certainly enjoying a pleasant time in harness racing at the moment, with four-year-old Dellsun (Majestic Son-Auravale (Malhana Gindin USA) getting the job done in fine style.

The gelding, nicely driven by master Melbourne reinsman Chris Alford, didn't put a foot wrong to take out the JDC Contractors Trotters Handicap at Shepparton last Tuesday night.

Milner said the Shepparton circuit was quickly becoming one of his favorite tracks.

"I seem to have a fair bit of success up there. Dellsun is an example because his previous victory was also at Shepparton a month ago," he said.

"It's a nice easy drive from home so I'll keep racing there while our luck is in."

Milner is hands-on with pretty much every aspect of the sport and does a great job with a small team. Not only does he breed all his stock, but breaks them in, does the farrier work and trains them.

That virtually leaves only the driving side of it, but he says he's quite happy to watch from the other side of the fence.

"I do enjoy the breaking-in part probably the most. There's a heap of satisfaction comes out of that and yes I suppose I do nearly everything myself," he said.

"Over the many years I've been involved, I've learnt a hell of a lot from a great number of people.

"I got started with Carl O'Dwyer when I was a teenager doing a farrier apprenticeship. Then later on when I was shoeing for greats like Vin Knight, Gordon Rothacker, Kevin Murray, Kevin Dixon and others, I would pick up more knowledge.

"Early days another influential person was Frank Shinn. I remember we went off buying a horse each and mine was named Fair Baron. I was learning how to drive fastwork one day and nearly put Frank over the fence, which didn't go down all that well.

"Fair Baron never won a race, but I'm certain the one Frank purchased turned out okay!"

Milner now owns the property that belonged to Shinn. It's on nearly four acres and has a 400-metre track.

He said he trained pacers years ago before changing his alliances to square gaiters.

"Without doubt the best pacer I had would have been Vice Regal, who raced in the early 1990s," Milner said.

Vice Regal (Vance Hanover USA-Pat Hanover NZ (Emory Hanover USA) finished his career with 14 wins and 24 placings for more than $74,000.

After becoming a fully qualified farrier, Milner was employed by the Victoria Racing Club and worked at Seymour and Kilmore gallops meetings as well as some in Melbourne.

"I used to help out with barrier duties as well and I'm still at it, nearly 50 years later," he said.

Most of the Milner team go back to a daughter of Welcome Advice, Star Advice, a moderately performed race mare. However, in the breeding barn, she had six foals, including Auravale and Auravalley. Auravale, a five-race winner, had six foals with all winners, except one. Auravalley has produced three foals with the best being My Archie Way (4 wins) and Tetra (2 wins).

Milner paid tribute to his success with his small team to supporter Kevin Dixon, "92 years young", who has held a licence for 76 years.

"Kevin would only train two at a time back in the day, but he was very good at it. When the old Melbourne Showgrounds closed, he moved to Kilmore on a small acreage and he lives about five minutes from me," Milner said.

"He has taught me a lot. He calls into my stables regularly and still attends all the meetings with me - he's a great mate."

 

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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