Day At The Track

Trotting to honor its star achievers

08:00 AM 30 Mar 2021 NZDT
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Passionate square-trotting people: Charlie and Vicki Moro at their Sebastian stables, Harness racing
Passionate square-trotting people: Charlie and Vicki Moro at their Sebastian stables

Trotting continues to re-emerge as a vibrant sector in Victorian harness racing, with an impressive suite of nominations for the Victorian Square Trotters Association awards on Saturday night.

The awards night coincides with the final of the inaugural Colin Redwood Memorial Trot at Melton, and will bring together a growing community of professionals and hobbyists passionate about the “traditional” harness racing gait.

The sport was considered “dead in the water” a decade ago, but trotters now account for nearly a third of Victorian harness racing horse registrations (851 in 2020), and VSTA secretary Vicki Moro said she was unsure of the reasons.

“More countries have trotting than pacing, so it’s the global gait, and I think there’s a romance to it, and a purity to it that appeals to people,” she said.

“But whatever it is, we’ve got a really exciting number of nominations for our awards this year, and I think a good part of the reason is simply the growing profile of square trotting.

“We’ve gone from having a base that was largely made up of dedicated hobbyists, to a lot of the major stables now having at least a couple of trotters, and some stables really concentrating on trotting.

“People like Chris Svanosio, Andy and Kate Gath, Alison and Chris Alford, the Cravens and the Lees have stepped back into square trotting and look like they will stay there, which is great.”

But it’s the hobbyists who kept the sport alive through the dark years, and Moro’s own story reflects the enduring and enigmatic appeal of the square-gaiter.

Her dad, Garry Jackson was a “dedicated square-trotters” man, who was a driver until he was 76 and trained a couple of young ones up until two years ago.

Garry Jackson before his last race drive five years ago on Mosquito Spur

“His best horse was called Lavender Storm who raced in the early 1990s.  He came from a broodmare dad bought for $40 off the late Kevin Muir and then dad won the service for her at a Moonee Valley members’ raffle. The ticket cost him a dollar, so he always said his best horse cost him $41 – and went on and won 15 races!” Vicki said.

“Dad grew up at Kyneton and he actually wanted to be a jockey. He used to hang around the stables and tracks when he was young, and he had an opportunity to be apprenticed – but his father wasn’t keen on him going to Melbourne. 

“So eventually, as a young adult, dad found his way into harness racing and has been in it ever since.”

Vicki and her husband Charlie live next door to Garry at Sebastian, north of Bendigo, and Garry’s lifelong interest in square-gaiters nurtured the family tradition. 

Vicki is a registered stablehand, their daughter Elle is a C-grade trainer and registered HERO retrainer and Charlie is a B-grade trainer, who took up an interest in horses only late in life.

“Charlie had literally barely put a hand on a horse until he retired 10 years ago.  Elle and I used to have riding horses and once Garry finished up work, he decided he wanted to get involved,” Vicki said.

“We bred our first foal in 2000 and she won the Redwood Consolation in 2002 – my younger brother trained and drove her and now it’s her line we are breeding from.  We breed a trotter every couple of years and Garry does work with our young ones, getting them in the cart and getting them going.

“Dad’s still a great source of information and ideas for us.  Whenever we have an issue, he’ll have an idea or suggest a bit of gear we can use.”

Vicki is newly appointed to the secretarial role at VSTA, replacing the long-serving Les Chapman, and was formerly the Executive Officer of the Bendigo Harness Racing Training School. 

She said it was exciting to be involved in the industry body at a time of rebounding interest.

“In Saturday night’s awards, the Bob Conroy Excellence Award received 10 nominations, the Dick Lee Rising Star had six people nominated, and the Redwood Encouragement Award has attracted 13 nominations – all to be awarded on the night when the inaugural Colin Redwood Memorial Trot Final will be run,” she said.

“It’s safe to say that was well beyond our expectations – but it reflects the growing interest.  So hopefully we will keep seeing more equity within the sport that reflects that.

“At the moment, from a business point of view, you wouldn’t be investing in trotters, but people are doing it for whatever reason.  We have some great supporters who are doing their bit to equalise stakes in cups and feature races, and we hope that direction continues.”

Tickets are available from Tabcorp Park Melton for Saturday night’s VSTA Awards.  The ticket cost of $39 includes a two course meal drinks at bar prices.


Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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