Day At The Track
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Harness racing veteran reinsman Jim O’Sullivan, who makes no secret of still having an unbelievable love of the game, wound back the clock at Swan Hill this week. The highly respected horseman, now in his early 70s, showed fine touch to take out the Elliott Print Pace with brown gelding Sands Of Zanzibar (Art Colony USA-Spy Games (Armbro Operative USA) in one of his rare visits to the far north-west circuit. After not showing much gate speed at all, the pair found themselves buried three back the pegs early on.  But O’Sullivan was quick to pop off into the one-out two-back position, then got shuffled back to near-last with 600 metres to go. A well-timed run out five wide saw Sands Of Zanzibar snatch a narrow win. O’Sullivan, based at Heathcote, near Bendigo, is well remembered through the deeds of terrific horses like My Lightning Blue, winner of the 1987 Inter Dominion grand final at Christchurch; Yankee Loch who took the 1991 Trotters Inter at Moonee Valley and multiple cups winner Quite Famous, purchased from the Charles family at Mildura. O’Sullivan enjoyed a tremendous relationship with big-spending owner Alan Hunter in the heady days of the 1980s and 90s. Another more recent highlight was becoming the 17th recipient of the Gordon Rothacker Medal In 2017. These days O’Sullivan trains a small team and can be found helping out other trainers with farrier duties, as well as cheering on his daughter Shannon, who is steadily making her mark as a talented junior driver. A passionate and successful competitor in the annual Indigenous Drivers’ Series in NSW in recent years, Danny Gibson, is again wearing a huge smile. Gibson, who lives at Elrington, near Cessnock (two hours north of Sydney), made the long trip to Albury on Tuesday along with nine other drivers. The popular hobbyist took the honors in the HRNSW and Tabcorp Park heat, landing 3yo filly Madame Annie (Sportswriter-Madame Lily (John Street North USA) for trainer Robert Walters. Madame Annie showed her customary gate speed and was well rated by Gibson, who had a handy eight metre advantage up his sleeve at the finish. The mile rate was a creditable 2.00 for the 2170m journey. Gibson and his wife Janelle aren’t afraid to travel.  Earlier this year they hit the road for a 13 hour trip to campaign with two horses at the famous NSW Silver City mining town of Broken Hill. They tasted success with Evils Afoot and enjoyed a holiday to remember! Danny and Janelle Gibson Buyers at this Sunday’s Shepparton Mixed Sale have some interesting opportunities to invest in the bloodlines of promising sire Auckland Reactor (Mach Three – Atomic Lass (Sokys Atom), who’s continuing to get winners on both sides of the Tasman. Offspring of the former champion NZ pacer were again to the fore this week, winning in good style in WA and NSW. Chestnut gelding Gold Horseshoe (Auckland Reactor-Aussie Vision (Grinfromeartoear) looked good at Pinjarra for trainer Colin Reeves and driver Morgan Woodley. Sent out the punters’ elect at $2.30 fav, the three-year-old came with a late rush and proved too good. Astute NSW trainer Dean Chapple produced Aucklander (Auckland Reactor-Leagueoferown (Fake Left) to land the money at Tamworth on Thursday. Chapple took the reins and had a four-metre advantage over his rivals on the line. One lot at the Shepparton sale that will generate interest from buyers is the magnificent-looking Lot 27 weanling filly.  The youngster, out of Passionate Embrace, is one of several offered on behalf of clients by Alabar Farms. There’s also an unnamed colt by Auckland Reactor out of Elegant Art. Breeders should also take note of broodmare Kitty Macguire (Badlands Hanover-Tuapeka Dancer) who has a positive to Auckland Reactor. The Shepparton sale starts at 12 noon. Auckland Reactor Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Nothing – not even a 10-day suspension – could wipe the smile from harness racing driver Shannon O’Sullivan’s face at Tabcorp Park Melton, on Monday night. Four months after gaining her B-grade driver licence, the 18-year-old from Heathcote broke through for her first win when she partnered the Frank Pangrazio-trained Showgun Thomas to victory in the night’s opening race. The overdue win came in her 52nd race start and not before her fair share of near misses with six seconds and five thirds for a tidy win and places to starts ratio of 24 per cent. O’Sullivan, who is the daughter of harness racing legend and 2017 Gordon Rothacker medallist Jim O’Sullivan, said it was an amazing feeling to finally break the drought. “It was a great feeling …. I was smiling going across the line and I couldn’t stop smiling after the race,” she said. “It was great that dad was there too. “Dad drove me down to Melton because we had two horses in at Maryborough a couple of hours beforehand. I had to drive them first and then be in Melton for the first (race). “I got another second and a fifth at Maryborough and then the win at Melton.” The win led to some good-natured ribbing between daughter and father, who has literally driven and trained thousands of winners during a 50-year career in the sport. Shannon went one-up on her famous father as the first of the pair to score a win at the headquarters of Victorian harness racing. “Dad reminded me afterwards that he had never won at Melton and then he told me I had done something else he hadn’t and that was win a race going 1:54, which he never had,” she said. “It’s probably the best place to win a race and it’s good to be one-up on dad, which is very surprising.” The good-natured and polite young driver said she had been quietly confident of ending her winless streak when first offered the drive by Pangrazio. Showgun Thomas, a five-year-old gelding, had won his previous two races for his Lockington-based handler at Echuca on New Year’s Day and Swan Hill (January 11). “He had good form and had ran good times - I’ve been at the races and watched him race and he’s a very consistent horse,” O’Sullivan said. “I thought if I got the right drive and got a good position then we would be a very big chance of winning it. “I was confident in the horse in being able to do a lot of work and still being able to finish off the race.” A humble O’Sullivan, who is weeks away from starting her Bachelor of Exercise Science at La Trobe University, copped her suspension on the chin and already has a few drives lined-up for her return on February 2. She hoped her breakthrough win and knack for rarely being outside the top five in her races would lead to increased opportunities going forward. “I got a couple of phone calls after my win asking could I drive and I was like ‘I’m so sorry I can’t’,” O’Sullivan said. “That’s racing – it happens. I coped it because I knew I was in the wrong.” By Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of The Bendigo Advertiser

Jim O’Sullivan is the toast of Victorian trots after last night becoming the 17th Gordon Rothacker Medal recipient. The popular horseman had his name immortalised, etched alongside an illustrious list of legendary harness racing luminaries at a gala function at Crown’s Palladium room. The chorus of congratulatory messages for O'Sullivan was unsurprising. He is as famous for his willingness to provide advice and assistance to fellow participants as he is for his association with My Lightning Blue and a cavalcade of other stars. “I love this game,” O’Sullivan said. “My dad was in it – he ran second in a Harold Park premiership in 1941 or something. I was about five when dad gave it away … then when I got older I’d work a horse before school … it’s been a magic ride.” O’Sullivan was 15 when he started working horses, and today at 71 he’s still training and driving. “People say ‘when’s the next champion coming along’, and I tell them she’s right here,” O’Sullivan said, pointing at daughter Shannon, who only recently made her debut in the sulky. “She’s driving exceptionally well … and if you’ve got a horse you should put her on." He also sang the praises of daughter Tracey, who, notably in 1990, won a Hunter Memorial aboard Our Brenray (which Jim trained). “I remember that well because she beat me,” he recalled (Jim was driving Its Motor Power, which finished a half-head in second). The 1987 Inter Dominion Grand Final win of My Lightning Blue at Christchurch remains O’Sullivan’s most famous triumph, but Quite Famous won 22 cups himself and holds a special place in the horseman’s heart. “There wasn’t much between them actually,” he said comparing Quite Famous with My Lightning Blue. “Quite Famous was a magnificent looking horse. He was beautiful. If you could pick a horse on looks he’d be the perfect racehorse.” O’Sullivan and My Lightning Blue also won the New Zealand Trotting Cup in 1987, and it took until 2015 for another Australian driver to capture that race. It was Rothacker medallist Kerryn Manning who broke O’Sullivan’s title as ‘last Aussie NZ Cup winner’ when she guided Arden Rooney to victory. O’Sullivan’s association with owner Alan Hunter served him extremely well in the heady trots days of the 1980s and 90s. Hunter’s willingness to tip in good money to ensure O’Sullivan had quality stock ensured a steady stream of talented racehorses in the stable. “Alan was a great winner but he was an equally great loser, too, and you have got to be able to take the good with the bad in racing,” O’Sullivan said. In 1991, O’Sullivan combined with trotter Yankee Loch to win the Trotters Inter Dominion at Moonee Valley, another career highlight. But there have been many, with other top horses like Its Motor Power, Margaret Shannon and Our Brenray (who won three Terang Cups and is the only horse to have done so) also providing fantastic memories, silverware and photos on the wall. Stormy Morn’s win in the 1981 Australasian Trotting Championship Final at Moonee Valley too holds a special place in O’Sullivan’s heart. His deeds on the racetrack are well-known to long-time trots fans, but the Rothacker Medal is never awarded for that alone, and O’Sullivan’s model integrity record and willingness to volunteer his time (in addition to helping anyone who asks, O’Sullivan spent 15 years on the Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association executive, two as Vice-President) certainly carried weight. Like Carl O’Dwyer (2016 Rothacker Medal recipient), O’Sullivan is also a trusted farrier for many stables. In fact, his trots knowledge across just about all facets of the industry would be as close to encyclopaedic as we have. “It’s funny, when I was in Brisbane I won the Australian trainer’s title twice … and I trained no more than 25. I drove them all myself,” O’Sullivan said. “It was a little bit different. People now train 60-odd horses … I don’t know how they do it.” O’Sullivan is based in Heathcote and continues to train a team of horses. Find out more about Harness Racing Victoria's Gordon Rothacker Medal Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

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