Legends returning to sulky for veteran drives trot at Bendigo

TEN veteran drivers with more than 11,000 wins between them will turn back the clock at the Bendigo Harness Racing Club’s Memorial Race Night on Friday.

Longlea's Brian Gath.

Longlea's Brian Gath.

The 10 veterans will compete in the night’s feature race – the $10,000 Oxley Feed Mills Veteran Drivers Trot.

Longlea-based Inter-Dominion-winning driver Brian Gath heads the list of competing master drivers with more than 3000 wins.

Newly-crowned Gordon Rothacker medallist Jim O’Sullivan based at Heathcote, as well as Elmore’s Cliff Powell are also among the field.

Other drivers competing are Peter Manning, Noel Shinn, Ginger Gleeson, Bill Spitiri and Russell Thompson, as well as new-comers John “Bulldog” Nicholson and Bridgewater’s Peter Rothacker.

The Veterans Drivers Trot will be raced over 2150m from 9.10pm and is the seventh of 10 races on the program.


Tella Tall Tale (Ginger Gleeson)

Shesasundon (Jim O’Sullivan)

Plumbers Pettycash (Peter Rothacker)

Very Belle (Noel Shinn)

Truscott Law (Russell Thompson)

Imagunnadogood (Brian Gath)

Kyvalley Vice (John Nicholson)

Tiroroa Tom (Peter Manning)

Meanwhile, seven of the races on the night have been named in honour of significant contributors to Bendigo district harness racing – Merv Dillon, Henry McDermott, Ted Manton, Ron Pocock, Les Pratt, Daphne and Ken Pocock and Bob Birthisel.

Oxley Feed Mill, Bendigo Veteran Drivers Trot Bios – by Noel Ridge

Brian Gath

A member of the famous Gath dynasty. Drove his first winner at the Royal Melbourne Show in 1960. Has trained and driven multiple champions from Corop McEwen to Bendigo Cup winner Safari. Brian won the 1978 Inter-Dominion Pacers Final with Markovina and finished second with Franco Tiger in 1992 and Shakamaker in 2002. Has driven in Europe and the U.S.A. Leading Vic driver: 73-73, 76-77, 80-81. Leading Victorian trainer: 80-81

Ginger Gleeson

Drove his first winner Gay Tonic, at Terang in 1967 aged 16. Freelanced for many big stables, with nine Group One winners, including Cunning Lad (Qld 4yo Championship), two Melbourne Pacing Cups with Constant Rhythm and Cunning Lad and a Shepparton Cup on Game Oro. Other wins include an Ouyen Cup with Go Van, Victoria Cup with Robert Preneur and two Trotters Oaks with Rainbow Idol and Rainbow Billy. Trains at Bacchus Marsh.

Peter Manning

Master trainer of juveniles before expanding to train a large team at Great Western. 2007 Rothacker medalist. His three training/driving daughters include world record holding driver Kerryn. Standout horses include star juveniles Kathryn Dancer, Pelicanrama and Boa Vista Lombo. Trained the champion international trotter Knight Pistol and 1996 Australian 2yo Pacer of the Year Sheza Mona. Continues to train a large team. Leading Australian trainer in 2004/o5. Leading Victorian trainer: 99-2000, 2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07.

John (Bulldog) Nicholson

Started in trotting by working for legendary trainers Sid McLean and Ron (Tubby) Peace. His first winner was Hospitality. John’s list of good winners includes Sammy Karamea, Landscape, Mi Coconut, Molly Darling, Ginger Bliss, Halyer, Marbles and Kid Coconut. Buster Punter was a favorite as King of the Claimers. In the early 1980s John won the Macau International Invitation Series, against drivers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA. Trains at Melton.

Jim O’Sullivan

Trained and drove standouts including Margaret Shannon, Quite Famous and It’s Motor Power. Jim is a dual Inter-Dominion winning driver, winning the 1987 Inter-Dominion Pacers Final with My Lightning Blue and the 1989 Inter-Dominion Trotting final with Yankee Loch. Trains locally at Heathcote. Leading Australian trainer 1978 and ’79.

Cliff Powell

Trains at Elmore. First winning drive at Bendigo was Convive. Cliff trained and drove Derby Royale to victory in the 1978 Inter-Dominion Trotter’s final in Melbourne to end Maoris Idol’s unbeaten streak. Has trained and driven many top pacers including Our Grattan (Ouyen Cup), Modern Man, Belgian Accent (Shepparton Cup) Bendigo Cup winner Taronga, and Paula Morley (Echuca Cup and Ladyship Cup).

Peter Rothacker

Member of the famous Rothacker family from Bridgewater and Serpentine. Son of Inter-Dominion winning owner/trainer/driver Eric. Hobby owner/breeder with wife Dianne. Peter won his first race at his first drive aged 16, on Go Go Girl at Echuca. Won races at the Showgrounds with Wigo. Alex won the Ararat, Horsham and Nyah Trotting Cups, Gazoline won the Boort Trotting Cup. Won the Tontine Pacers series with Kiwi Conference.

Noel Shinn

A member of the Shinn Family with a century of participation in trotting. Noel’s grand-father Hubert won races in four States and captured a Melbourne driving premiership in 1933/34, had 3 sons: Bill, Frank and Reg. Noel, son of Reg, has achieved the most Melbourne driving (158) and training (198) successes of any of the family. Had the first triple Victorian Sire Stakes champion Colbruce, and Inter-Dominion finalists Colbruce and Stormrider. Galarion won 10 of only 14 starts. Trains at Wallan.

Bill Spiteri 

Commenced driving his own trainees at the Showgrounds in 1961, but drove his first winner Provoke at the old Ararat track in 1962. Frayne Again 1975 and Wise Ruler 1976 won consecutive Maryborough Cups. Lara General and Frayne Again raced on in the USA. Brigadier General and Tee Cee Country were good winners for Bill. He trains a small team at Mt Cotterell.

Russell Thompson

Former New Zealander, based at Tatura. Russell trained and drove Banana Spring in 1971 to wins in the Central Victorian Championship and HR Boyd Cranbourne Cup. Holy Smoke was a star of the stable in 1987-88 when it won the Victorian Sires Stake and Nyah Cup. His trainees, champion trotting relatives Son of Flair and A Touch of Flair both won Victoria Trotting Derbies, while Mighty Maori won the rich Vicbred 4yo Trot. He bred the millionaire pacer Hector Jay Jay.