CULT Bendigo-trained pacer Bernie Winkle will be chasing another spot in Victorian harness racing history when he lines up in the $14,500 Summer Cup (2190m) at Mildura on Monday night.
The Julie Douglas-trained eight-year-old already owns the record for the most number of wins at Mildura's City Oval Paceway with 35.
A 36th would make him the most winningest horse in history at a single Victorian harness racing track.
Affectionately referred to as 'The King of Mildura', Bernie Winkle currently shares that honour with the former champion trotter True Roman, who scored 35 wins at Moonee Valley, during a stellar 10-year career for trainer Graeme Johannesen at Sebastian.
Bernie Winkle drew level with True Roman with his win on November 19, but did not return to Mildura until December 20 when he finished a narrow second behind Cullenburn, following three-straight appearances at Melton.
Glenn Douglas, who has shared training duties with wife Julie for the bulk of Bernie Winkle's career, said it went without saying all associated with the much-loved pacer would love to tick off the record on Monday night.
"He was probably robbed a little the other night, the horse (Cullenburn) got up the inside down the back straight and it ultimately cost him," he said.
"I was hoping we would get it done by the end of this year, so this is the last chance for that.
"He's certainly up and about. It will depend on race pattern of course, but it's over the longer journey, which suits his racing, so, hopefully, we can break that record."
Douglas believed a record-breaking win would be a fitting finale to a prolific year for the horse and stable, but a tough year on many fronts due to the COVID pandemic.
"It's been a tough year for all the wrong reasons, but he certainly gives us a little shine with his antics," he said.
"Bernie is Bernie to us, he's a lovely horse, but no star. To look back and see the things that he has done, it lifts us all up a bit and we smile about it."
Bernie Winkle, by Rock N Roll Heaven out of the mare Dolly McD, has been a revelation over the past 21 months, starting with the introduction of regional racing in April 2020.
I was hoping we would get it done by the end of this year, so this is the last chance for that.- Glenn Douglas
Boasting a previous record of four wins from 13 Mildura starts, Bernie Winkle was sent north by owners Eric and Heather Anderson soon after the start of the regional lockdown, to be based with Sunraysia trainer Geoff Lucas.
He responded by rattling off 10 straight wins and another one from his next three starts before his return to Strathfieldsaye to be trained by Julie Douglas.
He has since racked up another 20, with all but two of them with Bendigo's Ellen Tormey in the sulky.
Those 20 victories included a run of 10 from 11 starts between April and early-July this year.
Glenn Douglas, who was aboard Bernie Winkle for his first-ever Mildura victory in October 2018, said the record would be great and totally deserving recognition for a job well done by Tormey.
It would be another milestone in a career-best season for the 31-year-old, who has driven 119 winners, highlighted by a swag of country cup wins aboard the Kate Hargreaves-trained Well Defined and 17 in total on Bernie Winkle, and earlier this year passed 700-career wins.
"It's been an amazing season for Ellen, driving over 100 winners, and I'm sure she's always going to remember Bernie as part of that," Douglas said.
"Whether she ever gets 100 (in a season) again, we hope so and we think so. She is a great young talent.
"She will always hold Bernie in a special spot.
"And for the people, who talk about Bernie at other race tracks and watch him, he's a little bit of a cult hero."
Douglas anticipates their rivals will again make life tough for Bernie Winkle, but he is backing in the veteran pacer to produce something special and brave, as he has in many of his Mildura triumphs.
"The problem is he is generally the one to beat and now they drive just to beat Bernie," he said.
"It puts a target on his back and makes it very tough for him.
"But the fact he keeps sticking his head out, races week-in, week-out and travels the nine hours - four-and-a-half there and back - and performs to the best of his ability, means he is just a wonderful horse.
"It kind of snuck up on us a bit that he had won so many, but now it's something we all have a bit of a chuckle about."
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