BERNIE Winkle has waltzed into the Victorian harness racing record books with a 36th win at Mildura's City Oval Paceway on Friday night.
The Bendigo-trained cult figure's win in the Window Cleaning Mildura Supports Pacing for Pink Pace cemented the nine-year-old gelding as the most winningest horse at a single Victorian track.
His remarkable feat broke a record that had stood for 30 years and was held by another horse with Bendigo region connections.
The champion trotter True Roman, trained by Graeme Johannesen at Sebastian, won 35 races at the former Melbourne headquarters of Moonee Valley in a career stretching from 1983 to 1992.
Those wins accounted for nearly half of the superstar's 73 race wins in a 135-start career.
READ MORE: Roman a true champion of the track
The record was knocked over in a relatively short racing span, but a long time coming in the end for the horse anointed as the 'King of Mildura' during a 10-race winning streak in 2020.
Bernie Winkle, trained at Strathfieldsaye by Julie Douglas, notched up Mildura win number 35 back on November 19.
The son of Rocknroll Heaven and Dolly McD had come up short in five subsequent attempts before Friday night, twice finishing second, including at his previous start on April 23.
In between Mildura wins, Bernie Winkle raced 18 times in total for two wins (one apiece at Mildura and Bendigo) and eight placings, in a sign of a pacer still racing in good form.
Fittingly, the record-breaking win came with Ellen Tormey in the sulky.
The Junortoun-based 31-year-old has sat behind Bernie Winkle in all of his last 19 wins at Mildura and 22 of his 57 overall career wins.
His owners Eric and Heather Anderson continue to marvel at their much-loved pacer's longevity, but are wholly humble when it comes to the subject of his record-breaking effort.
"I get a little bit blasé about it and don't get on much of a high, it's just another win. But he has been a magnificent horse for us," Eric Anderson said.
"And he hasn't finished yet.
"He's perfectly sound and will keep going around and when it's run to suit he will win.
"They've learned how he races and they drive accordingly against him at Mildura.
"The smaller fields suit him, the more horses in there the harder for him."
While not much good came from COVID, it proved a defining period in Bernie Winkle's career.
He was sent north by the Andersons during regional racing to be trained by good friend Geoff Lucas at Mildura.
It proved a masterstroke with the then seven-year-old rattling off 10 straight wins and 11 from 13 starts between April and October 2020, before his return to the Douglases.
"It was just an opportunity to keep him racing as there weren't many horses up there," Anderson said.
"And the free for all class was not standing up, so we thought we'd send him up there because you weren't allowed to travel.
"Geoff Lucas was up there and he looked after him.
"I guess that's part of why he's got the record, we won't get any (COVID lockdowns) again where the opposition are blocked out of it."
Anderson credited Glenn and Julie Douglas for the veteran pacer's continued health and form.
"I have no idea how long he will go on, but he is perfectly sound," he said.
"I don't see any reason why he won't go on for another 12 months.
"He's competitive wherever he goes and I guess, at the end of the day, it's testament to Glenn and Julie's training that this horse can go around and around - like most of our horses do - and stay sound."
I have no idea how long he will go on, but he is perfectly sound. I don't see any reason why he won't go on for another 12 months.- Eric Anderson
A similarly humble Tormey said while it was good to play a part in the record it was all credit to Bernie Winkle.
"He's been good to me," she sai
"It's taken a bit longer (than expected), but it wasn't a real major goal - but it is good to get there.
"If he'd never won another race you wouldn't be disappointed, but I think he deserved it.
"I don't see why he can't keep getting some wins. It worked out alright last night, but I may have to drive him a little bit differently if we go back to Mildura.
"But he's definitely racing well enough to say there's more in him.
"He's probably racing a little bit better at Melton than Mildura, just the way the races are run they aren't really suiting him at Mildura at the moment."
Tormey believed the record was all the more remarkable as it was basically achieved within one to two seasons of racing.
After starting his career in New Zealand in 2015, Bernie Winkle only had his first start at Mildura on August 24, 2018, and finished fifth, driven by Monique Burnett.
His first City Oval Paceway success came at his second run up north on October 2, 2018, driven by Glenn Douglas.
Of his 36 Mildura wins, 19 were driven by Tormey, nine by Shane Smith, three by Daryl Douglas, two apiece by Glenn Douglas and Burnett, and one by Andrew Stenhouse.
The overall Australian win tally on Bernie Winkle reads Tormey (22), Glenn Douglas (13), Smith (9), Burnett (5), Daryl Douglas (3), Stenhouse (1) and Josh Duggan (1).
His 57 wins and 63 placings from 254 starts have yielded $577,372 in prize money.
Bernie Winkle's record-smashing victory contributed to a double on the night for the stable following a win by the two-year-old Heathbern Bruce in the opening race.
Stable driver Jack Laugher also notched up a double with wins aboard Loyola Rocknrolla for Liparoo trainer Reece Moore and Heathbern Bruce.
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