By David Gilbert
A TRUE CHARACTER
NOT only was the Millicent community reeling this week from the deaths of three members of the Walker family in a road accident at Compton last Saturday.
So too was the racing fraternity in the Limestone Coast as 80-year-old Ian “Ned” Walker was one of the real characters of local racing and very well known at all five local racetracks.
For several decades, Ned plied his trade as a trainer with plenty of success along the way.
He was also a staunch supporter – and committeeman – of the Millicent Racing Club and was awarded life membership 20 years ago.
You always knew where you stood with Ned as he called “a spade a spade” and he had definite views on most subjects.
Yes, the man in the Akubra hat could be stubborn, a villain and known to tread on toes from time to time, but his hearty laughter, cheeky grin, laid back approach to life, love of a beer and raucous barracking for his horses is something we will always fondly remember..
His biggest thrill in racing was back in 2002 when his good, middle distance performer General Magic, part owned by the Walker family, won the Millicent Cup which sparked celebrations for days.
It was the mare Lionhearted Girl who helped Ned make his name on the Adelaide racing scene with three wins in town in the space of seven months back in 2013.
In more recent times, Bear Arms started to make a name for herself, especially on rain-affected tracks, with four wins in the past 15 months on local tracks.
Earlier in his career, Ned dabbled in the jumping game and Prince Of Diamonds won five races over the hurdles in this region in the mid 1990’s.
You could write a book on what Ned got up to as he ventured through life and he never lacked any front as this following story will illustrate.
Around seven years ago, Ned took a couple of horses to race at the Oakbank carnival over Easter.
He decided to make it a mini holiday by taking quite a few family members along and they camped at the back of the Oakbank racecourse.
I met up with Ned on Easter Saturday at the races and he suggested I meet him in the member’s enclosure and join him for a drink in the committee room after race three.
Generally, the only people who go into the committee room are the winning owners after each race who are invited into the inner sanctum by a committee member.
Oakbank, well known for its upper crust hierarchy over the years, have always been very particular as to who congregates in its shrine.
Ned’s horse failed to win that day but, true to his word, he was there to usher me past the security personnel into the committee room where, I was surprised to find, all of Ned’s camping entourage had already gathered.
We had a drink in the beautiful old room – which must be close to being heritage listed – before I thanked Ned and went to leave.
“Don’t rush off, stay and have a couple more,” Ned urged.
Curiosity got the better of me and I asked Ned who had invited him into the committee room.
“I invited myself,” Ned answered without batting an eyelid, adding “I figured that as I had brought a couple of runners up here to race, plus we are camping out the back for a few days and spending money locally, the least the club could do was shout us all a few drinks.”
Ned was not a big punter but seldom did a Walker trained runner go around without Ned having a wager.
He loved bantering with bookmakers and his forthright approach ensured he got the best odds on the planet about his runners.
If his horse was a $5 chance, Ned would demand – not request – at least $8 or better from the bookie.
“Because he was such a nice fella, most times he got the odds he wanted,” Mount Gambier bookmaker Darren Guthridge confessed.
“He would always have at least $5 on his horse but if he pulled out a pineapple ($50 note) you knew he was pretty confident.”
The Walker’s racing colours flag (white and yellow) has fluttered at half mast on the flagpole at the stables near the Millicent airport since the tragedy.
TAKING GIANT STRIDES
TO say the Belinda O’Loughlin trained galloper Black Syrah has come a long way in a short space of time is an understatement.
Back in early June the gelding won his maiden at Casterton and last Saturday chalked up his fifth win at start number 11.
That was at his first start in Adelaide after winning in the interim at Gawler, Bordertown and Penola.
The four year old is unbeaten at both runs this time in work, putting the writing on the wall for a promising campaign by coming from last at the 300-metre mark to win in BM 68 grade at Penola four weeks ago.
Taking the next step up to BM 72 grade in the city was another big test for Black Syrah last weekend and he passed with flying colours to take his career earnings to $71,914.
For his 20 owners around Mount Gambier and up in the Riverland, he has already turned out to be a bargain buy.
“It’s looking better all the time,” delighted trainer Belinda O’Loughlin told the media post race in reference to the gelding’s purchase price of $12,000 at the Adelaide Magic Millions sales.
“He has a great turn of foot and it was a pretty ride by Caitlin (Jones).”
Black Syrah was always steady in the market at around the $6 quote and the win gave Jones a winning treble in as many races.
BACK FROM A SPELL IN STYLE
FORMER Victorian galloper Heir Of Tavistock found the right place to win his first race since joining the Richard Wilson stable earlier this year.
That was at metropolitan level last week on the Morphettville Parks circuit when the five-year-old gelding led from pillar to post in the 1550-metre BM 64 handicap.
Although it was conducted on a Wednesday, the meeting held Saturday status after the meeting was transferred from the previous Saturday due to the COVID lock down.
At his first campaign for Wilson earlier this year, Heir Of Tavistock did not show the form that had seen him win three races in Victoria and, in one run, was a well-beaten $1.35 favourite in a race at Bordertown.
“When we got him, he had been in work a long time and he had probably had enough racing,” Wilson explained.
Heir Of Tavistock won a trial at Penola in October and resumed this current campaign with a fifth in Adelaide followed by a third at Penola last month.
With the benefit of those two runs, Wilson headed to town where, to the delight of his big band of more than 20 owners, Heir Of Tavistock ($7-$6.50) delivered the goods.
After being seriously challenged by Exalted Traveller half way up the straight, Heir Of Tavistock rallied strongly for apprentice Jessica Eaton to score by a long neck.
“He will go back to Adelaide for a 1500-metre BM 68 race on December 11,” Wilson said.
It has been a good 12 months for Wilson at city level, having won two metropolitan races at Gawler last summer with the ill fated Pickelhaube.
Prior to that, his last city winner was Rocky Camp way back in 2010.
FLEW THE FLAG FOR THE LOCALS
IT would not be a Southern Cross series each year at Globe Derby without strong input from South East pacers.
Sixteen locals headed to town last Saturday to compete in the heats and one locally trained pacer came home with the spoils.
That was the Kevin Von Duve trained Springfield Affair ($2.80), who made it three wins from his past five starts in taking out a heat for two-year-old colts and geldings.
A good Gaita Pullicino drive saw Springfield Affair end up in the one-one sit and he finished too strongly for the odds-on favourite Major Reason.
The Andrew Clarke owned Urbadboy, these days trained by Kelvin Barker, looked the goods in winning his heat for three-year-old colts and geldings.
On Monday, Allendale East trainer David Kemp had success at Globe Derby with Star Of Courage ($1.55 fav.) in the NR47-54 pace.
CROWDS (up to 1,000) are again most welcome at both the Penola gallops meeting this afternoon and the Mount Gambier harness meeting next Tuesday evening.
Penola has a big, nine-race program commencing at 12.10pm where a couple of good bets could be Olatunji (race five) and Bossy Britches (each way) in the last race.
Former jockey Holly McKechnie is now a trainer and she will have her first runners in South Australia at Penola.