Raymond Lowndes: Farewell to a great man
THERE are writers, and there are historians.
January 14 saw the passing of one of a rare breed, a man who had a beautifully balanced blend of the two crafts.
I write of Raymond Lowndes, carried off in his 71st year after a lengthy and debilitating illness.
Raymond spent all his spare time for many years, seeking out older trotting folk in the main.
He would sit down with a note pad and pen at the ready, ask the gentle but pertinent questions and accurately record the responses from owners, trainers and drivers, who had been there and done that.
No doubt, he edited the mountain of information that he took away but kept the bits that counted.
Because his characters were real, his words leapt off the page at the reader and dragged him or her back into the narrative to live the experience with the teller.
Raymond's true passion was show and small track racing from the standing start, and until his health failed he was a regular at Rocklea.
His first book Kedron to Albion Park in two volumes 1880 -1949 and 1950 - 1968 is indeed the history of light harness horses and people in Queensland from the "high wheeler" sulky to the dawn of the modern era with the switching on of the lights at "the Creek".
Quotes from the back covers of the two volumes show Raymond had a touch of Nostradamus about him.
"Some say that the real horsemen are all gone, and maybe they are right. Many were part timers, still are, the one horse at a time folk, who stuck it out until the old days of their sport vanished before their very eyes, to become the business that it is today.
"Harness racing in Queensland has come a long way from the old days. It used to have that magical quality that thoroughbred racing never had, and never will, that of getting the crowd in close proximity to the action on a small tight circuit. It was always the sport's greatest attraction".
The keeper of books is a keeper of many things good.
Raymond gave us the books, and our duty is to keep his memory alive in return.
Good turnout for AGM
It is with great pleasure to report the Rosewood Equestrian Group (REG) annual general meeting on Tuesday was a first-class confidence builder for members, with Maxine Ellison elected unopposed as president.
Seventy people turned up to provide the new committee with valuable feedback and, in turn, were sent away with a message to all the sporting horse associations that they represented, to the effect that REG needs the support of every sporting or performance horse body to make this project a reality.
Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, Ipswich West State Member Jim Madden and Division 10 councillor David Pahlke all threw their weight behind the Rosewood Equestrian Centre concept.
From here, it is upwards and on.
HRV bans standing starts
There is no doubt that while we are a long way past the accepted golden age of trotting, we are certainly well stuck into the age of change.
The latest blockbuster is the decision by Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) to ban standing start races for pacers.
From September, all races for the lateral gait will be started from the mobile barrier.
The rationale behind this move is said to be poor betting turnover from the stands.
Having observed standing starts in this country for some years, I understand why.
Down the ages, some skills have disappeared from daily use and are now as extinct as the dodo.
This latest effort is the result of successful co-operation between trainers and drivers who were apparently loath to put in the time required to teach horses to stand and go away in an orderly fashion, and administrators, who through lack of years missed the golden age.
Many are determined to leave their own brand on the game, whether it be for better or worse.
There must have been at least 50 retired trainers or drivers in Victoria who could have tutored HRV starters in how to control drivers and dispatch a field of horses in an efficient manner.
However, why would you take the benefit of their advice and throw stands for pacers in the too hard basket.?
One benefit could be a bit more punter focus on the trotters.
However, they would also be well served by the recruitment of a couple of the afore-mentioned retirees.
Selections for Albion Park tonight.
R 1: E/w 2: Five Card Draw (D. Graham).
R 2: Quinella 1-8: Galactic Eagle (S. Graham) and Supaliner (D. Graham).
R 3: E/w 4: Motu Miss Lilli (M. Neilson).
R 4: Box trifecta 1-3-4: Glenburn Red (S. Graham) - El Chango (C. Turpin-McMullen) - Regal Point (M.Neilson).
R 5: E/w 3: Always Prompt (T. Dixon).
R 6: E/w 2: Lancelot Bromac (H. Barnes).
R 7: E/w 5: Lady White Water (G. Whitaker).
R 8: E/w 6: Daytona Beach (R. Gorman).
The leaderboard shows Barty Cockburn as leading driver with five wins for the week and, in a week where many trainers had a winner, Cockburn made it a clean sweep with just two for the home team.
Most pleasing effort for the week was Arts Peregrine for Trent Knack; Brittany Graham had the reins.
Gold Coast at Albion Park, January 15: Zac Mac (Hayden Barnes for Darren Hooper); Gold Play (Barty Cockburn); Gallymont Sport (Trent Dawson for Geoff Dawson); Baileys Fernco (Kelli Dawson for John McMullen).
Albion Park, January 16: Montana Falcon (Brittany Graham for Darrell Graham).
Albion Park, January 19: American Legend (Barty Cockburn for Shannon Price); Bettor Promise (Barty Cockburn for Shannon Price).
Redcliffe, January 20: Toolijooa Dawn (Barty Cockburn); French Lesson (Brittany Graham for Tim Gillespie); Mighty Cold Mary (Pete for Jason Carkeet).
Gold Coast at Redcliffe, January 21: Aussie Vista (Pete for Martine Dwyer); Arts Peregrine (Brittany Graham for Trent Knack); One Four Seven ( Amy Rees for Dave Millard); Sir Pickles Yum Yum (Pete for Chantal Turpin-McMullen); Margins (Mark Dux for Phil Mitchell).