Picture: Rob Williams
Picture: Rob Williams

Tribute to high-riding Dave Rodger



AS year follows year, so the numbers of harness owners, trainers and drivers who competed at the Ipswich showground every Saturday, until its metamorphosis into a greyhound facility in 1981, continues to dwindle.

Last Wednesday, Dave Rodger went to his rest after a long battle with illness.

Born in 1942, Dave - like so many other sons of Ipswich - served an apprenticeship at the Railway workshops, his chosen trade being that of a fitter/welder.

He played A Grade rugby league for the Railways side in the Ipswich competition, and later for the Carlton team during a stint at Mackay.

He was also one of that mad breed, a rodeo man, making numerous appearances at the Exhibition.

Dave's first contact with horse racing came from the thoroughbred side, riding regular trackwork for trainer Merv Johnson.

He came into harness almost by accident, while running his own welding business at One Mile.

In the course of an afterwork thirst quencher at the nearby pub, he met the owner of an up and coming pacer Peerless Prince, and bought into the gelding on the "off chance", as you do. With the gelding then being stabled at Fred Phelps' what was a casual purchase proved to be a marriage made in heaven, with the new trainer's colours of "yellow, purple sash and black sleeves" finding the winner's circle on some 30 occasions, including six at Albion Park.

The Dave Rodger show was up and running.

A move to the back of the RAAF Base at Three Mile resulted in a steady flow of horses from the Melbourne identities G D Wilson, and Mick Meehan, including Meadow Valley and Melbas Dream.

The stallion Great Chase stood briefly at Three Mile, and a mating with Melbas Dream produced Melbas Girl, another 30 plus success story.

Jacks A Fake and Knuckle Down were other prolific winners.

Dave surrendered his trainer's licence 15 years ago, handing the reins to son David, a good trainer and specialist horse breaker and educator in his own right.

A decade ago, father and son moved to Tarampa to set up a showplace training establishment. Dave was also a bird and poultry fancier, with colourful game fowls, parrots and peacocks to provide a moving rainbow as a background to the horse activities at Three Mile.

Ipswich Showground was a haunt of harness characters.

David Rodger was one of these and will be sorely missed, as he will be missed at Marburg.

That is where he, ill or not, was there to keep tabs on his love affair with harness.

Watch the QT for funeral arrangements.

Time to come clean

WHAT is happening in the battle to restore harness in Townsville?

Question on notice by Nick Dametto MP. Don't sell or state assets.

Today, I submitted this question on notice to the Premier, asking for her to come clean on potential asset sales. I look forward to her written response.

When what is known as 1300 Smiles Stadium was opened in October 1985 by Racing Minister Russ Hinze, he stated that this was the people of Townsville's stadium, also revealing, that no money was owing on it. The land was donated by the Kern Corporation, to the people of Queensland.

Now rumours are circling that the Government is trying to sell this public asset.

Will the Premier ensure this Queensland asset is not sold, and work with the people of Townsville to repurpose this stadium so that multiple users can enjoy this asset.

Nick Dametto MP.

Vital needs

WE have to thank Pace magazine feature writer Duane Ranger, for this insight into the hopes, aspirations and successes of a man who was once representative of the base of a very strong harness pyramid.

It was a pyramid supported by that now threatened species, "the owner-trainer-driver".

John Ballin reckons he won't be on the hunt for a new driver of veteran trotter Myrtle Beach any time soon.

It's not that the Rosewood horseman chops and changes, or gets grumpy with who steers his Armbro Invasion mare.

Ballin owns, trains, drives, and bred the nine-year-old, who notched up her second career win in 44 starts at Albion Park last Friday.

Ballin sat patiently in the trail throughout the $6,590 Trotters Discretionary Handicap, and then sprinted late along the passing lane to get the decision right on the line.

"I thought I finished third because the others were rushing at us, it was a pleasant surprise," Ballin said. "She's the only horse I've got in work and she's done pretty well considering she never started racing until she was seven.''

The 59-year-old said he had been a hobby trainer for more than 40 years and was delighted that Myrtle Beach had now won her second race. She also nailed a $13,000 QBRED bonus for winning race seven at Redcliffe on October 29.

"She likes Redcliffe but has really taken to Albion Park lately," Ballin said.

"She placed here the start before, and it's just so encouraging to see her do well after the severe drought we experienced.

"Her mother was a nice pacer, she won four races and placed 23 times.

"Love Shack was actually dual-gaited and won two races trotting and two pacing, but this girl is strictly a trotter."

Ballin, who has been breeding his own stock for many years, rates Cottonwood Valley (12 wins and 14 placings) as his best performer so far.

His next project, and possibly his last homebred, is a yearling gelding by Grin fromeartoear from Cottomwood Valley.

"I'm not saying Myrtle Beach is as good as Cottonwood Valley, but she's still got a bit of time to prove herself further.

"She's rising 10 now and I'll keep racing her until she tells me she's had enough, but I can see no reason why she can't keep going next season.

Perseverance and patience are cornerstones of the John Ballin philosophy. He is a living example of one of two major needs in Queensland harness.

They are owner-trainer-drivers and recreational punters.

Honour board

BACK to the lower Brisbane Valley. Leading trainers were Chantal Turpin and Ron Sallis, each responsible for four winning performances.

Narissa McMullen took driving honours, just the bare six wins for the week.

Most pleasing were Elzboy, for Steve Towns with Chloe Butler in the sulky, and Myrtle Beach, courtesy of the full package supplied by John Ballin. Ipswich factor: 27/55.

Albion Park, June 12: Montana Chief (Trent Lethaby for Stephanie Graham); Living Grand (Danielle McMullen for Steven Furey); Elzboy (Chloe Butler for Steve Towns); Awesome Ollie (Narissa McMullen); Myrtle beach (John Ballin).

Albion Park, June 13: The Money Ball (Narissa McMullen for Steve Cini); Jumping Jolt (Matt Elkins for Greg Elkins); My Mate Pog (Narissa McMullen for Steve Cini); Ultimate Ad (Danielle McMullen for Ryan Vievers);Wink And Its Over (Lachie Manzelmann for Ron Sallis); Our Delight (Pete McMullen for Chantal Turpin); Garland Greene (Narissa McMullen for Steve Cini).

Redcliffe, June 14: Elms Creek (Taleah McMullen for Ron Sallis); Valoroso Hanover (Lachie Manzelmann for Ron Sallis); Gwendalion (Matt Elkins for Dan Russell); Man From Bravos (Narissa McMullen for Ron Sallis); Malibu Dream (John Cremin for Peter Donhoe).

Albion Park, June 16: Is Something Burning (Pete McMullen for Chantal Turpin); Garland Greene (Narissa McMullen for Steve Cini); Dattitude (Justin Elkins for Donny Smith); Will The Wizard (Pete McMullen for Chantal Turpin).

Redcliffe, June 17: Maywyn Jewel (Kelli Dawson); Gidup Darcy (Shane Graham for Jay Edmunds).

Albion Park, June 18: Indefensible (Trent Moffat for Kay Crone); Joey Lincoln (Brendan Barnes for Alistair Barnes); Chanceless Century (Pete McMullen for Chantal Turpin); Notorious (Danielle McMullen for Ryan Veivers).

Handy tips

Selections for Albion Park tonight.

R1: Quinella 8-10: Jumping Jolt (J Elkins) and Ultimate Ad ( D McMullen).

R2: Box trifecta 1-3-8: Blue Moon Rising B Graham)-Killara Kaos (G Dixon)-Oyster Stride (Z Chappenden).

R3: E/w 2: Tomeara (C Geary).

R4: Quinella 3-6: Kotare Elite (I Ross) and Corsini (S Graham).

R5: E/w 3: Cobalt Blues (B Graham).

R6: Box trifecta 1-8-10: Speech Is Silver (A Garrard)-Mark Of Integrity (A Sanderson)-El Gran Senor (N Dawson).

R7: Box trifecta 1-2-9: Lining Grand (D McMullen)-Heart Of Cooper (K Rasmussen)-Just Joshin (N Dawson).

R8: Box trifecta 6-7-10: Major Cam (K Rasmussen)-Glenferrie Hood (P McMullen)-Colt Thirty One (G Dixon).

R9: Fist four 2-9-10-11: Jeddyaryaready (K Rasmussen)-Just a bit Noisy (B Barnes)-Quietly Spoken (N McMullen)-Northern Muscle (P Diebert).

R10: Box trifecta 2-3-6: With The Band (P Diebert)-Saint Kilda Beach (G Dixon)-Goddess Jujon (T Dixon).

R11: E/w 1: Having The Faith (Z Chappenden).