A cavalcade of winners as local harness racing reaches a century

Red Chip, driven by local trainer-driver Robbie Newham, delivered the first sub-two minute mile at Albion Park in April, 1990.
Red Chip, driven by local trainer-driver Robbie Newham, delivered the first sub-two minute mile at Albion Park in April, 1990.

The Cowra Harness Racing Club will be celebrating 100 Years of Racing at the Cowra Showground, Racecourse and Paceway, with a race meeting on Sunday, September 8.

In the lead up to the day, the Cowra Guardian will be running a series of articles that arranges archival newspaper clippings and the club's historical records into stories looking at the faces and sponsors behind the club, the big events and any other curious moments that have occurred during the club's centenary.

Harness racing success knows no bounds

It is easy to forget that despite the glory days produced by the likes of Lawn Derby and Cocky Raider, Cowra's run of success with trotting continued well into the 1980's and 1990's, as recounted by former Cowra Guardian sports editor, the late Barry Doyle, in his "Golden Years of Cowra Harness Racing" edition from 2010.

Today we will be looking at some of the horses from that era of racing.

Red Chip breaks records at Albion, wins eight straight at Harold Park

Red Chip was eventually renowned for its dash, but despite wins at Forbes, West Wyalong, Young, Blayney, Dubbo, Parkes and twice in Cowra, it took races at the likes of Albion and Harold Park for the horse to gain its fearsome reputation.

Leased from Nyrang Creek breeder Clarrie Paton to former Cowra footballer Bill Negus along with his brothers Kevin and Stan and Lana Newham, the wife of trainer-driver Robbie Newham, the horse had a proudly local pedigree.

However, when it ran the first sub two minute mile at Albion Park in February 1990, the volume of chatter about the horse jumped through the roof.

The horse eventually won eight straight at Albion Park, with Barry Doyle describing the victories as mostly "good margins", with the horse's success in Sydney becoming so regular, a long-term decision was made to move the horse there with Sydney's Richard Hancock.

The horse would then go on to win the Wagga Gold Cup, before making the finals of the 1993 Inter-Dominion Championships, failing to place.

While the horse soon retired, passing away at the age of 10 due to a snake bite, as Kevin and Bill Negus said to Doyle, they'll always have fond memories of the horse.

"He gave us a life-time of pleasure, something you just can't describe and will always be very special to all of us," they said.

Alitomo makes its mark

Educated by Anne O'Connor and driven by Peter O'Connor, Alitomo had a big run of success in the mid to late 1990's, including taking out the NSW Sires Stakes at Harold Park in 1996.

The O'Connors, who are both current committee members of the Cowra Harness Racing Club, as well as their daughter, Michelle Crook, had a considerable run of success with the filly, who won 42 races and placed in 34 of her 117 starts.

Michelle Crook would also go on to drive Alitomo's daughter Imatomo.

Riband's Way a high achiever

Winning twelve races as a three-year-old would be enough to secure any horse's place in history, but Riband's Way - the winner of the 1981 Cowra and Young Horse of the Year awards - managed to add even more titles to its name over the course of its career.

The horse, owned by Bill - who also trained and drove the gelding - and Colin Dolbel, would finish up with 18 wins, 16 seconds and nine thirds, and as Doyle describes, its performance in the "Millgate Horse Float" was one that is still thought of highly.

"After sitting three wide for the entire trip he still found the courage to pull away in the straight for a convincing win, returning to the enclose to very generous applause," Doyle wrote.

Linking the then to now

For the forthcoming September 8 meet, the club would like to extend an open invitation to as many ex-presidents, administrators, committee members, auxiliary members, owners, trainers and drivers, as well as supporters from the town of Cowra and further afield, who have kept this club going for the past 100 years.

Entry to the meeting will be by gold coin donation to the Cowra Hospital Auxiliary, while there will also be mini trotting and entertainment for kids and adults, plus food, coffee vans and bar facilities.

The day's feature event, the Centenary Cup, will be a 2970m race and features a $10,000 prize pool, promising to be a memorable event for patrons who attend the day.

The club is also still searching for any memorabilia that could be used to help set up race-day display to celebrate the occasion.

Race books, photos, racing colours and write-ups that people may have tucked away somewhere are all welcome. Don't hesitate to email the club at cowraharnessracing@outlook.com if you have anything.

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