The late Don Ducat could have been forgiven for being a little nervous as he climbed into the sulky at Perth’s Gloucester Park in 1967 to drive Goulburn View in the final of the Inter Dominion Pacing Championship.
Picture: Rodney BraithwaiteVal and Geoff Hill with the 1966 Sunraysia Racing Cup. Val’s father Don Ducat took out the race with Goulburn View, earning the mare entry into the 1967 Inter Dominion Pacing Championship, where she ran third in the final.
Apart from the generous prize money up for grabs, Ducat stood to win a cool $100 000 on a bet he had made before the start of the series.
He had parted with $100 to back Goulburn View — a mare he bred, trained and drove — to win the final at the astronomical odds of 1000-1.
There was one nervous bookmaker on course that night, particularly after Goulburn View had beaten the favourite for the final Binshaw into second place in a heat and then had guaranteed herself a spot in the final with a third placing in another heat.
In the final, the bookie who stood to lose a small fortune was somewhat relieved when Goulburn View got caught outside the leader in the run.
The bookie was then seen cheering wildly when the tough run took its toll on Goulburn View, who was brave, but had to settle for third place behind the Frank Kersley-trained warm favourite Binshaw with Coneeda second.
Ducat’s son-in-law Geoff Hill, 87, recounted this fascinating story this week in the countdown to the opening round heats of the Inter Dominion at Melton tomorrow night.
Hill, who also trained some top pacers in his time including Smokey Ayr, Orandra Prince, Jack Springs, Dollar Trek, Brooklyn Smoke and Wonder Tonight when based at Nathalia, said the odds his father-in-law obtained for Goulburn View to win the series were so generous because it was not until a win near the deadline for the nominations that the sixyear-old mare secured a run in the series.
‘‘She won the Sunraysia Cup, which got her into the series,’’ Hill said.
Hill, who married Ducat’s daughter Val near the end of Goulburn View’s racing career, said he only had one drive on Goulburn View and that was in her swansong race.
‘‘Don bred her and drove her in all her races,’’ Hill, a Rothacker medallist who also partnered the first pacer Jack Springs to break the two-minute mile rate barrier at the current Shepparton track, said.
Ducat’s name was quickly revealed by many harness fans after Shepparton trainer Steve O’Donoghue asked this question last week: how many drivers from the Goulburn Valley region have driven in an Inter Dominion Pacing Championship series?
Four — Tom Brain, Scott Stewart, David Aiken and Bec Bartley — were quickly put forward, but Ducat was the obvious omission.
A Shepparton businessman, Ducat was a Goulburn Valley trots legend in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and actually produced two Inter Dominion finalists.
In 1954 at Adelaide’s Wayville’s saucer-sized track, he qualified Goulburn Monarch for the final with a heat win.
In the final, Goulburn Monarch Fond memories: finished in eighth place behind the winner Tennessee Sky, who was trained and driven by Western Australian horseman Frank Kersley.
It was 13 years later in 1967 when Ducat made his second appearance in an Inter Dominion series with Goulburn View, who was a son of Goulburn Monarch.
In one heat, Goulburn View finished second to the South Australian-trained champion Bon Adios with the series favourite Binshaw third.
In another heat Goulburn View finished third to Velocipide.
All three placegetters Binshaw, Coneeda and Goulburn View raced off a front mark handicap in the final.
One of harness racing’s legendary performers, the Kiwi mare Robin Dundee, finished fourth from a 36-yard (33 m) handicap in that race.
Avenel trainer David Aiken has the record for a Goulburn Valley horseman to produce the most Inter Dominion runners and finalists.
When based in Sydney, Aiken trained and drove Toby Duane, who finished in fifth place in the 1985 final to Preux Chevalier at Melbourne’s Moonee Valley track.
He followed this up with a second placing with Tiffs Mystery, who ran third to Our Maestro in the 1988 Harold Park final.
Aiken then went one better in 1994 with Ultra Jet, who finished runner-up to Weona Warrior in the final at Harold Park.
Since moving to Victoria, Aikentrained finalists have been Jaccka Clive (2013), Wartime Sweetheart (2014), Lennytheshark (2015 twice and last year) and Hectorjayjay (2016).
But Wartime Sweetheart is the only pacer Aiken drove in a series since being based in Victoria.
Lennytheshark actually made both finals in 2015 when they were run in the same year at Menangle in NSW, and at Gloucester Park in Western Australia.
Lenny finished sixth to Beautide at Menangle and then went all the way in Western Australia when he defeated Lovers Delight and Flaming Flutter in the final.
He also qualified for the 2016 final won by Smolda in Perth, but had to be withdrawn due to an injury.
He also made last year’s final, also in WA, finishing seventh to Lazarus before being retired as the Goulburn Valley’s best performed pacer and highest prize money earner.
Scott Stewart is the only GV horseman to drive an Inter Dominion winner, steering the Bob Knight-trained Jodies Babe to victory in 1989 in Perth when he was based at Kilmore.
Apart from his success on Jodies Babe, Stewart also qualified the brilliant pacer he trained and part-owned Bitobliss to make the final at Menangle in 2013 when they finished eighth to the WA superstar Imthemightyquinn.
Veteran Avenel horseman Kevin Murray is another driver who has experienced the thrill of driving in an Inter Dominion.
Although better known for appearances in the trotters division of the Inter Dominion with drives on such horses as Silken, Reteps Pride, Derby Royale, Grand Charge and Skipper Don, Murray recalled driving at least one pacer in an Inter Dominion championship.
‘‘I prepared and looked after the Tasmanian pacer Speedy Ben for Lindsay Rattray. He (Speedy Ben) missed by a point getting into the final won by Hondo Grattan,’’ Murray, who is almost 85 and lives at Avenel, said.
‘‘Speedy Ben won the consolation easily and was a pretty good horse and went on to win a lot of races in Western Australia.’’
In this year’s series starting tomorrow night, Shepparton’s Bec Bartley will join Aiken, Stewart and Ducat as Goulburn Valley drivers to compete in two or more Inter Dominions.
Bartley drives the Steve O’Donoghue-trained San Carlo, one of the top fancies for the series.
Bartley partnered San Carlo to a heat win and in the final in Perth last year.
Shepparton-based Peter Walsh, who helps his trainer wife Isabel prepare a team, but has never driven, produced Inter Dominion finalists and placegetters when training in Sydney in the 1990s.
One of his runners Late Bid, driven by Dennis Wilson, ran third in the final to Our Sir Vancelot in the 1998 Tasmanian series.
He also qualified Late Bid and Tibet for the 1997 final at Globe Derby in Adelaide, which Our Sir Vancelot also won.
While he also did not drive in an Inter Dominion, Kialla horseman Clive Dalton produced a Perth finalist, John Of Arc, in 2016 when based in WA.
John Of Arc finished ninth in the final, which the Mark Purdontrained and driven Smolda won.
John Of Arc is an emergency for the Victorian series.