Picture: Rob Williams
Picture: Rob Williams

‘Realist’ Des one of best


UNDER the dark cloud of Covid-19, life begins and life ends.

There was no ray of light to pierce the gloom on Tuesday night when the life of W. D. (Des) Weeks came to a close in his 81st year.

It was the final chapter in a story which diverted from harness racing, perhaps a decade back, and slipped into the land of shades that is dementia.

It is often stated that the Marburg trialing operation lifted Ipswich trainers from obscurity to centre stage.

That is basically true but there was a very small group who didn’t need any lifting. Des fell into that category.

Des raced everywhere, and he won everywhere. He trained ordinary horses and better horses and placed each in their correct category, conditioned to the minute.

He had no peer as a driver in Queensland, or anywhere else for that matter.

Des was a realist who could bring a writer into focus mode very quickly.

When I interviewed him on the Monday following his win partnering the John Stariha owned and trained Scientific to victory in a heat of the Inter-dominion Championship at Albion Park, he destroyed my illusion that this had been his great moment in trotting.

“Any heat or final at the EKKA is a bigger deal than that,’’ WD said.

“Just imagine, 25,000 people nearly close enough to touch, screaming for any or all of the six runners,’’ he said. “The atmosphere is electric.”

A small selection of his better horses included Shuttle Drive (55 starts for 15 wins, nine seconds and six thirds banking $88,739 along the way); Callaghan Kid (201-28-26-39 for $58,378); Spin Point (132-15-20-8 totaling $78,463); and McWilski (143-17-32-19 and $57,717).

All up, WD’s career stats from the 80/81 season to 2009/10 are: Training - total runners 3889 for 573 wins, 1129 seconds, 592 thirds and 537 fourths earning $905,266.

Driving 1980/81 to 2007/08: He went around on 3592 occasions, for numbers of 555-1037-554-483 and $873,096.

None of the above was an accident. It was achieved by skill and bolstered by hard work.

He had around him a hardcore support team, who thought nothing of leaving Briggs Road at 3am to be back in Ipswich to start work at 7am, having worked four horses at Albion Park.

His name will survive in Queensland through the deeds of his son Darren, himself a first class trainer and driver.

“WD” is gone but his memory stays clear in the minds of the older brigade, people who knew a champion when they saw one.

Right decision

IN a decision to be applauded, Racing Queensland has decided that the 2020 TAB Queensland Constellations will not proceed this year due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

In short, the Winter Carnival as we know it, is kaput for 2020.

With strict bio-security measures in place, RQ advised last week that it would be abandoning its upcoming carnivals across its three codes including harness racing.

Presently, the following sales and QBRED features remain as programmed.

They include QBRED Feature Night on May 23 ($50k 3YO Triad Colts & Geldings plus Consolation; $25k 4YO Triad Entires; $25k 4YO Triad Mares; $25k 2YO Breeders Classic Colts & Geldings plus Consolation; and $25k 2YO Breeders Classic Fillies plus Consolation).

Further down the track, sales related races and other regular Qbred finals, triads etc will be run, amounting to $370,000 and including Trotter’s Springboard and Triad Series.

In the following months, RQ will still provide selected features for local participants.

Full details will be published shortly which will include opportunities across age groups and gaits including: FFA; 3YO Colts & Geldings; 3YO Fillies; Mares; and Trotters.

That’s not a bad way to ensure that significant money is distributed, of which the bulk will stay and be spent in the Queensland harness economy.

These current circumstances present a golden opportunity to put some hope the way of the smaller trainers and owners, and perhaps entice a few of those who have departed the sport/industry in recent years, back to the fold.

Initiatives might include: Minimum prize money of $4,000 at all tracks, 26 meetings per year at Marburg, and payment of full driving fee and float rebate at that venue.

It might be time to apply the old principle of “money makes the mare go”. As well as the pandemic, feed has never been the price that it is today.

Supplements, harness, other consumables and any purchased services are in the same boat. Economic history seems to indicate that a steep upswing of the market pendulum is followed by a shorter back swing.

Bread and butter prize money must reflect and address the situation in a positive fashion at all levels of participation.

Handy tips

SELECTIONS for Albion Park tonight.

R1: First four 2-3-6-9: Maywyns Best (G Dwyer)-Maretti (C Geary)-Change Of Mind (N Dawson)-Tulhurst Ace (P Piebert).

R2: Quinella 1-8: The Bus and Corey William (P McMullen).

R3: Box trifecta Newport Dreamz (R Maguire)-Sir Julian (J Cremin)-I Am Serengeti (N Dawson).

R4: Quinella 1-3: Bradness El Defuego (B Barnes) and Oasis Dream (Madi Dux).

R5: Box trifecta 1-3-8: Dark Energy (Jack Gallagher)-Casino Tommy (N Dawson)-Major Cam (K Rasmussen).

R6: Quinella 3-6: Miss Moneybags (G Dixon) and Trudy Dagger (B Battle).

R7: Quinella 3-5: Feelingforarainbow(N Dawson) and Johnny White (P Diebert).

R8: E/w 2: Burmach (M Elkins).

R9: Box trifecta 1-3-10: Greg The Great (P McMullen)-Majestic Simon (C Turpin)-Our Overanova (G Dixon).

R10: E/w 2: High On Montana (Matt Elkins).

Honour board

Looking for property to train harness. Setting up at the bottom of the Brisbane Valley will help get you to the top of the leader board. Pete McMullen (Patrick Estate) was the top driver with six wins, besting Narissa McMullen (Fernvale) five wins.

On the training side, there was a tie between Ron Sallis (Wanora) and Chantal Turpin (Patrick Estate) both with four winners.

Most pleasing was Wecanonlyhope, and Just One Good One, two for the week for Lacey Hinze. Ipswich factor: 23/41.

Albion Park, March 27: Feel The Reign (Pete McMullen for Chantal McMullen); Courageous Leo (Matt Elkins for Ron Sallis); One Muscle Hill (Hayden Barnes for Brett Cargill); Greg The Great (Pete McMullen for Graham Dwyer).

Albion Park, March 28: Major Currency (Narissa McMullen for Ron Sallis); Mayce Jade (Narissa McMullen for Steve Cini); MaywynsBest (Justin Elkins for Graham Dwyer); Timeless Appeal (Pete McMullen for Chantal Turpin); Sheza Bonny Sheila (Adam Sanderson for Barb Barry).

Albion Park, March 31: Havana Magic (Nathan Dawson for K Crone); Just One Good One (Nathan Dawson for Lacey Hinze); Miss Ruby Sunshine (Pete McMullen for Chantal Turpin; Thats How We Roll (Adam Sanderson for Ian Gurney).

Redcliffe, April 1: Aslee Nitro (Pete McMullen for Stewie Dickson); Targaryen Hanover (Brittany Graham for Stephanie Graham); Top Flight Cruize (Michael Tenardi); Our Delight (Pete McMullen for Chantal Turpin); Newmerella Molly (Brett Towns for Max Towns); Lethal Star (Taleah McMullen for John McMullen).

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