Friday night’s upcoming WA Pacing Cup is of particular interest for a trio on nonagenarians.
Laurie Robinson (Hy Craft 1965), Lyle Lindau (Radiant Fortune 1967) and youngster Harry Miller (Jackie Scott 1960) all drove winners of the State’s premier harness race in the sixties
Robinson (92) is the oldest of the trio being born on 16th November 1929 while Lindau is 91 and Miller celebrated his 90th birthday earlier this month.
As Gloucester Park held its first race-meeting on Boxing Day 1929, Laurie Robinson has “seen” every meeting at the track although he may not remember the very early ones.
He is still a regular at Pinjarra meetings on Monday afternoons and while he may have slowed down a tad he is still mentally as sharp as he ever was.
The temperature in Perth on 1st January 1965 was 41 degrees and that night the 1965 Golden Jubilee WA Pacing Cup*** was run and Laurie Robinson drove Hy Craft for trainer Phil Coulson who also had Pacing Lawn engaged.
Coulson had intended driving Hy Craft in the Cup as he was clearly the better stayer, however the stewards Don Thomas, Dinny Heaney and Jim Twaddle deemed that Coulson was the regular driver of Pacing Lawn and thoroughly understood the horse and that Robinson “had handled Hy Craft capably in the Free-For-All” on Boxing Day.
The Free-For-All was won by the brilliant King Oro gelding Mercedes from Minton Hall and Hy Craft with Pacing Lawn finishing down the track after tangling with another runner.
On New Year’s Eve Mercedes’ trainer Fred Kersley Snr was quoted as saying that Mercedes was a false favourite and that he thought that Minton Hall was the horse to beat.
The next night Mercedes was plunged from 9/4 into 6/4 while Hy Craft drifted from 6/1 to 10/1 and that seemed a bit short when the gelding lost ground at the start and settled down in last place.
Pacing Lawn went to the front in the second lap and Coulson maintained a strong tempo which saw the field strung out.
Mercedes moved to the lead with a lap to travel and Robinson took Hy Craft wide to give chase and he joined Mercedes heading into the back straight and the pair raced neck and neck for the best part of 300 metres until 50 metres from the post Hy Craft got the better of Mercedes and won by a half-yard with Pacing Lawn holding on for third eight yards back.
The winners mile-rate of what now seems like a pedestrian 2:07 1/8 over the two miles was a State, Track and Race record.
It stood as the record until 1970 when the champion mare Daintys Daughter rated a then World Record 2:03.5 for the two miles from a standing start.
Thomas, Phil Coulson’s uncle, and his fellow stewards seriously under-rated Robinson’s skill as a driver in describing him as “capable”.
Laurie Robinson drove some 350 winners in his career including 206 in the city and a WA Derby and WA Oaks in addition to his win in the 1965 WA Pacing Cup.
His record is even more remarkable in that he was a full-time farrier and only ever a part-time trainer-driver.
As a farrier he shod the winners of seven WA Pacing Cups in Pure Steel (4 times), Hy Craft, Lord Mina and Color Glo along with an Inter Dominion winner in Binshaw.
Only Gary Hall Snr’s farrier Larry and Chris Boag have shod more WA Pacing Cup winners with eleven.
The opening of a documentary film on the legendary Pure Steel can be found on You Tube and features Laurie Robinson making a shoe for Pure Steel from a piece of steel Born to Run – a story of Pure Steel – YouTube .
It is worth a look if only to marvel at Pure Steel and the skill of the farrier making a shoe from scratch rather than the modern skill of opening a box of ready-made shoes.
For some 70 years the WA Trotting Association celebrated the WA Pacing Cup run on 26th December 1914 as the first WA Cup hence the January 1965 Cup being celebrated as the Golden Jubilee Cup.
Research in the 1980s by the author uncovered a WA Trotting Cup run on 27th December 1913 and won by Letty Lind and this Cup is now recorded as the first WA Cup.