History of the VSTA

 

VICTORIAN SQUARE TROTTERS ASSOCIATION

The Victorian Square Trotters Association was formed in 1980 out of concern for lack of support for the trotter. The late Chris Howe called the meeting which was held at Lords Raceway, Bendigo. Hugh Redwood was elected as the first President at that meeting.

Since that day the Association has met regularly and promoted the trotting gait in Victoria. The vision of that early group of people and the continued work of later committee members who followed their lead has resulted in spectacular growth in interest in and opportunities for the wonderful trotting gait. The Association enjoys a good working relationship with Harness Racing Victoria.

The present Executive includes Steve Warren – President, Ralph Ford and John Walter – Vice-Presidents, Roger Meulan – Secretary and John Walter – Treasurer. Committee meetings are well attended and enthusiasm is high.

In 1986 with Dick Lee as President, the Association put a proposal to the Maryborough Trotting Club for a feature 2 year old trotting classic. The idea was eagerly accepted and the Redwood was born and named in honour of the Association’s first President. Redwood day and now Redwood weekend has exceeded all expectations. Every trainer of trotters strives to have a starter on Redwood weekend which is much more than a race meeting but more a celebration of the trotting gait.

At Redwood 2001 there was entertainment for everyone. Racing on Friday and Sunday, 27th and 29th July, the inaugural Redwood Dinner Dance and guest speaker on Saturday night, a parade of available trotting stallions on Sunday, the CUB Clydesdales, best dressed ladies competitions, lots of entertainment for the children, fast food outlets, the popular dining room and much more. Maryborough, Maldon and the Central goldfields were ready to provide visitors with hospitality and activities for the weekend.

A most significant feature this year was the appearance for the first time in a Redwood of colts and fillies by European and American based stallions. The Victorian Derby was held on Redwood Day and following on from the sensational finish to the Holmfield at Moonee Valley, the three year old trotters threatened to steal the limelight but the greatest interest was in the traditional standing start feature for the babies, the “Redwood”.

The Victorian Square Trotters Association holds a very successful Awards night each year. This year the Awards night will be held at Ballarat’s Bray Raceway on Sunday, 11th November. Everyone is welcome and the night includes an excellent dinner and the very popular “Flamingos” band. If you’re interested in attending, contact Association Secretary, Roger Meulan, (03) 5367 2971.

September 1999: MARYBOROUGH TROTTING CLUB, VIC

When the 1999 Maryborough Redwood was run on Sunday, 25th July with 10 trotting races, it was hard to image after four short years that the day originally had 5 pacing races and 5 trots.

To suggest having a pace on Redwood Day now is as unthinkable as 10 years ago to believe we would ever hold 10 trotting races on the one program.

But dreams come true when carefully nurtured and July 1996 saw the first All Trot Day. The Redwood has grown in stature since then to become the measuring stick of 2 year old trotters, and a cult day on the Harness Racing Calendar.

As I.R. (Dick) Lee put it on Redwood 1999 whilst presenting his trophy to winning trainer, Noel Alexander, "Everyone is a VIP at Redwood Day. We are all ‘VIP’s at our own special day for the Trotter".

It is well documented that the Victorian Square Trotters Association (of which Dick Lee was then President) and Maryborough Harness Racing Club made representation to Harness Racing Victoria for an "All Trot Day" for the 1996 Redwood. This was initially rejected by the Board who feared a significant reduction in turnover. Their fears were ill founded when investigations by the Club Officials into past years’ betting records revealed that the turnover on the 5 trotting races exceeded that of the pacers.

Harness Racing Victoria reviewed their decision and the rest is history. 1996 saw a staggering 286 nominations for the 10 race program. Maryborough Club realised the day would exceed all expectations and catering plans were altered hastily in realisation of a huge crowd. They were not disappointed.

The future Redwood scene was set when Darren Redwood won the first trot at the All Trot Day with Red Eclipse, trained by his father Colin. It seemed that fate had somehow taken a hand on the historic day, and from then on a special aura seemed to smile on the meeting as old friends met up amidst much hand shaking and it became evident that trotting enthusiasts had claimed this day, Redwood Day, as their own.

The 1996 Redwood presentation was charged with emotion when the Bill Bond trained Kano Regal won the race driven by Bill’s lifelong friend, Don Smith. The win for a moment became secondary as the crowd became aware of the respect and friendship which existed between these two lovers of square gaiting. The betting turnover on the day was $703,236 with stakes and trophies $52,800.

Redwood 1997 saw local owner/trainer/driver Chris Angove do the whole lot himself and convincingly win his own dream. Chris had bred Truscott Dawn and sold the filly to Ralph Ford a couple of years prior. Ralph won the 1995 Redwood with Truscott Dawn and from Chris’ point of view, it would probably be difficult to get another chance. However, persistence pays and Chris’ dream came true. Stakes and trophies lifted to $54,600 and the crowd swelled.

In 1998 the Maryborough Club increased stakes and trophies to $59,600. Again an owner/trainer/driver was successful with Patrick Ryan winning the Redwood with Petite Morley. She was a very classy filly but stretched to the limit by Yo Ho Ho, which was only a half neck away. The crowd grew even further and 1,100 racebooks were sold.

Maryborough Harness Racing Club was bathed in warm sunshine on 25th July for the 1999 Redwood. One couldn’t believe this day was in winter. Cars streamed into the car park until it filled and patrons were forced to park outside and walk. A crowd of this dimension had never been seen at Maryborough.

Caterers were well prepared with food and staff and the usual high quality of food and service was not compromised by St. Augustines Parents Club. The Committee of 17 who worked long hours preparing track and surrounds were well rewarded by trotting fans.

A Fancy Dress competition with $1,200 prizemoney in 3 sections added colour to the day and Best Dressed ladies shared prizes of Fiddlers Creek Wine. The 1999 Redwood Queen was Alex Scheurmann, whose sister Esther won the title in 1998.

One lucky punter won the $1,000 Pick 5 Jackpot and Lord Chef which won at the 1996 Redwood, took children for rides in the Double Seater Sulky. Gate receipt and attendance records were broken again and turnover was just under $600,000. Stakes and trophies totalled $65,550.

One can read about the Redwood and check results and look at photos, but it is a day to be part of. There are bigger days elsewhere in Harness Racing, but the heart of the country and the heart of trotting pulses on Redwood Day each July at Maryborough. You simply have to be here to feel it.

Merv Gay
Secretary

(Reprinted July 2015)