Kerryn Manning honoured with Gordon Rothacker Medal

09 October 2014 | Cody Winnell
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Gordon Rothacker Medal recipient Kerryn Manning with proud father Peter, who received the honour in 2007.

Gordon Rothacker Medal recipient Kerryn Manning with proud father Peter, who received the honour in 2007.

Popular trainer/driver Kerryn Manning last night became Harness Racing Victoria’s 13th Gordon Rothacker Medal recipient at the industry's gala awards dinner at Tabcorp Park.

Manning, 38, who in the 1990s and early 2000s was a trailblazer for women in harness racing, takes her place among the Gordon Rothacker honour roll alongside her father, Peter, who was a recipient of HRV’s highest individual honour in 2007.

Peter beamed as Kerryn stood on the stage in front of an adoring crowd, the Great Western trainer glowing with pride at his daughter’s achievement.

Once on stage after being announced by host Andrew Bensley as the winner, Manning was typically modest and refreshing.

“I thought I’m probably not old enough to win the Gordon Rothacker Medal,” she joked when asked if she had thought herself a chance to take home the prestigious gong.

But it was her night, and now Manning's name will forever sit proudly alongside legendary past medal recipients including Jim Barker, Ted Demmler, Bruce and Elizabeth Clarke and Graeme Lang, just to name a few.

Manning was the first person to win 300 races in a single season in Australia or New Zealand and her association with trotting stars Knight Pistol and La Coocaracha was legendary.

She drove La Coocaracha to victories in races such as the 2001 Australasian Trotting Championship, the Australian Trotting Grand Prix and the Bill Collins Mile at Moonee Valley.

Behind the incredibly popular Knight Pistol, Kerryn won the Australasian Trotting Championship in 1997 and scored a host of metro wins off at times enormous handicaps in stand-start races.

In fact it was Knight Pistol and Kerryn Manning which drew a whole generation of new fans to the trots.

“Knight Pistol and La Coocaracha are pretty special,” she said before adding, “And a little horse called Allbenz is close to my heart, too”.

Allbenz won the Edgar Tatlow Memorial Stakes for two-year-old colts and geldings with Manning in the sulky in 1995 at Moonee Valley and won 24 races overall in a 106-start career.

During her speech, Manning spoke of having a passion for horses from a young age.

“I did the pony club and I always loved horses. With dad living in Great Western and training them, I was always around them,” she said.

“My pony was a bit slow and he didn’t race much so I didn’t do pony trots.

“I finished school after year 10 and didn’t want to go back. I didn’t like school much, so I begged if I could work for dad.

“Mum and dad allowed me to stay working for dad and it progressed from there.”

Manning drove her first winner in 1993 and, when asked about her incredible success over the years in the sulky – which included becoming the first woman in the world to drive a winner in both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres – she attributed the success to a good teacher.

“I’ve been very lucky to work with (dad), who has been so successful and taught me everything.

“I had an opportunity to drive a lot of really good horses. As you would all know in this room, it’s a lot easier to drive really good horses than really bad ones, and that kick-starts your career a bit.”

Manning is married to trots driver Grant Campbell and she trains a team of horses.

She paid tribute to her husband.

“My husband Grant, who can’t be here tonight as he’s flying with some horses from Hong Kong, I’m sure he would have loved to be here,” she said.

“I’d like to thank him for his support. He puts up with a lot. We’ve done a good job together as a team.”

Manning also thanked her faithful owners, especially Merv Butterworth, who earlier in the night was named VHRSC Owner of the Year.

“To all of my owners, thank you. Merv, who’s in the room tonight, he’s done a great job and all my owners’ support is really appreciated.”

Manning paid tribute to her family before reflecting on that overseas victory – behind Knight Pistol in Norway in 1997 – which put her on the international map earlier in her career.

“I was just speaking with Brant Dunshea (HRV Chief Operating Officer) and he was introducing me to a few girls from Sweden. He was saying it was nearly 20 years since I was overseas and won that race, which made me feel a bit old, but it was a great experience.

“I was probably a bit young to really appreciate it at the time and it would be lovely to go back there, even just to go to the Elitlopp or something.”