Art Meeker and Dean Cooper, Chairman of Tasracing
Art Meeker, a popular Tasmanian veterinarian and former studmaster, has been honoured with a Meritorious Service Award from Harness Racing Australia (HRA).
Art Meeker, 76, has earned a reputation as a brilliant equine veterinarian with his services much sought after by trainers and breeders of both standardbred and thoroughbreds on the Apple Isle.
His first job was as a teacher at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada and once he settled in a chain of events eventually led him to Tasmania.
While he dealt with horses from both codes on a daily basis and delved in the ownership of both breeds, he found it difficult to hide his unrelenting passion for the standardbred.
From the moment he sat behind a trotter in his mid-twenties he was hooked on the standardbred.
“I was out in the field one day and a trainer put me on a trotter to see whether he was sore and when I finished I thought to myself I had never had such excitement in my life and that experience changed my life,” he said.
Meeker moved to New Jersey to work alongside a former classmate in a private veterinary practice and it was while working there he met Dave Wallach who had made a success of importing standardbreds from Australia including Claridge.
Wallach had plans to embark on a business venture in Australia which included the development of a standardbred training-breeding complex in Tasmania, so Meeker staked his claim on being a part of the venture.
Meeker and his family arrived in Tasmania in 1972 and so began the Neptune Stud story. Neptune Stud earned a good reputation quickly and made quite a substantial mark on the state’s breeding industry by importing stallions Holy Sand and Scotch Luck.
Duke Duane was another successful stallion to stand at Neptune Stud. His progeny won a lot of races and included The Yank. Other stallions to stand at the Colebrook property included Timely Napoleon, The Shrimp Man, Magnum Almahurst, Inner Circle and J J’s Rio.
Neptune Stud enjoyed great success and at one stage boasted about 300 mares on the property during breeding season. Many really good horses emanated from Neptune Stud and were sold in Tasmania, the mainland and New Zealand.
Some staff employed at Neptune Stud achieved great success and recognition in the Tasmanian racing industry. Barrie Rattray was head trainer and driver at Neptune Stud. He left in 1986 and has won 16 state leading trainer awards and 11 driving titles. After Neptune Stud, Tammy Mollross went to work for the late Bob Knight and returned to Tasmania and became a successful trainer-driver. She is now a respected and successful thoroughbred trainer.
Meeker and his partners were forced to sell Neptune Stud in 1990. Meeker reverted to his veterinary practice and established Mobile Clinics.
Meeker still works regularly as on-course vet at all southern-based harness meetings in Tasmania and was often called upon by racing authorities for advice and as an expert witness at racing appeal hearings.
Meeker has contributed to harness racing administration. He was a committeeman with the Launceston Pacing Club in the years when it relocated from the Elphin Showgrounds to the Mowbray Racecourse and served one term with the Tasmanian Pacing Club.
He was a member of the selection panel for the Edgar Tatlow Medal from 2001 to 2007 and was a recipient of that award in 2015.
In presenting the Meritorious Service Award to Art Meeker on Tasmanian Derby night at Hobart, HRA Executive Member and Tasracing Chairman Dean Cooper highlighted his significant contribution to Tasmanian harness racing over the last 54 years.
A further two Tasmanians were recognised in the awards bestowed by HRA. Chester Bullock received a Distinguished Service Award and David Rawlings a Meritorious Service Award. Bullock will be presented with his award at Launceston on Sunday night 19 June and details of the Rawlings presentation have not been finalised.