Harness racing lost one of its most popular participants on Thursday night with the passing of 79yo Tom Sheehy.
Tom grew up in the southern Perth suburb of Palmyra in a family of nine boys and one girl and as member of the extended Miller family it seemed only natural that he would gravitate to the horse industry.
Tom’s mother was the aunt of champion jockeys J J Miller and Danny Miller.
His brothers Mick and John Sheehy were jockeys and farriers while Tom worked at the Robb Jetty meatworks before turning his hand to training and driving pacers.
The first of his 105 winners as a trainer came courtesy of Sharzo at Richmond Raceway on 10th October 1959 while the last was with the somewhat appropriately named The Redeemer at Pinjarra on 30th July 2018.
In 1971 Tom and his wife Carol bought a 20 acre property in Jandakot to build their dream home and stables before moving their young family from Palmyra three years later.
“They were among the first horse people to move to the area along with the likes of Ken Stanley and Stan Brown,” his son Tommy Sheehy said.
“Dad used to fast-work his horses up Liddelow Road before they put the bitumen surface on it.”
Tom and Carol enjoyed success with horses such as Concord Crossing which won the 1978 Champagne Stakes, Fully Zapped (11 wins), Stradivari (10 wins) and Tom’s favourite Hez The Artisan which won five races.
As a driver Tom’s biggest successes came with the smart George Birch trained mare Yaralla Star which won a heat and final of the Easter Handicap and a heat of the 1982 WA Pacing Cup.
Tom drove her in the 1982 New Year Pace when she clashed with the other first night WA Cup heat winners Gammalite and Willadios in a special three-horse race.
His son Tommy followed Tom into harness racing as both a successful trainer and driver and Tom was an especially proud grandfather when grand-daughter Kristy also proved to be a successful driver and trainer.
Tom Sheehy was immensely popular in the harness racing fraternity due to his willingness to help people and according to a number of his fellow trainers his only fault was that he loved to chat and it earned him the nickname of Talking Tommy.
Drivers in the fourth race at Gloucester Park on Friday night wore black armbands as a mark of respect to one of the industry’s most popular trainers.
The Black Cardinal, trained by Tommy Sheehy, nearly brought off the perfect result when he finished third. He paid $5.50 for the place which would no doubt have brought a smile to Tom Sheehy’s face.