Hobby harness trainer breaks 1,693-day drought

15 September 2021 | Jordan Gerrans

Rosewood hobby trainer James Lewin is not worried to admit he had a tear in his eye on Sunday afternoon at Marburg.

With just one pacer in his stable, the small-time trainer has spent time in retirement in recent years away from the harness game.

The horseman has regained the passion over the last 12 months to train once again and on Sunday at his home track – Lewin broke a 1,693-day drought.

Veteran pacer Circle Line had threatened to claim another victory on a number of occasions this year and under the guidance of driver Matt Elkins – the 10-year-old gave Lewin and his family a thrill they will not forget any time soon.

“It has been a long time,” Lewin said with a laugh.

In the days after the breakthrough victory, Lewin says the satisfaction that the win brings following all the hard work that is put in behind the scenes is what stands out the most.

“It was magic – a massive thrill to do it at Marburg because I love the track and the people there,” he said.

“Matty Elkins, who has driven the horse to a number of wins with the old trainer, said to me that he was as thrilled as me – he told me it was as good as it get to drive a winner for me after a long time.

“I had a tear in my eye, do not worry about that, it was fantastic.”

Lewin’s last victory as a trainer was back on Australia Day of 2017 – Shadow Son getting up at Redcliffe.

While Circle Line has 21 victories to his name, his last one before Sunday was in early April of 2019.

With more than 220 career starts under his belt, Lewin says Circle Line is as sound as a bell and loves being in work and racing at his advanced age.

Circle Line enjoys his days running around in a paddock, instead of standing in a box or stable, which his trainer believes is his secret to his longevity in the sport.

Elkins was able to sit just behind the leader, Ifyoubelieve, for much of the trip and went on to run him down in the final few strides, getting up in a photo finish on Sunday afternoon. 

Working full-time at Mendham Engineering in Rocklea, Lewin gave up training a few years ago and only decided to get back into it once the global pandemic hit, believing he would have much more time at home with lockdowns.

At the height of his training career Lewin had as many as four pacers in work at his Rosewood property, which is 10 minutes from the Marburg track, but is happy to poke along with Circle Line these days.

“Once COVID hit, I just happened to stumble across Circle Line through my friend Ron Wells and I thought with businesses being shut and lockdowns, I would have more time for the horses,” he said.

“That was the push for me to get another horse, it all fell into place and I started training again.

“The horse needed a change of scenery and we started to work him up, it has been a labour of love as we have not had much success with him yet, just a few placings.

“He suits me because he is old and sound, he goes around every week, he is such a gentleman.”

Lewin, who is in his late 50s, was first involved with equestrian and show jumping before being introduced to harness racing by adopting a standardbred horse and says he fell in love with the breed from there. 

He has long been involved with Queensland’s Standardbred Breed Society, focusing in on the rehoming of former race pacers and trotters.

“I love the animals, that is why I do it,” he said.

“Getting up every morning, spending an hour or so with the horses before I go off to work, it is a great way to start the day.”

Lewin thanked good friend John Ballin, who shoes Circle Line, and the pacer’s owners for allowing him to train the veteran.


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