The Gordon Rothacker Medal has become the trots night of nights and this year was no different as the sport recognised one of the true champions of the game.
Graeme Lang, affectionately known as the doyen of harness racing, was presented with the 2013 Gordon Rothacker Medal on a memorable night at Tabcorp Park Melton.
It was no surprise to most involved in the trots when Lang was announced as the winner given his long and illustrious career in the sport.
A champion trainer and driver, Lang was accomplished in all facets securing award after award through the late 1960’s and 1970’s into the 1980’s.
The five time leading Victorian state trainer and two time leading Victorian state driver was crowned the leading Australian driver in 1979/80.
Lang will always be remembered for his topline squaregaiter Scotch Notch who was not only an Inter Dominion Trotting Champion, but also campaigned successfully throughout North America.
Lang has had a massive influence on the sport for many years and that includes his family history which has gone from strength to strength with his sons Chris and Gavin dominating their chosen areas.
Chris, as a squaregaiting trainer and driver is unparalleled while Gavin has proven superior to any driver before him in the cart.
Graeme Lang still remains an active participant in the sport and he proved he still has his eye in as a trainer when he produced Save A Sixpence to win the Group 3 Holmfield last season defeating boom Kiwi filly Habibti.
Harness Racing Victoria and the entire trotting fraternity have been lucky to see Graeme in full flight and he is a deserved winner of the 2013 Gordon Rothacker Medal.
There were plenty of other winners on the night amongst the Country Clubs and representatives who have worked so tirelessly in the past 12 months.
The best Choice Hotels Country Cup meeting went to the Nyah club for their return to racing at the Swan Hill circuit and a hugely successful night which saw a mammoth crowd attend the first Country Cup of the season.
Paul Rowse, from the Ballarat club, took out the full-time secretary of the year while at the same time Ballarat were afforded the honour of being the club of the year for those who had conducted over 16 meetings.
Bernadette Costantino was the part-time secretary of the year for her diligent work at the Wangaratta track.
Kyabram secured the Graduation club of the year for the second time running.
Despite having just two meetings per season, the club puts on trials for participants every Sunday morning with their training centre accommodating for up to 50 horses at any one time.
Yarra Valley continues to go from strength to strength and the innovative club have been regarded as the club of the year for those who had less than 16 meetings in the past season.
Thanks in part to their massive Melbourne Cup Day extravaganza, this year their Oaks day meeting continued the Cup week theme with an excited crowd out at the trots.
And that’s where the next award went with Yarra Valley taking out best on-course promotion for their Oaks Day.
The club doubled its event attendance in 2012 with an appetizing array of on-course activities, including fashions on the field and free ladies and kids enclosures.
Promoting the event with an exhibition at Eastland Shopping Centre over 4 days, the Yarra Valley club is quickly consolidating their Oaks Day meeting as one of the highlights of the local social calendar.
The award for the best local media – traditional went to Mildura for their coverage across the Sunraysia Daily, WIN TV and ABC Radio to name a few.
Bendigo took out the category for best local media – digital thanks to the advent of their social media platforms and up-to-date website.
The Shepparton Club were acknowledged as the best presented in the state thanks to the on-track experience which patrons receive when heading to Quest raceway.
Stawell legend Reg Cooper was the winner of the Association of Victorian Country Harness Racing Clubs Volunteer Service Award and rightly so after another year of helping the Western Victorian track.
Cooper has full-filled many roles including the Club president for 13 years, track supervisor and swabbing attendant.
The night couldn’t have been complete without a special commendation to the Horsham club who have had another terrific 12 months and was acknowledged for its high level of professionalism and consistency across all categories.
The Pearl Kelly award this season went to Lisa Miles following another terrific year as both trainer and driver.
A winner of the 2007 Young Achiever of the Year award, Miles has gone on to win the Vin Knight Medal in 2009 and train a string of Group 1 horses including Villagem.
Special mention must also go to distinguish service medal winners in Gus Underwood and Rob Merola.
Underwood has been a terrific advocate of the sport in the state’s north as a journalist for a raft of newspapers including the Shepparton News while Merola is most well-known as the managing director of SEW-Eurodrive.
Harness Racing Australia also distributed awards on the night with Mindarie Priddy winning the National Two-Year-Old Pacing Filly of the Year and Chris Alford taking out the JD Watts national driver’s award following a brilliant season.
Alford was also recognised for his 5000 career wins which came with a flourish at the end of October.
Art Major made a thorough clean-sweep of the HRA Stallion awards by taking each and every single category up for offer; that being the Leading Sire of 2YO’s by stakemoney, Leading Sire of 3YO’s by stakemoney, Leading Sire of 2YO’s by Winners, Leading Sire of 3YO’s by Winners and Leading Sire of Winners.
The Harness Racing Victoria Media Awards were also presented to the deserving winners.
The Best Country Feature went to Raelee Tuckerman – Bendigo Advertiser for her story on retired standardbreds.
Best Radio Feature went to Len Baker and the Harness Review team for their interview with Neville Welsh following his Gordon Rothacker Medal win last year.
The Best Feature (Print or Internet) went to John Peck for his story on Gavin Lang and his 5000 career victories.
Best News Story (Print or Internet) was again taken out by the Bendigo Advertiser, this time Nicole Ferrie for the emotional ‘Tears Flow After Courageous Win’.
The full list of award winners is below:
Gordon Rothacker Medal
A.V.C.H.R.C Volunteer Service Award
VHRSC Owner of the Year
2 year old Filly of the Year
Sire of the Year
Art Major USA
JD Watts Award
5000 Winners Presentation
HRV Media Award – Best Country Feature
Raelee Tuckerman – Bendigo Advertiser
HRV Media Award – Best Radio Feature
HRV Media Award – Best Feature (Print or Internet)
HRV Media Award – Best News Story (Print or Internet)
Nicole Ferrie – Bendigo Advertiser
Best Local Media Coverage – Traditional
Best Local Media Coverage - Digital
Special Commendation – local media
Graduation Club & Secretary of the Year
Best on Course Promotion
Best Presented Track / Venue
Most Successful Country Cup Meeting
Nyah @ Swan Hill
Secretary of the Year – 16 Meetings or Less
Frank Ryan Memorial Secretary of the Year
Country Club of the Year – 16 Meetings or Less
Country Club of the Year – More than 16 Meetings
Pearl Kelly Award
Distinguished Service Medal