Harness trainer John Meade eyes Big Apple

CHAMPION: Patrick and John Meade with star horse Sparkling Success, winner of the richest trotting race in Australiasia. Picture: Christine Ansorge
CHAMPION: Patrick and John Meade with star horse Sparkling Success, winner of the richest trotting race in Australiasia. Picture: Christine Ansorge

John, how has Sparkling Success progressed since his win in Australia’s richest trotting race?

He’s been going well. He ran third in the Night Pistol at Cranbourne last Saturday night. We’ve been invited to represent Australia with Sparkling Success in a $1.3 million international trotting Grand Prix race at Yonkers in New York on October 13 this year.

I would say at this stage we’ll be making the trip but there’s a bit of water to go under the bridge yet – we’ve got to make sure Sparkling Success is in good form before heading overseas.

We’re still working a few things out. There’s no quarantine going over there, but to bring Sparkling Success out of America he’ll have to go into quarantine.

It might mean that we miss a couple of really good races here in the early part of Victoria’s summer carnival.

It’s a big trip for the horse – let alone for a couple of dairy farmers in my wife Mary and I from Cudgee.

It’s really exciting to think we’ve been invited onto the world stage with a home bred trotter from the Western District.

I’m just a little old dairy farmer who trains a couple of harness horses.

I don’t get worked up with many things, but to think we may go to New York with Sparkling Success is a big thing in any person’s language

Do you have many horses in work at your farm at Cudgee?

We’ve got six horses in work here. It’s all a family affair. There’s a lot of interest in harness racing in the south-west.

There’s some excellent trainers and drivers down here.

I don’t want to individualise anyone in particular but the south-west has some really talented harness people in its ranks. I would go as far to say the sport is flying.

Harness racing is a great sport to be involved in.

John, how did you get involved in harness racing?

I suppose that comes about through my parents many years ago.

We always had a few horses around the farm when I was growing up.

The interest increased when I started taking out Mary. Her father Len Fahey from Camperdown was a trainer-driver.

I just got more and more involved in the sport.

I got my licence to drive in 1985. We’ve never had a big team of horses, we’ve just potted around with a few but it’s all great fun.

It can be a frustrating sport when you think you’ve got the horse going well and something happens to him but that happens.

Away from harness racing – how many acres is the farm at Cudgee?

We’ve got about 500 acres in the old measurements.

I’m a third-generation dairy farmer. My grandfather started off on the same plot of ground and then my dad had it, and now it’s in my family.

I was always going to be a dairy farmer. It was always in my blood. I never thought much of school, I just wanted to be on the farm.

Have you played much sport?

I played footy when I was growing up.

My career started with a side called Country’s under 15 side over at Bushfield and then I joined Panmure.

I made my senior debut with Panmure when I was 16 years old in the old Mount Noorat Football League.

It was a tough league. I won the best and fairest in the league in 1972.

We won the flag in about 1980.

We were premiers and champions that year.

We beat Glenormiston the game was played at Noorat.

I’ll never forget it was a really windy day, and I reckon we had the wind for three quarters.

Was your senior footy career always at Panmure?

No. I went over and played  three years with Grassmere before they joined up with Bushfield.

Mick Hamblin was the coach. We never had any premiership success, but they were a good club before I came back over to play with Panmure again.

I played a couple of practice games for Koroit one year and a couple for South Warrnambool the next year, but in the end I just decided to play bush footy.

I would consider myself as a very average player who could get the footy.

I was lucky I never suffered any major injuries during my career.

I just had hamstring problems on a couple of occasions. I saw some really talented players play in the local leagues.

I would rate Peter Sheen as one of the best.

He was a magical footballer – very, very skillful. Keith McLeod was  also a good player.

John, did you play cricket?

I started my cricket career playing juniors for a Wangoom before going to a little club called Craigieburn, many years ago. 

They ended up folding and amalgamated with Panmure.

We were in the old Hopkins Nullawarre Cricket Association.

I won the batting aggregate for the association one season with just over 800 runs.

I represented the association in Country Week games on a few occasions and got six wickets up at Ballarat in one of those games.

I would say one of the highlights of my cricket career was going over to New Zealand in about 1980 to play for a Victoria Country side.

It had a strong representation from around the Camperdown, Cobden and Terang areas.

All the players had to pay their own way.

It was a great experience to play against some very good players.

I also played a lot of badminton in Warrnambool.

My brother Peter was the A Grade champion for badminton in Warrnambool for many  years.

Under the Auld Pump appears in The Standard every Wednesday.