WITHIN the Wimmera, Tony Logan is synonymous with harness racing.
The self-described racing tragic has been writing his column ‘From the Sulky’ in the Wimmera Mail-Times for 30 years.
It was in 1988, after a meet at the Horsham showgrounds, Logan was approached to start the column to promote the sport.
“When I moved to Minyip I lived next to the late John Lloyd and he trained trotters,” he said.
“From there I got tangled up in the Minyip Light Horse Club and we use to run restricted meetings at the Horsham Showgrounds and Stawell which we’d raise sponsorship for.
“We had a race one night here in Horsham which the leading drivers had chipped in for.
“After that I got a call from the Horsham committee – which John was on – and they asked if I’d do a bit to help the club, part of that was getting a presence in print and on radio.”
Logan said his hairline and facial fuzz are not the only things to have changed in 30 years. His first columns were written and delivered by hand.
“Communication is much easier these days and there is a lot more information out there,” Logan said.
“I don’t think the stories have gotten any better though, I’m still a bit of hack.
“It’s nice when people that follow racing say they’ve read my story about such and such who has a horse which won race – it doesn’t matter where you are in the Wimmera we are all part of that community.
“I get a kick out of putting people, their horses and their stories out there to keep harness racing on the map.”
Logan grew up in Horsham before leaving to work Melbourne for three years.
After finishing Ballarat Teacher’s College in 1976 he taught at Wilkur South.
He then spent three years as a teacher at Chetwynd before he found his way to Minyip in 1980.
His first memories of harness racing stem back to when he was a teenager.
“I still remember going to the showgrounds as a 12 year-old – either here in Horsham or down in Melbourne – and getting close to the horses under the lights,” he said.
“The closer you can get to them the more you appreciate what equine athletes they really are.
“It’s just good fun – especially when you can get close to the action.
“That’s the best environment to see harness racing in for the first time.”
His passion has led to him being having shares in a number of horses but he said he had never been hands on.
“When the Mail-Times was still sponsoring the Cup we were getting a horse ready for plaza and I was trying to put the knee or tendon boot on upside down,” he said.
“It’s just good to be with a group of people who are like minded and we’ll meet up whenever it’s running somewhere.”
His time in a syndicate that owned Bill and Trish Deleeuw’s ‘Flip A Dollar’ stood out as memorable period.
“Merv Dillon trained that and it won more than 30 races which was a great thrill,” he said “There was a big group of us involved and it won the Horsham Cup here in 2002.”
Following the rise of Great Western’s Kerryn Manning to become a world champion had also been exciting.
“As a youngster her and Peter would come on to drive at the trials in Minyip,” Logan said.
“The whole Manning family really – Peter, Barbara, Donald and now we have Grant and Karryn who have done super things.
“It’s not just the Mannings but other people like that are great to follow – there are plenty of hard-working, genuine people who are more than willing to do a bit extra help you out.
“The harness fraternity is really great like that, I’ve met so many terrific people over the years.”
When John Peck compiled the Horsham Harness Racing Club’s story for its centenary in 2014 Logan said he was in awe of the contributions made by people.
“Whether it was guys like Tom Burdett who would give up their days off to come and work on the track or it was ladies who would volunteer to run the canteen,” he said.
“Then on our bigger Cup days there was always plenty of friends who’d chip in.”
While he has enjoyed plenty of good moments while following the sport Logan also knew hard times were also inevitable.
“Racing is like life – there are ups and downs, humps and bumps, you just have to enjoy the good times knowing the kick in the tail isn’t too far away,” he said.
“I’ve had more good than bad though. You’ve just got to roll with the punches.”
He said the lowest of lows were when people lost a horse.
“When the Lewis family’s old matriarch ‘Frosty Again’ died it was the end of an era because it produced a dynasty of winners,” he said.
“It’s great to see horse still connected to that family winning today.
“It’s devastating when you have a horse with a lot of ability go down.
“I was part-owner of ‘Art of Deception’ which had won four out of six and it was going great guns then it shattered a pastern mid-race.
“For the people actually breeding those horses, rearing those horses, educating them and racing them to see that happen after all that time and effort is gut wrenching.”
His passion for racing has taken him across the world.
He will often travel to New Zealand for races as well as the United States and even as far as Sweden.
That passion in the sport shows no sign of waning.
“I’d love to go to The States to see ‘Lazarus’ race. I have a son in New York so that could well happen,” he said.
“I have a share in a filly in New Zealand with a couple of mates, so there is plenty of good trips still to be had.
“It’s a good excuse to travel – you go to an event and do some travelling after that.
“Harness racing is here to stay for Tony Logan.”