News & Events
- Published on Wednesday, 15 August 2012 09:42
By Michael Guerin
Australian legend Gavin Lang knows the true significance of the 5000-win milestone he achieved at Warragul today (Monday) won’t sink in for a long time.
But it is already far more important to him than if it had happened just a few years ago. Lang became the first harness racing driver in Australasia to partner 5000 winners when Takeiteasyonme won the final race of the day. That came 30 minutes after he had won the penultimate race with the latter’s stablemate Western Arden, via the protest room.
Lang, like everybody in harness racing, knew the 5000th win would eventually come but he says it is appropriate it was at Warragul.
“A lot of people probably don’t realise I was actually born here, so its gone full circle,” smiles the laconic 53-year-old.
Lang was inundated with congratulatory calls and was trying to take as much of it in as possible, knowing he missed a similar opportunity a few years ago.
“I actually won the last harness race run at Moonee Valley and afterwards Geoff Webster was giving me a hard time because he said he would have loved to have won it.
“At the time you are so busy thinking about what you are doing and who you are driving tomorrow you don’t think about what you achieved.
“It was only months later when I looked back on all the great racing there was at Moonee Valley that I realised what a big deal that was.”
But Lang’s life changed three years ago and he hopes he “stops to smell the roses” more regularly now. He was struck down by a mystery virus which saw him hospitalised, with genuine fears for his life. When he eventually started to recover a naturopath told he had next to no immunity.
“I had just got so worn out from the job and the lifestyle and that changed everything for me,” says Lang.
“I realised how lucky I am to do something I love and go all right at but also that you have to enjoy things along the way.
“So now I don’t get stressed and don’t let things bother me.
“But after lying in that hospital bed and thinking I might have all this taken away, I realise how lucky I am to get to 5000 wins.
“So I’m going to try and enjoy it.
“After all, when you are young you think you are bullet proof, but none of us are.”
It was when he was young that Lang came across the horse he still rates the favourite of his record-setting career.
“True Roman would be my favourite,” he admits.
“He came along at the right time for me, when I was a young fella and helped put me on the map.
“I think I was 65 races on him and still drive for his trainer today.
“That is one of the things I am most proud of, that I have so many loyal owners and trainers who have stuck me with throughout my career.”
So how does the wiser, healthier Lang see the rest of that career unfolding?
“I used to think when I got to 50 if I had driven a few winners I’d retire but things change.
“I had a marriage break-up of course so that halved the money and now I have to keep going to get financially stable.
“But I am still loving it and as I have gotten older I honestly believe that every win is great, some are just a little more important that others.
“I’d say I’d still be driving for at least another decade but who knows. Dad (Graeme) drove well into his 70s and could still be driving now at 79.”
But Lang is also aware there is a world away from the sulky.
“I have mates who go to all these places around the world and I wonder what they would be like and I think there has to be time for that as well.
“So I’d like to do a bit of both, which is hard because even if you step aside for a little while there are ambitious youngsters ready to take up the slack.”
But there is only one Gavin Lang. And only one ever Mr 5000.