Alford and Gath recognised at Horse of the Year awards
By Adam Hamilton
Two of the greats of Australian harness racing, Chris Alford and Andy Gath, were honoured at the Victorian Horse of the Year Awards.
Alford, who turns 55 this month and is rapidly closing in on a Down Under record 8000 career wins, was awarded the Gordon Rothacker Medal for distinguished and sustained service to the industry.
“I can’t remember the last time I cried, but I have tonight … it’s just such a surprise,” Alford said.
In a lovely touch, organisers had Alford’s mum and three children hidden away backstage until the award was announced.
Alford who has been driving Aldebaran Zeus in NZ in recent weeks, has a strong connection with NZ given his real breakthrough win came as a 24-year-old aboard Golden Reign in the 1995 Christchurch Inter Dominion.
He’s won 16 Victorian driving premierships, 15 Australian titles and his drives have banked over $65 million.
It’s the ultimate accolade for Alford, who had already been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Gath, 54, joined Alford in the Hall of Fame.
It underlined the staggering impact of the Gath clan in harness racing. Andy became the fourth member of his family to join the Hall of Fame, following his grandfather George, father Neville and uncle, Brian.
Like Alford, one of Gath’s defining early wins came with former champion trotting mare La Coocaracha in the 2002 Rowe Cup.
“She’s the first champion I trained and still the best, so far,” Gath said.
Since then, so many stars have followed, headed by another champion trotter Tornado Valley and current pacing hero Catch A Wave, winner of the Miracle Mile in March.
It capped a massive night for Gath and wife, Kate, with their trotting star Majestuoso winning the overall Victorian Horse of the Year title. He also won the open-aged Trotter of the Year, after six Group 1 starts netted him five wins and a second, including the Great Southern Star.
Majestuoso beat out champion pacing mare Ladies In Red, dual Group 1 winner Better Eclipse and the then unbeaten juvenile pacing filly Major Delight for the top award.
Catch A Wave also won the 3YO Pacing colt or gelding title and is one of the early favourites for this year’s Victorian Horse of the Year after his stellar start to 2023.