Chris Alford's history-making 8000th win
By Adam Hamilton
Champion driver Chris Alford’s greatness went to a new level with a remarkable 8000th career win at Ballarat last night.
A big build up and few recent near misses meant little when Alford was at his aggressive and dashing best to win aboard Im Wesley in race five at Ballarat.
As the 55-year-old has done so many times, Alford blasted Im Wesley out from a wide draw to lead, dictated terms through the middle stages and held-on to win.
Alford is the first driver in this part of the world to reach 8000 wins.
For context, the next highest is 6303 wins by the late, great Gavin Lang and the most wins by a jockey in Australia is Robert Thompson’s 4441. In New Zealand Tony Herlihy leads the way with 3668 wins, from Maurice McKendry (3392) and Ricky May (3095).
“Gee, the last few wins seem to have taken forever,” Alford laughed. “It’s been a big countdown.
“It’s a huge thrill to get there, but I’m sort of glad it’s over so I can get back to normality and just doing my thing now.”
In a career spanning almost 40 years, Alford boasts 14 Australian driving premierships and a staggering 138 Group 1 victories.
Two of those Group 1 victories came in NZ, the first Golden Reign in the 1995 Christchurch Inter Dominion final and the second with brilliant filly Lombo La Fe in the 2002 Northern Oaks at Alexandra Park.
Alford also holds the record for wins in a single season with an almost unthinkable 456 in season 2017/18.
He has won just about every big race in Australia, many of them multiple times, including Inter Dominion pacing victories on Golden Reign and then again 20 years later with Lennytheshark in Perth in 2015.
“It’s fitting they’re my two (Inter Dominion) wins … I can’t split them for the best pacer I’ve driven,” Alford said.
“Lombo La Fe Fe would be in my top five, too. She was something else, such a dominant filly and so fast.
“That win of hers in the Northern Oaks was one of my most special. It’s so far for our young horses to go there and beat the Kiwis, but she was in a league of her own.
“I’d have to say Golden Reign is the best win of my career. It came so early in my career, on a horse who really paved the way for me and in the biggest race.
“Throw in the fact it was over in NZ, at a track with so much history as Addington, and the field he beat is the best there’s been in my career and must be up with the best of all time.”
Alford, who won his first race aboard Spring Vance at Wangaratta on October 2, 1984, already has his sights set on 9000 wins.
“I’m as competitive as ever, still love getting out there every time I can and I think I’m driving as well as ever,” he said. “Who knows if I’ll reach 9000, but I’ll be trying and even dream of 10,000.”