Emotional tribute to Village Kid's iconic trainer
by Adam Hamilton
This will be an emotional one for Chris Lewis.
The champion driver will partner his latest star Lavra Joe in a race named in honour of the man who trained the best horse he’s ever driven – the Kiwi-bred Village Kid – at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
Lavra Joe will start from gate four in the Bill The Better Butcher Free-For-All (2130m).
The race is named after popular and iconic WA trainer Bill Horn, a butcher-cum-hobby trainer, who trained the mighty Village Kid to win 90 races during a decade on the track.
Horn passed away on Tuesday, just a month short of his 90th birthday.
Tributes have deservedly flowed all week for a man who was widely loved and transcended the sport at the height of Village Kid’s career in the early to mid-1990s.
Village Kid didn’t race at two in NZ before having nine starts at three for three wins and second.
He was sold to WA owner Gordon Cox for a reported $40,000 and joined Horn’s stable and the rest is pacing history.
Village Kid raced until he was 13. He won 93 races (13 of them at Group 1 level), ran another 36 placings and banked $2,117,870.
Have a think about those earnings … almost 40 years ago!
Lewis was such a huge part of the Village Kid “show”, partnering him to 88 of his 90 wins in Horn’s care, including a clean sweep of the 1986 Brisbane Inter Dominion at Albion Park, two Miracle Miles and three WA Pacing Cups.
Just last week, I spoke at length with Lewis about Village Kid and Horn.
“To share that whole amazing time with Bill (Horn) and his wife, Norma, who was also such a big part of it was extra special,” he said.
“We had a lot of faith and trust in each other over the decade he raced and to keep him going like they did was a huge credit to Bill and Norma.
“Think about this … the last time he (Village Kid) went to the track, he set a world record for a 13-year-old when he time-trialled in 1min55.1sec and that was over 30 years ago.
“That to me would be the most special moment of all (in Lewis’ career) because of the ride the horse, myself, Bill Horn and the public had been on with Village Kid. It was a night they held as a fundraiser for sick kids and Village Kid was the star of the show, as usual.
“He’s been the standout horse of my career without doubt. More than being a champion, he just had the most remarkable will to win, right through until the end. And, at his prime, he was probably the fastest beginner I’ve not only driven, but seen.”
So, as Lewis will no doubt emotionally reflect on Village Kid and Horn on Friday night, he will also be hoping the very exciting Lavra Joe completes a hat-trick of free-for-all wins and continues his march towards WA’s biggest races, the Fremantle and WA Pacing Cups in January.
“He’s the got the potential to be up with the best I’ve driven,” Lewis said. “It’s early days, but on his times, he is right up there.
“I’ve driven some nice horses and he gives you the feel of a really good horse.”