On the right Track - Tom Larsen
Georgie Bolton from the HRNZ Education team caught up with Tom Larsen about his Harness Racing career and goals.
How did you get involved in Harness Racing?
It’s in the blood. My Uncle Kirk Larsen is a trainer/driver in Southland and my father Ricky is an owner/breeder and was an amateur jockey. My involvement with horses started at a young age when I was often called upon to help out with my father’s horses in the breaking in stage before they went down to Kirk’s. I started out helping at Kirk’s stable by mucking out the boxes during the weekends and school holidays and would often go with him to the local races. During my time at Canterbury University I would head out to Cran Dalgety’s on a Saturday. I had no lectures during the mornings in my last year at University so it allowed me to help out at Cran’s before going to lectures in the afternoons. This was the year that Cran won the trainers premiership so it gave me an insight into how a large stable operates and he had a great bunch of staff so I enjoyed my time there. Once I graduated from University I spent a bit more time at Kirk’s where I started doing a lot more fast work which has lead me to try get my juniors license.
What does a typical day for Tom Larsen look like?
After graduating from University I worked at Kirks stable but have recently started a job as Operations Support Co-ordinator at Niagara Sawmill so that ties up most of my time during the week. I help out at Kirks during the weekend. I am going to start doing a few hours at the stables during the weekdays before going to work to keep my hand in as I start working towards getting workout/trials drives. A typical day at the stable would involve- once the horses have been fed breakfast, we get the jog team ready. While the jog is being done the boxes/yards will get mucked out and the night feeds made. When the jog team has been done we move on to the horses getting fast worked. During certain times of the year, the rest of the morning will involve working with the young horses in their various stages of development. This could involve handling, long reigning, gaiting up etc. The gear will get cleaned and the stables tidied up before lunch. The afternoon is spent bringing in the horses, jobs around the farm and feeding up. During the peak of the season, there will be workouts/trials and races.
Do you have a favourite horse?
A horse that my father part owned and Kirk trained called Runnin Outta Excuses. He won 8 out of 12 starts including a 2nd to Changeover in the 4yo Superstars before injuring a suspensory ligament. He was a top horse and it was a shame we didn’t get to see the best of him as he was quickly going through the grades. Christen Me was a favourite of mine during my time at Cran’s. He was a maiden when I first started helping out at Cran’s. Watching him start stringing them together and become a multiple group winner was a memorable time.
What do you love about the industry?
The people in the industry are passionate about their jobs. There aren’t many jobs these days where people can say they are doing it for the love and enjoyment which is evident in the harness industry. Most of the people in the harness industry are genuine and hard working. Especially the trainers and drivers we have down South. They are always willing to give a lending hand and pass on advice. Whenever there is a nice horse out of the province that ventures North to race, the Southland people really get behind it and are supportive.
What are your hobbies outside of racing?
I enjoy watching and playing sport. While I was at school I played a lot of rugby, cricket, touch, squash and golf. I have played a few years of senior rugby now and enjoy having a round of golf with mates in the summer. My parents live in Arrowtown. It is a great place to go in the summer to catch up with family and friends and to get the boat out on the water.
Do you have any ambition to travel?
I spent 10 weeks travelling around the UK/Europe last year and really enjoyed it. It was an eye-opener for a country boy from Southland and I am keen to do more. I have a brother that has just started as a Greens keeper at Wimbledon so that gives me a good excuse to head back. One of Kirk’s former employees, Jason Hackett, spent a few months working in a stable in Sweden. If an opportunity such as this comes about I would love to go over there and see how they do things in that part of the world.
What do you enjoy about working with the horses?
I enjoy working with a horse right from the beginning and watching it develop into a race horse. It is really satisfying seeing a horse perform on the track that you have worked with. Seeing the thrill that an owner gets out of watching their horse win a race also gives you a buzz. A lot of hard work and time goes into making a race horse, so when you get the results you hope for, it makes it all worthwhile.
Is there anybody who has influenced you so far in your career?
My father taught me the basics early on but Kirk would have to be my biggest influence. He is a great person to learn off and he has taught me most of what I know. He has given me a good grounding on how to drive a horse. He has the work ethic needed in this industry to be successful. There have been a number of people in the industry that have gone on to be successful who have learnt the ropes under his guidance which is a testament to him. He is a very good judge of a horse and has developed some very nice horses over the years so I try take in as much knowledge off him as I can.
Is there anybody you admire in the harness racing industry?
It’s hard not to admire what the likes of Tony Herlihy and Dexter Dunn have accomplished in the harness racing industry but the driver I have always rated very highly is Blair Orange. He is a great driver who very rarely makes mistakes and his record in the last few seasons speaks for itself. I also have a lot of respect for all the hard workers behind the scenes. Kevin Turnbull was the stable foreman at Cran’s while I was there and its guys like this that are the heart of the stable. Kev had a knack of getting people motivated but loved having a laugh along the way. It’s these genuine sorts of people that make the industry what it is.
What are your goals for the future in the Harness Racing industry?
I am currently enrolled in Cadets so the next step is to get my trials license so I can start getting the trials/work out drives needed to get my juniors license. From there I would set myself the goal of driving a winner. I have a small share in a horse with some mates so hopefully it is in the winner’s circle at some stage but preferably on the second Tuesday of November.