The man who played a big part in establishing trotting in Queensland says he is privileged to have seen the rise of the square-gaiter in the Sunshine State.
But Alan Boyd considers himself lucky to have even seen one big event like the DJA Trotting Championship, let alone them all.
“You could say I’ve survived some tough times since I was diagnosed with Auto-immune disease, leading to the virtual overnight onset of diabetes back in 2006.
“That’s when my health really took a turn for the worse. In quick succession I suffered from bowel cancer, a heart attack, brain surgery, and then I contracted Meningitis when recovering from all that.
“Since then, I have had other mishaps like a hip replacement and facial re-construction surgery following an accident with a mare which I was holding. She swung her head while I was protecting her foal from a miniature horse which came into their paddock, collecting the right side of my face,” Mr Boyd said.
He said his diabetes has required constant treatment and management since those early days, but insisted he was still a positive person despite all his ailments and injuries.
“I still get up at 4.45am every day to do the horse work and go for my daily walk. Then I travel the 75km round trip to Beenleigh to my practice,” the resilient 70-year-old Mundoolun-based taxation accountant said.
“These are tough times though for many with the Covid situation and because I tick all three boxes in the high-risk area (over 70, diabetic and a compromised immune system), I just need to limit some of my activities, to stay vigilant, wear a mask continually, and take all precautions at all times,” he added.
He said he could blame his poor health all on diabetes.
“My GP advised me that I used to drink too much cola (with my nips of scotch) and suggested that I change to diet cola drinks. I made that change, but my immune system didn’t know what the artificial sweetener was, thought that it must have been a ‘baddie’ and attacked it.
“In so doing, it destroyed the islet cells in my pancreas, so I could no longer produce my own insulin, and so started the injection process which, on most days requires nine injections,” Mr Boyd said.
He said he also received a reality check, ‘a wake-up call’, when his cardiologist told him to slow down.
“So, I did - a bit,” Mr Boyd said.
However, before his diagnosis Mr Boyd, around the turn of the century, was appointed Chairman of BOTRA after having previously served on the Queensland Breeders Association.
“Knowing that Australia was hosting both the Pacing and Trotting Inter Dominion Championships, I called an industry meeting to gauge whether there was sufficient interest from local participants to see if we could conduct trotting races here in Queensland.
“The response was overwhelming with some 65 attendees eager to progress the plan. I then discussed the matter with then QHRB Chairman John Crowley, who not only had no objection, but agreed that there was a place for trotting races in Queensland which at the time had 100 per cent pacing races only.”
So, Mr Boyd then started the process by setting up the Queensland Square Trotters Association and under that banner, started taking the steps to make the plan a reality.
“My early years in the industry commenced as an owner, back in 1973 racing and then breeding. In 1979 I joined the Committee of the Queensland Standardbred Breeders Association and after several terms on the Committee of BOTRA. (Breeders, Owners, Trainers and Reinspersons’ Association) was elected Chairman in 1984.
“I was also appointed Chairman of the Industry Programming Sub-committee which made recommendations to the QHRB under John (Crowley) and subsequently Keith Hamburger.
“I believed that trotting races were overdue in Queensland, knowing how they attracted so much attention and provided so much entertainment for so many people in Victoria and were such an integral part of racing in New Zealand, the United States, and Europe, so I believed that the time was right.
“So, we did something about it, and now 20-plus years later, trotting is now firmly established within Queensland, and we can now watch the beautifully
gaited trotters strutting their stuff at every meeting,” said Mr Boyd, who was also chairman of the Gold Coast Harness Racing Club from 2004 to 2009.
“Sure, there’s still improvement to be had, but it’s rewarding to see two and sometimes three trotting races on a local race programme,” he added.
Mr Boyd has always loved harness racing. He grew up in the bayside Melbourne suburb of Black Rock.
“I wasn’t born into a harness racing family but horses have played a prominent part in our family. Dad was born in 1914 and his father’s work as a school headmaster required him to work extensively in rural Victoria, and the horse and cart was their means of transport - as it was for the general populace in those days.
“That was the only connection to horses for my family – although when growing up in the 1950s we all had needs such as ice, bread and milk. They were all delivered to homes by draught horses pulling a cart.”
When Mr Boyd was a University student in Victoria, he said he didn’t mind a small punt to try and fund his petrol money.
“I remember the day I backed eight winners on a 10 race card at the Cranbourne Trots. That was in the late 1960s – early 1970s, when the names like Rothaker, Shinn, Dove and GD Wilson abounded.
“Also, on Saturday nights, Channel Seven used to have a show called the ‘Penthouse Club’, which included live vision of the trots from the Melbourne Showgrounds.
“That fuelled my passion for the sport. I have been interested and involved since.”
He said when he graduated from University in 1971 with a degree in economics and a major in accounting, he decided to pack up his surf-board and tour around Australia.
“The idea was to take a year off and then return to Victoria to get a permanent job… but then disaster struck.”
Only 10 days into the trip, Mr Boyd was involved, as a passenger, in a head-on highway accident. He found himself in Royal Brisbane Hospital for two-and-a-half months for the first rounds of surgery procedures, and after five days at home over Christmas, he was admitted again as an inpatient for more operations.
“I remember the day like it was yesterday - October 15, 1971. Who knows where I would have ended up had that crash not occurred, but fate has a funny way of dealing out things, and I’ve been in Queensland since, with no desire to return to Victoria, other than for short stays as required,” Mr Boyd said.
He said he had enjoyed owning and breeding standardbreds for more than 48 years.
Currently Mr Boyd is enjoying success with one of his recent acquisitions Kingofthestars (20 wins), which he part-owns with trainer Graham Dwyer’s family and other stable owners.
“He only started racing for us early in October 2020 and the 15 starts in our ownership have yielded seven wins and two minor placings.
“He has provided us with a really exciting and enjoyable ride, particularly his two strong wins at Albion Park to start the new season (January 12 and 19, 2021).”
Mr Boyd also races the Graham Dwyer trained pacer, All Good Wally.
“He’s a 9-year-old now and is by the Canadian sire, Quality Cam, and is out of our late unraced Land Grant mare, Don’t Dilly Dally.
“She had 15 foals of which 12 raced and 10 were winners including, two that won over $100,000. We purchased ‘Dally’ in 2007 from Kevin and Kay
Seymour when she was in foal to Famous Forever.
“That foal raced as Always Prompt which Grant Dixon trained her to 23 wins and 23 places, banking just under $113,000. ‘Dally’ produced seven foals for us, of whom five raced. They were Always Prompt, All Switched On, All Good Wally, Half Moon Beach and Hally Guinevere).
“They were all winners, with a combined tally of 49 wins and 68 places to date. I am now breeding from the two unraced mares which we bred from ‘Dally’ -, one of which is Lot 9 in the upcoming APG Sale at Albion Park on 31 January.”
He said All Good Wally was “Dally’s” 12th foal and has so far won 14 races and been placed13 times.
“Even though he’s nine now, he seems to be enjoying his races, and while he has the attitude I might as well keep racing him,” Mr Boyd said.
He said he once owned a 48-acre farm at Alberton where he had 26 horses at its prime.
“We sold it in in 2018, partly because I wasn’t in good enough health to allocate the necessary time to its maintenance.
“I then purchased a four-acre property at Mundoolun where I had some of my spelling or young horses, but on medical advice, I have no stock there at present.”
He said he started training his own horses around 1980 and took out a driving licence a few years later.
“While I had fair enough success, I also had a couple of race falls, one of which, in October 1995, put me out of action, and I wasn’t able to get back to the office until the following February.
“While I enjoyed race driving, I quickly realised that it was more financially rewarding to engage good drivers.
“Even now, I’m still told that I work too hard at my accounting practice. I once had over 600 clients on my books, but have cut that back to just over 200 and have reduced my working hours,” Mr Boyd said.
Mr Boyd said Dwyer of Kingslodge Stables now trains his horses.
These include: All Good Wally, She’s Miss Devine (of which I have a share). She finished second in the 2020 Redcliffe Yearling Sales Classic Final and second in the Filly’s Triad Final. Then there’s Kingofthestars (part own) and he also has a half share in a colt by Changeover which is a new season 2-year-old.
“I also currently have two mares at Burwood Stud with positive tests to Sportswriter, along with a yearling colt by Sunshine Beach which is being prepared for the APG Sale at the end of this month.
“I also have another daughter of Don’t Dilly Dally at Mojo Park which has been bred to Changeover, and she has a Gotta Go Cullect filly foal. There’s also a yearling filly by Sunshine Beach out of The Ultimate Peg, which is being prepared for the Redcliffe Sale.”
He said one of the more interesting ventures in which he had been involved in was the purchasing of a filly from the Elitlopp Yearling Sales in Sweden.
“This was suggested to me by long- time friends and equine chiropractors Janice Bryant and her father Michael.
“The plan was to try something that nobody in Australia had previously undertaken. We arranged a syndicate and in 2010 purchased a filly by the Champion of Champions, Varenne. Her name was Swede Dreams.
“After finally making things happen and getting her broken in etcetera, she won three races in Victoria while in the care of Chris Lang.
“However, when we brought her to Queensland to be trained by Shannon Price, she really blossomed, winning seven of her 17 starts, before needing to be retired as a result of a slab fracture to her hock.
“Sadly, her first foal, a colt by Muscle Hill, had to be put down when only five days old following a leg fracture. Then we had difficulty getting her back in foal, but finally we bred a beautiful colt by Creatine which sold at the APG Sale in Melbourne 12 months ago.
“We now have a lovely filly by Muscle Hill which will go through this year’s APG Sale in Melbourne in early February,” Mr Boyd said.
So, when asked what had been the highlight or highlights of his racing career, Mr Boyd replied:
“There’s only been a few, because over all these years, I’ve never won a feature race, but did train and drive a winner of one of the old Triad Heats at the old Gold Coast track in 1986 – with a horse which we bred, named Mister Mover.
“However, I’ll never forget training and driving Edith Vogue and running third in the Filly’s Triad Final, a $70,000 Group race back in 1985,” Mr Boyd said.
“But the one thing that I have learned over the decades, is that without a top level horse, given how difficult it is to win a race, we really need to take a moment to celebrate every win, because that’s why we are in this game.
“As with every other aspect of our lives, we should never give up trying to achieve our goals, no matter how difficult the journey may be,” he added.