Harness racing siblings Alex (24) and Leonard (21) Cain were always destined for careers in harness racing – long before they came into this world in the late 1990s.
Their grandfathers, on both sides of their Queensland-based families, were harness racing trainers, while their father Errol (despite also being a traffic controller in more recent years), has been a prominent horseman in the Sunshine State for decades.
He’s trained almost 300 winners since December 1982 - and was also very well known for his good results with breaking in yearlings.
“Harness racing is well and truly ensconced in our blood. Mum (Debra) and Dad were involved long before I was born. Our Uncle Donald owns horses with John McMullen and then of course our grandmother Grace hardly misses a meeting with Donald.
“We are also related to Rhonda and Ben Aldons. Rhonda is Dad’s sister and Ben is our cousin. It was a shame we never got to meet Dad’s father as he died when Dad was only 9 - and we were very young when Mum’s father (Grace’s husband, Thomas) passed away almost 20 years ago,” Alex said.
In fact, Leonard Thomas Cain was named after his two grandfathers – Leonard Cain and Thomas Cox.
Grace, who is now 84, can be seen almost every Saturday night, seated high up in the same Albion Park viewing point with her son Donald.
“I remember when Alex and Leonard were babies and I’d pick them up before and after school while their parents were working hard.
“I was just so proud of them back then. Can you imagine how much love and pride I have for them now? Donald and I love cheering them on.
“They always loved being around the horses. Leonard has developed into a very good young driver, while Alex is an accomplished trainer,” Grace said.
“It seems just like yesterday they weren’t even knee high to Tommy’s horses,” she added.
In fact, Leonard has mingled with a lot of horsemen and women since the day he could walk.
“I’ve been working for Luke McCarthy and Craig Cross at Cobbity for two years now, and I’ve known Luke all my life.
“I actually started out working for Shane Graham and Vicki Rasmussen before and after school and in the school holidays. I also helped Dad and would go to Luke’s in Sydney in the school holidays. I’d fly there and back. They all taught me so much.
“It’s now such an honour to work for one of Australia’s leading stables and horsemen. I still can’t believe I get to drive good horses like Cruz, Our Hi Jinx, Bodhi Tree, Buster Brady to name just a few, and of course Ranger Bomb – just for you Duane,” Leonard said.
Cain worked for his father Errol at Logan Village, before heading south. He originally went and worked for Noel Daley in early 2019, and was then snapped up by McCarthy.
He said he was getting the best of both worlds living and working in New South Wales, and was still able to campaign good horses north of the border.
“It’s great to come home and drive in front of family. I know they all watch on TV, but there’s nothing like being there. Perhaps one day, if Luke sets up his satellite stable in Brisbane, I may come back here to work permanently.
“But for now, I’m living the dream. I’m happy because I’m working with the best. I’ve really enjoyed racing up here during the Summer Carnival just gone,” Leonard said.
Cain is undoubtedly one of Australia’s hottest driving talents, but his older sister, has no desire - at this stage - to sit in the sulky on race day.
“I love horses as much as anyone in our family, but I get the biggest thrill out of preparing and developing them into equine athletes. I’m not saying I’ll never drive, but it doesn’t excite me as much as what training does.
“I just love animals, and am so happy I can pursue an outdoor career working with them,” Alex said.
Earlier this year Alex was one of six talented young Queensland horsemen and women selected to undertake media training sponsored by Kevin and Kay Seymour.
The sextet spent three Mondays in August at the Channel 7 studios at Mount Coot-Tha, and then the course wound up on August 25 at Albion Park.
“The course was a wonderful experience. The people were friendly, professional and very supportive, and we gained great new skills which will help us for a lifetime. I’ve always wanted to be a journalist and had an interest in the media. I have media certificates gained while I was at school and I also worked at 98.9 FM for about two to three years.
“I actually applied to do a Journalism degree at University, but then I had to raise an orphan foal born very late in the season, so since then horses have been my life. I learnt a lot and can’t thank the Seymours enough,” the former Trinity College student said.
Cain has trained 29 winners since 2016, including 13 this year.
Uncle Donald was also brimming with family pride.
“I’ve loved watching the kids grow up and develop into quality people and great with horses. I enjoy helping out and I’ll never forget my brother-in-law, Errol, training my horse Smooth Bullville to win five races.
“I’m just so proud to be a part of the Cox and Cain families,” he said.
Errol said to say that he and his wife Debra were proud of their children, was an understatement.
“Both kids drove Shetland ponies and that gave them a very solid background in this game. Alexandra does a terrific job in our stable when I’m away working. She is so good with animals and has a very bright career ahead of her.
“As for Leonard, well he’s done an exceptional job so far. He sums up things very well. He’s had very good teachers of course like Shane, Vicki, Luke and Craig.
“You never stop learning in this game and Alexandra and Leonard are both still very young, with a lot of learning still to come throughout their careers. I’d like to think I’ve played a little part in their rise too. I know Debra certainly has,” Errol said.
He said his father Leonard Thomas Cain (senior) was a hobby trainer who sadly passed away when he was just nine.
“Dad had just a few horses and I remember him working them, so that’s where I got the bug from. Obviously, Debra’s family were heavily involved also, so there was always a high chance Alexandra and Leonard would take to it as well – and they have since day one really,” said Errol, who relocated to Queensland from Victoria in 1977.
Meanwhile, his wife’s mother, Grace said her late husband Thomas was involved in all three racing codes in the 1950s.
“He actually had greyhounds when I met him and had shares in gallopers as well. He used to ride speed ponies at the Shows, and not long after we married in 1957, he told me he wanted to look for another hobby – something else to do.
“Then not long after our son Peter was born Thomas was watching a trotter strutting around at Coopers Plains. He told me he wanted to get one.
“He then approached Merv Wanless, of Lucky Creed fame, to ask if he could learn from him. Merv gave him a drive and said “if you can stay in the sulky around the first bend and keep him trotting, you can come back”.
“He got around the first corner okay and it all snowballed from there. Tom was hooked,” Grace said.
Her husband helped Mr Wanless for about four years while he learnt and then he slowly built up his own team.
“I think his first horse was Oxford Lass and they used to race a lot at Rocklea. His best was Shenandoah, who sadly bowed a tendon at four and we never got to see the best of him.
“Thomas’s 1969 Bachelor Hanover gelding, Ariki Lodge was also one of his better ones,” Grace said.
Her grandchildren said they were grateful for what all four of their grandparents had done for them over the years.
“We never got to meet them all, but we will always know the platform they laid for us and our parents. Dad has been our mentor over the years and together with Mum, has encouraged us to be the best people and horsewoman/man we can be.
“Leonard and I are extremely grateful for that. As a thankyou we just want to keep on winning,” Alex said.