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Harness racing icon to be honoured with the ‘Bill Dixon’ Pace

By Duane Ranger

Queensland Hall-of-Fame horseman, Bill Dixon, will be honoured annually at Albion Park from Saturday December 21 on.

Racing Queensland, in conjunction with the Albion Park Harness Racing Club, have decided to name a race after Mr Dixon during its Summer Carnival.

David Brick, Racing Queensland’s Harness Development Strategy Manager, said the 1,660m mobile would be known as the ‘Bill Dixon’.

“The $21,270 feature pace is effectively for up-and-coming pacers with a national 60-75 rating. Bill gave so much to the industry over the years, and it’s only fitting we programme a race in his honour,” Brick said.

Sadly, 75-year-old Mr Dixon was too ill to comment, but his friend of 30-plus years, and fellow River Glen Retirement Village resident (Waterford West), Ian Wallace, was more than willing to speak on his behalf.

“Bill moved here about two years ago and lives just 150 metres from me. I visit him every day. He was president of BOTRA (Breeders, Owners, Trainers, Reinspersons Association) for many years before I became his side-kick (secretary) in 1990 to about 2014. He was still negotiating with Racing Queensland in 2016 for improvements. He always had others concerns at heart – from the Gold Coast to Cairns, and nationally.

“What he hasn’t done for the industry isn’t worth mentioning. He is a harness racing legend and known throughout Australia, and the world, for his achievements. A great horseman, a great human, and truly one of a kind.

“But sadly, these days he is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and prostate cancer. He has his good days and bad days, but would find it virtually impossible to be coherent and talk to you,” Wallace said.

“It almost brings me to tears just thinking of his decline. He struggles to even walk 20 metres sometimes,” he added.

He said his ole pal hardly missed a trotting race on Sky TV.

“He watches all the races and is very proud of what his son Grant has achieved. Grant is following in his footsteps. In fact, he took over the training from Bill in the 2011-2012 season, and has done brilliantly since. That was after Bill won four straight national training premierships,” Wallace said.

Those four titles came in 2011 with 299 wins; ($1.8m); 2010: 264 ($0.5m); 2009: 242 ($1.6m); and 2008: 243 ($1.4m).

Mr Dixon's 299 training victories in 2011 was a national record until held Emma Stewart snatched it off him in 2018.

Stewart's record of 309 victories was then overhauled by Grant Dixon, who won a record 340 races last season.

Wallace said Mr Dixon still held the record for most wins in a single day back in 1975 with nine - nailing four at Charters Towers in the afternoon, before scoring with another five at Townsville later that night.

He was inducted into the Queensland Racing Hall-of-Fame in 2008.

“As well as being a top trainer and reinsman and competing at World Driving Championships, Bill was a fighter for the good of the industry. He always had the welfare of the sport in his heart and did many wonderful things for the game, like getting rid of the running rail.

“What he did during the EI (Equine Influenza) out-break was phenomenal, all while establishing his state-of-the art training facility at Tamborine after relocating from Gilberton. Grant and his wife, Trista, still train from there. It is a simply amazing complex. World-class! I haven’t seen better,” Wallace said.

Wallace said Mr Dixon’s title-winning 243 wins in 2008 was astonishing considering Queensland was crippled with Equine Influenza, which cut short his season by three months.

He said the Dixon stable was one of the worst effected with all of the horses stabled on the property contracting the dreaded virus. If trying to fight off this virus wasn't enough, it was also the year Mr Dixon relocated.

“Bill burnt the candle at both ends, yet still trained many winners as well as preparing Good Lookin Girl and Atomic Ark for the Inter Dominions under difficult and trying circumstances.

He also assisted Natalie Rasmussen with Inter Dominion immortal Blacks A Fake.”

Good Lookin Girl went on to be the best mare in the country with a collection of feature race victories highlighted by a 1.53.7 demolition of the Ladyship Mile.

Mr Dixon earlier said the Jeremy Lee’s 1994 New South Wales Derby was one of his fondest memories.

Meanwhile, Brick also said other major races were also scheduled for ‘Bill Dixon’ night.

These were the Group One $50,770 DJ Alexander Memorial Trotting Championship Final (Open discretionary handicap - 2,647 stand); the Group Two $50,660 Queensland Cup (NR 90-plus pacers - 2,123m mobile); and the $14,999 King Of The Claimers Pace (for $7,000 to $10,000 claimers).

Brick said there were no heats for the claiming event, and it would be raced over the 2,138m (mobile).