By Duane Ranger
It took until the second last day of 2019, but Joedy Whitaker finally had the last laugh on what she termed her ‘year from hell’.
After coming within a whisker of losing her entire family in a tragic accident at Redcliffe Paceway on March 24, Whitaker, has now won her first race in her own specially designed colours.
Her turquoise silks with the silver star and black seams saluted the judge for the first time on the Kilcoy grass on Monday (December 30) when she trained No Transactions to win the third event.
It was the first ever trotting event on the track.
“I’ve trained a couple of winners with Gary before, but this is the first in my own colours. I was really excited with the win, especially after the year we have had.
“It was a huge thrill really. Poor Steven wore a big kiss and hug whether he liked it or not. I was so emotional. It was the perfect way to end what was a horrible 2019,” Whitaker said.
Steven is Steven Docherty, the driver of No Transactions. He got the $17 outsider up to win by 2.9 metres in the $3,540 Kilcoy Exchange Hotel Trotters Discretionary Handicap.
The 7-year-old Federal Flex – Miss Impromptu (by Wagon Apollo) gelding trotted the 1,820m stand in 2:36.8 (mile rate 2:17.9) and his sectionals were 34.8, 34.9, 32.8, and 31.7.
No Transactions, who started from the 10-metre handicap, has now won four of his 47 starts and placed in nine others for $17,309.
Whitaker owns the bay. His last win was on July 11, 2018, when Whitaker’s husband Gary trained and drove him to a head victory at Redcliffe.
Whitaker said she was delighted to have won at the Kilcoy Race Club’s first stand-alone TAB harness meeting. The Club has previously participated in a number of dual coders.
“It was a great family day out and the club needs to be applauded for putting on a great day. We haven’t been to many meetings as a family since the accident, but we all enjoyed the day at Kilcoy.
“Gary’s parents came and looked after the kids, while we got the horse ready. He’s our only standardbred in work at the moment.
“The kids didn’t seem traumatised by their track return. We all had fun, but in saying that I think it is still way too soon to be taking them back to Redcliffe,” Whitaker said.
“One day, but we are not ready yet,” she stressed.
In fact, 10 months after the horrific accident at Redcliffe Paceway, Whitaker’s husband Gary is still not ready to return to the sulky. In fact, he may never come back.
“Gary has taken it pretty hard, and even though he loves the horses, he’s just happy now to help me with the horses behind the scenes at Clarendon,” Whitaker said.
Just before 7pm on that fateful night at Redcliffe Paceway, the arm of the pace car unfortunately came in contact with the three Whitakers. ‘Dad’ was holding his daughter at the time. They were all left with severe head injuries’, with little Lara left fighting for her life.
“Josh (2) and I have fully recovered. Josh had a fractured skull and is fine now. We both have thick heads,” he joked. “Lara (3) is a super, happy little girl. She’s not fully recovered though, and still needs a few operations on her eyes,” Whitaker (Gary) told Racing Queensland.
In fact, we may never see Gary Whitaker driving as a professional again.
The 40-year-old, who has won almost 1,200 races and netted $5 million in stakes, said he was still traumatised by the accident which left him and his children fighting for their lives in separate hospitals in Brisbane.
“It’s still a mental thing with me. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over it, but even talking to you is helping me deal with these issues lot better.
“I’m almost ready to come back to the track and talk to all the wonderful people in the industry, but I’ll doubt I’ll ever be a professional driver again.
“I love the game and Joedy (wife) has horses and I enjoy working with them at home, perhaps in an amateur form you might see me back, but for now it’s all about focusing on my family and doing what’s right for them,” the Kensington Grove (Hatton Vale) father-of-two said.
However, his wife said that she and her husband hailed from harness racing families and it because of that they would always be involved in some form or another.
The Whitakers are breeding out of our 13-year-old Malabar Maple mare, Calder Luck, and Shes No Fake. The couple work their horses out of Lowland Lodge.
“We have got a lovely Used To Me weanling filly out of Calder Luck, and a nice Gotta Go Cullect weanling colt out of Shes No Fake.
“I don’t think they will go to the Sales because I love them too much already. Harness racing runs deep in my blood. My parents had horses, as did my grandparents.
“In fact, my great-grandmother, Ilma Walker, was a very well-known horsewoman, who drove and trained many winners. She was one of Australia’s first female trainer/drivers,” said Whitaker, who has also worked for Max Solutions for the past 11 years.
“It’s just so nice to be back winning again – especially in my own colours. That win aside, I’m very happy to put 2019 well and truly behind me,” Whitaker added.
Meanwhile, Monday’s seven-race Kilcoy meeting was dubbed the 'The Valley Of The North' due to the track’s short straight and compact patron amenities.
Racing Queensland’s Harness Development Strategy Manager, David Brick, said the meeting had been strategically programmed with a view to taking advantage of the strong tourism numbers enjoyed in the region, whilst promoting the sport to new audiences.
“Industry feedback indicated an opportunity to showcase the sport throughout the Christmas period, particularly on the grass at Kilcoy, as is the case in New Zealand.
“The Kilcoy Club has tagged the meeting their 'Picnic Raceday' as part of their Yuletide Festival of Racing, with admission free aiming to attract the many families on holiday leading up to the New Year.
“The event comes on the back a significant venue facelift thanks to support from the Somerset Council including the unveiling of a brand new cafeteria and attractive improvements to the betting ring and surrounds,” Brick said.
Nearly all patrons spoke to by Racing Queensland termed Monday’s stand-alone meeting as a success.