By Tony McMahon
Where there is a will there is a way.
Rockhampton trainer Darryl Johnston, 36, blessed with the virtues of ingenuity, resilience and a positive attitude has enacted those qualities with inspirational testimony.
I remember speaking to Darryl during his painful rehabilitation from a race fall he endured as a successful jockey at Rockhampton’s Callaghan Park racecourse on December 29, 2007.
As a result of the horror fall Darryl became a paraplegic but beaming his never too far away smile, he told me ‘life goes on and I will become a trainer.’
He did and from his wheelchair he led around and saddled his first winner Reraise at Mackay within a year on December 22, 2008.
Once again yesterday at Townsville’s Cluden Park in his snazzy wheelchair, that beaming smile was on display for all to see as Darryl greeted his latest winner the speedy Aspen Lad.
Ridden by Darryl’s loving partner, the jockey Natalea Summers and led-in by his son Will, the trio were a sight to behold as their elation was the product of tireless hours of dedication in the preceding 24 hours.
Before going there though, the win of Harry (Aspen Lad) was far from unexpected by the Johnston team as he firmed in the betting from $8.00 to $4.80.
Such generous opening odds were well off the mark as less than a fortnight back Aspen Lad was the talk of Rockhampton after winning a barrier trial by over eight lengths in brilliant time.
Gunned out of the barriers from his rails draw by Natalea Summers, Aspen Lad displayed his enviable speed to lead throughout and easily win the $31K QTIS Maiden (1000m) by 1.5 lengths.
It brought about a big post-race statement from Darry declaring Aspen Lad was ‘the best horse and fastest horse I have trained.’
That in itself is a huge compliment as among his numerous winners over the years Darryl prepared Isa Tala which among 10 other wins scored in the Cairns Lightning (950m) on August 12, 2017.
Diana Reck who owned and raced Isa Tala (gr m 2009, Dance Hunter-Palpitations) is also a part-owner of Aspen Lad along with trainer Darryl and Michelle Fitzroy.
‘’Dianne has been a long-time client,” Darryl said.
“We bought the Captain Sonador mare Sonador Rose from Vic Vagg when she finished racing and put her to Bagger Vance. That’s how we got Harry.
“Then when the time was right John Stephens broke him in and did a fabulous job.”