By Duane Ranger
Former trainee jockey Matthew Greentree, who spent virtually all of his working life in the retail industry, has driven his first winner, aged 34.
The Ipswich born and former Bremer State High School student, saluted the judge behind the Graham Dwyer trained Ifoundthebeach at Redcliffe Paceway last Thursday.
They not only won the Knudsen’s NR60-65 Pace, but they bolted in by a whopping 20.2 metres. Ifoundthebeach was the $18 seventh favourite in a field of eight.
“It was extremely exciting and certainly a moment I’ll never forget. It actually still hasn’t sunken in yet" said Greentree – a former jockey, who drove his first harness winner at an age when a lot of former claimers have been in the game for a decade or more.
Greentree eased the Somebeachsomewhere gelding to third last from gate four. He then bided his time before unleashing the 5-year-old down the back straight the last time.
That’s when they gapped the field. In the straight they were lonely, clearing out to win the 2,040m mobile in 2:29.3 with a 1:57.8 mile rate. Ifoundthebeach’s winning sectionals were 30.2, 30, 29.6, and 28.7.
It was the bay gelding’s 15th win.
“I won’t forget that pacer in a hurry. I’m grateful to Graham for putting me behind him. I’ve only been working for him at Kings Lodge for three weeks and he had enough faith to put me behind the horse.
“It’s wonderful to be involved in an industry that I am so passionate about; there is so many opportunities and you never stop learning. I am extremely grateful for each opportunity afforded to me and I just want to do my very best for the owners and trainers that put me on their horses,” Greentree said.
Greentree said he was born into a thoroughbred family. Both his father and grandfather raced gallopers, and he rode trackwork for most of his early life and teens.
“I used to ride after school, weekends, and every holidays. I was on the verge of becoming a jockey, but after a growth spurt in my later teen years, after school I focused on securing full time work.
“I worked for Drakes Supermarkets for 15 years and then about three years ago I met Purga Trainer, Stephen Bunz. Stephen lived just 10 minutes away at the time, and offered for me to help him work his trotters. Having already held my stable hand license, this opportunity allowed me to learn about the harness industry and gain experience with driving, for this I am extremely grateful to Stephen.
“Not long after Stephen moved to Deception Bay, I also moved in with my partner Krysta at Aspley, which allowed me to continue helping him out at every opportunity.”
Greentree got his trial licence in May 2019 and has had about 20 drives since getting his driving licence in late November.
“I’ve had a couple of thirds and got beaten by a nose behind Groovy Miss Annie at Marburg (December 22), but there’s no feeling like winning" Greentree said. And to do it as easily as what he did – wow!”
With a number of years at the Bunz stable, Greentree also worked with Kylie Rasmussen and Darren Weeks for about 3 months in late 2019, before transferring to Dwyer last month.
“I sat down with Krysta last year and we decided that I should give harness racing a good go. Now nearly 12 months later, thanks to the endless support of my partner and parents I am lucky enough to have driven my first winner, and am working six days a week for Graham at Greenbank,” Greentree said.
Greentree will be back in the sulky at Redcliffe Paceway tomorrow (Wednesday) night. He will be driving The Gunrockstar (3) in race one at 5.18pm, for Bianca Hooper and has the choice of two drives in race seven at 8.20pm for Stephen Bunz.
The two Bunz trained pacers are Poser (4) and Idiots Dream (6).