ONE of harness racing’s greats will be honoured at Tabcorp Park Melton to night with the running of the Minuteman Free-For-All
A star during the 1960s, Minuteman was the idol of the nation, particularly in his home state of South Australia.
Bred by Eric Hurley, who co-owned the stallion with his brother, Jim, and sister, Phyllis, Minuteman – like so many champions – had an unassuming start to his career and sadly bowed out in the same manner.
Named after the American rocket weapon system, Minuteman showed above average ability early in his education and eventually performed well at the Klemzig trials, which saw him start favourite upon debut.
The colt injured his leg during his preliminary and virtually took no part in the race as a result.
Subsequent leg troubles from that initial injury plagued Minuteman throughout his three-year-old season.
Despite the setback, he was South Australia’s best youngster in 1962/63, winning 10 races, including three features.
Minuteman also finished third behind champion New Zealand colt, Tactile, and You Crovottie in the SA Derby.
Clearly one of the most promising prospects to come out of South Australia, Minuteman made the transition to open company appear seamless at four to seal his place among the industry’s all-time greats.
Kick-starting his campaign on a winning note, Minuteman strung together numerous triumphs in his home state and Victoria before Hurley decided to really test his stable star.
Hurley made another trip across the border in January 1964, but this was no ordinary excursion – the assignment was to take on Australasia’s best in the A G Hunter Cup at the Ascot Vale Showgrounds.
Minuteman led throughout in the 3000 pound event to beat Robin Dundee and Angelique.
Less than two months after his Hunter Cup success, Minuteman secured the 1964 Inter Dominion, but not without first giving his connections a great deal of stress.
Breaking at the start of his opening round heat, Minuteman recovered to finish third behind Cardigan Bay, which overcame his 36-yard handicap to win in track record time.
The defending champion rated 2:06, clipping 1.4 seconds off Dainty Rose’s mark set 10 years earlier.
Minuteman made amends when he won his second round heat, before his owners submitted an unusual request.
The Hurleys sought, and were permitted, to scratch Minuteman from his final heat over the marathon 15 1/2 furlongs.
Pre-post favourite for his heat, Minuteman was suffering from arthritis of the near-fore fetlock joint, combined with a slight attack of laminitis.
The incident later led to the change of rules regarding the scratching of a runner from the heats.
After being treated around the clock by the Hurleys and the Trotting Control Board’s veterinarian, Minuteman was back on track for the decider.
Minuteman, which missed the start in his first heat, began brilliantly from the pole to work to the lead with ease.
Hurley, who slowed the tempo during the middle stages, then kicked clear on the home turn as Minuteman was untouched to beat Angelique and Tactile.
Minuteman spent the next seven months on the sidelines before resuming for a moderate five-year-old campaign.
Spelled again, Minuteman returned to his best at six, with his wins including the 1966 Hunter Cup.
Leg injuries plagued Minuteman during the next five years, with the champ eventually retired as an 11-year-old following several comebacks.
Minuteman’s retirement was brought about after he was omitted from the 1970 Inter Dominion.
Boasting a record of 30 wins, 18 placings and earnings of $66,306 from 75 starts, Minuteman died at Hurley’s property in 1980 as a result of old age.