ANOTHER of the industry’s greats will be honoured at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night with the running of The Gammalite.
A hero of the 1980s, Gammalite was bred and trained by the late Leo O’Connor throughout his illustrious career, which saw him race at the highest level throughout Australasia.
By Thor Hanover from High Valley, Gammalite was a dual Inter Dominion winner, securing the prestigious event in 1983 and ‘84 to become the Championship’s third multiple winner and the second to capture the title in consecutive years.
Captain Sandy was the initial dual winner after scoring in 1950 and 1953.
Affectionately known as the Bathurst Bulldog, Hondo Grattan was the initial pacer to successfully defend his Inter Dominion title, winning in 1973 and ‘74.
Fittingly, Gammalite’s farewell performance was in the 1985 Inter Dominion at his favourite track, Moonee Valley, when fourth behind boom pacer, Preux Chevalier.
Victorious at the Valley on 24 occasions, Gammalite won in each Australian state except Tasmania, scoring at 23 of the nation’s tracks. He also had a tremendous affiliation with South Australia’s Globe Derby.
The first pacer to pass the $1million mark in the southern hemisphere, Gammalite joined champion thoroughbreds, Kingston Town and Manikato, as the only Australian equines to break the barrier ‘Down Under.’
Gammalite also claimed the mantle as the richest Australasian-bred stallion, including thoroughbreds.
Second on debut at Moonee Valley on October 21, 1978, Gammalite was unplaced at his two following starts before opening his account at Bendigo on December 12.
The amazing pacer showed a liking for doing it tough early in his career, backing up three days after his maiden victory to score at Stawell from a 10-metre handicap.
Having 18 starts as a two-year-old, the gritty chestnut was triumphant 11 times, with five placings and earnings of $41,003 also to his credit.
Gammalite’s freshman purse was second only to star unbeaten West Australian, San Simeon, which pocketed $50,162.
Sam Simeon also topped the three-year-old earnings list, with Gammalite his closest rival.
Winning 12 of his 20 starts at three, Gammalite began his love affair with Globe Derby by annexing the South Australia Derby.
The colt’s victory was overshadowed by a failed betting plunge, which saw a little-known pacer named Popular Alm backed from 33/1 to 9/4 at his debut for Bob and Vin Knight.
Gammalite staved off the fast finishing Popular Alm to score by a head.
The archrivals engaged in a further 18 battles, with Popular Alm winning 17 of the encounters.
Gammalite’s other success over ‘Poppy’ – regarded as the best pacer produced on this side of the equator – was in the 1983 Inter Dominion at Alexandra Park.
As for Gammalite’s liking for Globe Derby, it included an astonishing four South Australian Cups between 1982 and 1985.
A winner of nine Grand Circuit races, Gammalite’s victories include the Auckland, A G Hunter, West Australia, Cranbourne, Ballarat, Geelong and Fremantle Cups.
The first dual Australian Horse of the Year, Gammalite was also the first to be crowned Grand Circuit Champion three times.
Another little known feat was Gammalite’s achievement of becoming the first pacer to earn a bonus on top of his stakes.
The stallion achieved the feat by completing a clean sweep of the two, three and four-year-old Bonanza Finals at Geelong, collecting a $50,000 bonus.
West Australian galloper Asian Beau was the only other horse in Australia to collect a bonus.
Boasting a best rate of 1:55.8, Gammalite was driven to glory by seven reinsmen, with Bruce Clarke his regular pilot, partnering the champion to 65 wins.
Gammalite enjoyed a handy career at stud, siring several classy campaigners, but none could match their old man’s record.
As for the race in Gammalite’s honour, a handy field has been assembled, including comeback pacer My Kiwi Mate.
Prepared by Craig Demmler, the son of Bettors Delight was an eye-catching fourth on August 10 when first-up from an 11-month absence.
“He fractured a pastern during the Kilmore Cup last year which required three screws to hold it together,” Demmler said.
“I was very happy with his first run back and he will be better again having had more training and miles put into his legs.
“Drawing the second row makes it harder, but it’s a winnable race.”
Should the gelding recapture his best form, Demmler will once again target the Kilmore Cups.
“The Cups are what we’re looking at with him, beginning with Kilmore next month,” Demmler said.