February 27, 2023 Michael Court
HE may be ‘several’ years into retirement as one of our leading horsemen.
Yet champion reinsman Brian Hancock can still teach these youngsters a thing or two.
Too many of our current young guns have only read about B Hancock and his legendary feats on the track.
He’s still regarded as the Inter Dominion ‘King’.
And therein lies the lesson in itself.
Hancock was often hailed as the darling of the media.
And even in retirement, he’s still enormously popular.
So when a few of the ‘old’ and even a few current harness racing reporters decided to get together for lunch and to throw in their tuppence worth on what would win the Miracle Mile, Hancock said he’d love to come along for a catch-up and a laugh.
Looking as fit as when he reigned supreme at Harold Park, Hancock arrived in driving rain to enjoy a spot of lunch with harness racing’s doyen of reporters 89-year-old Harry Pearce, as well as former leading racecaller Kevin Thompson, Club Menangle director and former Telegraph harness reporter Bill Ellis as well as Mike Ko’cass, Paul Micallef and Mick Court – who are all still involved in the sport in one way or another.
Of course history shows that Hancock never won the great race [Miracle Mile] as a reinsman, coming very close when edged out by Double Agent and Joe Ilsley when he drove Bundanoon in 1984.
To this day there are some in the sport who would suggest Hancock should have protested and he might have won the race.
But he proudly admits he never lodged a protest in his life as a reinsman. (There must have been a few ‘get squares’ though, I commented).
“When Joe beat me, I did think I would win one before I finished,” he said.
“I guess there were grounds [for a protest], but I didn’t think there were, really,” he said.
“I had one protest at Fairfield one day when the stewards put the protest in and I won it.
“They asked me that day if I was going to protest and when I said ‘no, I wasn’t’, the chief steward that day, Ronnie Bottle simply said ‘well, I’m going to’.”
“And I won that race.”
Given a choice as to what he’d drive in Saturday night’s Miracle Mile, Hancock admits he wouldn’t know which way he’d jump.
“They’ve all been talking about Captain Ravishing – and he is a lovely horse,” he said.
Hancock says he does miss the comradeship the most and still enjoys an occasional return to Menangle and meeting up with the boys again.
“I’m proud of young Luke [McCarthy] and Blake [Fitzpatrick] and those young fellows like that . . . they’re doing a great job,” he said.
“I’d like to see the sport in a better place at times, but that’s life.”
Hancock still makes frequent visits to his nephew Darren Hancock’s Pheasants Nest property and stables and retains his license to drive the horses, when he feels like it.
“I still go alright too,” he grins.
If there was one thing he’d change, he suggests handicapping still needs ‘something done’.
“It’s not that expensive to breed a young horse these days but it is expensive to get into the game,” he said.
“You can’t buy properties these day, they’re all gone.
“That’s how most of these guys made some money, buying property on the edge of town – and they’re all gone now.
“There should be a life for people in harness racing – but it’s hard.”
Hancock says some of the younger guys need to learn to deal with the media because they owe that to the supporters of the game.
“They have to realize, they’re public property,” he said.
“I always had time for the press and frankly the press did me a lot of good.
“They always looked after me and did me a lot of good things and helped advertise the sport.
“And you need coverage . . . and they need to do their part.
“They’re all good kids, especially Cameron Hart and Jack Trainor – and we need them to be.
“They have to promote the business – and we need them to do that.
“That’s just the way it is.”
These days Hancock lives in Shellharbour Village on the NSW South Coast. He walks about 10kms a day and still watches the races.
“I have a few friends down there and I do enjoy going up to Darren’s and he’s good company and is a credit to his mum and dad,” he said.
“And Darren’s three boys are a credit to him too.
“I still have my health and that’s the main thing and I can’t go crook at anyone while I still have that.”