WHAT’S the issue with Vin Knight?
One of the things we have been reminded of this year is harness racing loves its champions.
Sadly we lost two of those in the space of a few weeks when Graeme and Gavin Lang died.
Following Sirletic’s success at Tabcorp Park Melton last night Gavin tributes were flowing again and it is a fair bet there will be a press release about how sentimental the win was tomorrow morning.
The reason being Josh Aiken drove Sirletic while wearing Gavin’s colours, while the gelding is also part-owned by his widow, Meagan.
Fitting to their stature as legends, the Langs were honoured with Group races in their names within six months of their deaths.
During the past three decades other industry participants – icons and administrators – have had their names and legacy honoured with feature events.
This includes Gordon Rothacker, who not only has the grandstand at Tabcorp Park carrying his name, but also a series of which heats were part of last night’s card.
Others to receive such esteemed recognition in Victoria during the past 30 years include Ron Casey, Bill Collins, Bruce Skeggs and Elizabeth Clarke.
Then there are a host of pacers and trotters – The Knight Pistol, Smoken Up Sprint, Sumthingaboutmaori Mares’ Free-For-All, Sokyola Sprint, The Shakamaker – to name a handful.
Dying by his own hands on April 9, 1991, Knight is still regarded as one of the finest horsemen produced in the southern hemisphere.
Flamboyant, cocky and blessed with amazing skill with horses, Knight was more of a King at Moonee Valley during the 1980s and up until his death.
Knight won a host of the state’s majors including the A G Hunter Cup, Winfield/Victoria Cup, Derbys, Oaks, Sires’ Finals, Oceania El Dorado and a string of country cups.
Knight drove his initial winner, Dian Glenfern, at his home track of Kilmore on July 6, 1970, a little over two months after his 16th birthday.
He registered his first metropolitan win with Cita Dollar at the Ascot Vale Showgrounds on May 1, 1971, four days before his 17th birthday.
During the next two decades Knight added 720 wins to his tally at the Showgrounds and Moonee Valley.
Included in his record 721 Melbourne victories are four quintets (a record), nine quadruples (another record), 45 trebles and an incredible 143 doubles.
It took Gavin almost 20 years after Knight’s death to break the record for the most Melbourne wins.
Knight was leading Melbourne reinsman six times, including the year of his death despite only driving half the season!
He won a record 18 Inter Dominion heats – 16 with pacers and two with trotters – and drove in 10 consecutive Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Finals – also a record.
First Glimpse provided Knight with his last winner when he captured the inaugural Oceania El Dorado at Moonee Valley on April 6, 1991.
Knight was associated with topliners such as the immortal Popular Alm, Garry’s Advice, Smooth Falcon, Bag Limit, Our Maestro, Jane Ellen, Jodie’s Babe, Rockleigh Victory, Almeta Boy and Sinbad Bay.
Several of those pacing superstars have features named after them!
The Trotting Control Board at the time of Knight’s death never saw fit to name a major feature after the champion and for some reason subsequent boards have not made right such a wrong.
Even after Harness Racing Weekly launched the Vin Knight Medal the board of the time elected not to embrace the gala function but instead initiate the Gordon Rothacker Medal.
Knight had his demons and his faults – like 99.9 per cent of the industry – but his deeds as a horseman deserve to be recognised.
So once again as we approach the 30th year since his death…What’s the issue with Vin Knight?