Inter Dominion: Brian Gath set to rewrite the history books as race’s oldest driver


Brian Gath won an Inter Dominion final in 1978 and 43 years later, at the age of 77, he is chasing history in this prestigious race.

Brian Gath fell in love with Inter Dominion 61 years ago and on Saturday night he will become the oldest driver to compete in the big race at the age of 77.

This will be Gath’s 13th final training at Inter Dominion, but his first since finishing eighth on Safari behind Blacks A Fake in the 2008 pacing final at Moonee Valley.

Fittingly, Gath returns to NSW to make history on Saturday when he drives the Illawong Stardust trotter to Menangle for his great companion and trainer, Tony Peacock.

His first Inter Dominion final training took place at the old Harold Park track when he finished fourth in the 1973 trotting final aboard Lochdale.

The victory would make Gath, a Hall of Fame rider with more than 3,600 career victories, the oldest rider in Australasian history to win a Group 1 race.

The current record holders are Colin McDowell, Graeme Bowyer and the late Graeme Lang, who were all 73 years old.

“Sydney is a special place for me, that’s where I first got hooked on Inter Dominion,” Gath recalls.

“I remember being a little kid with daddy (the late and legendary George Gath) at the 1960 Inter Dominion in Harold Park and helping push Caduceus’ wagon up the hill for Jack Litten ( his trainer-driver).

“Caduceus was a ‘king’ and there were 52,000 crammed into that little trail. I remember thinking, “Damn, this Inter Dominion thing is amazing”. Someday I have to be part of it and try to win it ”.

Take part in it and win it, Gath did.

The victory came from the talented seated sprinter Markovina whom he trained and led to win the first Inter Dominion final in Moonee Valley held in 1978.

“It took a good drive, too,” Gath said with a laugh.

“You must have timed you were absolutely right on him.” He was so fast, but he stopped on you when he hit the front. We got it right that night.

“Dad came close but never won Inter Dominion so it meant the world to me and like something I did for him too.

“I reunited a few times with Franco Tiger (second in 1992). He would have won if he had seen them sooner, but he flew when he saw the light of day and narrowly missed Westburn Grant’s descent.

“I was unlucky not to win with Shakamaker (2002) as well. He was attacked early on and it took him a little too long. He was so brave in second and would have won with a slightly easier race.

The youngest driver Gath will compete against in the trotting final is Cameron Hart, 22, who would have been nine when Gath last made an Inter Dominion final.

The name Gath is an integral part of the Australian harness racing fabric and Gath will share Saturday night’s historic moment with another generation of the family, his grandson, Louis.

“I was going to fly to Sydney, but Louis is 18 and just got his license. He said, “Grandpa, I’ll drive you. Let’s go win the Inter Dominion.

“It will make sharing the trip and the whole experience very special with him.”

Illawong Stardust is an underdog and Gath knows he is against it, but also knows that the race can and has delivered many unexpected and fairytale-worthy results.

“She is a lovely mare and the design inside the back row is perfect. It really helps a lot, ”he said.

“I would love to win it and don’t count on us, but just driving an Inter Dominion is pretty special.

“It’s just going to feel really good. I am on a nice walker, driven by a good old friend and owned by people I have known for over 40 years. You can’t ask for much more.

* Adam Hamilton is a paid News Corp contributor who writes about harness racing

Originally published as Harness Racing icon Brian Gath set to rewrite the history books as the oldest driver to compete in an Inter Dominion final


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