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No Shadow Cast on Diane’s Lifelong Love of Standardbreds

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After nearly sixty years involved in harness racing, eighty-three-year-old Diane Reilly has developed deep passion for the standardbred.

”I hadn’t had much to do with horses at all until I was well into my twenties”, Diane reflects.

“My husband and I got involved in harness racing and managed a small hobby training operation from our Gold Coast property. With family and business commitments, we couldn’t afford a lot of horses initially. We had enough space for a couple of our own horses, a jog track and we’d take them up to Tweed Heads to fast-work. It was a juggle, but we managed it all because we really loved the horses.

“These days my body doesn’t stand up to training and my husband has passed on. I don’t really have any other interests, so I’m just keeping myself busy blowing the budget, buying new horses!”, Diane laughs.

With horses based with trainers across Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and even New Zealand, Diane has plenty to occupy her time in her pursuit to ‘keep a finger on the pulse’.

“Some weeks I might have four or five horses racing at various tracks”, Diane explains.

“I’ve got to keep across of where all my horses are, field enquiries from people looking to purchase them and then there are the youngstock prepping and retirees to manage too”.

As the owner of the 2022 Inter Dominion champion I Cast No Shadow, Diane still revels in the magnitude of winning ‘the ultimate dream shared by all harness participants’, but also considers some of the success stories beyond the track as right up there in her ownership highlights.

“A long time ago, I had these two beautiful chestnut standardbreds”, Diane recalls.

“They were sired by Hondo Gratton, with the services given to us by Tony Turnbull whom my husband and I worked with when he came up to Brisbane across the winter. We raced both horses but, unfortunately, they weren’t champions and we decided to retire them.

“Around this time there were two sisters in our area, of around twelve or thirteen years of age, who just loved animals.  Their family didn’t have a lot of money and so we decided to give them our two retired standardbreds.

“The girls just adored these horses. They took them to pony club and did dressage and all sorts of fun things with them. When the girls grew up and moved out of home to start their own families, they took their horses with them.  The horses eventually grew old and passed on and were buried on their respective family properties.

“It made me so happy not only to see the horses so loved and well cared for across their entire lives, but also to have helped these young girls to be able to experience the joy of horse ownership, which they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford to do”.

Taking pride in the high level of care provided to her horses throughout the entirety of their lives, Diane is selective with who she will pass the reins of her beloved herd members to.

“I’m careful with who I’ll sell my racehorses to, because once you sell a horse you lose control over what their life looks like and where they could end up”, Diane explains.

“A lot of horses are being sold to America, but I’m not comfortable with that because I worry what will happen to them once it’s time for them to retire.

“I recently rehomed a horse, Dynamic Bromac NZ (affectionately known as Max), whom I owned in partnership with my brother. Max raced quite well in his early years in Victoria, before being sold interstate. His form dwindled as he got on in age and he eventually ended up in a claiming race.

“I said to my brother that I thought it wasn’t fair on the horse, as he’d been good to us and won a lot of races, so I claimed him for $4000.

“Kima Frenning, who is involved with HRV Hero, had a soft spot for Max, having driven him in a few exciting wins down in Melton. Kima assisted me to rehome Max to a lovely young girl named Jessie, who has fallen in love with him.

“I like to retire horses down near Melbourne, because there’s better quality feed available. Queensland grass isn’t good and you have to feed them up, which can be expensive. Horses get poorly up here, whereas down in Victoria I know even if they’re out in a paddock, there will be grass!

“I’m getting on into my eighties and have an arrangement with my brother that if anything happens to me, he is to make sure my horses only end up going to the very best of homes.

“The good news is that standardbreds are not just one-trick ponies and are so lovely and gentle-natured. This means there are a lot of options for them to go on and become riding horses.

“These days there are protections in place which offer security over the rehoming process and peace of mind to owners and industry participants, like what is offered via the Hero program.

“If you don’t happen to know someone you’d trust to take on your retiree privately, there are some good initiatives available via Hero which provide oversight to the rehoming process, a bit like booking a taxi where you have a central hub managing things like traceability.

“Hero has made it easier for horses to find their next chapters. As an owner, it’s wonderful to see these horses so loved and well cared for in their new homes and enjoying long, happy lives after racing”.

If you’re a harness racing participant interested in learning more about retirement options for your standardbred, register your interest here:

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