In 1965 Alan’s mother made him sit an Entrance Examination at Wesley College and was lucky enough to top the exam and was awarded a 50% Fees Scholarship to Wesley. On his first day at Wesley met Tim Blee whose father was the Gloucester Park timekeeper and other schoolmates at Wesley included Warren Robinson (son of leading freelance driver Laurie Robinson) and Robbie Oakley (son of Fred Oakley who had an interest in fast-class pacer Young Robbie).
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Cajoled his mother into taking him to his first ever trot meeting on 1st January 1970 at Gloucester Park and that night saw Mount Eden win a 3yo race and Daintys Daughter win the WA Pacing Cup. Hooked from then on.
Went to University of WA and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a dual-major in History and English. Spent most of his time studying the history of trotting in WA which unfortunately wasn’t on the curriculum. It was at this time he began to create a system of index cards which recorded a three generation pedigree of Perth winners on one side and their Perth wins and feature places on the other.
Every Tuesday he went to trials at Gloucester Park on the way home from University (up to 200 horses would trial on a Tuesday in the summertime) and on Fridays his last lecture was at 1:00pm which left him plenty of time to study Ken Casellas’s form in The Sports Action before heading to Gloucester Park. Remember seeing a couple of scruffy yet ambitious young blokes selling a publication called Punters Guide outside the gates at GP – Gino De Mori and Brian Burke.
After University he got a job with the Department of Agriculture in Manjimup and later in Bunbury where he joined the Bunbury Trotting Club. Applied for a job at Gloucester Park as Assistant Registrar and after a delay of some seven or eight weeks got an interview with the Racing Manager Ray Holloway and then Registrar Laurie Collins. He took a sample of his records cards with him and luckily got the gig even though his mother thought he was mad to take a 10% cut in annual salary when he was in line to get a position in charge of the quarantine glasshouses at the Department of Agriculture. Felt that the cut was a small price to pay for being able to get paid for what was effectively his hobby and the opportunity to work in the same industry with legendary names such as Kersley, Coulson, Johnson and Warwick and to hopefully earn their respect and to make a contribution of his own to the industry.
In about 1986 read an article out of Sydney about Kevin Newman driving 500 winners at Harold Park and began wondering if any Western Australian drivers had achieved that milestone in Perth. Only way to find out was to create a list of all Perth race results since trotting began in 1910. The original list was hand-written at night spread out on the lounge-room floor using the cuttings books borrowed from Gloucester Park. The WATA Committee recognised the research with the creation of the 500 Club for drivers of 500 city winners in Perth.
Those original hand-written records were computerised in 2000 into an Access database that has now been expanded to include country race results back to 1910 and it currently encompasses more than 140,000 races run in WA. It has also been expanded to include details of trainers who were never recognised nationally until the last ten years and it is presently being expanded with the addition of owner details.
A separate database of Standardbred pedigrees and accompanying performances was created in 1996 and entails some 14 – 18 hours per week to maintain as race-meetings are run in Australia and New Zealand. This database of more than 300,000 horses enables the computer production of Standardbred pedigrees for yearling catalogues in WA, Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia – between 500 and 600 catalogue pages per season for the last five years.
Both databases provided information for distribution to various sections of the trotting media across Australia through the resources of the WATA and RWWA and enabled media coverage of training and driving milestones for the likes of Chris Lewis and Gary Hall and pieces of trivia such as Gavin Lang never having been placed in an Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Final despite winning more than 5000 races. Even Gavin wasn’t aware of his Inter Dominion hoodoo until Ernie Manning used that bit of trivia.
Over 40 years it has been a pleasure to be in a position to help the likes of trotting journalists including Ken Casellas, John McGrath, Gino De Mori, Arthur Thornton, Rod White, Marshall Dobson (NSW), Frank Marrion (New Zealand), Ron Bisman (New Zealand), Harold Howe (Canada), Ernie Manning and the legendary George Grljusich.
The records have also helped numerous families desperate to track down records relating to the achievements of members of their families in the trotting industry as family history has become an increasingly popular hobby.
His love of history, including trotting history, and enjoyment of writing has seen Alan presented with 11 Joseph Coulter Media Awards by Harness Racing Australia in various historical categories including one for Best Book for The Village Kid Story which he jointly self-published with Bill Horn. It sold enough copies to cover all the production costs and for Bill and Alan to donate around $2,000 to the Make A Wish Foundation.
The introduction of The West Australian Racing Industry Hall of Fame in 2007 by RWWA under the guidance of Ken Norquay provided a fresh impetus to his historical research and in the course of that research discovered the previously untold story of the successful trotting trainer David Simcock who died on the first day of the Gallipoli landings, the first dual-licenced trainer to train a Railway Stakes winner and WA Pacing Cup winner in Fred Thomas, the previously untold story of the champion WA galloper Lilypond who was owned by trotting trainer Tom Foy and the contribution to trotting made by Albert E Cockram who owned both the Belmont Park and Goodwood racecourses at the same time he was an inaugural committeeman of the WATA.
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