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After 50 Years, Nelligan Is Delighted To Be Back


At 65, Larry Nelligan, had reached a fork in the road. A pivotal stage in his life.

That’s why when most people his age are considering retirement, he bucked the trend.

For Nelligan, the decision to keep working wasn’t about money, financial gain or lifestyle, it was simply to pursue what he loved and knew best.

That just happened to be training horses, in particular, standardbreds, a sport that he is pretty good at and knows a thing or two about.

So, holidays, cruises and a traditional grey nomad lifestyle were put aside, for the time being at least.

And going by the reaction to a low profile meeting at Collie on Sunday, Nelligan has made the right call.

After nearly half a century, Nelligan was back in the winners stall with not one, but a fairy tale two winners.

“I can’t explain how exhilarating it was,” Nelligan told The Races WA.

“It was like winning a grand final.

“I was full of nerves and exhilaration driving down to Collie.

“It was a fantastic day and a great buzz.

"There were at least 50 well wishers after the rcae."

The spoils of victory always tastes sweet, no matter if it’s under the bright lights of Gloucester Park or a Miracle Mile at Menangle.

But when it happens at your very first meeting back after a long absence-and with horses you brought across from the east, there is added sentiment.

“I’ve been around horses since I was about 18 or 19 years of age,” Nelligan said.

“However, with work, family and other time commitments it took a back seat.

“I was still working around stables helping out other trainers, but not full time.

“But I was reaching a stage in my life where I needed to do something and get motivated.

“I needed to get involved and back into something with a sense of responsibility.

“I don’t play golf and I can’t listen to Tabradio every day.

'"If I was going to help out other trainers I might as well go back and do it myself.

"I want to get back into it full time."

Despite being away from the trots in an official capacity for a fair time,  punters didn’t miss Nelligan's two horses.

Jilliby Navajo in race two and Jilliby Tango in race eight, scored easy wins after starting red hot favourites, $1.50 and $1.10 respectively.

“They are nice horses who will go a long way,” Nelligan said.

“They were good horses in Melbourne.

“Their track work was very good.”

Nelligan has seen harness racing from its halcyon days in the 70s to the present, where it fights for relevancy in a crowded sporting landscape.

No matter the challenges that lay ahead for harness racing across Australia, Nelligan is content and delighted to be back.

“I think RWWA (Racing and Wagering Western Australia have done a marvellous job running harness,” Nelligan said.

“I think if someone like me can get back into it after 50 years it says something about the integrity of the sport.

“I love the animals and I love the industry.

“I’m glad to be back.”

Picture: Jess Ashcroft

Julio Santarelli 


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