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Harness Associate Nominee: Alan Parker

Hall of Fame
Alan Parker

Born on 17th April 1953, Alan Parker 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 in World Record Time.

He was a student at Wesley College at the time with his classmates including Warren Robinson (son of leading freelance reinsman Laurie Robinson) and Tim Blee (son of Gloucester Park time-keeper Merv Blee).

He graduated from the University of WA with a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a dual-major in History and English. The three year degree took four years as he 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. This card system became the foundation of a couple of computer databases which now record the same details.

Every Tuesday night Park 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.

After University he got his first job with the Department of Agriculture in Manjimup and later in Bunbury where he joined the Bunbury Trotting Club. 

At the urging of a couple of Bunbury Trotting Club stalwarts in Dr Ern Manea and Harvey Maslin, Parker 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 job 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. 

Parker 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.

Parker commenced work for the WATA in December 1977 as Assistant Registrar and succeeded Laurie Collins as Registrar in 1980. 

His abilities as a writer and researcher were recognised not long afterwards and he was made Information Services Executive and began providing information and statistics for the media.

He later became Assistant Harness Racing Manager to Ray Holloway and succeeded Holloway as the WATA’s Racing Manager in the early nineties.

Parker arranged the racing side of the 1989, 1996 and 2004 Inter Dominions including the bringing of Eastern States and New Zealand trained horses for both the Inter Dominions and the WATA’s annual Summer Carnival.

In 1989 he was able to get the Australian champion Westburn Grant to Perth despite the Australian pilots dispute which had restricted freighter flights to Perth to one day per week. Parker managed to get Westburn Grant on a flight when the WA Turf Club was unable to get the 1989 Melbourne Cup winner Tawriffic on a flight to Perth. 

Sometime around 1986 Parker 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. 

As there were no long-term driving records available the 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 a database that has now been expanded to include country race results back to 1910 and it currently encompasses more than 143,000 races run in WA. 
It has also been expanded to include details of trainers, who were never recognised nationally until the last ten years, owners and breeders.

Parker has provided trainer details to Harness Racing Australia of feature races held in WA since 1910 with the result that Western Australia is the only Australian State whose records display this information.

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 across Australia – around 500 catalogue pages per season for the last five years.

Both databases have provided Parker with a wealth of information for distribution to various sections of the trotting media across Australia through the resources of both the WATA and RWWA. Since his resignation from RWWA in 2015, Parker has continued to maintain the databases and supply the media in all States.

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 have all been supplied by Parker.

These 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 Parker presented with 12 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 the pair 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 provided a fresh impetus for Parker’s historical research and in the course of that research he discovered the previously untold story of the successful trotting trainer David Simcock who died on the first day of the Gallipoli landings. 

It was a story later published as a full-page story in The West Australian newspaper as part of its Anzac Day coverage a couple of years ago.

Parker’s Hall Of Fame research also uncovered the story of the first dual-licenced trainer to train a Railway Stakes winner and WA Pacing Cup winner in Fred Thomas and the the previously untold story of the champion WA galloper Lilypond who was owned by trotting trainer Tom Foy.

Parker resigned as a paid employee of RWWA in July 2015 but he has continued to devote his time to harness racing as a pedigree and history researcher and producing the pedigrees of stallions in the annual National Stallion Guide produced by the Victorian Breeders Association.

He also continues to contribute stories on Western Australian harness racing to the National Harness Racing website and for the Northam Advertiser on behalf of the Northam Harness Racing Club.

During the fortnight of the 2017 Perth Inter Dominion, Parker wrote and uploaded some 26 stories on the Gloucester Park carnival to the National website to ensure that it remained at the forefront during that period. 

At that time Parker was also approached by the editor of the Canadian on-line publication Harness Racing Update to provide a story on the 2017 Inter Dominion at Gloucester Park.

Two days after Lazarus took out the race Parker’s four page story and pictures from Gloucester Park commenced on the front page of Harness Racing Update to provide the race with true international coverage.

His research into and recording of the names of the breeders of all Western Australian winners resulted in the publication in the national breeders publication Trackbred earlier this year of a three page feature story on pioneer WA breeder Norm Craven.

In his 2014 book The View From The Clouds race-caller John Hunt paid tribute to Parker in the book’s Acknowledgments.

“In the annals of WA harness racing, no one person has contributed more to the historical documentation of the sport than my good friend T.A.P..

From bloodlines to form guides, industry publications to newspaper articles, there is not much the long-time servant of the sport’s lore hasn’t written about, expanded on, or improved on. Bringing this acumen to the table, Alan’s passionate and constant support in my researching the content of this book has simply been invaluable…They broke the mould after you.”

Alan Parker was made a Life Member of the WA Trotting Association (Gloucester Park Harness Racing) in 2015 and a Life Member of the Northam Harness Racing Club in 2016 for his contributions to both organisations.

 


WA Racing Hall of Fame - People's Choice

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