Never a driver and never one to venture to country tracks, Jim Hand trained 238 winners in Perth between 1915 and 1950.
During the second World War, and the restrictions which saw Saturday racing in Perth alternate between harness and gallops, Jim Hand was the leading harness trainer in Perth in both 1943 and 1944.
He was also second on the Perth Trainers list in 1947 to Leo Keys and third in 1949 to Frank Kersley and Stan Woodworth.
Born in Western Victoria in 1877 James Hand came to Western Australia in the 1890s and like so many others made his way to the Western Australian goldfields and worked in the mines in Kalgoorlie.
His name was in the papers in 1908 when he successfully sued one William H Williams with respect to his share in the Mt Charlotte gold-mine.
In 1913 he began to be involved with the fledgling trotting industry in Perth and in the absence of a local breeding industry he began to import horses from both New Zealand and the Eastern States. A decade later, in 1923, Hand offered 60 pacers and trotters for sale at Albert Cockram’s Stock Bazaar.
By the time Gloucester Park opened in 1929 Jim Hand was regarded as the biggest importer of trotting stock in the State and while he raced a number himself he sold most and leased a large number to friends.
In 1928 it was suggested in the local press that Hand was getting out of trotting and he gave an interview to Perth’s Daily News and angrily denied the suggestion.
“I’ve been in the game for many years and have seen the sport struggle upwards over many rough places and it is not likely that I’m going out of it now when it is standing on the very threshold of an era of wonderful prosperity”.
Not aware at the time of the pending impact of the Great Depression of 1929 Hand foresaw the WATA being debt free by 1935 and being able to boost stakes with its annual profits.
“The enormous profits must be applied to stakes and it is not hard to visualise the attraction Perth will have for the very best horses from New Zealand and the East”, he said.
“Not the cast-offs that are coming here now but horses of the class of Great Bingen, Ahurri, Sheik and Native Chief. I really think the West will out-bid New Zealand for the honour of presenting the biggest and most attractive programmes in the Southern Hemisphere”.
Jim Hand was shocked in September 1930 when if was alleged in the scandal rag Truth that his 7yo Marvin’s Heir gelding Sir Marvin was a ring-in and he took quick action in demanding WATA President James Brennan take immediate action to either prove or disprove the allegation.
Hand felt the motive behind the allegation was to force him to put the horse out of work and thereby hamper Sir Marvin’s WA Pacing Cup preparation. Sir Marvin had come to Western Australia as a green maiden and Hand and race-driver Andy Sheahan had spent a lot of time in shoeing the gelding to get him to pace faultlessly.
Investigations by the WATA subsequently proved the bona fides of Sir Marvin and the gelding was a starter in the 1930 WA Pacing Cup for Jim Hand.
When the first Inter Dominion was run at Gloucester Park in 1936 Hand’s Pier Street stables played host to New Derby and Auburn Lad.
Jim Hand was renowned for his ability to get horses fit enough to win first-up and he won the 1944 WA Derby with the WA Bred Valista which was having its first start in a race.
Hand also won the 1948 WA Derby with the New Zealand bred Hilda Grattan at the filly’s first start in a race. A week later she finished 3rd in the WA Sires Produce Stakes before going for a spell.
At her first start as a 4yo in September that year Hilda Grattan was plunged from 3/1 to 5/4on and duly saluted the judge.
Jim Hand thought more of Hilda Grattan than any other horse in his stable and his dying words to his brother Tom and stablehand Bob Duncan were “Look after Hilda”.
When Hand’s high-priced New Zealand import La Fayette was badly injured in a track accident when Hand had him primed to win the 1926 Easter Cup, and was about to be put down with a broken fetlock, Hand gave the stallion to cattle dealer Bob Maggs who wanted to have a go at fixing the fetlock.
Some years later Hand advised against putting down Stans First after the gelding was badly injured in a race-fall at Gloucester Park in March 1950. Stans First was back in the winner’s list just a week after Jim Hand died.
Hand twice trained the winner of the WA Pacing Cup with Solvista and Superman and went close on a number of other occasions with three runners-up and a third placegetter in addition to his wins. All told Hand had 19 starters in a WA Pacing Cup between 1929 and 1951.
One of his second placegetters was the mare Chic which Hand had famously offered for sale at WA Smiley’s Horse Bazaar ten days prior to the 1935 Cup when she finished second to Connie Glo.
Chic failed to sell and Hand collected a £200 cheque for her second placing in the Cup.
A week earlier Hand had sold his 1934 Cup winner Solvista at Smiley’s auction. He had purchased Solvista for 250 guineas from Norm Craven who had brought the horse to WA from Victoria. His win in 1934, with Jack Keys at the reins, was his sixth start for Hand and his fourth win and took his earnings for Hand to £940.
The 1935 WA Pacing Cup was the first race run as a straight out race since the inaugural Cup in 1913 and in 1935 a total of 19 horses faced the starter who used the rubber strand start for the first time in Cup history.
James Hand was the first trainer to have four runners in a WA Pacing Cup when he harnessed up Huon
Cloud (2nd), Swift Lady (5th), Louis Again (12th) and Lee Tennessee (13th) in 1943. A total of seven heats were run in 1942 and first and second in each heat qualified for the final.
It was to be a further 42 years before another trainer qualified four runners for a WA Pacing Cup. Fred R Kersley achieved the feat in the 1984 Cup with Aladdins Lamp, Rite, Gap Road and Treat Me Right.
In 1943 Hand was being assisted with his large team of horses at the time by Dave “Doc” Clayton who himself had a terrific WA Cup record having been at the reins when Kola Girl won the race in 1918 and Earl Roy in 1922.
Two of Jim Hand’s WA Pacing Cup runners-up in Earl Pronto and Chic were mated and produced the 1944 WA Pacing Cup winner Chico.
He achieved something similar in 1948 when he trained Superman to win the Cup. Superman was a son of Supertax which had been brought to WA for the 1940 Inter Dominion and remained here and made a reputation as a quality sire.
Supertax was trained by Hand for a period as was Superman’s dam Carnation Lou.
Jim Hand was responsible for a major upset in the 1944 WA Derby when the filly Valista, driven by Frank Kersley won at odds of 20/1 beating Balgay Royal and The Glens Girl in the State’s major race for 3yos. The odds on favourite Kolector finished fifth.
Hand’s last winner was Sir Joseph on 21st October 1950 and this win came just a couple of days after Jim Hand had died and before the horse had been transferred to the stables of Harold Richter.
Jim Hand never married and had two brothers and three sisters living in WA at the time of his passing.
When Superman finished 11th at 50/1 in the 1950 WA Pacing Cup he raced in the name of Hand’s estate.