By Jonny Turner
Three Aussie mates are responsible for a popular Australian priest realising a 59 year dream when Triple Eight starts in the Interdominion Pacing Championship final on Saturday.
An undeniable passion for harness racing has seen highly popular Roman Catholic minister Brian Glasheen, of Victoria, spend an incredible seven decades following Australasian harness racing’s greatest test of stamina.
Sixty nine years after attending his first Interdominion in Melbourne, Glasheen’s loyalty to the sport, his friends and his faith will be rewarded when his first Interdominion runner – Triple Eight – takes to Alexandra Park on Saturday night.
Unlike at his first series in 1950, Glasheen will not be torn away from watching the series final.
The Melbourne Showgrounds were no place for him back when Captain Sandy won and his father ruled he could not go back to watch the final, after attending each night of heats, for he fear the young Glasheen would be crushed by the masses that flocked to watch race
Glasheen getting to see Triple Eight this year was as likely as him some how being on hand to see Captain Sandy’s pacing win 69 years ago until three of his Bacchus Marsh parishioners intervened.
Just last winter, Glasheen had no connection to the pacer and had not even heard of him until fellow Victorians Shannon Nixon, Joel Watson and Shane Cook coaxed the octogenarian in to coming out for dinner.
There, the trio presented Glasheen with ownership papers for the horse that will see his love of the Interdominions come full circle on Saturday night.
The motivation for Nixon, Watson and Cook’s generosity was simple.
Nixon said they wanted to do something for the man who had done so much for them.
“Father Glasheen has had a big part in all of our lives.”
“He has baptised all our nine children between us.”
Triple Eight ran third behind the All Stars duo of Cruz Bromac and Thefixer to qualify for Saturday night’s $500,000 feature.
It set off joyous scenes across the Tasman as Nixon, Watson and Cook watched on TV.
As thrilled as they are to have an Interdominion finalist with their first runner, Nixon said the real joy came from having Father Glasheen on the journey with them.
“The biggest source of joy for us is seeing how much it means to Father Glasheen.”
“He is absolutely over the moon – he is messaging us five times a day – and he is just having a great time being over in New Zealand watching the horse.”
“We are just getting a huge kick out of how much it means to him.”
Father Glasheen will be able to walk in to Alexandra Park with relative anonymity compared to tracks in Australia.
Glasheen is popular and widely known figure in both harness racing and thoroughbred circles across the Tasman.
“Everyone in harness racing in Victoria knows him, he is very widely known in racing circles in Australia,” Nixon said.
“He has followed every Interdominion around from the heady days of the sport and the Interdominion is the biggest show in harness racing, so he has met a lot of people.”
Nixon secured Watson, Cook and Glasheen shares in Triple Eight after negotiating the purchase of a slice of the horse’s ownership from his North Island owners Stonewall Stud and Scott Plant.
Triple Eight’s $101 odds suggest he needs divine intervention to win Saturday night’s race.
Though just having a runner is a huge thrill for Glasheen, he admits barrier 8 gives his horse a huge task.
“It is fantastic – absolutely special – but the barrier draw is not so special,” he told media at Monday’s barrier draw.
What horses drawn in better spots do not have on their side is Father Glasheen’s proven winning touch.
Glasheen blessed Northerly, at the request of trainer Fred Kersley, ahead of the horse’s 2001 Australian Cup win and during the galloper’s 13-win streak.
The Triple Eight camp will hope Glasheen’s touch will work again when he blesses their horse ahead of the Interdominion Final.
The priest did not keep all of his prayers just for his own runner and extended them to rival camps at Monday’s barrier draw.
Glasheen blessed the colours to be worn by drivers in both the Interdominon pacing and trotting finals at yesterday’s barrier draw.