By Greg Hayes
Most young children dream of representing their country in a particular sport and as a youngster Neil Day was no different, hoping to pull on the green and gold Kangaroo jersey worn by the Australian Rugby League Team.
However when Day turned his back on rugby league thirty years ago to concentrate on harness racing, the chance of fulfilling his boyhood dream was gone but fate intervened and the Goulburn horseman will represent his country later this year when he competes at the World Drivers’ Championship in France.
“I was like any typical kid growing up in my area, I wanted to play league for Australia and while I may have never achieved that I wasn’t a bad footballer and had offers to move to Sydney to play when I was 17, 18 and again at 21,” Day said.
“I was playing first grade at the age of 18 in the Goulburn competition but there wasn’t the money in rugby league back in those days and I would have had to move away from the family so I decided to put all my efforts into horses.
“To be selected to be the Australian representative at the upcoming series in France is the biggest thrill of my career,” said Day.
The World Drivers’ Championship begins on 8 June and Day is looking forward to competing in a twenty-race series that will see the drivers compete at five different tracks throughout France.
It will be the first time Day has travelled outside of the southern hemisphere and he will be using the opportunity to see as much as he can.
“The furthest I have ever travelled is New Zealand so this is going to be a big trip away for me and my wife so we are going to take the chance to squeeze in as much as we can during the three weeks we are away from home.”
“We are going to be flying out of Australia three or four days before the series begins and we will stop off in Dubai for a look around before we head onto Europe and getting out of Goulburn during June, when it is so cold, is going to be a bonus as well.”
There are no pacing events in France and therefore Day will be driving trotters throughout the series and despite not training a trotter at the moment he has had plenty of experience with them in the past.
Day has been doing plenty of research on the sport in France and has spoken to some Australian participants who have experienced French trotting.
“I have been taping as much of the French trotting on Sky Racing as I can and have been watching it closely, plus I have also been doing a bit of study on the internet and it amazes me some of the figures I have been reading.”
“I read an article where it said that to an ordinary meeting they can get up to 27,000 people, the prizemoney is great because they get such a huge slice of betting turnover and looking through a few formguides it is no surprise to see two or three races on a card where every horse in the race has earned 200,000 or 300,000 euros…I can’t wait for the experience.”
While Day is away enjoying a break from his strong Goulburn stable, it will be business as usual with family members lending a hand to ensure the horses continue to perform.
Day is not expecting to win the championship, and acknowledges his chances will depend on the horses he draws in the series, but he will be trying his utmost to win it for Australia.
“Obviously it comes down to what horses you get to drive in each of the races but I am a very competitive person and I would love to win it.
“I’m lucky because I don’t suffer from nerves too much and take most things as they come.”
Competing in France will be Day’s biggest high in the sport but he understands better than most the ups and downs of the industry.
Day went through a very tough period in his career in 1988 and was forced to branch outside of training to make enough money to pay the mortgage.
“Just after Dad passed away, we had a lot of horses that weren’t bred the best and I had to do some shoeing to pay the mortgage…those times were very tough but I have been able to build a strong clientele that have been with me for a very long time since.”
“People like the Treuer family stuck with me throughout, and it is through the support of them that has led me to my career highlight, I am looking forward to getting to France.”