‘Group One’ John Cremin’s new life at the track

By Duane Ranger (courtesy of Redcliffe Paceway)

Well-respected former Carbrook horseman, and now Queensland stipendiary steward, John Cremin, has trained and driven thousands of horses in an illustrious 40-year career, but he will always remember running fourth at a low-key Albion Park meeting on July 29 last year.

The now 60-year-old, who has won eight Group races and one Listed event, knew in his heart that his Danny Bouchea trotter, The Night King, would be the last horse to represent his trademark shamrock with the green and white silks. The 2015 gelding would also provide Cremin with his last race-day drive.

“It wasn’t that we finished fourth and I was despondent. Far from it. I’ve always loved harness racing for as long as I can remember. But a lifetime of shoeing horses and bouncing up and down in the race-gig every day for years took its toll on my body – especially my back.

The QRIC (Queensland Racing Integrity Commission) have employed one of Queensland’s most respected horsemen in John Cremin. The 60-year-old recorded 1,238 wins, two Group Ones with Pelosi, as well as a Group Two, four Group Threes, and a Listed Classic event.

“I remember taking three horses to the races that night (Grigora third in R5, and Glitter Strip eighth in R8), and my wife Tanya and I knew it would be our last float-trip to the track. My body had enough. The injuries had taken their toll, and I was sick of being sore all the time,” Cremin said.

Cremin said shoeing horses had proved brutal on his back, and when a Cadet Steward was advertised by QRIC (Queensland Racing Integrity Commission), both Tanya and I thought why not give this a go. I knew I had what it took to be a good steward, and I wanted to stay in the industry.

“I knew the racing game inside and out, and I thought my first-hand knowledge and experience over several decades would be helpful. Thankfully my application was successful . As I look back on the last year I regard it one of the best decisions that Tanya and I have ever made.

Carbrook couple, John and Tanya Cremin, who have been married for 35 years, met when John was the groundsman at the former Southport Trotting Track

“I absolutely love the job. I really enjoyed my first six months in the galloping code, and now I’m steward at the trots I love it. I have a bit to offer. I just want to make sure everyone is safe and gets a fair go, and the same opportunities in our great sport.

“We had six horses in work and our 2014 broodmare, Hughie’s Sister (by Art Major – 1:56.8), all went to good homes and have won since,” said Cremin.

If anyone knows the intricacies of racing, it’s this humble man. Cremin has sat in the sulky,11,006 times on race-day, and that’s only since records were taken in 1982/1983.

In the bike Cremin has recorded 1,238 wins, 2,417 placings and netted $5.4 million in stakes since records were first taken in the 1982-83 season. He nailed two Group Ones with Pelosi, a Group Two, four Group Threes and a Listed Classic event.

One of the many talents of Queenslander, John Cremin, was his ability to judge pace, and read a race inside and out. Here the now 60-year-old is seen out-driving his opponents again on wonder filly and mare, Pelosi.

Training-wise Cremin conditioned 297 winners from 2,770 starters, and placed 642 times for $1.3m in purses. His biggest triumph came via Melpark Royal Son in the Group Two Darrell Alexander Memorial Trotting Final at Albion Park on December 17, 2016.

The two biggest wins of his illustrious career came via the Anna Woodmansey trained Pelosi. The duo combined to win the Group One $350,000 APG 2yo Final at Albion Park on May 11, 2019; and then on June 30, they claimed the Group One $125,000 NSW Breeders Challenge 2yo Final at Tabcorp Park, Menangle.

“I’ll never forget Pelosi. What a wonderful mare she was, and is now making a lovely broodmare I believe! She provided me with my first Group One event at the age of 57, and then a month later she gave me my second. She also won a Group Three for me (3yo Fillies Classic) at Albion Park in 2020 (December 5)..

A study of concentration. John Cremin said he wants an even playing field for all racing participants.

“Anna and Wayne (Honan) did a fantastic job with the mare, but the more she raced I felt I sometimes let the horse down, and got off to give someone with a fresh approach ago. I always be grateful for Pelosi and the drives I had on her. I’m sure her off-spring will go well too,” Cremin said.

“I might have been a bit hard on myself, but I did what thought was right by the horse and connections,” he added.

Meanwhile, Woodmansey had this to say about her former Group One winning driver:

I have known John since I was a teenager, and he drove for me many years ago with a lot of success. In recent times he became Pelosi’s farrier and then driver for the majority of her career. After driving the ‘perfect’ race to win the APG 2yo Fillies Final at Albion Park, he travelled to Newcastle and Menangle to drive her for Wayne and I in her NSW 2yo Breeders Challenge Series.

“Winning the Final as Queenslanders, in that Group One event interstate, was absolutely unforgettable for all of us. John was always so supportive and genuine, and it was fantastic to have him as part of the Pelosi journey. It’s a time I will never forget, and I have him to thank for that. I wish John every success in his new job,” Woodmansey said.

The Cremin family from left, Dean, Neil, Leigh, Tanya, and John.

Commenting on his new role, Cremin, said he loved his new role despite sometimes having to confront the negative sides of the industry.

“I enjoy the many aspects of the role, from random stable visits to the various race-night duties. I’m learning a lot after being a horseman for so many years am slowly getting on top of the computer technology. It’s all about everyone obeying the rules and having a fair crack at winning. It makes it a little bit easier having grown up with a lot of the racing people. I know a lot of them quite well and have made many friends from a lifetime in the sport.

John Cremin and Glitter Strip return to the winner’s enclosure. The brown Sunshine Beach gelding was the second last horse Cremin drove on race-day. DAN COSTELLO PHOTO.

“I also have the advantage of knowing when horses are amiss, because I’ve driven in many races over the years and can now get a good read on what goes on.

“I know the rules and yes I have been on the other side of the stewards in the inquiry room at times, but on hindsight I always said my bit, and then moved on no matter what the decision. I’ve never held a grudge because I always knew how tough the job could be for them at times. I’ve also had a close mate do the job,” Cremin said.

That mate he was referring to was Harness Racing New Zealand’s General Manager of Stewards, Nigel McIntyre.

“We go back a long way when Nigel was the stable foreman for Darrel Graham, who I used to drive for. We have stayed in touch over the years, just like I have with prominent New Zealand owner, breeder and former trainer and driver, John Green and his wife Trish.

Tanya and John Cremin will always love harness racing, but sadly their familiar green and while silks – with the shamrock – will no longer be seen at ‘The Triangle’… but the 60-year-old has by no means left the track.

“That’s why I’m still pleased to be involved in the industry because I’ve made a lot of friends from many states and countries,” he said.

The second eldest to of eight children (four boys/four girls) to Neil and Judy, Cremin was born in Brisbane and educated at St Thomas More College in Sunnybank. He always had an interest in harness racing, and drove for many trainers over the years.

“Dad loved racing and part-owned Peter Profit, who was star-pacer of the 1970s at Albion Park. He won 43 races, and a lot of them were in the Free-For-All grade. Dad used to take us to the trots all the time and I got hooked early on. The Donohoe family were also instrumental in my early love of the game,” Cremin said.

Awards night smiles! Pelosi wins Filly-of-the-Year thanks to from left: Anna Woodmansey, Wayne Honan, and John & Tanya Cremin.

Cremin was actually an apprentice cabinet maker, but switched to harness racing due to his chronic asthma which hospitalized him a lot. It was when he was groundsman at the former Southport Trotting Track that he met his wife, Tanya.

The Cremins, who have been married 35 years, have two sons – Leigh (27) and Dean (25). They have been at their Carbrook Farm since 2001. Carbrook is a suburb in the City of Logan – 38km south of Brisbane, and has a population of 1,216.

“I’m about 40 minutes from Albion Park and just 15 from Norwell if that new track gets the green light. We are also only an hour from Redcliffe, which isn’t far really. I’ve always enjoyed coming to Redcliffe whether it be as a horseman, spectator, or now as a steward,” said Cremin.

“The people are friendly, and the club is a progressive one. I remember back when I started out in the 1970s Redcliffe was the biggest track in Queensland, and you had to have a good horse to start there. Yes I’ve always been a fan of ‘The Triangle’,” Cremin said.

From master horseman to a stipendiary steward for the QRIC. If anyone knows the intricacies of harness racing, then it’s John Cremin. More than 11,000 race-day drives is impressive to say the least.

“I’ve shod and driven a lot of good horses over the years, but now’s the time to watch them from a different and closer angle. I want the best for everyone,” he added.

For the record Cremin’s first training and driving success came behind a pacer owned by his father.

“She was a (1974) James Scott mare, named Kanowski. I think I was about 15 or 16 when I unofficially trained her to win in someone else’s name, and then I drove her to win a month before my 17th birthday. She was a grand ole mare,” Cremin said.

“When I was old enough to train (18), I dead-heated with her for first at Redcliffe. She was my first official winner at my first training start,” he added.

Cremin’s Top-10 horses since the early 1980s have been:
Psychedelic 19 wins and $162,787; Melpark Major 14 wins and $126,147; Down Under Rors 13 wins and $110,795; Kimbolton Run 30 wins and $84,794; Melpark Royal Son 8 wins and $75,043; Hughie Green 7 wins and $72,372; Brendans Mate 18 wins and $50,537, Kimbolton Jane 13 wins and $44,266; Glitter Strip 8 wins and $42,898; Da Svidaniya 8 wins and $36,450.

John Cremin salutes the judge with Pelosi. Today John Cremin we salute you, and wish you nothing but success with your future!

An October 2021 story I wrote about John Cremin can be viewed below:

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