by Duane Ranger. (sponsored by Fletcher Racing)
Redcliffe will always be Greg Franklin’s adopted home and favourite race-track, but the Sydney-born horseman admits he will always have a soft spot for Moonee Valley as well.
“I think that’s where I had my only claim to fame,” a modest Franklin said. “One drive for one win.”
The former Redcliffe Paceway track curator was referring to the 1994 daughter of Fake Left, African Violet, who he trained and drove to win the $9,000 Sir Thomas Lipton 3yo Pace by two metres on April 18, 1998.
“I’ve never driven there since. Not many drivers can say they are unbeaten at Moonee Valley. African Violet was a nice mare, who won 10 of her 23 starts, including the Qbred 3yo Triad Final at Albion Park in 1998.
“I’ve never really had any stars, but she was up there. She triumphed in a fillies Final at Newcastle. She also won on the Gold Coast, as well as Redcliffe. She went on to leave winners as well,” Franklin said.
Franklin was born into harness racing. His father Gordon, worked for the legendary Sydney Hall-of-Famer, J.D. (Jack) Watts.
“Dad was actually best mates with Jack’s son, Colin, who is 93, was this year bestowed with the coveted Medal of the Order Of Australia in the annual Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
“I think one of Dad’s best horses was a free-for-all pacer named Romany Son, who won races at both Harold and Albion Parks,” Franklin said.
However, although Franklin loved animals, he wasn’t convinced committing to them full-on, early on.
“When I left Liverpool High School in Sydney, I worked for 10 years in the New South Wales Main Roads Department, before I went and helped Dad, and then Graeme Sparkes, who was a very successful businessman. He owned, trained and drove The Scotsman, to win the 1979 Miracle Mile,” Franklin said.
He said his father moved to Queensland in the early 1970s, but it wasn’t until 1984 that Franklin decided to also relocate to the Sunshine State.
“I was working out of Fairfield and then in 1984 I bought two horses to Queensland for a holiday. There names were Karrattunga and Echo Port. I remember it vividly.
“I loved it so much I moved to Redcliffe and have been here since. It was the best move I’ve ever made, and even though I was born in NSW, I have no intention of going anywhere. This has been home for a long time now,” Franklin said.
“Redcliffe is a beautiful part of Queensland. I also love the track. It’s given me many happy memories over the years. I’ve lived in Victoria Street, just around the corner of the track for 30 years now. I no longer drive. I’ve left that to the good guys for years now,” Franklin said.
He said he had probably trained several hundred winners since leaving the Roads Department in the late 1970s – the latest of which came at the last Redcliffe meeting on Saturday night.
The Franklin trained and Angus Garrard driven, Joannie’s Girl, won the fifth race by 2.9m with a 1:56.9 mile rate. It was the 4-year-old Roll With Joe brown mare’s 11th win ($66,408) for owner Franklin. She opened up at $19.
The 67-year-old also has three other pacers in work – Three Mugs In (!8 wins and $107,681), Our Bondi Beach (17 wins and $112,322), and Wicked Azz (6 wins and $32,994).
“I would not have been able to have achieved any of my recent wins had it not been for Helene McGuffie. She’s been with me a couple of years now and is a great help. She loves horses like I do and any wins I get are a credit to her also,” Franklin said.
Some other good ones Franklin has conditioned over the years have been: Motor Parade ((37 wins and $112,781 from January 2003 to March 2009); Remember Them (23 wins and $174,160 from May 2012 to February 2019); and Somepartysomewhere (19 wins and $98,394 – spelling).
“Motor Parade was a very nice horse. I claimed him for just $3,000 with Alan Newcombe, and he went on to win four figures for us,” said Franklin.
Franklin could have trained a lot more winners had he not been committed to Redcliffe Paceway.
“I was track curator from 2007 until 2017. As the years have gone on the track has got better and better. It’s in real good order now. It’s a credit to Mark (Belford) and his team.
“I enjoyed working there, but I’m enjoying my retirement more. I really enjoy working a small team with Helene. It’s in my blood and I think I will always have one or two,” he said,
Franklin said he didn’t copy his father when selecting training silks.
“Dad had the South Sydney Rabbitohs colours of green and red. I still support them to this day. I’m South Sydney through-and-through. I rebelled completely away from Dad’s silks and went for the blue and grey,” Franklin said.
For the record Franklin’s first training and driving victory came at Gosford in 1980 when he saluted the judge behind 1972 Express Byrd gelding, Portland Express.