By Duane Ranger. (Sponsored by Ross Fletcher Racing)
Name a racetrack in northern, central, or southern Queensland and chances are that Doug Schmidt has not only driven there but also saluted the judge.
But when you mention Redcliffe Paceway, the 75-year-old Scarborough resident perks up. He’s loved ‘The Triangle’ for as long as he can remember.
“Even though I’ve retired It’s my home track these days. I just like the layout. It’s unique and brings the best out of drivers. It’s been a special place.
“I remember one year (1995-96) I won the trainers’ premiership and my son Keith was champion driver. Mary (wife of 49 years) and I only live the next suburb over from the track and we are always at the Wednesday night meetings. Same place, same seat, same time,” said Mr Schmidt, who insisted on being called Doug.
The Wynnum High School educated Queenslander was born in to a harness racing family.
“My father (Arthur) was a top driver early in his career before peaking in the 1950s. He drove some real nice horses like Feel Master and Little Afghan. Sadly in 1957 his driving career came to an end when he was involved in a race-day crash.
“He had lots of blood on his brain and was paralysed down his left side. He lived to 80 but that day virtually put an end to his career.
“Dad was also a dairy farmer at Thorneside where we lived. He was also a butcher as well, so he was a busy man. In fact, I left school in Grade 8 to help his mother (Mary) on the farm after his father suffered a serious accident at Redcliffe Paceway,” Doug said.
Then in the early 1960s Doug was given an opportunity to move south and work for top Sydney trainer, Jim Caffyn.
“I remember he gave me my first race-day drive at Wyong. I must have been about 18, so it would have been the early 1960s.
“I didn’t win that race. My first win came not long after for Bill Stephens at Rocklea. The horse’s name was Veya. I also won the very first race at Maryborough behind a horse I trained named Too Many Guns,” he said.
Not big on statistics, Mr Schmidt reckons he’s driven hundreds or winners and trained close to 1,000 in a career spanning more than 50 years.
“I’ve driven on every track here from Tweed Heads to the Gold Coast, Rocklea, Southport Marburg, Redcliffe, Albion Park, Maryborough, Townsville, Toowoomba, Bundaberg, Gladstone, and Rockhampton.
“There’s probably others too because I used to drive at all the shows and was Ekka Champion one year. But as the years went on, I got too big and in 1988 gave away the driving for training,” Doug said.
He said he used to race at the former Redcliffe Showgrounds before its’ current location on Percy Street.
“I never really had any champions but I did win a 2yo Triad Fillies Pace with Ionian at Albion Park in 1986. Peter Greig did the driving that night.
“I think I paid $1,000 for that daughter of Fast Knight. I’ve never forked out any more than $10,000 for a horse. It’s just who I am. I’ve had a lot of broken down horses who I’ve worked back to the races and won with them.
“It’s just something that has always been in my blood since one day, and it’s a sport I will love until the day I die. It has given me and my family a lot of happy memories,” Doug said.
“Voodoo Lounge Judy’s Chance, and Redcliffe champion, Sun God were also other good horses I’ve either driven or trained over the years,” he added
In 1972 Doug and Mary moved to a 16-acre property at Victoria Point, and then in 1992 they moved to the corner of Livermore and Knight Streets just adjacent to the Redcliffe track.
“Then in 2001 we sold that property and bought a house in Scarborough where we have lived since,” Doug said.
The Schmidts have two children, Keith and Katrina, and six grand-children (five girls and a boy).
“I’ve experienced and seen many changes in the game over the years, some good and some not so good – but you have to roll with the times and get on with it.
“I remember when I was a young fella, I would have to carry lead to get to 10 stone to drive. I think I was half a stone short, but as the years went on, weight never became a problem,” he joked.
“I was taught by some fine horsemen in my time. Obviously, Jim Caffyn, and Alf Phyllis were right up there, and did the shoeing for John McMullen Senior, Lee Wanless, and Kevin Thomas.
“You never stop learning in this game, and there have been plenty of people over time that have taught me a great day.
“I love this sport and am still enjoying it as much as I ever have in my retirement,” Mr Schmidt said.
The grand old man of Redcliffe Harness Racing retired from driving in 1988, and then hung up his reins and sold all of his gear in 1998-99 season due to arthritis and other little health concerns.