You will meet some passionate harness racing families in your life, but not all of them would pack up their families and move from two states to get their start in the sport.
But that’s what twins Nathan and Will Rothwell and their parents did two years ago – and recently the brothers hit a satisfying milestone on their journey.
Their four-year-old bay mare Playa Blanca (Somewhere – Art Castle (Art Major) took their first victory under brothers’ ownership at Warragul, and Nathan’s first victory as a trainer and rider.
“It was pretty good to finally get the win and get rid of it!” Nathan said.
“It was on our home track, and it was also the day of the Warragul Cup, so it was also a bit special for that reason. We were close a few times, we had a few seconds, but it It was good to have this victory on the board,” he said.
Nathan is a C-grade driver and B-grade trainer, while Will is just a few test drives away from getting his driver’s license.
Nathan admits that the 19 year olds (Nathan being the oldest by a minute!) have been harness racing fanatics since they were young.
“Our dad Mark was involved in the sport when he was around our age and was a squire for a few trainers as well as a horse owner. So he got us involved by making us watch it since we were young, and we fell in love with it,” he said.
But living on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, where there is no harness racing industry, posed a challenge.
“We were maybe looking for thoroughbreds at one point, and there were thoughts of becoming a jockey at first, but I really didn’t want to have to deal with weight struggles for the rest of my life,” Nathan said.
“Harness racing seemed like the best option because it’s much more convenient. It’s definitely harder work and there’s a lot more involvement with gear and such, but we like it more.
“Unfortunately, although there is absolutely nothing on the Sunshine Coast for harness racing, and in Queensland there really is nothing at all in terms of formal training options in the sport – it would just be going to work for a coach and trying to make it that way.”
But when the family heard about Warragul Harness Racing Training Centre, the decision was made.
“We’ve all moved, from the Sunshine Coast to Warragul – there really couldn’t be a greater contrast. But we’ve acclimated and we love what we’re doing,” Nathan said.
“We came here with basically the knowledge of spectators and followers of the sport of harness racing – we were getting our form and stuff, but we didn’t even know what the pieces of equipment were called,” said- he laughed.
“The school and Jenni (former WHRTC director Jenni Lewis) were absolutely amazing, and we learned a lot. Jenni has been so kind to us during COVID, even doing one-on-one training with us to help us progress.
“It’s such a shame that the Warragul Training Center side was closed (earlier this year) because it’s really one of the only options for young people who want to get into the sport and don’t have the background family.”
The brothers are currently based on the Warragul trail, but have ambitions to eventually create their own operation.
“The next step for us will probably be to work for another trainer in a bigger stable and continue to learn,” he said.
“We plan to hire a few more ourselves soon, but we are only training two at the moment. Playa Blanca ran third in his next start after his win, and Tommy Bligh is our other horse, who ran second on Sunday at Cranbourne, so hopefully our second winner won’t be too far away!
by Terry Gange, for Harnesslink.com