By Mark Brassel
A movie star having a beer in a town called Grong Grong forms part of the unique story of Man of Peace who will be fancied to score at Wagga on Thursday.
Man of Peace was part-owned by larger-than-life character, Russ Mile (77), who sadly passed away recently following a long illness. The five-year-old will be one of the main fancies when he contests Thursday’s $23,000 Ladex Constructions Ian Reid Sprint (1200m).
Russ Milne originated in Berrigan where he owned a café before heading to Grong Grong, near Narrandera, where he ran the local pub.
Russ was a brother-in-law to popular Wagga trainer Dave Heywood and owned many good horses including Pride of Indies who won the 1985 Wagga Gold Cup and ran third the following year. Among his other charges were King of Indies, Prince of Indies and April Rose which won six of her first eight starts.
“I’ve lost a very good mate,” Heywood said. “Russ was a top fella and he told a great story about the time he had to leave the Grong Grong Hotel in a mate’s hands after Russ needed to make a run to the local tip.
“When he got back the mate said ‘I’ve done a top job while you were away, I’ve pulled in a movie star!’ Russ said ‘what are you talking about?’
"The mate said ‘look over there in the corner’ – it was none other than the legendary Lee Marvin having a quiet drink. Evidently he was on his way to Adelaide to do some marlin fishing.”
Man of Peace is the last horse Russ owned and won the Wagga Town Plate Prelude earlier this year and the gelding has plenty of ability, recording six wins and seven placings from 23 starts. Heywood said to put the marker pen through Man of Peace’s last start fifth (of six) at Wagga on August 13.
“There were many factors contributing to his defeat,” he explained. “Firstly, he hadn’t raced since May when fourth in the Wagga Town Plate.
“Because of the rain, I couldn’t get a decent gallop into him and he was nowhere near where I wanted him in terms of fitness. It was also a heavy track and he had to contend with 61 kilos. He has really come on since that run and the Ian Reid is a race I would dearly love to win in memory of Russ.”
In-form apprentice Patrick Scorse, who won the first two races at Canberra on Friday, will partner Man of Peace and reduces the horse’s impost by 3kg.
The Ian Reid Sprint is named after Riverina racing stalwart, Ian Reid, who passed away last November. Ian was the club’s judge for 44 years and judged 42 Wagga Cups, with a perpetual trophy donated by Ian’s good friend, Gowan Williams from Aimer Racing Weekly.
Another highlight at Wagga on Thursday is the final leg of the Southern Districts Winter Series which has been held at five different tracks and offers $2500 to the leading trainer.
The Gundagai leg was washed out and the leader board heading into the last race of the series is: Chris Heywood (29 points), Trevor Sutherland (28), Geoff Duryea (18), Peter Morgan (12), Craig Widdison (12), Peter Maher (10) and Nick Olive (8).