IF Steve Blacker's first win as a harness racing driver proves anything, it's that it's never too late to pursue a passion.
The 47-year-old joined an exclusive club on Friday, steering bay gelding Kolovos to victory at Mildura in his first drive.
It was a dream come true for Blacker. The veteran cricketer, who plays at Panmure, first fell in love with harness racing when he'd watch trotting races with his grandfather as a child and was involved sporadically throughout his life.
But driving wasn't on his agenda. He took up the job to help Ecklin South trainer Matthew Craven work horses but it wasn't until he was part of a full field in March that he truly caught the bug.
"I initially had the trial license to help out but when I had that full-field trial at Horsham, I thought 'how good is this?'," he said.
I initially had the trial license to help out but when I had that full-field trial at Horsham, I thought 'how good is this?'Steve Blacker
"From then I've been working on trying to get my trial drives up because you need 30 of those to get your license to drive in races.
"It's not a quick process but I was fortunate enough to fluke one on Friday."
Blacker said he felt a wave of emotions upon scoring the triumph.
"It was an amazing feeling. I think I was stunned, there was a lot of disbelief," he said.
"It's something I've dreamt about. I left my phone in the car and stayed away from it for a while and I had about a thousand messages when I went back to it which was nice.
"It was definitely a bit of a fairytale start."
He told The Standard harness racing was mentally cleansing.
"For me, there's nothing more peaceful than going out and jogging a horse," Blacker, who is now based near Horsham but maintains strong links to the south-west, said.
Blacker said he hoped to continue driving but was realistic about his prospects.
He joked he "might be the world's oldest concession driver".
A concession driver is one who has held a licence for a period of less than five years and horses steered by eligible drivers can sometimes secure a drop in class to race against less-talented trotters.
"I'm happy to do a bit of driving around now that I have my license. I'm no start driver or anything though," he said.
"I'm definitely not confusing my ambitions with my ability.
"I'd love to drive when I can but I'm no Jason Lee or Matty Craven or anything like that."
He said the COVID-19 pandemic - while tough - had helped secure his driving license.
"I'd normally be umpiring footy on a Saturday and it would've taken a lot longer to get up my trial drives," Blacker said.
"It's a negative that has been a bit of a positive in that way. It's kept me busy and been good."
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