The death of champion trots driver Gavin Lang last Friday has brought back plenty of memories for Kyabram’s Gus Underwood.
Gus and Josh Pell bred the top racemare Claudys Princess who put Kyabram and the Goulburn Valley on the Australian harness racing map a few years ago when, through her racetrack deeds, she was won Australia’s top female trotter award for three consecutive years — as a two-year-old (2013), three-year-old (2014) and four-year-old (2015).
Raced by the Catchya syndicate, Claudys Princess was driven to 21 of her 22 career wins by Gavin Lang.
After some uncanny personal circumstances leading up to Gavin Lang’s death last Friday this is Gus’ tribute to the man they called ‘The Iceman’:
I’m hoping a trotting horse bred from one of my mares does justice to his namesake.
When Gavin Lang decided to make a purchase at the yearling trotting sales two years ago he was very familiar with the foal’s breeding.
It was a colt by Pegasus Spur out of the Wind Cries Maori mare, All Finesse.
In fact it was a three-quarter brother to a mare called Claudys Princess, a trotter who provided so much joy for the Catchya syndicate, of which I’m a member.
Five Group 1 wins, the Victoria-NSW Oaks double, the Vicbred Super Series finals hat-trick — as a two-, three- and four-year-old — the Shepparton and Kilmore Trotters Cups and the La Coocaracha feature at Menangle in NSW were among Claudys Princess’s 22 career wins.
What a ride it was with Princess between 2013 and 2017.
And in all but one of her wins for her Kyabram trainers Mick Blackmore and initially Graham Lyon, one of the greatest reinsman this country has ever seen, Gavin Lang, was in the sulky.
In an eerie and somewhat uncanny occurrence last Friday, my better half, Eva, suggested we light a fire in the room in our house, which we have dedicated solely to Claudys Princess and her fabulous racetrack feats.
We lit up her bulging trophy cabinet and stared in wonderment at a large picture of her utter gracefulness as she glided in full flight to one of her 22 career wins. We thought of those magic days in which we were lucky enough to experience as owners, the magnificent deeds of a horse well above the average in ability.
Maybe not a champion but pretty close to it.
Among all this reminiscing the call came.
Son-in-law Steve Harris, a member of the Catchya syndicate, was on the phone to tell us the great Gavin Lang had just passed on.
Eva and I looked at each other in total disbelief and bewilderment.
No such much because of Gavin’s passing as unfortunately we knew it was looming after such a gallant fight.
Our disbelief was because we had not lit a fire in the Claudys Princess room for over nine months.
But for some unexplainable reason, as if being urged by some uncontrollable force, we had decided to do it that night, completely unaware that Gavin’s gallant battle was over.
Yes, we were unwittingly in the process of making an eerie, unheralded and uncanny salute you might say to the man who had added so much pleasure to our lives on the very day he was leaving us.
We are so glad now we did that.
It was as if it was meant to be and the timing was perfect — just like a Gavin Lang drive.
Back to that foal Gavin bought at the sales.
Gavin syndicated the foal and the Catchya syndicate has retained a few shares.
And the name the syndicate agreed on to name the horse — Claudys Iceman.
Of course Gavin was called ‘The Iceman’ for his nerveless, calm and kind driving skills.
Now a three-year-old, The Iceman is being prepared by Ross Graham and only time will tell whether he will remotely do justice to his celebrated namesake.
But even being as quarter as good as Gavin the Great would be appropriate enough.