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Marcus hands in the harness

Marcus hands in the harness

After more than 50 years in the sulky, Nuriootpa’s Marcus Hearl is set to retire from the harness racing track.

At the Kapunda Harness Racing Club’s Queen’s Birthday races, the 73 year old revealed he was looking at handing over the harness to “the younger blokes” but would continue training horses.

“I said my intentions were to give up driving…. but I may be a spare wheel along the line!” said the former Club president.

Admitting to getting “a bit stirred up” on race day, Marcus said he only drove “now and again” and others were racing all the time, so it was time to give it away.

However, as he sits in his “man cave” surrounded by trophies and photographs of horses and race wins dating back to the early 60s, it’s clear it wouldn’t take too much to convince Marcus to grab hold of the reins again.

“I’ve sold most of my harnesses, but I’ve still got two sets – that’s my undoing!”

It was Marcus’ father, Alick who introduced the sport of harness racing to a young 14 year old, growing up in Angaston.

He still remembers the day when their first horse “Predirect” arrived, much to his mother Dot’s surprise.

“This horse transport turns up and I’ll never forget it as long as I live…Mum looks around the corner and sees Dad bringing this bl…. horse home! 

“We had no stables, no nothing. We put a couple of rails across a prefab shed and that was a stable for the start. We had a big backyard so we built a couple of yards up the back.”

That was the beginning of Marcus’ long association with the sport, training horses and learning from his dad who was later confined to a wheelchair.

“Dad drove a little bit until he got crook…I was too young. When I turned 18, then I could drive in a race.”

A pacer named “Dusty Meadow” was Marcus’ first winner as a driver, taking home the silverware at Kadina on April 14, 1964.

Owned by his father and grandfather, “Dusty Meadow” holds special memories for Marcus and his late wife, Clara.

“I got married in 1964 and my grandfather said to me, he used to call me Jacky…He said Jacky, I didn’t buy you a wedding present but I’m going to give you my half of the horse.”

That wedding gift proved very valuable, with future winnings helping to furnish the newlywed’s entire house.

“It won a lot of races… dozens. He paid for all our furniture…the lounge, kitchen, bedroom and all of that.”

 For the full story see this week’s edition of The Leader.