IT WOULD have been understandable if Bernie Hewitt was a nervous man when he woke up last Saturday.
His impressive colt College Chapel was the odds-on favourite to take the Bathurst Gold Crown Final that night – and, in doing so, to end Hewitt’s long drought at the Gold Crown Carnival - but the trainer was experienced enough to know the victory was far from assured.
As it turned out, College Chapel took the lead early that evening and never looked back to give Hewitt his first win in the Gold Crown as a trainer-driver – and it’s a triumph he says the whole family has been enjoying.
Hewitt had finished second as a trainer four times and three times as a driver in almost two decades of competing in Bathurst’s premier Group 1 harness racing carnival.
“There were a few placings along the way, but it’s really pleasing to win,” he said.
“For instance, Steve [Turnbull] has been at it his whole life and he’s been going since 1987. He’s won one as a driver, but as the state’s leading trainer and Australia’s leading trainer, he hasn’t won one [as a trainer].
“It shows you how hard it is to win one of the local Group 1 races.”
The win had been a long time in the making for Hewitt, who trained pacers at Crookwell before he moved to Bathurst in the early 2000s.
He made the move to Bathurst with his wife Kath and children Jason, Doug and Gemma after being offered a job to train horses for Peter and Marie Neil.
“We trained out of Jimmy Turnbull stables at The Lagoon, so we started there and that’s why we came up,” he said.
“Peter had about a dozen horses to train and I had a few myself.”
Hewitt trained for the Neils for several years before he started training for himself.
Born on a property, Hewitt has been around horses and livestock his whole life.
He now lives on a property at Georges Plains, where there are almost 60 horses on the property at one time, with 35 to 40 in work.
“We always trained horses before school and when we left school, we always trained horses before we went to work,” Hewitt said.
“We’ve been at it our whole lives. I’ve got my older brother Mark, then my next brother David, then myself and then my sister Jenna.
“The whole family is involved in training and a lot of them are driving. We’re all very close and we help each other out when we can.
“A lot of them have worked here [at the Georges Plains property] on their way through, doing a year’s apprentice.
“It’s been good to see them achieving and going well.”
It’s a team effort down at Hewitt’s stable, with his son Doug, wife Kath and a staff of three helping him train the horses.
“We really enjoy each other and support each other in their triumphs. It’s all very good to have the family involved, travelling together to the races instead of having too many vehicles.
“It’s more a family triumph than just our own. It’s great for [College Chapel] and we want to see him go well.
“As far as Kath and I are concerned and Dougy, it’s just great to have the whole family involved.”
While Hewitt and his family have enjoyed the win and will continue to enjoy it, he’ll keep training his pacers as per usual.
“I think we’re enjoying it and getting better bred horses and we’re getting stronger types of horses,” he said.
“We’re probably training a few too many at the moment, but we have to work through them and give them a chance.
“If they’re not going too well, we’ll keep looking for better ones and that’s the idea of them. Move them on, sell them on and keep the buying and the breeding going and get this type of horse – College Chapel.
“It may not happen, but you’ll never know if you don’t keep trying.”