JOE AND MARY ARE PERFECT PARTNERS
Joe and Mary Rando’s decision to formalise a training partnership two years ago, came as no surprise to family and friends.
The popular couple have been working horses in tandem since 2000, and continue to work a string of twelve or thirteen horses with no outside help. “Mary effectively runs the stable, works the same hours I work, and worries about the horses as much as I do”, says Joe emphatically. “She’s hands on with every facet of the operation, and is indispensable at race meetings. She deserves to be recognized as co-trainer”.
The Rando work ethic paid off handsomely right through last season, and into the new one. Sundons Comet won several races before his untimely demise, from the effects of a perforated bowel, Rompers Monarchy has been a regular winner, while Sunset Tour and Mighty Sunny have been doing a good job. As recently as last Saturday night (Oct 6th), Joe and Mary won the Trot with Amanda’s Spur, and provided the third place getter Kowhai Monarch. Both horses will benefit from the run, and will continue to be competitive.
The Rando name is as synonymous with harness racing, as that of Turnbull, Fitzpatrick or McCarthy. Joe’s late grandfather Jim, was well known around Sydney tracks in the 50’s and 60’s, as the owner and part time trainer/driver of a very handy horse called Mongoliey. Occasionally, Jim would let one of the leading stables take the horse for a while, but would resume training and driving duties on a whim.
Joe’s father Steve was very active in the sport for thirty years, during which time he trained and drove some very talented horses. Bold Caesar was the most prolific winner with thirty successes, but he had a great run with Charlie Buttons, Lena Adios, Pasqualina, Town Topper and Bracko. Steve also won a string of races with a very talented trotter called Second Bat, the horse responsible for Joe’s attachment to the square gaiters.
On November 16th, 1989, young Joe Rando joined the elite group of drivers who’ve been successful at their very first attempt. He drove a 14/1 “pop” called Golden Salute, trained by his father, at the old Menangle track.
Joe won races on several of Steve’s horses over the next few years, but he’s still embarrassed to admit he couldn’t win a race on Bold Caesar. “That horse won thirty races, and was foolproof when Dad drove him”, recalled Joe. “When I drove him, he did things wrong and found a way to get beaten every time. We just didn’t get on”.
Nowadays, Joe uses any one of half a dozen freelance drivers. David Morris has had great success for the stable, while Cameron Hart, Chris Geary, Blake Fitzpatrick, Jason Grimson and Todd McCarthy often sport the dark blue and orange Rando silks.
Joe retains his race driver’s licence, and every now and again will put himself on a difficult horse. One such horse is I Asked Nicely, an expatriate Kiwi trotter who was making mistakes on the final turn in his races. Joe put himself in the gig for a few runs, and actually won a race at Menangle recently.
Four years ago a Kiwi trotting mare called Giving Its Best was doing things wrong for a couple of very prominent drivers. Joe had a notion he could sort out the problem, and took over the driving indefinitely posting 6 wins on the mare. “Sometimes a certain driver will just “click” with a quirky horse, and it’s best to keep them together where possible”, says Joe.
When he talks about the best horses he’s trained over the years, he gets a twinkle in the eye at the mere mention of the name Howard Ino. The son of Troublemaker won eleven races from twenty two starts, and looked destined for much bigger things.
He was the talk of the track at Harold Park on 26/11/04, when he contested the Mount Eden 4 year old final, with David Wilkins driving. He galloped in the score up, losing 30-40 metres, and looked little hope of getting into the race. “He ran second, beaten only two metres by the topliner Karloo Mick, and I thought I finally had my champion”, mused Joe. “Three weeks later he blitzed a good field in an MO at Harold Park, and the world was his oyster”.
The nightmare that followed a week or so later, haunts Joe and Mary to this day. Howard Ino was bowling at a leisurely speed around the Rando’s work track at Maraylya, when he suddenly staggered and collapsed. “There’s no doubt he was dead when he hit the ground”, said Joe this week. “There was a vet on the property at the time, and he diagnosed a burst pulmonary artery. It took all the family a long time to get over it”.
The aforementioned Maraylya work track is one of the best wet weather circuits in the district. It has a sandy base, topped with recycled glass, and copes remarkably well with prolonged rain periods. Steve Turnbull, Chris Frisby, and James Rattray are three other prominent trainers who’ve made the same discovery.
Joe and Mary have built up a valued client base in NZ and at home. “I’m grateful to NZ owners Michael Cunningham, John Hartnell, and Phil and Lyn Sherley who’ve sent us some really nice trotters to try in Sydney”, explained Joe. “Malcolm Smith recently gave us All Positive to train, and we’ve repaid the favour with a couple of wins. We were both touched and surprised when Rob Davis bought us a Muscle Hill yearling trotter this year. Rob has raced many nice horses with the word “Red” in their names, all trained by Steve Turnbull who prefers pacers to trotters. Mary and I are delighted to be Rob’s trot tutors”.
One of Joe’s valued consultants is his older brother Jim, who trains only on a hobby basis. Jim works in the busy gyprock business, but usually has two or three horses in work. He’s had a great run in recent times with horses like Quick Income, Pay Me Overs, and The Times A Changing, ably assisted by son Lucas, who’s giving every indication that the Rando dynasty will continue for at least one more generation.
Joe and Mary’s daughter Amanda is highly regarded in her role as Media and Communications Manager for HRNSW, which has enabled her to spread her wings as a journalist and presenter. Amanda has developed a warm and pleasant style in an interview situation, and in her presentations to camera. She also more than holds her own, in the thankless and difficult task of tipping winners on her regular Sky Racing Radio segments.
Jesse Rando (23), has inherited the trotting genes from his parents, but has gone right away from horse training. He is employed as a cadet steward, on the HRNSW panel.
And so Joe and Mary Rando begin their third full season as the only accredited training partnership in NSW. They’ve got the right facilities and the right work ethic. A few decent horses now and there’ll be no stopping ‘em. And come to think of it, where else do you get two trainers for the price of one?