Life has been a roller coaster for young Chris Geary these past few years.
He graduated quickly from the mini trots, to the maxi trots to the real deal, in record time, and within a week of launching his driving career, he visited the now familiar winner’s circle for the first time.
Fittingly his first winner Western Gailes at Bankstown,was trained by his mentor and inspiration, his Dad John Geary. He was just 16 years old, with next to no experience, but looked like a driver who’d been here before.
Maybe his self assurance emanated from the countless nights he spent on the hill at Penrith, with John, mother Julie and sister Belinda. This was the vantage point from which Chris watched his hero Greg Bennett, winning races on a regular basis.
Bennett was a driver of great initiative, who made things happen in races. Young Geary closely observed his role model’s tactical flare, and was greatly inspired by it.
At the same time he was a regular at Harold Park on Friday nights, volunteering his services as a strapper and helper. One trainer who was very generous with his time, was Dennis Wilson, who explained the basics to Chris, and was happy to answer any questions the youngster threw his way.
Later he spent valuable time at Paul Fitzpatrick’s Jay Jay Farm, where he began to progress rapidly. Chris was one excited budding reinsman, when the top trainer indicated it was time for a fast work drive.
“I’ll never forget the horse I drove in that first hopple trip”, recalled young Geary.”It was none other than Three Over Three, best remembered as the winner of a Breeder’s Crown 2YO Colts and Geldings Final at Melton.”
The Geary family lived at St. Marys, a stone’s throw from the stables of the late Paul Lasnick. John Geary usually had a horse or two stabled there, and was curious about a mare which had been turned out in a paddock on the property. The mare, Fearless Rose belonged to Lasnick who had a big team in work at the time, and simply didn’t have time to work her.
Fearless Rose had already won 8 races from 70 starts, but had been inactive for several months. Lasnick was happy to lease her to Belinda Geary, and the mare turned out to be the ideal horse to give young Chris some race driving experience.
“She was a lovely mare to drive, and I learned a lot in 12 races, even though we failed to win one”, reflected Geary.
Right from the outset, Chris has made it his business to learn from experienced people. He had a long stint with Luke McCarthy, during which time he was given many race driving opportunities. All the time he was watching, observing and soaking up knowledge like a giant sponge.
He grabbed the chance to spend 5 months with Shane Graham and Vicki Rasmussen in Brisbane, and drove his share of winners in that period. Homesickness drove him home to Sydney, where he quickly found a short term spot with Blake Fitzpatrick.
He had barely started a second stint with Luke McCarthy, when he received a surprise phone call from Shane Tritton. Lauren Tritton had decided to stand down from race driving during her pregnancy, and Shane paid Chris the supreme compliment of offering him the bulk of the stable driving, during her absence.
During this period Geary became associated with the brilliant juvenile filly, My Sweetchilliphilly.
The pair combined to win 5 straight races, including the Group 1 Bathurst Gold Tiara Final, which stands as the most important win in the Geary scrapbook so far.
He has also collected two Carousel Finals on Anything For Love, and The Black Prince.
In just over 4 years, he’s already nudging 500 winners, which would compare favourably with the early run rates of drivers like Gavin Lang and Chris Alford. In the 2015/2016 season he won 112 races in NSW, and last season improved dramatically to bag a tally of 150.
Chris participated in the Rising Star Series on two occasions, winning one and finishing second in the other.He finished third in the Hobart Australian Driver’s Championship last year, and followed that with another third placing in the Australasian Young Driver’s Championship at Albion Park.
He is currently working for expatriate Kiwi trainer Tim Butt who has a strong team in work at Menangle, including this year’s Miracle Mile winner My Field Marshal(23 wins for $1,073,700).
Young Geary got to drive the brilliant son of Art Major on two occasions, winning one fast class event at Menangle, and finishing third in the other.
Chris has always considered All Eyes On Us one of the best horses he’s driven. The Art Major gelding has won 18 races for $307,000, driven in 14 of them by Luke McCarthy. Geary got to drive him in one race, a C5 and better class event at Menangle in early 2016. “He had a ton of ability, but his head wasn’t always in the right place”, said Geary.
As recently as last Sunday(June 24th 2018), the young reinsman was at Port Pirie(SA), competing in an invitation driver’s series. He was on a very early flight out of Sydney, after having had six drives at Menangle the previous night.
He’s going at a hectic pace at the moment, but at 20 years of age he wouldn’t even notice the stress levels. This young man ticks all the boxes, as he embarks on a career which will bring him many valleys and peaks as the years roll on.
He has truckloads of natural talent, and the ability to communicate amicably with owners and trainers.
Chris Geary and many youthful participants all over Australia, hold the future of this sport in their hands. They need to present themselves professionally, promote their sport at every opportunity, and work within the boundaries of the rules on and off the track.
Young drivers everywhere will already have their role models established. If you haven’t settled on one yet, may I suggest Sydney’s Chris Geary. He seems to have it all sorted.
2017 Gold Tiara Final