You could have knocked me over with a feather the night an immaculately dressed twelve year old boy wearing a pork pie hat bowled up to me at Penrith trots, declaring one of my horses a “good thing”.
I was harnessing a mare called Bye Bye Sir, when the young man confidently predicted she was in the right race and would get the right run.
Everything he said proved to be correct and from that night on I found myself looking for the kid in the pork pie hat whenever I had a runner.
Lucas Rando is the son of respected trainer Jim Rando and wife Vicki and just happens to be the fourth generation of the Rando family to be smitten by the harness racing bug. You never know which way genetics will go.
Lucas has two older brothers Jacob (24) and Benny (21) who have no interest in horses. Despite their indifference to the noble standardbred, the boys will surely turn up at Penrith on Thursday night when their kid brother makes his debut.
Young Lucas will drive veteran mare Quick Income, winner of eleven races since being purchased out of NZ by Jim Rando four years ago. “ He’s had the mandatory twenty trial drives and nine of them have been on this mare”, said Jim. “He knows her backwards which is very important for a youngster lining up for the first time”.
Lucas suffered frequent bouts of anxiety during school days, but still achieved some notable results. “You could tell he was worried about his studies the whole time and it got worse when examination time rolled around”, said Jim Rando.
The youngster’s demeanour changed from the moment he started to help his father with their small team of horses. A year ago he became a regular at the Hawkesbury training circuit, driving horses fast work in tandem with Jim. “He was totally different when he got away from his studies and it was becoming more obvious that this was the life he wanted”, explained Jim Rando.
The Rando infatuation with harness horses began in the late 1950’s when Lucas’s great grandfather Jim Rando Snr got hold of a very talented pacer called Mongoliey. Jim trained and drove Mongoliey most of the time, but every once in a while would let one of the leading stables take over.
The young driver’s grandfather is Steve Rando, a former eminently successful trainer and driver. In thirty years of participation at the top level, Steve won many races with pacers like Bold Caesar (30 wins), Charlie Buttons, Lena Adios, Pasqualina, Town Topper and Bracko. He also won a string of races with a talented trotter called Second Bat.
Jim Rando has worked as a plasterer for thirty four years, training two or three horses on a hobby basis. He has rarely been without a handy performer, most notably Benjacob and The Ravenite who won a swag of races between them.
Jim has never been fussed about the race driving caper. “I knew I was no Gavin Lang and thought it wiser to use the best available”, he said. “I did win four races on Bold Sun trained by my father, before deciding to rest on my laurels”.
Jim’s brother Joe trains very successfully in partnership with his wife Mary. The couple have a leaning to square trotters, although they frequently rack up a pacing win.
It will be an exhilarating moment for the seventeen year old when he dons his father’s colours on Thursday night - sixty years after his great grandfather became the first Rando to drive a harness horse on an Australian track.
I can see young Lucas now. He’ll have his race book open on the appropriate page working out where he’ll be in the run and which horses look to be his main dangers.
This time a gleaming new race helmet will take the place of the pork pie hat.