Jason Proctor had two chances to finish his race driving career on a winning note at Newcastle on Sept 17th 2016. His mount, the Stacey Elliott trained Dreamy Shannon looked likely to win close to home in a 3YO+ event but the photo finish camera ruled in favour of Ponderosa Bigz by a “whisker”.
As Jason came off the track he was heartened to learn the stewards were enquiring into the fact that the winner had contacted several marker pegs in the closing stages. Had Ponderosa Bigz actually ducked inside a few pegs, the result would have been reversed.
He waited anxiously as stewards viewed the head on footage, and admits to being slightly disappointed when they ruled “all clear”. Most of the races on the night were named in honour of leading Hunter Valley horsemen. His frustration was heightened by the fact that his final race drive had been in the “Jason Proctor Pace”.
His retirement had been inevitable from the day he gained his official accreditation as an equine acupuncturist around seven years earlier.
Jason had been fascinated by equine acupuncture from the moment a man named John Munro came to his Hunter Valley property to examine a horse called Totara Knight in 2002.
“John was a highly respected human acupuncturist who regularly treated members of the Newcastle Knights Rugby League team”, explained Jason. “He and a few Knights players raced Totara Knight who won thirteen races for the syndicate. He’d always been a very tractable horse, but suddenly started to race ungenerously prompting John to ask if I had any objections to his trying some acupuncture”.
After a couple of treatments the improvement was significant. After a couple more he struck the best form of his career, leaving his trainer and driver in awe. “From that moment on I was totally hooked on the benefits of equine acupuncture”, said Proctor. “I experimented with my own horses for a long time and as their performances improved I became keener and keener to learn the craft from the experts”.
Jason enrolled for a course in acupuncture under the supervision of Sydney University’s Alan Moffat and went ahead in leaps and bounds. He passed the course with flying colours, gaining his accreditation on the condition he treat his own horses only, for a specified period.
At the time Jason was working 20-25 horses at Sawyers Gully in the Hunter Valley. He regularly treated his own team, but it wasn’t long before other trainers were bringing their horses to him - thoroughbreds included.
As the trainer’s reputation burgeoned in the district, he found he was away from home more often and a reduction in his own horse numbers became inevitable.
He was rapidly approaching the cross roads in his very successful harness racing career - a career which began when he rode a pony for the first time at age 4 on the family property at Singleton. Jason’s father David was a coal miner in the Hunter, but dabbled with a few harness horses which gradually began to interest his young son.
David Proctor trained and drove a very smart filly in the 1980’s by the name of Dee Jay Princess, who won several races at Harold Park, a couple of them in fast time.
Young Jason actually worked as an apprentice carpenter on leaving school, with no real intention of making a career out of harness racing. During his many visits to Harold Park he befriended leading trainer/driver Brian Hancock who encouraged him to give it a go.
A mare called Tallowood Princess holds the distinction of providing a sixteen year old Jason Proctor with his first driving win at only his third attempt. The magic moment came at Cessnock in November 1991.
Almost two years later the very same mare gave the young driver his never to be forgotten maiden Harold Park win. In all Jason won eleven races on the very genuine Tallowood Princess.
Clearly his ‘horse in a lifetime’ was the talented Bastille Beggar, trained initially by David Proctor and later by Jason himself. Bastille Beggar (Lucius Lobell out of the aforementioned Dee Jay Princess), was driven in all of his thirty two starts by a youthful Jason Proctor. He won nineteen races with six placings for $238,000 in prize money.
His “tour de force” came at the old Bathurst track in 1994 when he won the coveted Gold Crown Final, an occasion Jason holds near and dear to his heart.
It was a devastating blow to the Proctor family when Bastille Beggar had to be euthanised after sustaining horrific foreleg injuries in an accident on the property.
One of Jason’s all time favourites was the aptly named Our Big Monte - a hulk of a horse with a very prominent roman nose. He belied his inelegant appearance by reeling off an amazing forty wins - driven in thirty five of them by Jason Proctor.
The talented horseman will always have a soft spot for The Spurs A Flyin - a little mare he bought out of a paddock in NZ. “I actually went to a training property to look at a gelding which didn’t grab me at all”, recalled Jason. “I had a drive of the mare and I can tell you she had a hell of an attitude. I found out later that a couple of well known Sydney horsemen had passed her up because of her temperament”.
Convinced some of her problems could be alleviated with acupuncture, Jason clinched the deal and actually landed The Spurs A Flyin at Sawyers Gully for $18,000 Australian dollars which included airfares and all transfer fees. “I syndicated her among friends and we went on to have the time of our lives with her”, said Proctor. Sixteen wins (including a mares MO at Harold Park) and thirty placings netted her $113,000.
Amanda Rando, HRNSW Media and Communications Manager was kind enough to check the database for Jason Proctor’s complete driving and training record and came up with some pretty impressive figures.
As a driver he had a total of 7966 starts for 1093 wins and 2260 placings.
As a trainer he had 5941 starts for 816 wins and 1703 placings - testimony to twenty five years of dedication and consistency.
Where has life taken Jason Proctor since his exit from the training and driving ranks almost three years ago? Twelve months ago he sold his Hunter Valley property and looked for the place of his dreams.
As a lover of the environment it was no surprise when he came up with a unique 100 acre property near the foothills of the Koonyum Range, about 12km from Mullumbimby. “It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a property”, said the former trots dynamo. “Thirty five acres is taken up by a magnificent rain forest, I have an unlimited supply of pristine spring water and I’m pretty proud of my own personal waterfall”.
On the occasion of his initial inspection, the first thing to grab his attention was the majestic tallowood tree at the front of the property. “All I could think of was Tallowood Princess, my very first winner at Cessnock way back in 1991”, he said.
Jason has all but completed the construction of a house built entirely from the stone on his property. “There is an unlimited amount of rhyolite which is an igneous volcanic rock, probably a close relative of granite”, said an excited budding house builder. “I couldn’t be sure it would look the part, but I’m absolutely thrilled with the result”.
From his new base he’s able to service established clients in the Hunter Valley every four to six weeks, with several stopovers along the way. He looks after many horses of varying breeds within the Mullumbimby district and is currently gaining recognition on his Queensland excursions.
When asked to explain in simple terms his main focus in equine acupuncture, he quickly settled on the problems caused by inefficient “water flow”. “Many horses urinate too much or too little and many are not fluent and comfortable in their urination habits”, explained Jason. “When this problem exists, kidney, bladder and ‘tying up” issues inevitably follow. I focus on treating the acupuncture points which will help regulate correct water flow”.
You’ve only got to look at his rapidly expanding client base to realise Jason Proctor is doing something right.
If he attains the same degree of competence he reached as a conditioner and driver of harness horses he will excel in the ancient art of acupuncture.
(Banner Image courtesy National Trotguide - Bastille Beggar at Albion Park 1995.)