Northam Harness Racing Club celebrates record-breaking Virgil Queen

Star pacer: Virgil Queen winning at Gloucester Park in the 1970s. Photo: supplied.
Star pacer: Virgil Queen winning at Gloucester Park in the 1970s. Photo: supplied.

This Saturday night the Northam Harness Racing Club will run the Virgil Queen Celebration for Westbred mares.

Sponsored by the Western Australian Standardbred Breeders Association and Allwood Stud Farm the race recognises the champion mare Virgil Queen which was trained at Bakers Hill by Les Marriott.

Les Marriott, who died on January 14, 2015,  was one of the State’s best trainers and drivers with 454 winners as a driver and 428 winners as a trainer to his credit.

In 1976 Les went to Adelaide on a holiday and, after regular driver Dudley Anderson was suspended on the opening night of that year’s Inter Dominion Championship, Les was engaged to drive Royal Force and he drove a superb race in the breeze on the sit and sprint star to win a heat on the second night and qualify for the final.

More importantly for Les that trip to Adelaide provided him with his next champion after the retirement of WA Pacing Cup winning mare Pyramus.

While in Adelaide, Les stayed at the Rosewater Hotel in Port Adelaide with good friends publican Bill Brown, his wife Jeanie and son John.

The Browns sent an unraced Aachen mare called Virgil Queen to Les. She had shown ability but broke a pastern as a 2yo which seemed to be a family trait with a calcium deficiency brought about by a six-year drought.

After two minor placings in seven starts on country tracks as a 4yo, Virgil Queen blossomed as a 5yo winning her first six starts that season before being unplaced behind Pure Steel in a heat of the Christmas Gift.

She was sent for a spell after being unplaced in the final of the Christmas Gift.

A year later Virgil Queen was a genuine star in Perth and she wrote her name into the record books when she and Little William dead-heated for first in the 1977 Fremantle Trotting Club’s Members Mile at Richmond Raceway.

The time of 1:59.6 was a world record for a dead-heat thus giving Les his second Australian record as both a trainer and driver after Pyramus’s record of 2:03.8 for a mile from a standing start.

Under Les’s care Virgil Queen went on to win 21 races including 15 in the city and in addition to her Members Mile win she won a Mount Eden Sprint, Stratton Cup, Brennan Cup and August Cup and was fourth in both a WA Pacing Cup and Fremantle Cup.

Virgil Queen later severely injured a leg and, after being suspended in a sling to help her recovery, she was nursed by Les Marriott and she later gave birth to two filly foals at Bakers Hill.

While neither mare raced both produced winners at stud with one, Royal Chandelier, being bred by Saturday night’s sponsor Allwood Stud Farm.

Royal Chandelier won a total of four races.