There were few smiles bigger than Kevin Hall’s at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday night.
The amateur driver was beaming after reining home J Bee to win the Black Dog Furniture Mobile Pace (2200m), his first victory in more than three decades.
“It was a great thrill, you certainly remember them when they are 33 years apart,” Hall said.
They say you never forget your first driving win and Hall said he could remember his as though it was yesterday.
“I drove my first winner when I was a junior driver. I was working for Frank Cooney at the time, but I drove Ulster Lass for his brother Dennis, who was an owner-trainer.
“It was at Rotorua where we used to have a New Year’s Eve day meeting on the grass, I remember it well.”
Hall had 12 previous starts as an amateur and he was delighted to get the win for good friend and trainer David Butcher, who he helps out in the mornings.
“It’s a great feeling whenever you drive a winner, I have been trying for a while,” Hall said. “I have had my amateur license for a couple of years now. I have just been battling away.
“I knew the horse had been working well, he got a good trip, and at the top of the straight he was travelling pretty well.”
Hall has been an avid follower of racing since he was a child, but admitted his first love was the thoroughbreds and he had a great desire to become a jockey.
“I had been following my father to the TAB since I was 10-years-old and going to the races whenever I could and I just fell in love with racing,” Hall said.
“I always wanted to be a jockey. I helped in the galloping stables when I was still at school, but once I realised I was going to get too big my parents contacted John Butcher.
“I started to help him out in the school holidays and then I went to work for him once I left school.
“I stayed in the game for seven or eight years, but I got to the stage where I thought I either had to go training or do something else, so I decided to do something else.”
Hall spent two decades away from the sport, but reignited his passion for harness racing when he started to help out his former mentor’s son, David Butcher.
“I went dairy farming for 20 years and when I came back to Cambridge I started helping David again and it has gone from there.
“I just started a new job with New Zealand Grazing Company and I help David out most mornings before work.
“He encouraged me to get my amateur license and he has been very supportive and given me drives whenever he could.
“When you have got someone like him giving you instructions it is always helpful.”
Hall is enjoying his time back in the sulky and is just hoping it is not another 30 years until he gets to salute the judge. – Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk