He's done it! Alford celebrates career winner 8000 at Ballarat

Champion reinsman Chris Alford has reached yet another major milestone in a glittering career.

RSN Harness racing
RSN Harness racing Picture: RSN

The man they know as "Puppet" scored his 8000th driving victory tonight at Ballarat when he piloted Im Wesley to victory in the Hydrautech Ballarat Pace.

It ended an industry-wide countdown, with fans of the sport from across the world cheering on the champion horseman as he broke new ground in Australasian harness racing.

His friends and fellow drivers were among the first to congratulate him on the achievement, with Hall of Fame trainer Andy Gath describing Alford as an "absolute ornament to the game".

"What I love about you is that every time you're driving a horse, you're part of the horse. And you can see that," Gath said.

"Young people going forward should emulate what you do and your work ethic."

Anthony Butt has driven against Alford for many years and said his great on-track rival was a "marvel" and "someone we've all aspired to be like".

"The miles you've done, the tracks you've driven on, the trainers you've driven for - it's been an amazing career," he said.

Master conditioner Chris Lang recalled fond memories of winning big races with Alford in the sulky.

"I can remember back in the good old days, your old man running around and you following him around," he said.

"It's been a long road, but a very successful one. I remember all those Group 1 winners we've had together and hopefully one day we'll do it again."

And champion reinswoman Kerryn Manning, who surpassed 4000 winners herself in early 2021, was also quick to congratulate Alford on his latest milestone.

"It's been a pleasure driving against you all these years," she said.

"I love my nicknames you have for me and I hope we can do battle for many years to come."

Alford has captured most of the sport's biggest and best races, with his 130-plus Group 1 triumphs headlined by Inter Dominion glory in 1995 with Golden Reign and 2015 with Lennytheshark. Other special moments include the A G Hunter Cup victory with Mont Denver Gold – trained by his late father Barry - in 2003, Lombo La Fe Fe's 2002 Great Northern Oaks success in Auckland and Tailamade Lombo's performance to claim the Queensland Championship on the Gold Coast in 2000.

The 55-year-old's first winner came all the way back in 1984 at Wangaratta thanks to Spring Vance, with Alford having now driven in more than 45,000 races worldwide.

His 8000 winners include three in Germany and 11 in New Zealand.