By Duane Ranger
Even 20 hours after achieving his greatest moment in harness racing, Paul Diebert, still hadn’t fully realised the enormity of what he did at Albion Park at 8.35pm on Saturday.
“It still hasn’t sunk in. But when you are being contacted by people that didn’t even want to know me this time last week, well then you know something’s up. It’s all very humbling,” Diebert told Racing Queensland.
“This is one of the best moments in my life and certainly my most memorable moment on a racetrack. It’s races like this that we all dream of winning. This is why we all work so hard - to achieve results like this,” Diebert said on his way to the Redcliffe Trots on Sunday.
Ten years after first doing jog work for his family, 24-year-old Diebert, has driven the Grant Dixon trained Ohoka Punter to his firs Group One victory in the $100,000 Group One Garrards Sunshine Sprint.
It was one of three Group Ones, a Group Three, and a Listed race that were competed for on the second night of the 2019 TAB Queensland Winter Racing Carnival.
Diebert sat behind stablemate, favourite and eventual runner-up Colt Thirty One (Dixon) and then in the passing lane had enough sprint to win by 1.3m.
Ohoka Punter’s sectionals were 26, 32, 27.8 and 27.7. He stopped the clock in 1:56.8 (mile rate 1:53.2) for the 1660m mobile.
It was Ohoka Punter’s 27th win in 109 starts. He’s also placed 51 times and banked $1.17m in stakes. It was the 9-year-old Bettor’s Delight gelding’s fourth Group One to go with his 2016 Blacks A Fake, and 2013 Victoria Derby (Melton) and Great Northern Derby (Auckland) victories.
“He’s a great old horse who has been there and done that. He’s rising 10 now so he might be getting towards the end of it, which will be a shame,” Diebert said.
“But he felt awesome on Saturday. He was jogging it from the 400m. I hope he keeps racing on next season, because the way he is going I think he can go close again in next Saturday’s Blacks A Fake,” Diebert said.
Kevin Seymour, who co-owns both Ohoka Punter and Colt Thirty One with his wife Kay, told Diebert he would be a giant if he won on Saturday.
“We had a few light-hearted words before the race and I told him he would be seven-foot tall and bullet proof if he could get ‘Punter home’ – and he did,” Mr Seymour said.
“It was a fantastic drive and I honestly believe Paul is one of the most underrated drivers going around in Queensland. That was a lovely drive tonight and Kay and I are so proud of him.”
Diebert said he was born into a harness racing family in the Riverina region in New South Wales. He said he got the bug from his grandfather and father and (Norm Diebert Sr & Jr).
“They never wanted me to get into harness racing, but like I said I got the bug when I was in my early teens and haven’t looked back. I’m proud to be a third-generation member of my family that has taken up harness racing for a living,” he said.
“I have worked for a few trainers since starting out in 2010 when I left school. I even left the industry and went to Thailand for a while. I’ve also worked for stables in New South Wales, Western Australia (2016-2017) and Queensland.
“I’d worked for Grant previously and this time I’ve been back at his (Tamborine) stables since late last year. He’s a real pleasure to work for. You can see why he’s Australia’s top trainer. Grant leaves nothing to chance and gives a lot of attention to detail,” he added.
After admitting he had a slow start to the season, Diebert has now driven 55 winners this season and just over $420,000 in stakes.
He said he nailed his first winning drive behind the Shaun Snudden trained Chrissy Styx at Leeton on April 14, 2012.
“I drove a double that day and I remember it well, but what happened on Saturday night I’ll never forget either. I just want to thank Grant and Mr and Mrs Seymour for believing in me,” he said.
“There are so many other people who have been great to me as well. I just want to thank them all and let them know I’m grateful to everyone for making this happen. It’s taken a wee while, but now that I’m here I want to do it all again – starting this Saturday,” Diebert said.
It was a night when the big guns stepped up.
The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained Our Princess Tiffany ran them into the ground when winning the Group 1 TAB Queensland Oaks.
An effortless 11.5m win was further bolstered by the fact she did it in track-record time for 3YO fillies (1.54.7 mile-rate) previously held by 2017 Oaks winner Shartin.
“She cruised that tonight. She’s so fit and so well gaited. It was an absolute pleasure to drive ‘a machine’ like this. She has some gears,” said catch-driver, Kylie Rasmussen.
The other Group One event – the $50,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Queensland Trotters Cup, went to another Kiwi raider, the Tim Butt trained and Anthony Butt driven Majestic Courtney.
It was the Butts’ first Group One trotting victory at Albion Park since the legendary Take A Moment won the $200,000 Interdominion Grand Final in April 2001.
“He’s a lovely horse who is still only four and has a bit to learn. We definitely think he will make a nice open class trotter one day,” butt (Tim) said.