If bloodlines in a horse are given currency, then what value is pedigree of the reinsman doing the steering?
You only have to briefly shine the spotlight on rising star Will Rixon to concede that it probably does factor into the equation.
Will is the son of harness racing royalty Peter and Cindy Rixon– and the brother of fellow drivers Ellen and Hannah Rixon. Their grandfather is the storied AD “Tony” Turnbull – the inaugural inductee into Harness Racing New South Wales’ Living Legends hall of fame.
The Rixon and Turnbull names are synonymous with Harness Racing in New South Wales.
“Everyone in the sport looks up to him. Everyone has got a story to tell about my grandfather which is pretty cool,” Will remarked.
“Even last year I went up to Queensland to do some driving for three weeks in the winter and nearly everyone I saw was talking about him and how he used to go up there and do well.”
Will is however, carving his own path on tracks across the state.
His talents were put on show in the last at Bathurst last night as he steered 2-year-old Finery to an impressive first up win. He believes the filly has a bright future ahead.
That drive came on the back of a visit to see his beloved grandfather while he was in the neighbourhood earlier in the day.
“I pop in whenever I can. We talk about races. I tell him about the horses that I’m on. I’m always driving around the state but he still watches every race and is a big supporter of me and my sisters,” Will said.
“He’s not a man of many words but whatever he does say, you certainly remember.”
“Mum is always telling me stuff he used to say when she was driving so he definitely passed down some wisdom over the years.”
Will inherited harness racing, but the journey to now was never considered a fait accompli. It was always his path to choose.
He left school early to take up a carpentry apprenticeship under the tutelage of his Father. A year later he was off the tools and beginning a professional career in racing.
“There was certainly no pressure from anyone at any stage. Mum and Dad always said if you want to drive horses that’s great. But it was up to me,” he said.
“Dad used to let me off early to go to race meetings so we were making it work, but the thing is, all I wanted to do was drive horses. I didn’t want to build houses. So I did my first year and moved on.”
Now he works for his parents on the track, given responsibility for their stable on race night.
A fortnight ago he piloted two winners in the Rixon colours at Newcastle – 3-year-old filly Im Presi Belle and impressive mare Oursouthernstar.
“My sisters and I all drive for Mum and Dad. It’s great and they’re the sort of trainers that leave it up to you on how you’re going to run the race,” he said.
“They buy into that idea that they put you on the horse for a reason so they’ll let you do your job. They have been really good to me like that.”
It’s been a strong start to 2021 for Will and he’s excited about the year ahead.
As most in the industry will attest, things can’t get any more obscure than what the past 12 months produced.
It’s why he’s thrown his full support behind the HRNSW TABCORP Regional Championships concept.
Heats will be held in four regions across the state – Riverina, Western, Hunter and Metropolitan – culminating in a Group 1 final in each zone.
This year, HRNSW has added a Group 1 Grand Final event at its Menangle headquarters on 29 May, bringing together qualifiers from each of the four regions.
“I’m all for it. Last years races were brilliant and it might be one of the few good things that have come out of COVID and I’m thrilled that they’re sticking with it and growing it even more,” he said.
“I think it will bring more people together. It’s a great idea and I know there is a buzz among people for it.”
It certainly fits in with his grand ambitions for the year ahead, hoping to secure more drives in Group 1 races across the state.
“I drove in the Gold Crown and ran second and had a run in the Derby. Now that I’ve done that I want more of it and hopefully that happens this year.”
“I love racing and want to get in the bigger races more often so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and see where it takes me.”
And perhaps build on his own collection of stories for future family gatherings.
“Let’s hope so. It’s always good to have a bit of banter when we catch up!”