Adam Sanderson’s unlikely The Eureka bid

From where Adam Sanderson has come from in the sport of harness racing, there wouldn’t be a more unlikely reinsman to win the first running of the richest race in the history of the game.

The 34-year-old Kiwi native that now calls the Sunshine State home will partner Speak The Truth in Saturday’s inaugural The Eureka.

Sanderson, Speak The Truth and the Shannon Price stable won through to the $2.1 million ‘big dance’ by claiming The Hayden during the recent Brisbane winter, which handed them Racing Queensland’s slot in the race.

The vast majority of harness racing participants grew up around the code, with their families entrenched in the game for generations.

For Sanderson, he came from a ‘non-horse racing’ background and can’t even actually recall when he first touched the sport as a young fella.

Fast forward all these years later and the unlikely The Eureka hero is pinching himself to be able to mix it with some of the greatest drivers in the sport on Saturday evening at Menangle.

“To be a part of the biggest race in the history, it is a whirlwind for me,” Sanderson said on Monday morning from his Fernvale home.

Speak The Truth will be one of two Queenslanders in The Eureka, with race favourite Leap To Fame also calling the Sunshine State home.

Sanderson initially moved to Queensland as a 23-year-old in 2012 to be a stable foreman and driver for the Linda and Darrel Graham team.

He has settled in Fernvale and after moving across as a fresh-faced youngster he has driven more than 80 winners in each season since.

Sanderson has a Group 1 to his name and enjoyed a career best campaign of 149 winners in the 2019-20 term.

“From the first time I jumped off the plane, I did not know what I was getting myself into,” Sanderson reflected.

“The Grahams put me in good stead and the last couple of years I have really gone on with it.

“I get to drive all these nice horses now and I couldn’t imagine 10 years ago when I made that move that I would be here where I am now.”

While the Grahams gave the smiling Kiwi his first opportunity in his new venture, it is Price and her ‘Raboki’ stable that have helped push along the career of Sanderson.

He has been the team’s first choice driver for the last seven or so years and as Price details, Sanderson gets first pick of any pacer or trotter that she takes to the races.

Price gives Sanderson a rough program for a couple of months ahead for her team of horses to help the reinsman plan ahead.

“I couldn’t even recall when Adam has driven a bad race for us,” Price said.

“I do not even say anything to him in terms of instructions, I trust him with the horses and I know he goes out there and does his best.

“He looks after the horses, I like his style and the horses seem to go good for him.

“We have had a good strike rate over the seasons so I couldn’t be happier with Adam.”

As he gets the pick of the Price team’s runners, Sanderson was in the sulky in late April two years ago when a young horse by the name of Speak The Truth had his maiden educational trial.

Sanderson remembers being beaten by around 100 metres on that occasion.

Fellow reinsman Paul Diebert took the next drive behind Speak The Truth on his path towards his race day debut and he was beaten by almost 90 metres a week later.

The son of Bettors Delight slowly got there and broke his maiden status at his third race day appearance.

To now be running in a race for $2.1 million after his less than impressive first trials, Sanderson says Speak The Truth is the definition of an ‘improver’.

“At that point I thought nothing of the horse but since then, every time he has stepped out he has just got better and better,” the driver said of his first trial in the sulky behind Speak The Truth.

“He nearly won a Group 1 as a two-year-old so just there was gradual improvement.

Adam Sanderson behind Speak The Truth.

“It was a shame he missed the hard racing as a three-year-old, that would have put him in even better stead for this race.

“It might have been a blessing in disguise as he has most certainly come back bigger and stronger and I can’t see why he won’t keep improving.”

Speak The Truth will be joined in NSW alongside fellow Queensland hopeful Leap To Fame, who will start as favourite in the new race.

The Price and Sanderson runner is not as favoured in the market – rated as a $26 shot as of Thursday morning – but they are just soaking up the atmosphere of being involved.

“I am pumped for it, it has been a long time coming as the build-up to a race like this is huge,” Sanderson said.

“It is one of things that you always strive for, to be involved in the biggest races and as we know, now this is the biggest race in the world.

“The opportunity cannot come any bigger for a driver like me.

“It is a massive thrill for me, the race is worth $2.1 million so if we are lucky enough to win it, it would be a huge pay day for us.

“To be in the inaugural running and being a part of history, it is a highlight of my career.”

Sanderson hopes The Eureka can ‘super charge’ harness racing as The Everest has done so for the gallopers in Australia.

Adam Sanderson, Speak The Truth and the Shannon Price stable won through to the $2.1 million ‘big dance’ by claiming The Hayden during the recent Brisbane winter, which handed them Racing Queensland’s slot in the race.

By Jordan Gerrans