Diane Reilly dreaming of Inter Dominion crown on home soil

Cameron Hart and Jason Grimson after Majestic Cruiser caused a boilover in the 2022 Group 1 TAB Blacks A Fake at Albion Park. 

Diane Reilly did it in enemy territory last year and she already has plans in the works to defend her title on home soil in 2023 when the Inter Dominion rolls back into the Sunshine State.

The Palm Beach-based Reilly lifted the Inter Dominion pacing crown with I Cast No Shadow in 2022.

Australasia’s premier harness racing event – the Inter Dominion Championship – will take centre stage at Albion Park throughout December this year.

The 82-year-old Reilly has been a harness racing identity for much of her life, owning countless pacers and trotters, as well as travelling far and wide to purchase her next star and then eventually watch them on the track.

The popular Reilly has designs on racing I Cast No Shadow – who Jason Grimson trains – in her own backyard later this year in a bid to become a back-to-back Inter Dominion winning owner.

“I have got defend my title and hopefully win it again,” Reilly said with the Inter Dominion trophy in her hand earlier this month.

“That would be lovely to have two Inter Dominions in a row – it would be beautiful.

“I am dreaming of that and that is what the Inter Dominion Cup does to people, it makes you dream.

“He is a sound horse and I think he will make it back again. 

“I am really excited to have it in Queensland.”

Hot off the heels of the 2022 Inter Dominion, all eyes will now be on Queensland, who will host the series for the first time since the Gold Coast in 2009.

Racing Queensland CEO Brendan Parnell said the return of the series to Queensland is a feather in the cap for the innovation and growth of the state’s harness racing industry.

“It is super exciting having the Inter Dominion coming back to the Sunshine State,” Parnell said.

“It has been a while since Queensland has hosted it so planning is on in earnest, in what will showcase the best pacers and trotters in Brisbane later this year.

“We last hosted the Inter Dominion at the Gold Coast and it has not been at Albion Park for quite some time.

“There is a great deal of excitement built up over many years to see it back.

“There is some really exciting plans in place to put on the greatest show in pacing and trotting in Queensland.”

To win her maiden ID crown in her early 80s, Reilly felt it was a fitting result after a lifetime dedicated to the code.

She first raced a standardbred with her late husband in their 20’s some 60 years ago in North Queensland.

Reilly watched pacers she owned race at tracks such as Townsville, Mackay and Cairns in the early days.

The stable of horses she owns has progressed and expanded since those days but those early memories of harness racing in the north of Queensland quickly had her enamoured with the sport.

“We never knew anything about a horse but we were approached to buy it, so we did,” Reilly said.

“Everything went well and then we were hooked.

“It was like it was meant to be.

“Once you have a horse and it wins races, you are hooked on harness racing.”

Diane Reilly with I Cast No Shadow at Albion Park last year.

Prepared by emerging horseman Grimson and driven by talented reinsman Cameron Hart, Reilly’s I Cast No Shadow caused an upset in the big Group 1 at Melton late last year, saluting at $16.

The Queensland owner purchased the now six-year-old chestnut from New Zealand and he was originally sent to trainer Brent Lilley before Grimson eventually took over the training duties.

Grimson’s Majestic Cruiser claimed the 2022 Group 1 TAB Blacks A Fake at Albion Park. 

Having raced pacers for more than six decades, Reilly says the ID title is a milestone she had always aimed to win.

“It has been the highlight of my career,” Reilly said.

“It was great, it was stressful and it was happy.

“Anybody that is in harness racing would love to win the Inter Dominion trophy.

“You dream about it and hope one day you have a horse that is good enough to win it.”

There is another tantalising aspect of the industry that Reilly also has her eyes on.

The establishment of a world-class harness racing precinct in the Sunshine State is a step closer with a site secured for a new Queensland Centre of Excellence.

With harness racing’s show-piece event, the Inter Dominion Championships, poised to make its long-awaited return to Queensland this year, work will now begin on future proofing the industry through the development of a state-of-the-art racing and training precinct.

Racing Queensland has purchased more than 72 hectares near Norwell as the preferred home of the ‘Queensland Harness Centre’ and will access $8 million from the Racing Infrastructure Fund to secure the land.

“That has been the pinnacle of my life, hopefully I live long enough to see that track built and race there,” Reilly said.

“That is what is keeping me going, I want to see that.”

Reilly hopes her tale of winning harness racing’s show-piece event spurs others to get involved in the game.

While she owns I Cast No Shadow on her own, she also has shares in a number of other pacers, which she declares has led her to meet “wonderful people” through syndicates Melbourne, Sydney and New Zealand.

“I hope people can hear my story and my experiences and they can go along with me and know that there is a journey for them to do similar,” she said.

“People should just keep buying horses, go to the sales and buy some good horses and strive to win the Cup that I have won.

“This is an opportunity for everyone to come here and see how well racing is going in Queensland and how it is really going ahead as a sport.

“With the prize money on offer and the QBRED bonuses, I can’t see why people would not want to race their horses here.”

The dates and venue for the 2023 Inter Dominion Championship have recently been unveiled, commencing on Friday, December 1, 2023.

The second and third rounds of qualifiers will follow on December 5 and December 9 respectively, culminating with both pacing and trotting finals on Saturday, December 16.

By Jordan Gerrans