Doug Lee salutes late beloved cousin in trotting triumph

Justabitlikesully on the way to last Tuesday's win.

When first informed of Doug Lee’s plans, the late Peter Sullivan could not believe his ears.

Sullivan – a long-time trotting man from a revered square gaiting family in NSW – was in the final stages of his extended battle with illness in late 2020.

His younger cousin – Lee – would often call him up to chat on the way to the races, sometimes speaking as often as three time a week.

In his later years as he got sicker, Sullivan – or Sully as his mates would call him – would chat to the Queensland-based Lee from hospital.

Sullivan was a three-time NSW ‘Trotters’ Trainers Premiership winner and had been the long-time President of the NSW Trotters’ Association, racking up more than 25 years in that position.

He put in nearly 40 years’ service for the trotters’ cause and eventually passed away at age 67 in 2020.

When the new “Trotters Association of NSW” was formed in 2015, Sullivan was bestowed with ‘life membership’.

Like his cousin, Lee also loves the square gaiters.

So, understanding that his cherished relative did not have long left, Lee decided to ensure that his name would live on well after his death.

“He rang me up two days before he died, he had enough of it all as he had been in hospital for 12 months before he did pass,” Lee recalls.

“I went quiet for a bit before I eventually told him that once he was gone, I would keep his name in harness racing.

“I went on to say that I would name a yearling trotter after him with a name like ‘Justabitlikesully’.

“He went quiet and was sobbing before he hung up the phone.

“He rang me back a bit later and we spoke about it properly.

“He told me that I could not name a horse after him if the horse was going to be no good (laughs).”

A few of years on from Sullivan’s death, the trotter named to remember his legacy in the sport won his first race at Albion Park last week.

When the gelding crossed the winning post, Lee saluted to the heavens.

Lee and Sullivan are both grandsons of ‘trotters’ master, Snowy Finn.

Their fathers both passed away at a young age, with Finn ‘rearing’ the cousins, Lee says.

“We were destined to have trotters,” the Stockleigh-based horseman said.

According to the 67-year-old Lee, ‘Sully’ was not worried about providing honest feedback to people and in a fitting way, the trotter named in his honour also is a bit of a handful at times.

Justabitlikesully is bred out of Justabitcoco who was one of Lee’s first trotting winners when he moved to Queensland around a decade ago.

Justabitlikesully after last Tuesday's win.

The two-year-old had been knocking on the door before last week’s breakthrough maiden triumph, running in the money four times from half a dozen attempts.

“It was a good result, I hit the line and looked up to the heavens and said, ‘this one is for you Sully’,” the trainer and driver said.

“It was surreal. Looking up at that sky.

“He always trained a trotter, he never had any world beaters but he had some good ones.

“Justabitlikesully will be a nice horse, he is keen for a spell now.”

Sullivan enjoyed success with trotters such as West Texas Crude, Master Maori and Fonzie Adios, among others.

Finn trained the Inter Dominion-winning trotter Bay Johnny at South Australia’s Globe Derby Park in 1976.

“This breed I have got relates all the way back to Bay Johnny and all the good breed,” Lee says.


By Jordan Gerrans