Glen Torpey calls time on a life-long involvement in harness racing

It did not matter if it was an Inter Dominion race or a Redcliffe maiden on a Wednesday night, Glen Torpey performed his duties on a harness track to the best of his abilities at every opportunity.

Glen has dedicated his entire working life to the harness racing industry and officially retired last Friday from his role as starter in Queensland.

There was not many roles Glen did not fill in his career in the sport – he helped prepare the track, he trained and drove standardbreds, he drove the mobile before eventually landing his long-standing role as the starter.

The Torpey family are synonymous with the code in the Sunshine State with Glen’s father Eric heavily involved before him while his brother Norm is still a steward to this day with the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission. 

The chair of harness stewards in Queensland – David Farquharson – first recalls interacting with Glen in 1983 when he was the mobile driver.

According to Farquharson, Glen has been a valued and trusted member of the team since, and well before Farquharson arrived.

“He is a wonderful family man and has a lovely wife,” Farquharson said.

“He would be the first person to help you with any issue or if you need him to get to the track early because it has been raining – like we are experiencing now – he would be there early.

“He would do all of that. He was a really good fella to have on your team.”

Like much of the Torpey family, Glen has dedicated his life to the industry.

The now 66-year-old first remembers arriving at Albion Park when he was still in primary school and it has been a constant theme in his life ever since.

“We moved there – Dad got the caretaker job at Albion Park in 1969 and I was 11 years old at the time,” Glen said.

“I have basically been going to Albion Park every Saturday night since then.”

The quietly spoken Glen is not one to boast about his achievements but his love for the sport is obvious.

“It has been in my blood for that long,” he said.

The starting role is a crucial one to run a harness racing meeting and Farquharson says Glen performed his job at a high level at every possible opportunity.

Glen Torpey at Albion Park last Friday night on his last day on the job.

“He started so many Inter Dominions and Group 1s and he would start them as good as he would for a maiden at Redcliffe,” Farquharson said.

“He was totally consistent and the drivers very much respected the job that he did.

“He was a big help to condition and maintain the track at Albion Park in addition to his starting duties in the early days.”

The role of starter is what Glen was best known for in more recent years, but he also wore a number of different hats in the sport.

He was the starter for 32 years and the curator for 15 before that, as well as driving the mobile for a period of nine years.

The admired Glen finished high school and went into the industry in 1976 as a 19-year-old looking after the trotting track.

He also prepared and drove a few standardbreds in his time.

Before he took on the role of the starter, Glen was licensed for just over a decade – driving and training pacers and trotters for his family.

When he looks back on his tenure in racing, one evening at “The Creek” when he was able to jump in the sulky behind Paleface Adios is what stands out as a career highlight, above the rest.

It was in the late 1970s when Glen was able to partner a champion of the sport in Paleface Adios.

“Before I did the starting, I was a licensee and trained horses that my mum owned in her name,” he remembers.

“I was a trainer and driver when I was a curator on the track and my highlight from that side of it was driving Paleface Adios on one occasion.

“I was friendly with Shirley and Colin Pike and Col gave me a drive on him at Albion Park.

“That was certainly my driving highlight of harness as it was near the end of his career.

“He was such a draw card in those days and he started off 35 metres over 1700 metres and it was a bit of a sprint race.

“He ran fourth and was motoring home, he did not quite get there in the end.

“I was on cloud nine for quite a while after driving a horse like Paleface Adios.”

As well as the drive on Paleface Adios, Glen said he trained and drove “a few winners” in his spell as a reinsman and conditioner.

In retirement from the racing industry, Glen and his wife plan to explore Australia – visiting places such as Tasmania and the Northern Territory – as well as heading to New Zealand.

Despite knocking off from the job for the last time on Friday of last week, Glen laughs that he still watched all the races on Saturday night from Albion Park, even though it was his “first day off”.

He is keen to get down to “The Triangle” track at Redcliffe and watch more races from the restaurant in the coming months.

By Jordan Gerrans