Well respected harness racing trainer, driver, breeder and preparer Justin Torney sadly passed on Thursday, February 1, aged 50.

Justin had a significant racing career and for more than 20 years, with wife Rachel, managed Ian Kitchin’s Macray Lodge, where they bred and prepared many talented foals and yearlings for prosperous racing careers.

“Justin was a very good horseman,” Kitchin said. “He worked for (trainer) Alan Tubbs, which was where I met him. He and Rachel then went to America to work for a leading harness racing trainer. They came back and I was looking for a manager of the farm and that fit in well with him.”

What would follow was a terrific connection, with Justin and Rachel breeding foals, breaking them in and readying them for sale and racing careers.

He had his hands on many talented young types for Macray Lodge, including three lots who featured in last Sunday’s Australian Pacing Gold Melbourne sale, which all found new homes.

Across the years the Macray clan would include dual Vicbred winner Dee En Ay Macray, APG winner Same Old Macray, Bomber Macray, speed machine Tee Cee Bee Macray, Vee Em Gee Macray, Kid Me Not, Together We Do and Nifty Jolt.

That involvement was the continuation of a significant on course harness racing career.

Justin first gained A grade driver's and trainer’s licenses in 1989 at age 16, and would enjoy more than 30 years in harness racing that produced many winning moments, often with rein in hand.

A driver of 1474 starts, Justin steered home 91 winners and 268 placings.

His standout seasons were some of his earliest, registering triple-figure starters six times between 1991-92 and 1998-99, including 12 winners in both of 1990-91 and 1991-92.

That included six winning drives on Merv Payne’s Cougar, who gave him his greatest stakes win as a reinsman when he scored in the second heat of the ANL Japan Stakes at Moonee Valley on January 29, 1994.

From the 1996-97 season Justin’s focuses also moved to training and he would have 850 starters as a trainer, which produced 58 wins and 137 placings and won more than $300,000 for connections.

Among them were his Myrniong clan in the 1990s, with Myrniong Victory giving him his first training win on February 19, 1997, one of four wins with the gelding.

Myrniong Odds, Myrniong Vander, Myrniong Digger, Myrniong Famous and Myrniong Falcon would also salute for the reinsman, who would also have training success with Love Chimchessy, Lilbitabrownsugar and Enforce The Law.

That trio each won seven times, with Enforce The Law producing his last training victory when he won the Saddleworld Shepparton Trot on May 1, 2020. It was his third greatest stakes win as a trainer, with the top spot taken by Angel Force, who won a metropolitan trot race at Moonee Valley on February 18, 2005.

The success with Lilbitabrownsugar from 2008 to 2011 was particularly significant, having not only trained the mare but owned and bred her across her 62 starts for seven wins, four seconds and four thirds.

He then bred two to race from her, Lilbitahenrytee and Lilbitachailatte, who produced six and two wins respectively.

Harness Racing Victoria extends its sincere condolences to Justin’s family, including his wife Rachel and his sons Nixon and Reeve, and to his many friends and colleagues.

A funeral service will be held at Bacchus Marsh Public Hall on Friday, February 16, at 11.30am, followed by a wake at the Bacchus Marsh Football Club.