Herbert looks to nail a 30-year ambition.
A New Zealand football legend wants to overcome a overcome a 30-year hoodoo month.
Former All White and All White coach Ricki Herbert has renewed his harness racing driver’s licence after a break of 27 years – and he’s itching to steer home his first winner, three decades after making his track debut.
“I guess there’s been a long time between drinks,” Herbert (59) explained.
“It sounds worse than it is. I drove my first horse in 1990 but I had only 18 drives before I gave it a rest.”
Herbert’s move to Cambridge three years ago reignited his passion for horse racing.
He found that helping at workouts was his ideal form of relaxation away from his football commitments.
Herbert co-trained harness racers with his late father, Olympic cyclist Clive Herbert, at the family’s South Auckland property after he retired from his professional playing career in Europe and Australia.
The father and son combination trained 22 winners before the younger Herbert went full-time with his coaching career that saw him take the All Whites to the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa, and spend six seasons in charge of the Wellington Phoenix.
Herbert moved to Cambridge in 2017 to provide a central location for his youth academy which has a dozen centres in the upper North Island. He’s also the Technical Director at Cambridge Football Club.
This year, he joined the team at Kyle Marshall Racing’s stables next to the Cambridge Raceway.
“I’ve been working a few horses in the mornings for Kyle,” he said.
“Everyone’s got their own way of relaxing – mine is going round the track and enjoying the thrill of being behind a powerful horse.”
Harness Racing New Zealand approved Herbert’s driver’s licence in late November and he got his first chance to drive under race conditions at last week’s meeting at Cambridge Raceway.
He steered Chalberg – which he part-owns – in the first event for trainer Luke Whittaker.
Chalber was unplaced, but Herbert remained philosophical.
“I’m still looking for my first winner but it will feel even better when it comes.”
Herbert said he was elated to wear the white, blue and yellow colours previously registered to his late father’s stable.
“Dad died 18 months ago and it meant a lot for me to take the same colours onto the track.”
Herbert’s hoping to get his next drive either at the December 17 meeting or at the Christmas Eve meeting which traditionally draws a large crowd.
“A win would be some Christmas present, wouldn’t it?” Herbert said.