February 1 - The Columbia space shuttle broke up some 6km above the Mid-West of the USA when re-entering the earth's atmosphere killing all 7 on board.
The Second Gulf War breaks out when a US-led force invades Iraq.
February - Team NZ loses the Americas Cup to Alingi of Switzerland captained by New Zealander Russell Coutts.
The population of NZ passes four million.
The new Ch-Ch Art Gallery opens.
The Silver Ferns defeat Australia at the netball world cup.
Seven staff from Lincoln's Crop & Food Research are killed in a light-plane crash.
Parliament decriminalises prostitution.
The seabed and foreshore dispute prompts changes to the law.
The All Blacks are defeated 22-10 by Australia in the semi-finals of the Rugby world Cup
The death occurred last Saturday of Ernie Fuchs, one day before his 58th birthday.
Fuchs had been the judge at Addington Raceway for many years, officiating at trial meetings, harness meetings and greyhound fixtures.
He started at the Raceway in 1987, as an assistant to Geoff Bruhns, the took over the reins after Bruhns retired in 1992. Fuchs also handled the judging duties at other tracks like Rangiora and Motukarara.
Never married, Fuchs is survived by his sister Anna, whom he lived with in Papanui, Christchurch.
Credit: NZ HRWeekly 2Jul03
Mark Jones is literally 'On Top of the World' after becoming the youngest reinsman to win the World Driving Championship during the final round at Woodbine in Ontario, Canada, last Saturday night.
Jones, 24, went into the last round three points adrift of Sweden's Erik Adielsson, who had scored heavily in the third and fourth legs at the Hippodrome in Montreal, Quebec, and Flamboro Downs in Ontario. But Jones had pretty much wrapped up the title going into the last race, and in the end finished 10 points clear of Canada's Jody Jamieson who took second on a countback after tying with Adielsson on points. Jamieson was the defending champion and previously the youngest driver to win the title, being a little under a year older than Jones.
Jones won the first race in the series and led after the first round at Charlottetown Driving Park on Prince Edward Island, but won only one more race, winning the Championship with general consistency, skill and patience. Thus the world title sees him complete a three-peat of sorts, having become the first junior driver to win 100 races in a season in 2000, and the following year the first to win the national title in his first season as an open driver. Jones joins the late Kevin Holmes, Robert Cameron, Maurice McKendry and Tony Herlihy as New Zealand winners of the title.
"The money (US$22,000) is nice, but it has been the whole experience and making so many new friends which has been really great - the series has been really well organised and we had been treated like royalty. I have a lot of people and their horses to thank for supporting me along the way, like Cran and Chrissy Dalgety and Dean and Lesley Taylor and in the beginning Maurice Bailey and Andrew Eyre, but most of all I'd like to thank my biggest supporter - mum (Lois)," he added.
Jones made good friendships during the series, but none more-so than Jamieson, who was unlucky in the penultimate round on the half-mile Flamboro track where he had led Jones by two but drew three second-lines and the outside of the front in the other and only scored 14 points. Jamieson won the last race of the series to take second, while France's Pierre Vercruysse won the first three races at Woodbine to finish fourth-equal with Finland's Antti Teivainen.
Jones had some "self doubts" about his style in the wide, speed sulkies used in North America, but was put at ease by Jamieson. "I was the only one it seemed that didn't lean back in the cart, but Jody said it didn't make any difference and just to stick with what I felt comfortable doing. They drive with their hands back, but I like to have more control."
Jones will now get to defend his title in Italy in 2005, and hopes to again represent New Zealand when the championship returns Down Under in four years time.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 30Jul03
Nat Hall, who died suddenly last week at the age of 71, was a loyal and long-serving committeeman of the Rangiora Harness Racing Club. "When Nat had a job to do, you could always depend on him to do it well," said past-president, Erin Crawford.
Hall stood the stallion Farm Timer, but his flagship was the grand pacer Commissioner whom he trained himself. By Play Bill from the Scotland's Pride mare Preferable, Commissioner won three races at two, and beat Noodlum in the Champion Stakes at Ashburton in 1974.
As a 3-year-old, he won the NZ Metropolitan Championship from Don Lopez and In Or Out, and one of his two wins at four came at he expense of Trevino in the NZ Premier Stakes. Driven mostly by Barry Anderson, Commissioner won the New Brighton Cup at five from Lunar Chance and Sole Command for Bob Nyhan, who also drove him in his last win, over Cyclone Lad and Stanley Rio, in the Lion Brown Invitation Stakes.
David McCarthy writing in NZ Trotguide 4Dec75
Most readers are aware that no matter how much scientific research is put into bloodlines, nearly every top class horse has at least one factor of luck or chance in his breeding history.
Just how far chance can go toward getting the desired result is evident in the history of Commissioner who won the third leg of the Triple Crown series at Addington recently. In winning the $7,000 NZ Premier Stakes for 4-year-olds and having taken the 3-year-old equivalent last season, the Play Bill horse nearly took the $10,000 bonus which the NZ Metropolitan Club is offering to the first horse to win all three legs. Noodlum was Commissioner's stumbling block for he won the 2-year-old leg, the Welcome Stakes in 1974 after Commissioner had broken at the start. Noodlum was out of action when the 3-year-old leg was decided and of course sidelined by a similar injury this time. Nevertheless he would have been working to top his old rival for Commissioner sped over the 2600m in 3:21.4 and the Rangiora pacer is obviously one with a very bright future.
Yet it is only by a series of coincidences that we are seeing Commissioner at all. His dam Preferable had as her grandam the brilliant Sonoma Harvester mare Garner whom E C McDermott bought for the great sum of $35 in the early 1930s and proved one of the finest trotters of her era. At stud, among others, she produced Lady Josephine to the Rey De Oro stallion Gaillard. Owned by Bill Allen at Addington, Lady Josephine had a reputation for being able to get in foal at any time to any stallion and she was sent down the road to the Addington stables of Alf Bourne in 1947 to be mated with Scotland's Pride who had just been retired for the track after a successful but frustrating career.
Scotland's Pride won races alright but he had a major problem in that while his right foot turned inwards his left turned outwards and Bourne claims he is the only pacer to have raced with "two left feet". There was no stud fee for him apparently as long as you were prepared to deliver your mare and take it home after servicing. Preferable was the result of this informal arrangement and she got her name when the Allens found that they were one name short on the application form but told officials the first name they wanted was preferable to the second. Preferable became the third name and this was the one ultimately given.
Preferable showed some promise as a trotter as a young horse and ultimately won at that gait though she never set the world on fire and had periodic bouts of unsoundness. As a six-year-old she was retired to stud. Though two of her first three foals were winners Preferable looked set for a breeding career to match her racing until she was allowed to run in the paddock with the Hal Tryax horse Lucky Tryax. Her second foal from this arrangement was leased by 'Snow' Whitford with the right of purchase and this was of course the outstanding juvenile pacer Sam Tryax. Before this colt showed his worth, however, Preferable was sold to Nat Hall for $25 with another $25 thrown in if the now ageing mare had another foal.
She was over 20 years old by this time and showing it. But she retained the breeding qualities of her own dam and produced Infallible to Fallacy before dropping Commissioner to Play Bill - not a bad return on $50. Now 27 years old Preferable is still being bred from and Nat Hall has a Regal Yankee colt Chancllor bred in 1973. While he is showing promise his owner will be surprised if he is another Commissioner.
A Rangiora farmer Nat Hall has been actively engaged in training for about six years though prior to that a number of horses he bred had been leased out, among them the good trotters Indira and Smokey Bear. Not a pretentious man and one who has something of a reputation for avoiding the limelight which he thinks he hasn't fully earned. Though he dislikes taking Commissioner to the parade ring and prefers to watch the 4-year-old from the top of the straight near the stables entrance, Nat is direct when asked the reason for deciding on Play Bill as a breeding mate for Preferable: 'The old mare had no teeth and Freeman Holmes had a lot of grass at his stud' says Nat. Such refreshing candour in a day when some breeders might be disposed to give you a long lecture on the 'nicking' of bloodlines surely deserves a horse like Commissioner.
Commissioner's immediate future includes a crack at the Miracle Mile on Staturday in which he has drawn well and might well attempt to lead from start to finish. Certainly anything that takes him on over the first 400m is going to know they have been sprinting. It is possible he will go to Auckland for the Cup carnival though as Commissioner is having quite a busy season at stud (having served 20 mares so far) Nat might be inclined to settle for the Canterbury Park meetings at New Year.
Whatever happens, Commissioner seems destined for a grand career - and all because Nat Hall bought an old toothless mare for $25. It all shows yet again that unfashionably bred horses still can make fools of the most expert student of breeding.
Credit: NZ HRWeekly 19Nov03
Daniel Campbell had never been happier in his life than the last six months says his partner of the last four and a half years, Gael Murray. Campbell died instantly in a freak accident after being kicked in the chest while handling a couple of yearling fillies at their West Melton property late last Tuesday afternoon. He was 30.
While he was best perceived in the public eyes as the driver who expertly partnered Christian Cullen in his most memorable moments, in hindsight Campbell actually regretted only being recognised by people for that association, and took much more satisfaction from being accepted by his peers for his all-round ability as a horseman. One of those was Bob Cameron, who recently re-employed him to help out in the mornings.
After stints with Bill Denton while at school, Jeff Whittaker and Frank and then Mick Murfitt, briefly entertaining the idea of being a jockey, Campbell blossomed into the country's leading junior driver with the guidance and opportunities from Cameron in the 1995/96 season with a 23-11-9 record from 136 drives for a UDR of .2361. He won the same number of races in his next and last season as a junior, before teaming up with the Brian O'Meara stable and Christian Cullen on 16 occasions (beaten just once in the GN Derby) and 14 consecutive wins. These included the Round Up 1950 over open class pacers Anvil's Star and Brabham as a three-year-old at the 1997 NZ Cup meeting, the Yearling Sales 3yo Open, Superstars, Ashburton Flying Stakes, NZ Cup, NZ FFA, NSW Miracle Mile, Treuer Memorial, Auckland Cup, a still-standing NZ Record mile at Cambridge in 1:54.1 and a heat of the 1999 Inter-Dominions in Auckland before the In The Pocket entire again went amiss. It was a stunning unbeaten 4-year-old season where they won 12 races and $757,675, and every accolade imaginable.
Campbell, known to family and friends as Daniel, and merely dubbed Danny by the media, was later dismissed from the O'Meara stable over personal differences and had since seemingly been on the outer in the industry. But Murray says he did actually prefer being out of the limelight and keeping a low profile. And contrary to suggestions, he had no ambitions to return to the fore as a reinsman. "He would have liked to have driven one more winner for Bob, and just one drive in the US, but he was becoming increasingly interested in breeding and just loved being around the broodmares and working with the youngsters," said Murray.
"He was a lot happier dealing with horses than some people anyway. He loved being around horses, but he accepted that they were also just a job at the end of the day and not your entire life, and he had a passion and dedication for everthing around him," she added. Murray will remember Campell mostly for his spontaneity and generosity, someone who never did things in halves. Whenever he bought someone a present, it was always a really big one. And he always had to do things himself and quickly, even when he didn't really know what he was doing." Murray accepts that Campbell was a shy and private sort of person, and that some probably found him quite hard to get to know at first, but says he had a wonderful sense of humour when at ease.
Christchurch breeder Les Donald, who had got to know Campbell well in recent years and had three youngsters in work with him, agreed that he was often misunderstood. "I was led to believe initially that Danny might be difficult to get to know, but right from the start I found his help, advice and communication to be second to none," said Donald. "What I actually admired most about him though was his honesty and integrity. He would always try and do the best thing by people," he added.
David Whittle knew Campbell from school in the Addington and Hoon Hay suburbs from when they were only seven, and recalls how along with Nigel McGrath the trio progressed into careers with horses. "I think we were about ten when one day we caught this kid throwing stones at horses in Hoon Hay, and we went to sort him out," said Whittle. "We made him go and pick up all the stones - that was Nigel, and we then became mates," he said.
Campbell lost his mother Carmel to cancer in November, 1996, and his father John in September last year. He had trained a winner at Addington in August, 2000 in Nuclear Sight, who was raced by a family syndicate along with friends. Campbell is survived by an older brother Keith and sisters in Karen and Nicola.
Credit: NZ HRWeekly 7May03
Trevor Thomas, a special guest at the Methven Trotting Club's centenary celebrations in October, died suddenly in Christchurch earlier this week, in his 77th year.
His father, Lou, was a respected Canterbury horseman associated with several useful horse including Purser, Huon Voyage, Battle Colours and Excelsa.
After three years at Christchurch Boys High, Thomas left school at 15 to work for his father. "I helped him for the best part of 10 years, and after I thought I knew enough, I decided to go out on my own. Then, after I was married I got a job working for the railways to pay the house off, and then went back to the horses."
Thomas still vividly recalls his first winner, Waroonga, at Addington in 1947. "It was just after my 21st birthday, and one of my father's owners gave me £5. My mother suggested I should put it on Waroonga, saying I must be a poor driver if I couldn't back my own horse. I ended up putting £2 each-way on him and he won paying £175 to win, and £27 for a place. It was a record at Addington for some time."
Thomas trained 88 winners and drove 108 during his career. Some of the more notable performers included Jaunty Hanover, Canis Minor, Lopez MacFaber, Genesis and Alec Peterson. "Canis Minor was the best I had. He wasn't blessed with natural speed or brilliance, but he would just grind the opposition into the ground. He won the Pan Am Mile Consolation in 1980. He went 1:57 earlier in the night, and then Lord Module came out and won the final later on in perfect conditions. I reckon we would have run him close if we had started in the final. He also won an Inter-Dominion heat at Harold Park in Sydney, breaking the track record in his first start there."
Genesis was another top-liner for Thomas. After winning the Sapling Stakes as a juvenile, Genesis went on to win another 9 races, before being sold to North American interests. "I always maintained he was a horse we never saw the best of," Thomas said. "I also drove a few good ones. Joy Boy was a great old campaigner who used to win races off huge handicaps. I was behind him when he won the Manawatu Cup off 85m, and the Hawera Cup from 90m. He was a great grass-tracker and loved the mud, but had bad legs. I drove Lord Louie to win a New Brighton Cup, and I won a lot of 'Country Cups'in the 70s."
Thomas was also associated with the brilliant squaregaiter Stormy Morn, winner of 32 races including the 1981 Dominion Handicap and the 1982 Rowe Cup. "His owner Peter Moore brought him to me after he had been turned away by several others. I qualified him within a month, and then raced him. In his first season he started 21 times and got 21 cheques. Then he was given to Tony Perucich up North, going on to be a terrific trotter."
Thomas is no stranger to race accidents. He has broken a leg, an ankle, an arm, an elbow, has had several bouts of concussion and even cracked his spine in one skirmish. "Half my problem was staying in the cart," he quipped. His last driving success was at Reefton in 1990 behind Megavite. "I wouldn't mind another drive just to get the feel of it again. But when you get to my age, if you haven't done any good then it is either your own fault or you're no good. Besides, the style of driving has changed so much. It is all get up and go these days, and it becomes fairly low key to us older ones."
"In fact so much has changed. People used to get dressed up and go out to the races frequently. It was a big social occasion, but now if you have got a horse in with half an hour between races it is too rushed. But now they are bringing in Sunday racing, and it may help pick up the up the atmosphere again. It would have been no go in my day, but now I guess you have to keep up with the times. I think it may be a good thing though."
Thomas has no doubts as to who the best horse he has seen is. "It would definitely have to be Highland Fling. He was amazing. Although it is hard to make comparisons, if he was racing under today's conditions, he would be even better."
"And when I look back, I would not have missed it for the world. I've had a lot of fun and enjoyment."
Credit: NZ HRWeekly 4Jun92
At the time of his death, Lloyd Wigzell was 86.
Wigzell was a great fan of harness racing, holding both a trainer's and driver's license for many years. At times he had a large broodmare band, and broke in quite a few horses, and he was also one of the people behind getting the Motukarara workouts up and running when they first started.
Wigzell owned a lot of winners, and some of the best of them included Happy Ending who won the Ashburton Cup, Ashburton Flying Stakes and ran second in a NZ Cup; Gold Sovereign, who ran second in a NZ Derby and to this day remains sire Golde Fulla's only sub-1:55 credit, and Chief Eagle, who pushed the great Noodlum close on occasions during his record-setting 3-year-old career.
One of the best horses Wigzell bred and developed was Repentant Leisure, a Tuft mare that went on to become hugely successful in Australia.
After farming at Methven for few years, Wigzell spent the last three decades of his life in Prebbleton, from where his harness racing involvement took on greater importance.
Wigzell is survived by son John, and daughters Mary Hobbs and Anne Graham.
Credit: NZ HRWeekly 19Nov03
Doug McLachlan's eyes filled with tears as his partner Carol greeted him with a hug back at the stables last Friday night. Annie's Boy stood a few feet away, his body covered in sweat from the display he had just treated the Addington fans to. Annie's Boy had run his rivals off their feet in the Inter-Dominion Pacers' Consolation. And, little did he know it, he had almost brought McLachlan to his knees with the emotion surrounding this victory.
Half an hour earlier, McLachlan had geared-up Annie's Boy for what he knew could be the very last time on racenight; not just at Addington, but anywhere. For the little pacer from Myross Bush who is known affectionately as 'Jacko', this was do or die. "If he had gone out there and not raced any good, I was taking him home to retire," McLachlan said. "He had been too great a horse to us. After the road we have been down to get him here, I wasn't going to put him through it again."
Getting Annie's Boy to Addington for the Inter-Dominions has been a nightmare, to say the least, and all the way through McLachlan was ready to pull the pin at the first glimpse of anything untoward. The Soky's Atom pacer's last full campaign had ended back in March last year, and after a spell he resumed at Addington in September. But he broke a pedal bone during the running that night, and McLachlan prepared himself for the worst. "Our New Zealand Cup hopes were gone, and I was convinced that it could be the end of the line for him," he said. "I put him in a paddock for a month, and threw a colt in there with him for a bit of company. One day I looked out there, and he was teaching this colt to race around the paddock. They were tearing around, and Jacko was running into the corners without any signs of discomfort. So I thought I would take another chance, and try him again."
Jogging his pride and joy for eight weeks, McLachlan kept looking for signs but couldn't find any. Addington became a little bit more possible with each week that passed. "I knew we were up against it trying to get him ready for the Inter-Doms, because we just didn't have the races for him down here. First-up he finished third at Forbury Park, and then he muffed the start at Gore so it was just another run. I took him to a workout at Invercargill the very day that the final payment for the Inter-Dominions was due. I drove him myself in the 2200 metre mobile heat and we sat back, then he ran his last half in a tick over 55 seconds. That night, I faxed through a copy of the cheque to Addington and told them it would be in the mail the next day."
Annie's Boy's performances throughout the heats didn't earn him enough points to make the Grand Final, but he was improving all the time nevertheless. Twelfth behind Holmes D G the first night, the 8-year-old was unlucky not to finish closer than fourth on night two and then he did all the work to lead and fill the same placing in the last round. His trainer tried something different at the carnival too, sending Annie's Boy out for a three-lap warm-up an hour before his scheduled event each night. "It helped to get his blood pumping, and it got him fired up a bit," McLachlan said. "We'd had some intimidation from the vets on-course during the series, because on two occasions they had threatened to withdraw the horse because they thought he was lame. We even held up his heat on the first night, when they asked him to pace up and down the home straight before allowing him to start. Jacko's always had a touch of arthritis. He has got a club foot, and that combined with the fact that he has broken both his pedal bones during his career means that he has always going to walk with a limp. I specifically asked my vets to document everything before I came up, for this very reason. I had it all down on paper."
Handing the reins to Clark Barron last Friday night, McLachlan felt like there was no point to be proven. Knowing Annie's Boy would soon show whether he was up to it or not, he asked his driver to "go out there and get us some money." Barron worked Annie's Boy to the front starting the last lap and they never took their foot off the pedal, winning the Consolation in a tenth of a second quicker than the 3:12.6 Baltic Eagle required to win the Grand Final. The final splits compared favourably too...Annie's Boy reeling off his half in 55.8 and quarter in 27.7, as opposed to the Aussie giant's 57.8 and 27 flat.
"It was a great honour to have a horse in the Inter-Dominions, and we were rapt to make the Consolation. To win it, well, I can't put how that feels into words. Since Jacko injured himself again last September, every hour of my time has been devoted to him. It has been a truly magic day, because my foreman Kirstin Green also steered home two winners for us at Invercargill."
During the Inter-Dominion carnival, McLachlan said he received offers for Annie's Boy from both Australian and American parties. But selling him is not even an option. "I have just got so much admiration for the little horse. He's the sort I will give to the grandkids. I just don't know what to do, now. Where he starts next will depend on what races we can get over the next month or so, and then he'll be wintered inside. He will tell me when he is ready to retire. And even when he does I will keep him in light work, because he'll be a great team horse to teach the young ones with. Jacko and I have a great bond. When he was born, he was so weak for the first month of his life that I had to lift him off the ground every day to help him stand. He got pretty used to me. I would be out round the place doing something, but I only had to cough and he would leave his mother in the paddock and run to the fench to see where I was."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 16 Apr03
New South Wales horseman Michael Marais finally had something to smile about when he steered Gold N Gold to an emphatic victory in the $25,000 Regency Tax & Duty Free Inter-Dominion Trotters Consolation at Addington.
It had been a frustrating series for the South African-born Marais, who described Gold N Gold's win as "too much, too late" after the gelding's inability to get around in one piece during the heats cost him any chance of earning enough points to line up in the grand Final.
Campaigning a horse in Christchurch was a plan that started months ago; Marais was keen to come over, so he scouted around looking for a horse to buy and found out about Gold N Gold through Ray Jenkins. "We get horses all the time from New Zealand," Marais said. "And your trotters are better. Australia hasn't won an Inter-Dominion Trotter's Final for many, many years. I looked at a few, but didn't even trial Gold N Gold. I had watched videos of his races and once I saw him in the flesh that was it, I wanted him. What I liked about him was his size, and he was well gaited."
Purchased in February after he had had a brief stint with Peter Jones (three starts for two wins), Gold N Gold had also won races from the stables of Graeme Rich (three) and the Mike Berger/ Warren Rich partnership (one)earlier in his career.
Despite just the one victory from five appearances for Marais before being brought back across the Tasman, Gold N Gold was, and still is, highly-rated by his trainer. "It is bitterly dissappointing that Gold N Gold didn't make the Final, because he can definitely run," Marais said. "I still had a handful of horse left at the finish tonight. But I could tell as soon as he got out there and started warming up that he was going to go well, because he felt like a different horse. The track was different - it had less top on it and it was hard, which is what horses are more used to. That was one of the biggest factors relating to his form through the heats."
Marais sold up everything he had and moved to Sydney three years ago, after harness racing in his home town basically became non-existent. Having trained horses all his life and driven them from the age of six, he didn't want to do anything else. Today he has 15 horses in work, and he doesn't pull any punches when it comes to talking about his stable star. "He is the best trotter in Australia," Marais said. "He will race around Sydney, Victoria and South Australia for the next couple of months now, and I think he will keep improving. Next year's Inter-Dominions are in Melbourne, and we'll definitely be there."
Also enjoying Gold N Gold's powerhouse display were Doug and Val Hawkins, who sat and watched his Consolation win from their Takanini home. The couple bred Gold N Gold, and Doug remembers him well. "He was always a horse that had tremendous speed, right from the day I broke him in," he said "But he would be good one day, and then misbehave for a week. He would gallop for no reason at all. It was always going to be a time factor with him."
By Evander's Gold, Gold N Gold is out of the Mister Hillas mare Golden Wings, who Hawkins acquired after she showed a disliking for the pacing gait. "She was bought down south by the vet, Tony Parker, and I broke her in for him," he recalled. "But she couldn't pace a yard, so I tried her trotting and she loved it. Tony didn't want to race a trotter though, so we decided to have a go ourselves." Golden Wings won five races, and from limited opportunities at stud she also left the winners Gold Baron (by Whata Baron, 5 wins, sold to Australia) and Golden Flight (by New York Motoring, Australia).
Gold N Gold was an unqualified 4-year-old at the time Hawkins sold him to his next door neighbour Frank Weaver, the owner of Evander's Gold. "I had decided to get out of the game at that stage," Hawkins recalled. "I had done forty years, and it was time for a change of lifestyle. Gold N Gold was the only horse I had left at the time. Had it been years ago, I might have persevered." Selling their property, where Doug managed a mobile car-tuning business, the couple moved to Takanini and retired.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 16Apr03
The story so far...Kim Prentice has arrived in Christchurch from Perth, where he had taken Baltic Eagle back to for some sea air and beach training after racing in Melbourne. The plan is to take the Inter-Dominion trophy back to where it started, in Perth, 67 years ago.
Prentice has found what he considers the perfect paradise for Baltic Eagle, a beach which runs for as long as the eye can see, a pool if he needs it, and the friendly Woodend companionship of David and Catherine Butt. The pair settle in.
Prentice, a forthright man and one of the few 'beardies' in the game, makes no bones about his assessment of the horse as they prepare for the Thunder Down Under Inter-Dominions. Not only can the big, dark boy stay, but he is well short of being in hard racing trim. It doesn't take much more than two minutes to see that Prentice is a man of his word. Baltic Eagle runs a cracker in the opening-night sprint heat, and hands out a hiding to Stars And Stripes in the second.
In the meantime, Prentice is back and forth to Perth, leaving his forman Matt Whitelaw in charge. He returns for the final week, with him his wife Debbie, and their boys Shannon and Justin. All is going swimmingly; even the barrier drops into his lap. "I just don't want to draw one or ten," he says prior. When Baltic Eagle comes up with the five alley, the talk of the others pretty much dries up. Short odds become shorter. Baltic Eagle has them on the run.
Could Prentice get the horse any better? "It is just a matter of keeping him at the level, because he has tended to put on a bit of weight since he had been here, so I have cut his tucker back a bit." If Prentice needs any reassuring about how well Baltic Eagle is, it comes the day after the barrier draw. "I took him out to the paddock and as I let him go, he gave me both barrels."
Age 42, Prentice was born into a harness racing family; so was his wife, whose brother Neil Lloyd trained Norms Daughter to win the Miracle Mile in the hands of Kellie Kersley, whose father Fred trains the great galloper, Northerly. Debbie started work in her mother's bakery. She was a cake decorator and took up driving later. Kim's first job was in a sports store. After three years, he left and joined a produce company, and for 13 years he lugged sacks of grain around the place. During that time, Kim and Debbie trained three or four horses. Nine years ago they decided "to have a proper crack at it."
However good they were going from then on, the operation took a turn for the better when the owners of Baltic Eagle came knocking last November. Until then, he was trained by Rod Chambers, who campaigned Mon Poppy Day in the Triple Crown Series at Addington eight years ago. After winning his first ten starts for Chambers, Baltic Eagle had lost form. He was sent to Murdoch University where he was diagnosed with a lung infection. This was due to an asthmatic condition that Prentice was able to control by minimising the dry atmosphere. Prentice has his place 130 miles south of Perth, at Bunbury, where he has the use of the local estuary.
Racing without an overcheck - "he doesn't like it, and I have got two or three like that" - Baltic Eagle fired up, winning the West Australian and $125,000 Fremantle Cups over Christmas. His mile rate for the latter, a 1740m mobile, was a rugged 1:56 8. "After that, Debbie did a budget to see what it would cost to travel to New Zealand for the Inter-Dominions, and then we sat down over a cup of tea with the owners and decided to do it," he said.
As the day of the Grand Final drew near, the owners - Mark Congerton, Ross North, a major sponsor at Gloucester Park, and Henry McManus - flew at various times from Perth. They came to see Prentice bring the big bird home. And this is how Prentice did it... "I knew how well he was when he started shying at silly things during his prelim. I thought I'd come out and stay in the open for a bit. Thorpedo and Where Eagles Dare were alongside me, and I thought they would have gone out of the gate harder than they did. I was a bit surprised they didn't. That would have given me some cover for a while if they had done that. I was happy to go back if they had gone a bit harder, but then he grabbed hold of the bit down the back. We actually got to the top sooner than I expected. As long as we did it evenly from there, I was happy."
"When the three-wide line came round, none of them pressed on to have a look at us, and we got away with an easy quarter down the back. That was magic for me. The sit and suck horses could have got me going any slower, but I also know my horse has got a quick quarter in him as well. He does like to loaf a bit in front, so its hard for him to run away from them. We started rolling from the 400. He felt magnificent. What made our confidence pick up was hearing that Facta Non Verba was out. He was the only one who would have been able to come up and give it to us. The others just were not that type of horse. What I discovered was the straight is very long, but very enjoyable. And you might see us again in November. We are keen on coming back," he said.
The Australian horses also ran second and fourth. Mont Denver Gold slunk along back on the inner, and produced his usual quick late burst. He was a place in front of Holmes D G, and two in front of Western Light, another stout finisher from the back. The winning time for the 2600m mobile was 3:12.6 - slower than it took Annie's Boy to win the Consulation.
The stable did not forget their old friends on the night. Prentice wore a black armband on each arm, one to remember Fraser Moody and one for Marlene Harris, both cancer victims. "Marlene was a stable supporter. She loved the horses and idolised Baltic Eagle. She would have a dollar each way on every horse of ours. And Fraser was a good friend of the owners," he said. North had promised Fraser he would bring the trophy back and show it to him when he returned. "It couldn't happen because Fraser died the day before we left," he said.
Prentice reckons the trip has cost about $40,000, and he says it would have been a huge expense "had things gone wrong. But outside of Young Rufus, there was nothing there to worry us greatly," he said. Congerton said the owners were massively impressed by the hospitality they received during their stay. "Everyone, the taxi drivers, hotel staff, club people, trainers and drivers have been great. We are not paid to say nice things, but we have felt like Kiwis since being here. We chased our goal and we are looking forward to meeting Young Rufus in Perth next year."
Baltic Eagle was bred in New Zealand by Richard and Julija Brosnan, by Totally Ruthless from the Tricky Dick mare, Baltic Flight. Julija, along with Edwin Flaherty and John Starr, offered an In The Pocket half-sister at the Australasian Classic Sale, which Starr bought for $40,000. Armbro Gold, the dam of Baltic Flight, is from the immediate family of big winners Arania, Local Gold, Best Dream, Golcourt, top trotter Best Bet and Local Light. Baltic Flight is also the dam of a weanling filly by Il Vicolo and was served this season by Lislea.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 16Apr03
Take A Moment's owners are starting to think that they need a different spot to watch his races from at Addington. Up until now the eight-member Long Drive Syndicate have always gathered on the first floor of the main stand, outside the Lindores level. But that location is past the winning post, and with Take A Moment's last two big events at the track being mighty close finishes, they have had an excruciating wait before knowing that they can make their way to the birdcage and start celebrating.
They were caught out in the Dominion Handicap last November, thinking their horse had won when in fact he had deadheated with Martina H. And last Friday night they occupied seats in the same place again, waiting anxiously like everyone for the running of the $200,000 Thunder Down Under Inter-Dominion Trotters Grand Final. Regardless of where any-body perched last Friday, no one was in their seat for long, because the event was one of the greatest trotting spectacles ever witnessed at Addington.
It had everything...predictable early moves from the handily-drawn speedsters who jostled for positions; an unchanged order until the last mile; a three-wide line that moved up soon after but then didn't go anywhere; the favourite sitting second last with arguably his biggest danger breathing down the back of Anthony Butt's neck; lightning displays of speed from the attackers as they swooped starting the last 700 metres; a field bunched in threes, fours and fives as the horses swung for home, and a magnificent finish that brought the crowd to their feet.
In the final analysis, Take A Moment had done what champions do, and won. "Unbelievable," said the syndicate's manager Bruce Greenhalgh, describing the occasion. "I honestly wasn't too worried when Take A Moment was still at the back with a lap to go, but I started to get a bit nervy when he wasn't getting dragged into it. We were on the edge of our seats."
Apart from a host of other top trotting victories, Take A Moment has now captured two Inter-Dominion Grand Finals, re-claiming the crown that he won brilliantly in Brisbane this time two years ago. But Greenhalgh says the feelings surrounding the two Finals were completely different. "When we won in Brisbane we had only owned him for six months, and it was almost unexpected. This year there was very much more expectation, with him being such a hot favourite, and that put a real edge on it. It was the first time the whole syndicate has been there for a big race too. Obviously the two Dominion Handicaps that Take A Moment has won at Addington were fantastic, but to win an Inter-Dominion Final to home...well, it is really special."
Greenhalgh considers himself very lucky to have his name amongst the ownership at all. "I was one of the last on the scene," he recalled. "Merv Rodgers and I were on a golfing trip in Queensland three years ago, and we were sitting down having a beer after our round one day when Merv mentioned that there was a share in this trotter available. "They had already sold seventy percent of him at that stage. I knew of the horse, and had seen him win some of his earlier races, so I thought...bugger it, why not?" Greenhalgh ran the idea past his wife Allison on returning home, and it wasn't long before he had the 'okay' and was on the phone to Rodger to confirm his interest.
Take A Moment had won four of his six starts for original trainer Paul Corkran at that stage, and since Tim Butt scouted him for $120,000 the record stands at 45 starts for 26 wins, nine seconds and a third, an stakes of $823,837. "Early on, Take A Moment lived very much in the shadow of Lyell Creek," Greenhalgh noted. "To think that he is only coming to the end of his third season but he has already won thirty races, it's really quite amazing. It is like he has snuck up on everybody. I think he has now justified his place amongst the best trotters that this country has produced though."
Take A Moment proved with last week's victory that he is indeed the best around, and he can win his races from anywhere. He stands head and shoulders above a crop of elite trotters which, in all fairness and apart from one or two exceptions, is probably on the way out more than on the way up. And perhaps one of the few horses who looks capable of lowering his colours in the next season or two is Sonofthedon, who comes from the very same stable. "I know Tim's got a huge opinion of him, and you only had to watch the way he won in Auckland the last time he was up there to see why. He could be the best trotter we have ever seen.
Despite being named the Long Drive Syndicate, Greenhalgh and Rodgers are the only two golfers amongst the eight members, and O'Donnell's choice of the name has nothing to do with the sport. Greenhalgh is an ex-Aucklander who moved to Christchurch a decade ago and manages the Smith's Spots Shoe store; Rodgers is the "semi-retired" owner of the Edgeware Civic Video outlet in Christchurch, and occupies his time with "golf, bowls and races"; Jack O'Donnell also classes himself as semi-retired, owning a block of land in Rolleston where he runs a few horses; Take A Moment is the first horse ever owned by Peter Barber, originally from Invercargill and now living in Queenstown where 18 months ago he bought the first franchise offered by the Country Road clothing store chain; Neven Botica is well-known and respected for his business acumen in Perth, not to mention his investment in this country's harness racing industry; Julie King-Turner runs a fishing business together with her husband Des in Te Anau; Tom Malcolm has painter/ decorating businesses in Invercargill and Wanaka, and moved to the latter area just last week; and Trevor Woolley oversees the installation and administration of gaming machines in and around Christchurch.
"We all met for the first time at that first Cup Meeting when Take A Moment won on Cup Day, Show Day and the last night," Greenhalgh recalled. "They are a fantastic bunch of people. Don't know how I ended up with the job of manager though; maybe it was because I was the new boy on the block. It's a real pain in the arse," he quipped, "but at least with a horse like Take A Moment you don't have any trouble getting money when the bills come in."
Greenhalgh says it is "much easier" to buy horses now. He also had a a share in Franco Solo, who won five races here in the mid 1990s before being sold overseas; he owns part of Tendulkar (three wins), who is on the market and possibly heading in the same direction; and he is involved in another syndicate that races Happy Asset's half-sister Smooth Asset, who has gone to stud after remaining winless and is in foal to Christian Cullen. Minus Rodgers and Botica, the Long Drive Syndicate members' latest excursion is a Sundon colt out of Take A Moment's dam Nakura, who is a big, strong looking colt" that is being weaned and handled by Murray Butt. His career is obviously a good few seasons away yet.
In the meantime, the syndicate will continue to ride the crest of the wave with their champion, Take A Moment. "I can't say enough about the respect, admiration and thanks we owe Tim and Anthony, and the rest of the team at their stable. It has been a real joyride, and everybody is just absolutely loving it. You dream about being involved with horses like this."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 16Apr03
Just Incredible jogged to "his race" in national record time in the $60,000 PGG NZ Yearling Sales 3yo Trot at Addington, but not without his moments. "I said to (Syndicate Manager) Mike Gourdie that this was 'his race' right at the start of the season," said trainer Michael House.
But six weeks ago, Just Incredible went awful in the Hambletonian and House was thinking "this can't be happening now" after everything had been going so perfectly. Just Incredible had been troubled by a cough and House had been at a loss to find someone with a cough mixture, before one day, out of the blue, vet Cliff McGrouther "made up a syrup which turned him around in a week."
Things fell into place nicely then, despite Just Incredible drawing awkwardly behind a number of inexperienced, uninformed and erratic competitors, who did conspire to provide a false start. Last early apart from more breakers was the place to be when Sundon filly Kristalvagen tore through the opening quarter, at which point Colin De Filippi merely had to plot a safe passage. This was as simple as circumnavigating the field as Just Incredible, despite sitting parked over the last lap, was under no sufference at all at the finish, shaving two tenths of a second off Aramid's week old record.
To underline the improving quality of young trotters these days, each of Just Incredible's four races this season have been won in record time. These have been Glenbogle's 2:28.7 (1950m), Thedonsson's unratified 1:58.7 (1609m) and Aramid's 2:27.6 (1950m) prior to Just Incredible. All of which bodes well for an exciting and keenly-fought Trotting Derby this week.
The result of the Sales race though was an outstanding success for the large Trotting NZ Syndicate, which also races Castleton's Mission, and the game in general. The syndicate and another one since with a slightly different mix were the brainchild of Gourdie and House, and given the success to date the enthusiasm from all concerned is hardly surprising. Castleton's Mission and 2-year-old winner Evening Dash were bought in the first year at the sales for $9000 and $12,000 respectively.
The first attempt at a sales race didn't quite go according to plan when Castleton's Mission went from being nine lengths in front and bolting in the run home, to having a go at pacing, but inspired by the success of these Sundon colts, they were back for another one two years later. Their first choice was Sundotcom, but Sir Roy McKenzie went to $18,000 to secure him. But House did like another one later in the day, a colt from Princess Della. "Mike said to me,'but he is such a big colt he won't go early, and he doesn't fit our criteria'," recalls House. "I said yes he does, he is out of a Group-placed mare, and just look at the head on him."
Gourdie was concerned about the fact that Princess Della was by pacing sire Last Lord, and the only known mare by him in production, and wasn't fussed about the name - Incredible Hulk - either. The criteria was that the colts have to be from Group-performed mares or producers. And so Incredible Hulk was acquired for $10,000, and then there was just the simple matter of a name change.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 26Mar03
Peter Revill felt a gentle nudge in the side of his ribs as he thumbed through the pages of his PGG catalogue. It was a beautiful sunny day back in March 2001, and Peter and his wife Wendy had stopped off at Yarndley Farms during an inspection tour to watch a parade of yearlings. They were shopping for a horse, and stood like two wide-eyed kids in front of a toy shop window.
"Oohh, I like that one," Wendy murmured to her husband, pointing to a striking individual with a rich, reddy-brown coat. Looking up to catch the horses lot number, 132, Peter turned to the corresponding page in his book and realised that by coincidence he had already marked it. This horse buying business was all new to the couple, and there were guidelines to follow; whatever they bought had to be a filly, because they were looking for a broodmare first and foremost, and she had to be by Soky's Atom, that was Peter's wish. Lot 132 was both, and got a big tick placed next to her name. Wendy noted that the filly was also called Classical, which was exactly the sort of studies she was doing at the time, so that was enough for her.
The Revills kept their options open though, and came Sale Day the choices had been norrowed down to three...Fantasy Star, Classical and Listen To The Rhythm. And of course there was also the budget to consider. The first on the list was going under the hammer in Christchurch, so Peter flew down from the North Island specifically. But he returned home empty-handed, having been one of the last to shake his head at $26,000. Off to Karaka the next day, and Geoff Small did the bidding on behalf of the Revills, securing Classical $20,000; within half an hour, someone else paid $80,000 for Listen To The Rhythm.
History now shows that the couple couldn't have made a better choice. Fantasy Star was renamed Personality Plus and has won three races and $30,528 to date; Listen To The Rhythm has saluted the judge just as many times for $47,823 in stakes, and Classical's record stands at four victories and $247,565.
The most recent of those wins came at Addington last Friday night, when Classical beat the other two fillies and eight others in a powerhouse display in the PGG Yearling Sale Series Fillies Final. It was the 3-year-old's first victory this season, and ended a frustrating couple of months for trainer Geoff Small. "That's an understatment," agreed the Patumahoe horseman, sighing with relief. "It has been a pretty soul-searching experience. She didn't have one main problem, just lots of little ones. And there wasn't anything we could pinpoint - nothing we could actually fix. It was worse than having a bad horse in the stable - at least you know that they can't perform any better."
Small says the decision to bring Classical to Christchurch wasn't made until after a workout on February 1, and even he wasn't completely convinced. "But Peter said to go for it," he cotinued. "She had a messy week, what with a couple of days travelling and then a trial at Rangiora on the Friday where she ran second to Mister D G. But I wasn't real happy with her; it wasn't a workout that I thought would be good enough to win the Final." The tide turned last Monday though, when Small put the half blinds on Classical and gave her a private run at Addington. "She worked super, coming her last quarter in twenty-six seconds flat.
Wearing the new gear again at Addington last Friday, driver Maurice McKendry felt that she was the Classical of old, saying that when he asked her to sprint to the lead she accelerated so fast that she "dug holes in the track." Small is not convinced that they are out of the woods just yet though, and for that reason he has only planned as far ahead as next week's Nevele R Fillies Heat.
But for the Revills, who leased a racing share in Classical to their friends Owen Whyte, Mike Ringrose and Dean Biddlecombe, they are back on cloud nine once again. Peter, 60, is a retired bank manager, and Wendy, 49, calls herself "a compulsive student." She recently completed a bachelor's degree in psychology, and has started on her next assignment, a diploma in classical studies. "That is my passion," she said. Peter has been back at the sales this week, and this time he was looking for a colt.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 19Feb03
Oaxaca Lass raised interest in her Inter-Dominion nomination by winning the Group 2 PGG Premium Mares' Championship Pace. She did it brilliantly, making a wide run on the corner after going back at the start from her outside front-line draw.
This is pretty much as good as it gets among the mares, and Oaxaca Lass can make a strong claim for favouritism in much the same company for the Group 1 Standardbred Breeders' Stakes this Friday night. As good as she was last week, owner Graham Pearson and trainer Neil Hamilton expect her to be up a notch for it. "She needs racing to top her off," said Pearson. "She tends to be a bit thick-winded like a lot of Holmes Hanovers, and I am hoping she will improve a bit more for her race this week," he said.
Along with Hot Shoe Shuffle, Shortys Girl and Lombo Rapida, Oaxaca Lass is one of only four mares among the 55 entries for the Inter-Dominion series. And unless something happens that Pearson is unprepared for, Oaxaca Lass will be a certain starter. "I am resonably keen to do so, though Neil is not so fussed," said Pearson. I almost thought twice about it after her Blenheim run, moreso when it cost $550 for the first nomination. That is hefty and makes you think twice. Paying something like $200 would have got more in for a start, I would have thought, but I'm certainly pleased we have paid up now, and four races won't worry her. It suited her when we raced in Australia last season, so we know she can handle it," he said.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 29Jan03
The Free-For-All always loomed as a two-horse war and a battle of tactics, and it delivered, apart from the small matter of Jagged Account splitting Jack Cade and Elsu after making his own luck at the start to trail.
Jack Cade has always been seen in his best light when allowed to bowl along, as opposed to the sprint home which developed in the Cup, and Purdon made sure he was going to be able to dictate terms by wresting the lead through the swift first quarter as Elsu worked around three-wide with the live cover of Sly Flyin to face a stiff breeze from the 1400m.
After a brief respite in the pace, David Butcher and Elsu turned up the heat, but Jack Cade came home in two quarters of 28.1 to complete the 2000m in a 1:56.6 mile rate to win comfortably in the end. This was well outside the record 1:54.9 speed that it took Yulestar to catch Young Rufus last year, but it was ample consolation after only getting wound up when it was all over in the Cup.
Elsu was two lengths away shading an equally game Sly Flyin; All Hart again performed with credit for fifth and Gracious Knight showed something like his best form by beating the rest in. These included a luckless Young Rufus, who was squeezed and galloped after 400m, and Annie's Boy, who was retired after finishing last.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in NZHR Weekly
Welcome back, Falcon Seelster. And what better way to acknowledge his return than the success of Elsu in the $100,000 George Calvert Cleaning New Zealand Derby.
The winner of the Sales Series Pace for 3-year-olds last November was back on the same platform after he called the shots over the last lap to beat Light And Sound. At one stage, brief though it may have been, Light And Sound appeared as if he would rally and take the challenge further. And had the race been a month and another race or so later, this may well have been the case. But this is little more than speculation because Elsu was superior on the night, and David Butcher was tactician supreme. He controlled the pace and wasn't worried he had Light And Sound on his back. "The draw was a big thing, but the race pretty much fell together. Considering the racing he's done, Light And Sound has done a huge job," said Butcher. He put trainer Geoff Small in the same category. "Geoff has done a super job. When Elsu came back in after his break, he only trialled fair, but Geoff has got him back to this level,"he said.
Butcher himself was lucky to be his partner. He got "both barrels" from a youngster earlier in the week, and feared he had broken his left leg. He was relieved of such anxieties by his doctor, and has since laboured on in some discomfort and pain.
Small had his own concerns as he tightened Elsu up for the Derby. "He became muscle-sore after he came back in after racing at Auckland. I could see how it happened. He did the damage skidding up to the fences before I brought him back in, and he was sore over the back. Clare McGowan has done a wonderful job using the machines on him, and Dave McGowan has carried on with the massage since we've been down in Christchurch." he said.
It is possible Elsu will campaign next in Australia, with the preludes for the New South Wales Derby on May 9 in mind for him.
Many of the owners of Elsu were on-course to enjoy the occasion, none more so than Joyce Walters, Geoff's aunty, who originally bought him as a yearling for $32,000 and now owns half of him. The rest is owned by the Double Up Syndicate, of eight sharholders, the estate of Dave Hudson and Pat Small, Geoff's mother. "I was a bit hesitant for a start, knowing there'd be eight or nine other people involved who I didn't know. But it's been brilliant. We've all had so much fun,I'd do it again," she said
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in NZHR Weekly
The 2003 Wayne Francis Memorial NZ Oaks will be remembered for more reasons than the win by Pullover Brown. Foremost will be the dramatic failure of the hot favourite Champagne Princess. Next will be the astonishingly quick time Pullover Brown took to win the race; her 3:11.8 clipping more than a second off the New Zealand record of 3:13 held by Elect To Live.
Add to that the fact Geoff Small had four of the 14 starters in the race; Alta Serena was relegated from third for causing interference to Unrehearsed and Lady Toddy; Anthony Butt continued to bag May's biggies, and Mayor Heather set the race alight when driver Jo Herbert refused the chance of a trail behind Champagne Princess. This was where the race director gave up and left the players to run it themselves.
Jack Smolenski had worked Champagne Princess smoothly through the pack, and after 600 metres only Mayor Heather stood between a hard run in the open and a controlling one in front. As to be expected, Smolenski pressed on. But he was soon surprised, then alarmed, to find that Herbert was not thinking the way Smolenski thought she should have. When he got to the mile peg, after running hard for 400 metres, Smolenski took hold of Champagne Princess, giving the impression of dropping into the trail while there was still time to do so. But this was not an option Smolenski considered. "I didn't know much about the other horse, except it was trained somewhere in the North Island, and I didn't want to run the risk of getting in there," he said. Champagne Princess sat parked, where she pulled hard.
Butt was head of the chasing pack, and he settled Pullover Brown behind Mayor Heather until moving off the marker line at the 500 metres. Champagne Princess was disappearing quicker than a dropped stone on the corner, where Alta Serena was causing trouble to Unrehearsed and consequent interference to one or two others. Mayor Heather also left the stage pretty quickly in the straight, and that's where Pullover Brown pulled away to win by more than two lengths.
While it was all going Pullover Brown's way, the running of the race was not entirely favourable to her stablemate Classical. Going the speed they were meant late gaps and spaces for the back runners, and Classical and Coburg both came generously into the finish in this manner. Classical was four-deep on the markers, and cut a healthy chunk out of Pullover Brown's margin inside the final 200 metres.
Pullover Brown is raced by a syndicate of five headed by Chris McLeod, who had not been to Addington before, nor Chrischurch for that matter. With a group of friends, he leased Dinavinetto from Steve and Anne Phillips, and raced her for a win and six placings from 43 starts out of the Shane Hayes stable. She was then returned to the Phillips for breeding, who put her in foal to Armbro Operative. "I was actually quite taken with Dinavinetto, and then I spotted a weanling filly by Armbro Operative being offered at an all age sale up here," said Mcleod. "We bought her for $2,500. We didn't have a trainer for her, but I had my eye on Geoff Small because I knew he was so good with young horses. I just phoned him, but he didn't know me," he said.
Anne had originally bought Dinavinetto, by Fitch II from the Mercedes mare Precious Dina, at Ted Hooper's Dispersal Sale, and they still have her but perhaps not for long. "We have an Iraklis filly and one by D M Dilinger from the mare, so we have the breed. We have offered Dinavinetto, in foal to Armbro Operative, to the syndicate, so she's there if they want her," she said. Phillips was in Christchurch for the week, caring for her father Des Grice who has been in ill-health, and extended her stay when Pullover Brown made the field for the Oaks.
Along with Operation Dynamite and Armbro Innocence, Pullover Brown has carried the banner for Armbro Operative, which is good news for buyers who were able to buy his stock at deflated prices at the recent PGG yearling sales.
Small, who has made a meal of winning big races at Addington over the last 12 months - with Elsu and Classical - said that he believed that the Armbro Operatives had a preference to sitting on the pace. "Most of the Armbro Operatives I've seen seem to like it that way," he said.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in NZHR Weekly
On Tuesday, Robert Mitchell carried the cup he should have held in 1975. Just An Excuse brought the Canterbury Draught Centennial New Zealand Trotting Cup to him with the stamp of the new enforcer.
Had he been a truly confident man, rather than the restrained man that he is, Mitchell could well have began his trip to the presentation area after 600 metres of the race, because Just An Excuse had the lead from that far out, and a position of power.
He didn’t, of course, but the nail was in the coffin for many of them at that point – and Mitchell probably knew it. If he had anything to worry about, it was the start. But Just An Excuse made a flier and was on the journey quicker than most of them.
“He was the last to come up and stepped away third,” said winning driver, Todd Mitchell. “There was plenty of room outside Elsu, and Mark Purdon (driving Jack Cade) didn’t make it too hard for us to get past him,” he said.
Besides Jack Cade, Falcon Rise, Jagged Account and Elsu all slipped into good positions. Elsu moved again near the 1800m when Young Rufus rolled forward, and the next move came from Anthony Butt, near the 1300m, with Cool Hand Luke, and the last of any note came from Mister D G.
None of them were serious enough to force Todd to click the pacemaker up, and he must have had “this is for you, Dad”, well in his thoughts as he cruised past the 600m and then put the foot down. Cool Hand Luke did his best to level, and may have done so for a few strides.
Elsu then emerged, wider out, on a better run, and Jack Cade gradually closed along the marker line. But as gallant as they were, Just An Excuse always had them covered, and appeared to win with more authority than a long neck, which is how close Elsu got.
There was a moment of panic at the end when the siren went, which coincided by a visit to the stewards’ room by Purdon. It concerned some movement by Just An Excuse into the passing lane, but nothing came of it, and the occasion never lost stride.
There could also have been a slight panic at the start, when a streaker took off down Queen’s Drive, in front of the main stand. His timing was awful because starter Jack Mulcay had them almost in line. Racing Secretary Tony Lye was aware of some mischief, but not knowing what it was, suggested that Mulcay should hold them while it was sorted out. As it happened, it was over in a flash, and the field was sent away.
Purdon said Jack Cade had worked a bit to get the lead early, from Falcon Rise, and then he had the task of running past the pacemaker on a 26 final quarter. “Just An Excuse may have come in a little, but he came straight back out,” he said. Todd admitted that he was surprised to find the lead, certainly as soon as he did.
“I didn’t think we’d settle handy, and it was at the back of my mind to let something go,” he said. Just An Excuse, a first-season son of Nevele R stallion Live Or Die, is raced by Ollie and Irene Haines who bred him from their Smooth Fella mare, My Excuse.
Todd recalled that he did the Haines' a favour when the horse was a late 3-year-old. “Andrew Neal came up and said he was interested in buying him. I said he taps a knee a bit, and it didn’t go any further. It’s the best advice I’ve ever given.”
Todd has now driven in the New Zealand Cup five times for three wins – the others were Homin Hosed and Gracious Knight – and a second. The race took 4.05.7 which was predictably slow once the favourites had control. “Once that happened it was all over for us,” said Peter Ferguson, the driver of Falcon Rise.
“He needed the pace on from the start, and it didn’t go like that.” Was anyone unlucky? Not that we could see, but Sly Flyin did get home well from five-deep on the fence at the 600m, and Jagged Account also ran home smartly.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in the HR Weekly
Using his relentless, grinding power, Take A Moment became the first horse to win three successive Dominion Handicaps. He won the Southern Trust sponsored edition with ease from the vastly under-rated Last Link, and the hugely inexperienced Allegro Agitato who was racing in this grade for the first time.
In this win, his 17th in succession, he set an entires and geldings record for trotters over 3200m of 4:05.5, which was .2sec inside that held by Call Me Now. He also topped $1 million in stakes, joining his stablemate Lyell Creek in that league.
The great horse is raced by the Long Drive Syndicate, managed by Bruce Greenhalgh who said at the presentation: "We are so proud of him. He is a fantastic horse to watch. We love to hear a good horse clapped back to the enclosure. To crack a million is an absolute miracle, and so is Tim's feat to train five Dominion winners in a row and Anthony to drive them. To be honest, Tim could win the race again next year."
While Anthony had a night to remember, with three successive wins, Tim Butt's carnival did not spark until the final night and it needed Take A Moment to save it. The first casualty was the promising young trotter Genius, who missed the meeting with a deep-seated stone bruise and won't race again until the autumn. Lyell Creek's resumption was put on hold while he continued to adjust to southern hemispgere conditions, and Pocket Me was retired after almost pulling off the Junior Free-For-All on Cup Day. "He was fine until a week before the race, then got a bit sore when the pressure went on," said Tim. Then Thedonsson had a minor problem and failed to get a start last week after two unplaced runs over Cup Week.
He was in safe hands relying on Take A Moment to carry
the flag - a bit like England depending on Jonny Wilkinson to kick them out of a tight spot. It never got to that. Once Take A Moment began well and slid through the field to sit for a time in the middle of the pack, the signs were always ominous. Anthony got him cracking and into the lead after passing the 1600m, and he didn't see much of the others from then on. Tim says Take A Moment has never had a sick day, and even now is stronger than he was last season. "I always thought that would happen. With that French blood, it is a late developing breed," he said.
Soon, they will be on the road again. On December 1, Butt will fly to Australia with Take A Moment, new stablemate Mister D G, Strange Town and All Talk. Mister D G will race in the Cranbourne Cup on December 8. He will be a force to reckon with, even in the best company, going by his outstanding run to worry Young Rufus out of first in the main free-for-all last Friday night. After racing at Auckland over Christmas, Take A Moment will head to Europe for a race in Germany in mid-April, Naples on May 2, then the Elitlopp. All up, Take A Moment will be away for three and a half months. Butt thinks the ability to acclimatise is crucial, and with that in mind he is booked to leave for his Italian base in early March. "The good thing with Take A Moment is that he doesn't need the work that Lyell needed. He can miss a couple of days without it affecting him - a couple of runs and he's back to where he was," he said. "The syndicate got together over lunch on Saturday to go over it all. They're looking forward to what should be a trip of a lifetime," he said.
The smooth highway of success for Take A Moment and the retirement of Sundowner Bay made Butt recall a game of golf he played some years ago, when the talk turned to buying a horse for the Inter-Dominions. Lyell Creek was only C2 at the time, so we tried to buy Sundowner Bay but they weren't interested," he said. Much later, they bought a son of Armbro Invasion who packed a long drive and sunk huge putts.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in NZHR Weekly
For Tim Butt, winning the major trotting races isn't as simple as just turning up. It might look that way from the outside, because if you have just started to tune in to harness racing over the last couple of weeks you would have heard Butt's name mentioned a lot. Take A Moment is sweeping all before him at the Inter-Doms, proving beyond doubt that he has filled the massive hole left by Lyell Creek. And last week Butt stamped his name on another trophy when Thedonsson scored an emphatic victory in the $50,000 Christchurch Casino NZ Trotting Derby at Addington.
Taken to the front in the 2600 metre mobile event, Thedonsson pinged along in near record pace and was being eased down a long way from the winning post when Belle Galleon closed the margin to under three lengths. The win itself was easy, but getting Thedonsson to produce his best on racenight was quite the opposite. "That is the hardest Group race I will ever win," Butt said afterwards, summing up what has been a trying time for him and his staff at Premier Stables. "Everything was progressing along nicely when he won the Hambletonian at Ashburton last month, but then for no particular reason he started trotting roughly. He lost his gait, and his confidence. It was frustrating, because at his peak we know he is one of the best 3-year-olds around," Butt said.
The West Melton trainer put his trotter's problems down to muscle soreness and growing pains, which hit home when Thedonsson broke during the running at each of his next two starts. So Butt set about trying to rectify the situation, placing the gelding on the 'extra care and attention' list. Thedonsson had a couple of visits to renowned chiropractor Fred Fletcher, and his back was also massaged by stable employee Sam Smolenski twice a day - firstly after being worked and then again at night when brought in for a brush. "It was a case of getting the soreness out of each part of his body," Butt said. "Then he got a couple of corns in front, and had to be bathed twice a day for that as well. This win has been a great team effort."
Thedonsson has now won three from eight and $50,951, and will head to Auckland on Sunday week to prepare for the NRM Sires' Stakes Trotters Championship (April 24) and PGG Great Northern Trotting Derby (May 2). "He is not going to Australia at this stage," Butt said. "With a horse like him, the costs and stakemoney don't really add up. It is a $15,000 round trip, so he would have to win either the Derby or the Holmfield to break even. To do a trip like that you have to have a horse that is complete, and at this stage he is not. He is slightly immature, and travelling generally causes those little niggly problems to resurface.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 02Apr03
There were some wry smiles after astute Mid-Canterbury trainer Patrick O'Reilly won the inaugural running of the NZ Trotting Oaks at Addington.
O'Reilly is no chum of the stock of Sundon, so it was ironic that a daughter of the great sire gave him such a memorable win in slick time for the 1950m mobile. More have left the stable than stayed, but Without Fear is one who has passed the test. O'Reilly is happy to take it on the chin. "I just can't get on with them. I have tried at least fourteen and they have all been hard work. Raymauwarrhen Sun was a handful and I don't think he will be back. This is one that's had the most brains. You earn your money with them, put it that way," he said.
And this is what Without Fear did for her Ashburton owner Michelle Baird - $9030 for first and a harness plus bonus worth $4000. Baird has a pedigree as good as her horse; her father Jack McDonald who died 19 years ago was a forthright champion of the trotter and raced the tiny Frivolous, the grandam of Without Fear. Frivolous was by Rodney Day who McDonald stood at stud, and Fickle, the daughter of Frivolous and dam of Without Fear, was by Wide Acclaim, who McDonald also stood at stud. Rodney Day did not leave anything of great note, and Frivolous was no exception, but 46 of his 88 foals were winners. His broodmare credits were better, the best of them being Count Me In(6wins), Double Stitch(9), Game Command(14), Gravel Lawn(6), Ironman(8), Karina Lee(6), Roman Guy(7) and Tokyo Bay(6). Wide Acclaim also had modest success as a sire, but Kahuna Pele, the winner of 13, was exceptional.
Fickle was one who might have improved his average. She won a number of workouts until Michelle left her in the care of her husband Allan during a pregnancy. Allan is gently reminded that this was the time when Fickle suffered an injury that prevented her from racing, so her ability has always been open to speculation. Fickle is also the dam of Fear Not and Roy McCloy, two of Wide Acclaim's four broodmare sire credits. Fickle is getting on, now aged 20, and O'Reilly can prepare himself for her next foal, a yearling colt by Sundon. "There was a lot of family history in this win," said Michelle," and I think Dad would have had something to say about it. I'm sure it is Rodney Day who has given this filly the brains," she said.
Without Fear was broken in by Ashburton trainer Dale Forbes, and the Bairds are complimentary of the work he did with her. "Allan did the roadwork with her, and when he got crook we asked Patrick to take her. Back she came with a list of instructions this long," she said.
The Oaks concept was a tribute to the foresight and perseverance by the New Zealand Trotters' Club, headed by Gary Allen and Mike Gourdie. They were pioneers in the establishment of a club by a group of trotting enthusiasts five years ago, and one of their goals was an event that would promote and foster the trotting breed in this country.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly
After being a gallant pacemaker, Oaxaca Lass fell half a length short of winning the $75,000 NZ Standardbred Breeders Stakes at Addington. She put up a spirited fight, and had it been any other mare than Shortys Girl on he tail, she might well have fought the challenge off.
There had been a moment of brief hope for her supporters at the 250m mark when Shortys Girl almost looked on hold, before setting herself for something extra. And sure enough, 50 metres later Oaxaca Lass was in for it. Shortys Girl powered forward, and such was the purpose of her finish that it was quickly clear which way the cake would be cut. In the end it was decisive, and trainer/driver Allan Beck confirmed how decisive it was by saying the mare could have gone another furlong at the same clip.
On the face of it, Oaxaca Lass deserved to be favourite because she was race fit. Shortys Girl wasn't; she was fresh. Her last start was at the NZ Cup Meeting in late November, where she raced three times in ten days. In the two starts following her third in the Cup behind Gracious Knight and Facta Non Verba, she raced like a horse with the edge off her. Beck was not surprised. "She is bred on the same immediate cross as Stars And Stripes, and both of them seem to race best when they are fresh or first-up. We saw that when Stars And Stripes won the Nobilos in the spring. I worked it with her last year, she won the Wairio Cup in a jog. Then we backed up a week later at Gore and Shania Patron sat parked and beat me. The same thing happened to her at Forbury Park this time last year, in the 4-Year-Old Championship. Admittedly, I didn't drive her that good, but we were beaten by Camero and that was again after racing a week before, at Addington."
Beck was not to be fooled again. To prove it, he had her fresh for the NZ Cup Meeting, where she ran third in the Cup at long odds. And he never gave a thought to racing in the PGG Mares' Prelude, the race Oaxaca Lass won the week before. "I gave her a good trial with Makatai Galahad at home, and they had a good race up the straight and there was only a nose between them. That is all she needed, and I knew she was ready," he said.
Once she settled into the trail behind Oaxaca Lass, where Whanau might have been had she been on her game, Shortys Girl had the best trip of all. Beck could see Oaxaca Lass get softened up a little, by Hot Shoe Shuffle then Swift Mirage, but he was still cautiousas he approached the corner. "From day one, she has always run out. I was waiting for it, and could sense she thought about it. But I was ready. I just waited for her to balance up before sending her," he said.
Shortys Girl won the Breeders' Stakes last year, so joins Blossom Lady as a double winner of the race.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 05Feb03
Tim Butt hoped that history wouldn't repeat itself at Addington on Show Day.
The West Melton trainer has totally dominated the top trotting events in recent years, thanks to the deeds of firstly Lyell Creek and now Take A Moment, but last week was one occasion when he wished for a different result. Because it was on this day three years ago that the unthinkable happened...Lyell Creek got beaten. Shooting for his 21st consecutive victory at the time, Lyell Creek drew 'the ace' in the Trotting Free-For-All, was crossed at the start, and spent the entire 2600 metres of the event looking anything but comfortable as he chewed steel and wanted to run faster. When finally getting space in the home straight he took too long to wind up, crossing the line in second place and later being relegated to third for breaking short of the post.
Not that Butt wanted to look for them, but there were some ominous signs leading into this year's $50,000 Nuggets Bar & Casino NZ Trotting Free-For-All also...Take A Monent drew the same marble, he is not known for possessing blinding gate speed, and he too was looking to add another 'post' to his picket-fence formline.
And after the mobile pulled away the deja vu continued, with Take A Moment getting beaten to the lead by firstly Frugal Echo and then Superstaragogo, but that is where any similarities to Lyell Creek's performance of three years earlier started and finished. His pilot Anthony Butt was well prepared, and had the champ off the fence before a furlong had passed, tagging onto the back of Young Pointer and then pressing forward to lead starting the last mile.
From there the opposition were never going to beat Take A Moment, and he jogged home to win by five lengths and take his winning streak to 16. "We tried something a bit different today," said the Armbro Invasion gelding's trainer afterwards. "We put the pull-up half blinds on him, to see if it would help him develop a bit of gate speed. We have used them before, off and on, and in Aussie quite a bit. But we might not be able to use them again because the stipes were telling me after the race that they are too hard to police. Butt said that he couldn't ask for much more than his trotter showed last week, and he is very happy leading into the Dominion Handicap when Take A Moment will be trying to win the coveted event for the third consecutive time.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 19Nov03
With a career formline of 1131214231, Anvilanunoit was not embarrassed by credentials when the field assembled for the $35,000 Wyatt and Wilson Print Superstars at Addington.
Neither were the others, but in his case they were not in the reckoning as the public went for his stablemate Grenfell Robyn who had won his last four and was off 10 metres. Had he had time to look, trainer Dean Taylor would have been bemused by the ratings - Anvilanunoit paying $23 and drifting, and Grenfell Robyn in at $4. But with three in the following race, Taylor didn't have time to point out the Anvilanunoit was dangerously over the odds. He did later. "I have always had a lot of time for this horse, and he is dead even with Grenfell Robyn at home. There is nothing between them, not even the width of a match stick," he said.
The Superstars has always been a nightmare race for the backmarkers, those off 20 metres, and the first three home were all front liners. The speed was set by Craig Thornley with Aveross Seelster, whose tactics to run them ragged were not looking too bright at the 500m. But they worked for master craftsman Peter Jones who settled Anvilanunoit in fourth place, and then behind Elwood J Blues who ran a cracker and finished third. Jones was off before the corner and soon had a winning break.
Anvilanunoit is by Jaguar Spur who was a financial disaster for his owner Graham Beirne and fell short as a sire. In the case of Anvilanunoit, he was probably saved by his dam Armbro Flirt, whose grandam was the fine racemare and New Zealand Oaks placegetter, Armbro Play. He was offered by Studholme Park , whose proprietor Brian West rated him in the top two of their yearlings at the annual PGG sale. Not many were sold on the idea, but Beirne was still good for a punt and Taylor has never been shy in trying his luck with something near the bottom end of the market.
"Graham had just sold an In The Pocket filly for good money, and he wanted one to replace it. I said go and find a cheap Jaguar Spur, but make sure it's out of a decent mare and is a good looker." Taylor admitted that Jaguar Spur had done him a favour. "We had Scottlyn Jag and we sold him for money that was real good for the mortgage," he said. It has also been payback time for Beirne, who bought Jaguar Spur for $375,000 soon after he arrived in New Zealand and after three years sold him to Australian interests for $100,000. "He was a huge disappointment," said Beirne who still has interests in 65 horses.
It didn't take him long to get ahead with Anvilanunoit. He was withdrawn from a race at Addington in June while some new partners joined the partnership. Beirne was offered $80,000 for the horse, but Taylor, keen to keep the horse in the stable, arranged for regular clients Bob and Sam Bradley and Bernie Bevan to take half.
Grenfell Robyn made ground well but late, finishing seventh, two and a half lengths from his stablemate, who finally paid $27.55. Beirne had such a good collect that he left the course thinking Jaguar Spur might not have been so bad, after all.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 8Oct03
Two Christchurch milkies stood quietly in the birdcage during the ceremony following the close finish between Lennon and Born Again Christian in the $200,000 PGG NZ Yearling Sales Series Open.
Without fanfare, they slipped into the nearby bar, made a toast to Lennon, and left with the comforting satisfaction of knowing the major part they played in the win. Don Bates and his racing partner Steve Hammar are small time breeders now operating in the top commercial section of the market. Bates bred Lennon and sold the son of In The Pocket and Penny Lane at the sales for $68,000 to John and Anne Seaton, Tim Vance and Jeanine Browne.
Bates, aged 52, raced his first horse when he was 18, and did it in his mother's name because at that time an owner had to be 21. Hammar has not been in the game 35 years like Bates has, but after 20 years he also has a substantial portfolio. Penny Lane, the dam of Lennon, has since left two fillies, who will not be sold. "One is a Fake Left yearling who is big and will need time," said Bates. "The weanling is by Presidential Ball, and she is identical to Lennon at the same age," he said.
But they will have three colts for next year's sales - a Soky's Atom from Paperback Writer, a Soky's Atom from Jacinta Bret, and an Armbro Operative from Westburn Belle. This year, they sold two colts by Fake Left, one from Westburn Belle for $21,000, and Alright On The Night's for $27,000. As part of the stake payout, Bates and Hammar received a vendor's bonus worth $3500.
While Lennon was amongst the top 2-year-olds this season, his claim to being the best became flakey when he was beaten into seventh behind Midfrew Tailormade the start before but was unlucky. To regain the prestige he had, Lennon had to put up a good fight and this he did. Blair Orange had him on the pace but in the open from the 800m. It was a tough battle from there, but Lennon was up to it.
Stablemate Born Again Christian, who also had some credibility to recover, produced a withering run to give Orange something to think about as they eased up. He missed by a nose, with the roughie V For, by Christian Cullen, finishing well for third. Classy Cullen blew his chances with an early gallop, while stablemate Likmesiah was checked and lost his chance when that occurred.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 14May03
Barely three years since he last set foot on a racetrack, Christian Cullen has stamped himself as a sire of untapped potential. To most he was the greatest pacer they had ever seen, and few doubted that a successful stud career would follow naturally. Principal owner Ian Dobson was certainly confident in his mind. "I never doubted that he would make it as a sire," Dobson said. "Because he is beautifully bred, and he had everything as a racehorse."
Loyalty aside, in all fairness Christian Cullen still had to prove himself in the breeding barn, because quite a few brilliant racehorses have been flops at stud, failing to pass on the same dominant qualities to their stock. And the first season that a sires' babies step out can be crucial. But when the curtain comes down on the 2002/03 term in 10 weeks time, Christian Cullen can hold his head high because his results are nothing short of phenominal.
With a mere 46 live foals that are now 2-year-olds, Christian Cullen has sired four winners of eight races and nearly $270,000 in stakes. They are not just winners either, with names like Roman Gladiator, Born Again Christian and Likmesiah amongst the mix. The stallion's crowning glory was last Friday night's $135,000 Garrard's Sires' Stakes Final at Addington. Not only was he responsible for almost half the field with 5 of the 13 starters, Christian Cullen also sired the first, second and fourth horses home - and this is despite arguably the best of them and favourite Roman Gladiator performing well below expectations to finish eighth.
Dobson himself part-owned one of the Cullens - Classy Cullen, who tired to 11th after being left out three-wide in the open over the last 1000 metres. Speaking to him afterwards though, you would have thought he owned the winner. "This is a far greater result than I could have ever expected," he enthused. "To have five horses in the Sires' Stakes Final in your first year is unbelievable, especially since I think there has only been about fifteen to twenty that have actually been in work as 2-year-olds. It was pretty much third or fourth- grade mares that he attracted in his first season too. Cullen has only had two Australian-bred starters this year (Fair Dinkum Lombo and Cullombo) and both of them have won as well. It's been a fantastic season."
Over the moon with their son of Christian Cullen is the 62-member Met Two Syndicate, most of whom were on-course last Friday to cheer Likmesiah home and then crowd into the birdcage to start celebrating their victory. Likmesiah was picked out by trainer Mark Purdon from the Premier Sale for $15,000, which was well under the budget of $25,000 that he was 'allowed'to spend. The gelding out of the New York Motoring mare She's Mighty is the only one of the syndicate's three horses to make it to the races thus far, although David and Catherine Butt's Life Sign colt Danger Sign has trialled attractively.
Having handled just the three juveniles by Christian Cullen this season, all of whom won races and made the Sires' Stakes field, Purdon is understandably upbeat about the In The Pocket stallion's stock. "He has had a magic year," Purdon said. "His progeny are just good gaited, and they want to be there. They are a pleasure to work with. It is probably hard to say whether Likmesiah is the best of my 2-year-olds; Lennon has got the best record but he's not a standout. Likmesiah's trackwork has never been great, he seems to be three to five lengths better on racenight though. There is not much between them, and I am looking forward to next year with Born Again Christian because he will be better over more ground. He has got big potential," Purdon said.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 21May03
In The Pocket colt Lennon reaffirmed his position as the front runner of the first-season pacers at Addington after a blip in the scoreline, but Mark Purdon knows the pack is not far behind. And that the dust won't have settled on the issue of 2YO Pacer of the Year until after this week's Welcome Stakes and next month's Yearling Sales Series Final, such is the quality of the opposition.
Fortunately though, about half of the pack are stablemates, which was evidenced in last week's $50,000 PGG NZ Yearling Sales Southern Graduate, where the first three home qualified for the $200,000 Final on May 9 and joined northern graduates in Born Again Christian, Anothernightout and Tango Tango.
This is a very classy and competitive crop of juveniles, and Lennon had to fight like a tiger to get past Sounds Like Albert in the passing lane after a good trip. Stablemate Likmesiah (Jimmy Curtin) also closed purposefully to be only a nose away and a length ahead of pacemaker and another Christian Cullen in Purdon's barn in Born Again Christian (Purdon), who wilted late after setting up a 57.3 closing half. Tumble (In The Pocket gelding) was not far away either for Colin De Filippi, nor was Classy Cullen, the third Christian Cullen and fourth Purdon runner.
Purdon, who handed Lennon's reins over to second-string driver Blair Orange because he is more bullet-proof at this point in their careers, said Lennon was now back in tune after "getting away on us a bit" when beaten into third on the track after leading up. "He had some hard racing, particularly at Wyndham after an early miss-cue, so we went easy on him for a while, and last time when I went for him he didn't respond," he said.
Lennon had twice put away Julius Caesar, in the Cardigan Bay Stakes in Auckland over Christmas and in the Sapling Stakes (in 1:56.9) at Ashburton in February, after sitting parked, and dead-heated for first in the Kindergarten Stakes in 1:57 after another tough trip before going under to Likmesiah and Classy Cullen. A few weeks and the addition of pull-up blinds, which had signalled things had been turned around when Lennon was worked at Addington early last week, was all that was needed to have him back to his forceful best.
Lennon, the first foal from the speedy Vance Hanover mare Penny Lane, has now raced six times for five wins and $81,000 after being purchased at the Premier Sale a little over a year ago for $68,000. Purdon was not entirely happy with Born Again Christian however, after trying for an all-the-way win. "He doesn't feel dead right so we might have to get him checked out."
Sounds Like Albert, an Albert Albert gelding from the winning In The Pocket mare Sounds Swell with Graham Court, was a $14,000 purchase last year and has now won over $10,000, $1500 of which was for being the first non-winner home, a scheme which also saw Tumble taking home $2800 for finishing fifth in his debut, a stake which is often better than finishing first in a maiden.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 9Apr03
Kevin Judson has done some lifting in his day. He has won the world power-lifting championship in his grade, competed in the 1982 Commonwealth Games at Brisbane and won the ultimate title, Mr New Zealand.
He did some lifting a few months ago, of the spiritual kind, when he promised Gareth Dixon a horse whenever he chose to set up his own training stable. In February, Dixon was in business, and Judson was as good as his word. He sent him Allstar Blue Jean. Not only a star in name, but Allstar Blue Jean was a star in the making. He had been trained by Glen Harwood, until Harwood decided to seek his fortune in Canada. The 3-year-old had been an up-and-comer, but there was much ahead of him. It was now over to Dixon.
In short order, Allstar Blue Jean has raced three times for three wins. The latest was the $50,000 Nobilo 3-year-old Flying Stakes at Addington when he weaved his way from midfield to catch Raptorial, trained by Dixon's old boss, Tony Herlihy. On the way through, he hiked past the favourite Light And Sound and another esteemed employer, Mark Purdon.
Judson didn't see much of this, and had to settle on a television replay to see just how it happened. "I saw him on the corner, but not again until they went past the post and I saw him in front," he said. Judson has been in the car business and the gym business, and now he is a keen player in the amatuer drivers' ranks in the north. Dixon said Harwood deserved the credit for getting Allstar Blue Jean to the biggest level. "I had always thought he was as good as Elsu and the rest of the 3-year-olds, with the exception of Light And Sound. He was a victim of circumstances in the Sales Series, but the great thing with this horse is that he looks after himself. His heart rate is brilliant and he has a tremendous recovery rate, and he is actually getting better," he said.
Dixon has made a flying start to his training career, which only started in February. He has taken four to the races - Russley Fire, Allstar Blue Jean, Patch Adams and Rock'n Rhonda - and all have won. He is breaking in a number of yearlings, including sixv he will keep to train, by Holmes Hanover (two), Badlands Hanover (two), Dream Away and Il Vicolo. One of them is Judson's.
Considering Dixon has been around the world, caring for such greats as Pride Of Petite and Il Vicolo, his steady approach and early success is not at all surprising.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 2Apr03
What a fine trainer of a trotter Paul Nairn is. And what better way to show it than run first and second in the Giannis Pita Bread Canterbury Park Trotting Cup, and judge the finish with such precision. Only a dead-heat between Call You Later and Bristle could have been closer.
Less than a week earlier, Nairn had won fresh-up at Motukarara on the grass with both of them. He was a little worried with the jump in class facing Bristle, but the stallion gave Nairn cause to forget them with his work during the week. "If anything, he has been working better than Call You Later," he said.
Nairn trained Call Me Now, the sire of Call You Later, to win the Cup. David Butt drove the horse when Nairn went through a stage when he wasn't driving much at all. "I started off driving Stan Boy and Wave Goodbye, but then I stopped for a while. If you train them, I think you should drive them when you can, but there is also a time when maybe you should step down," he said.
Like many stables, Nairn is well served by enthusiasts, in his case by his father Graham who makes the morning tea and Peter Willman who does everthing else. "Pete's been coming out for almost ten years. He is a wharfie and arrives at 6:45am every day; he drives the galloping pacemaker, does the yards, and fixes the gear. If it wasn't for people like that, who love horses and racing, it just wouldn't be so good," he said.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 8Oct03
The leaders in the $150,000 NRM Sires' Stakes Final on Cup Day were literally firing on all 'for' cylinders.
Northern visitors VFor and Winforu both rocketed out from their wide draws in the 1950 metre mobile event, and in the end the role of pacemaker went to the latter. Winforu took the field along at a breathtaking rate, almost too quick for his own good really, and he was a sitting duck to those waiting in behind.
In steps Roman Gladiator. Driver Colin De Filippi had him beautifully placed just beyond midfield and waited for the right moment to pounce, which surfaced inside the the last 150 metres after De Filippi took a sly clance over his shoulder and straightened Roman Gladiator for the charge. The response was instantaneous, and after repelling the late charges of Likmesiah and Kotare Testament, Roman Gladiator put his name in the record books. The Christian Cullen gelding's time for the event was a staggering 2:20.4, representing a mile rate of 1:55.8. It bettered both Courage Under Fire's existing 3-year-old colts and geldings mark of 2:21.3, and the all-age record of 2:21 held jointly by Holmes D G and Happy Asset.
De Filippi paid Roman Gladiator the ultimate compliment after the race. "I don't compare any horse with Courage Under Fire, but this bloke is probably the next best thing," he said. De Filippi must have been relieved to actually complete a race with both sulky tyres in the same condition that they were when they first went out there...three times the duo have had punctured tyres during the running in recent weeks, and on one of the occasions both tyres were flat as a biscuit and off the rim. "Everything went right for us today," he said.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 13Nov03
"This is the pinnacle of my life," said Hamish Hunter as he un-geared Grenadier following their win in the $30,000 Firestone Direct Junior Free-For-All. Hunter had also tasted success in the opening event with Galleons Cheer, and he said that to win two races at Addington on Cup Day was unbelievable.
Grenadier had indifferent form leading into his latest victory, the sixth of his 30-start career, but it didn't worry his trainer/driver. "I actually thought he went pretty good at Forbury Park last start," Hunter said. "He was slow away off a twenty metre handicap, and then he pulled really hard so I had to let him run. We tried to get the lead but couldn't, and ended up sitting parked, so all things considered I thought his eighth was a good run because he wasn't that far away from the winner."
On Cup Day Grenadier sat in the trail as Pocket Me took on the role of pacemaker, and it was all the encouragement that the J C's Suprimo gelding needed to produce his best. "He has got a mind of his own, this horse," Hunter continued. "I have always thought he has got a fair amont of ability, and when he gets it right he is a very good horse. But he doesn't always do that."
Grenadier is raced by Southland enthusiast Graham Cooney in partnership with his Wellington-based brother Brendan and the latter's partner Aya Kovesy. Graham helps to run the Blue Skies Meatworks plant, and is on the board of both the Southland and Highlanders rugby clubs, and is a keen breeder and horse owner, something that Hunter says makes it even more enjoyable to train a winner for him.
"They bought his dam (Butler's Fury) through the 'Harness Racing Weekly' from a National Bloodstock dispersal sale," Hunter said. "She was in foal to Road Machine at the time, but the foal did not come to much because it was just a pony. Then came Grenadier, and I just qualified a 3-year-old Caprock daughter out of the mare the other day. Unfortunately Butler's Dash died foaling last year."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 13Nov03
He might be aptly named insofar as his self-confessed "battling" connections are concerned, but Last Link did the best possible thing by breeder/owner/trainer Bob Porteous and driver Craig Newfield when he took out the $21,504 Christchurch Casino Trot. For both, it was considered their biggest win, surpassing the Sundon gelding's success on the final night of the Inter-Dominions on the course in April, for a similar stake when racing those who had not qualified for the Final won by Take A Moment.
Last Link is the only horse that Porteous has in work nowadays, having sent his sister Sunworthy to stud, and for Newfield, apart from Dark Shadow, a pacer he trains for Porteous which has won twice at Addington since May, he is pretty much the only horse that Newfield has been required to handle on raceday in recent years. "I have been in the game long enough and haven't been successful so it is time to look for other things," said the 43-year-old Newfield on Tuesday. "So, I am getting out, but whatever is around the corner, I don't know just yet," he added.
Newfield, who bought the 38-acre Templeton property of his father Felix when that top horseman moved to the Gold Coast about 10 years ago, is presently sub-dividing a 10-acre block of that land, running about 30 head of cattle and working for nearby breeder Mike Stratford. "When there isn't Mike's horses to be done, such as weaning the foals, I am working as a labourer for Mike in his property development. We are also doing a bit of hay contacting in the summer."
Newfield is actually a little lucky to have been involved in Last Link's two biggest wins at all. While he began from the start by handling Last Link in his 2-year-old days, a hand injury saw him replaced for a time last year by Jim Curtin, who won twice with him at Addington. When Curtin became committed to Golden Blend however, Newfield won with Last Link when they were reunited again for the first time, beating Sonofthedon at Addington in October last season, and they have been associated ever since.
Porteous says he could have also sold Last Link a few times over as well. "We have turned down $85,000 for him, knowing that at our age we will never get another one half as good as him," said Porteous. "I was talking about it one day to Mike De Filippi, and he said you could spent that much looking for another one. I have had my share of 'clunkers' over the years, and at my age we are starting to feel the pace a bit. So he is all that is keeping us going these days. Some have turned him back because he knocks his knees, but he can just keep on knocking his knees as far as we are concerned," he added.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 13Nov03
Roman Gladiator took the early high ground amongst the 3-year-olds with a lion-hearted win over Winforu in the International Cargo Express Rising Stars 3-year-old Championship at Addington.
After sitting parked in a cold breeze over the last lap, he left 10 others liking their wounds. He could have been forgiven for wilting on his run near the end, but there was no sign of it. Lennon was third without giving the impression of doing any better.
As good as his name suggests, Roman Gladiator is quartered for the time being with Julie and Colin De Filippi, his early target being a heat this Thursday of the Sires' Stakes Series. Colin puts him where he should be. "He was as good as anything last year," he said. "He didn't get much time off between campaigns, but he looks as if he has developed a wee bit. He is the first and only Christian Cullen I have had on the place," he said. Maurice McKendry, the driver of Winforu, suggested that twice into the wind might have taken the edge off him, but he still made a good fist of it.
More might have been expected of Lennon, the favourite, who had cover three-wide behind Stylish Lavros down the back. His driver Blair Orange, who won the following race with Harnetts Creek, was inclined to agree. "You could say it was a nice, tidy run, but also a wee bit disappointing. I thought he might be better coming off their backs, but maybe he is better doing it hard like he did last season," he said.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 8Oct03
Tim Butt warned us about it in pre-season interviews. And Take A Moment proved it when he stepped out at Addington last Thursday night. The champ has come back looking even better than he was last season.
Put that into perspective, and it's a scary thought. This is the horse that won 15 of 16 starts during 2002/03, capturing every major trotting event there was on his way to a bounty of over $500,000 in stakemoney - not to mention a well deserved Harness Horse of the Year title.
Can he actually be better than that? "Well, he has definitely strengthened up a lot," said Butt as he welcomed his stable star back at the stalls after winning the Ordeal Cup. "He has come back as good as you would hope. You never know after a long seasson like he had , but we never over-taxed him. That was a good hitout for him. It was a small field, so the conditions were in his favour."
Take A Moment did indeed look a picture when he resumed last week, and the now 8-year-old performed like a horse half his age. Sent around to joint the pacemaking Major Decision starting the last mile, Take A Moment sat comfortably off his wheel and waited patiently for pilot Anthony Butt to ask him to get serious. Butt did this around the final turn, and the response was instantaneous as Take A Moment careered away for the easiest of wins. As if the spectacle wasn't awe-inspiring enough, Take A Moment's time of 3:16.5 for the mobile 2600 metre event on a chilly night - under absolutely no duress - was.
Cool under the pressure of another job well done, Anthony paid the Armbro Invasion gelding the ultimate compliment. "Most good horses have their little faults, even Lyell did. But driving Take A Moment is like driving a car - you can stop and start him whenever you want to. He is just about the perfect racehorse."
Even some of Take A Moment's rival drivers were reaching for the white flag after the event. "You can't beat him," said one. And to be honest, how could you? If Take A Moment is stronger and better and even more keen to be out there kicking out top trotter's backsides, bad luck is the only thing that stands in the way of him having another unbelievable season.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 17Sep03
Diedre Don met his match when Citra Jati swooped on the hot favourite inside the final 100 metres to score a runaway win in the $25,000 Roydon Lodge NZ Two-year-old Trotting Stakes. Diedre Don was the form horse, having won three of his five starts.
While Citra Jati looked speedy in his opener, he was not as sharp as he could have been in two subsequent starts at Addington. According to Frank Bebbington, whose three daughters - Lynn Neal, Julie Bebbington and her twin sister Maree Harris - race the horse, Citra Jati had been off colour with a blood disorder and "wasn't right in himself." He made steady progress during his stay with Weedons trainer Nigel McGrath, and trainers Lynn and Andrew Neal were not surprised at the dramatic change in his form.
Citra Jati is one of the first crop of 11 sired by Special Branch, a son of Gee Whiz II who won the Trotting Stakes in 1998. He is now at stud in Australia. His dam is Highland Tour, a mare by Roydon Boy who died suddenly the day before the race. Citra Jati is from a family of fast trotters, including Royal Armour, Trafalgar, Globetour (9 wins) and Kiwi Tour (7).
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 28May03
When Alta Serena was first broken in, it was thought that she would never even grace a racetrack. The filly had a real cantankerous nature, and co-trainer Brian Hughes says that is putting it mildly. "She was a real bitch, actually," he said. Alta Serena put on quite an act the first time she went to the races too, in March last year, pig rooting and playing up behind the mobile before running home late for fifth; oddly enough, that is the worst placing of the filly's career.
Nearly 14 months and 21 starts later, Alta Serena has now won 10 times, netted nearly $185,000 in stakemoney, and last Friday night she scored her biggest victory when taking out the Nevele R Fillies' Series Final brilliantly. The win was some recompense for her enormous effort in the NZ Oaks a week earlier, in which Alta Serena was relegated from third after her driver Frank Cooney was found guilty of causing interference on the home turn and copped a suspension.
David Butt was chosen as a replacement. Alta Serena's luck with the draw stayed bad when she drew 12, but of all the second-line draws she had the best of them because she was following out hot favourite Champagne Princess who was expected to punch out and lead from three over the 1950 metre trip. "Davey and I talked about that, but there was a chance she could have been caught wide early and get shuffled back so we decided to stay out of that," Hughes said.
Butt did his bit, getting Alta Serena into the three-wide line with cover, and when he asked the filly to stretch out at the top of the home straight she pounced like a tiger to win by half a length, shaving nearly a second and a half off the national fillies' record in the process. "She has got real explosive speed," said her co-trainer afterwards. "But she can sprint and stay, her run in the Oaks proved that. Alta Serena has been plagued by bad draws throughout her career, and she has done a lot of work in a lot of races where they have gone great times. She is very, very good, and very under-rated," Hughes added.
By Fake Left out of the Smooth Fella mare Heard A Whisper, Alta Serena was bred by Tony Dickinson's Alta Breeding Company Ltd and sold cheaply through the sale ring for $4000. Moira Green bought the filly on impulse, and races the 3-year-old in partnership with her son John and his wife Trish, John being Hughes' training partner as well. Moira was on-course at Addington for the Oaks, but last week she offered to look after her grandchildren back in Auckland while John tended to other members of the racing team at Alexandra Park, and Alta Serena provided her with the perfect birthday present.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 21May03
Roman Gladiator had something to crow about after winning the Ferrymead Restaurant & Bars NZ Welcome stakes.
This was the race he should not have won. Because not only did he give hot favourite Lennon a start and a beating, he did it with a flat tyre wrapped round the rim. After starting from the second line, behind Bull Run, he improved three-wide down the back, hauling the damaged wheel that had been affected from as far out as the 1400m peg. Lennon lost ground on the corner, while he was trailing his stablmate Classy Cullen, and then sorted himself out to rally strongly in the straight. And just when it appeared he had done enough to win, Roman Gladiator came with a woosh down the outside to take it by a neck.
Roman Gladiator is raced by Amanda Swain and Marie Neil, of Sydney. They bought the Christian Cullen-Assisi yearling colt for $19,000, when they really shouldn't have done so at all. "Marie wanted us to buy a filly, so her husband Peter could race and then breed from it," said Robin Swain, Amanda's husband and Knapdale co-trainer of the 3-year-old with Colin Baynes. "I don't exactly know why we finished up buying a colt, except that I thought he had a head just like his father's. He had a wee curb at the back, but I knew that wouldn't worry him. I suppose I just liked the look of him," he said. For his education, Swain put Roman Gladiator in the cart most days and has seen him improve each time he's been in.
He was driven in the Welcome by Colin De Filippi, who will continue to care for him now that the owners have decided to make the late payment for the Sires' Stakes Series. He has a heat for that at Forbury Park on Thursday, and another week or so later at Addington. "It is not often we race 2-year-olds," said Swain, "and if we do it's usually in our home area. Country Ways was one we could have, but he hurt a stifle at that age," he said. Swain and Baynes have 10 in work, including By The Left, a 3-year-old by Fake Left that Swain maintains will go right through the grades. "I was hoping there would have been a race for him on the last night of the meeting up here, and I think he would have won it," he said.
De Filippi has already given the horse a stamp of quality. In a quick reflection immediately after the race, he said: "He could be the second-best 2-year-old I have driven, after Courage Under Fire."
Roman Gladiator is the eigth foal fron Assisi, the winner of 11 races including the Leonard Memorial at two. Her first foal was the good performer, Chiavari. Roman Gladiator was bred by Stephen Shanks and Maurice Scown.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 16Apr03