Crusaders Rugby team win the first Super 14 title.
Banks Peninsula joins City Council
Credit: Ch-Ch City Libraries
When Peter Andrews became a member of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club in 1966, he had been on the waiting list for six years. And when he agreed to serve as a club steward, he had a four-year wait before getting the call-up.
After 30 years of high-duty as a club administrator, Andrews retired with his last official act being attendance at the club's AGM in September 2004. During that time, Andrews has been the loyal racing servant, not only for the club but in many other capacities. His list of various positions is verification of this:
1974 - Elected a steward of the Met.
1979 - Elected to the committee of the Met.
1984-89 - Vice President of the Met.
1989-94 - Chairman of the Met.
1989-93 - Council member of the Inter-Dominion Council.
1993-94 - Vice-Chairman of the Inter-Dominion Council.
1995-2001 - Harness Racing nominee on the NZ Racing Industry Board.
1998-2000 - Chairman of the NZRIB Dates Committee.
2002 - President of the NZ Standardbred Breeders National Council.
At the time Peter retired from the Met committee, Mike Grainger, writing in the Harness Racing Weekly commented as follows.
Andrews applied for membership of the Met as soon as he left school, in 1958. His father Stan was a member of the Canterbury Park Club, and later would become President and a director of Addington Raceway.
Andrews recalls the late Eugene McDermott approaching him at the Methven races, where he was representing race sponsor Caltex, to see if he would stand as a club steward. "I was waiting in the wings for a while. When I got on, I was the youngest by far. I know I didn't call any of them by their christian names. Everyone was 'Mister'. And after my first committee meeting - and I had done my homework - I was taken aside and told I had had too much to say."
Andrews said he received a thorough education in the club's activities from such leaders as Murray Taylor and Dan McCormick, who he said were "great presidents." The end-of-the-meeting tote and attendance report by the President was always an important address. "He would announce the figures and the crowd numbers. You were expected to be there...you were conspicuous by your absence," he said.
At the time of his appointment as a steward, the club raced just eight times a year. "When the Easter Meeting was over, you then had to wait until the National Meeting in August. It disappoints me now to see that it is so hard to get people to serve the club, but I know that is because of the commitment it requires. The number of meetings restricts those available, and I am a great believer that people must participate fully for the industry to progress," he said.
Andrews reflects on his role on the sponsorship committee, which he enjoyed so much. "Working with DB, Firestone, Air New Zealand and Toyota were wonderful days. "I had a great team around me when I was President, and everybody did their bit."
He enjoyed his six years on the Racing Industry Board, where his major challenge was dealing with the sensitive issues chairing the Dates Sub-Committee. "I was told by John Falloon, the Racing Minister, that I had to make decisions for the betterment of the Industry. Some people had the impression that I had to be working for harness racing."
A keen breeder and owner, Peter's best on-track performer was Lady El, winner of eight races, and his last success came as a syndicate member of the Dean Taylor-trained Dreamy Chick.
A successful businessman, Peter sponsored numerous races throughout the South Island, further endorsing his true commitment to the Industry. He was also a keen sportsman and loved his cricket and rugby, and enjoyed a game of golf in the latter part of his life.
In harness racing it would be difficult to find a more committed and passionate person, one whose wisdom has taken the sport into the 21st century.
Peter is survived by his wife Ruth and three sons Mark, Nigel and Simon, and two grandchildren.
Credit: Harness Racing NZ
He was a superior horseman who trained more than 1000 winners, an entertaining raconteur and speaker, eulogist, part-time barber, and one who never lacked stamina when social activities demanded it. He was a spark at any gathering: no-one left his company without a smile. In short, he had qualities that cut a man above the rest. His death, last Friday at the age of 79, after complications following heart surgery three days earlier, was unexpected.
In the dust cover of his biography 'Win Without Boasting', author Don Wright introduced it by saying: "A master horseman, devoted industry servant, family patriarch, humorist, and a friend to all, especially those in less fortunate circumstances. Those qualities and characteristics sum up the life of Derek Jones MMNZ. A respected citizen, his consideration for others and ability to make friends is legendary. His mirth, humour and generosity towards all, including his staff, young horsemen and rivals have endeared him to many from all walks of life and stamped as a pillar of the industry. The famous Templeton trainer/driver is patriarch of a harness racing family that continues to exert a profound influence."
As an administrator, he was President of the New Zealand Trotting Trainers' and Driver' Association, and served in the same capacity for the Banks Peninsula Trotting Club. He was a trustee of the Addington Harness Racing Hall of Fame, honoured with a special award from the NZ Trotting Hall of Fame, and he gained recognition outside harness racing for the work he did inside with his NZ Order of Merit award six years ago.
He was also a tireless campaigner for achieving a fee for drivers. "When I started, a trainer didn't get paid if he drove a horse he trained. But you got paid if you drove a horse for someone else. It was ludicrous."
Derek's remarkable record as a trainer and a driver have been overshadowed in recent years by talented family members profiting from his actions in standing aside. Son Peter said winning the New Zealand Cup for his father with Hands Down was a bigger thrill than when he trained Borana to win it. "I wanted the win with Hands Down to be a bigger thrill for my parents than me. It was a way of paying them back for all they had done for me."
Derek's grandson Anthony Butt was given favourable opportunities to establish himself, and in his first season of driving won the national junior drivers, title. Butt recalled a remark that was so typical of his grandfather..."I remember being in the drivers' room after Blossom Lady ran fifth in her first NZ Cup, and feeling so disappointed about it, but Derek came into the room and said 'at least it saves us from having a party'. I felt a bit better after that." His brother Roddy was also a former national junior driving champion, and Tim, another grandson, trained recent champions Take A Moment and Lyell Creek, plus top liners Sonofthedon, Happy Asset, Mister D G and Foreal. Other trainers who 'did their time' with Derek and became successful were Nigel McGrath, Erin Crawford, Stephen Doody, Kelvin Harrison, Ray Sharpe and Andrew Stuart.
Training in partnership with Jack Grant, Derek headed the Training Premiership twice, in 1965 and 1969. Grant, who was with Derek for 24 years and stable foreman before becoming a training partner, said: "They were the best years of my life. If anyone should have driven 1000 winners" - he drove 814 - "it should have been Derek, but he stood down for Peter and then for Anthony."
Top trainers Max Miller and Tommy Behrns can vouch for his generosity and kindness. Miller said: "He was a special sort of fellow. I had Jacquinot Bay who was a good horse, and I wanted to race him in sprints and take him to Hutt Park. It didn't suit the owner who wanted to race him in the Cup, so he got Derek to train him. He ran third in the Hannon but didn't do much else. When he was sold, soon after, Derek sent the commission to me. I wouldn't expect many others to do that."
Behrns said he was the most caring guy in the game, "and we are not talking about racing here. I'm referring to the times he spent seeing the elderly and infirmed. Time after time you would see him leaving the trials and take off to visit someone in a home or the hospital. There wouldn't be a month that went by without him coming to see dad (Jack), and for the last five years he was housebound and didn't get many visitors. He meant the world to dad. He'd done it all his life."
Derek was born in Christchurch in 1926 and became a hardresser "long enough for me to get sick of it". He started his driving career at Methven in 1946, aged 19, and drove his first winner - Quite Clever - in a division race at Riccarton two months later. Soon after, he moved north, winning races with Silent Knight and Culture, two smart horses trained by Dan Fraser.
His first horse of great class was Soangetaha, who arrived while he was still a young man. A son of Light Brigade, Soangetaha was one of three horses brought south by Derek in 1949 following an air crash that claimed the life of Andy Ryland. Culture and Barrier Reef were the others. Soangetaha won 15 races including two Auckland Cups, two heats of the Inter-Dominion and was runner-up in the Grand Final. "He was a superb horse. They talk about Harold Logan, but I never had a horse that could begin as quick." The year after Soangetaha was beaten in the Grand Final, he won the Dominion Handicap with Barrier Reef, always regarded by Derek as the fastest trotter he has driven. Many good horses followed, including Trueco, Dismiss, Somerset Lad, Slick Chick, Cheta, Lochgair, Dispense, Snowline, Dupreez, Our Own, Diarac, Doctor Dan, Ardleigh, Smokeaway and Disband.
Derek had great affection for Disband, a U Scott mare renowned for her notoriously bad manners at the start. "She would never begin," he said. "The first time she got a mobile she had too much class for them."
At the end of the 60s and start of the 70s, Leading Light, Light View and Topeka were stable stars, followed by Premiership, Hands Down and Blossom Lady. Hands Down won a NZ Cup, three Easter Cups, four Louisson Handicaps and a NZ Free-For-All. Derek drove him in most of his trackwork, but Peter handled him on raceday.
As great as the good ones were, Derek thought Blossom Lady was the best of them. "Ability-wise, she had to be the best I had." He said when she was at her peak that he had to "murder her in training. The harder you were on her, the better she would race. It was simply a matter of facing up to that reality. Her recovery powers after strenuous races and work were amazing. That was what stood to her and made her such a great stayer." Besides the NZ Cup, she won 43 other races including two Standardbred Breeders Stakes, a NZ Free-For-All, two Hunter Cups and five Inter-Dominion Heats.
During that time, principal owner Ralph Kermode wrote a letter to Derek that said in part: "Thank you for all the time and effort you have put into 'Bloss' and the expert way you have managed her and kept her going so long. Thank you for your frequent hospitality and your friendship."
Outside of harness racing, visiting the sick and delivering eulogies at funerals, Derek enjoyed the opera and musicals, rugby, travelling, meeting friends and making new ones, and supporting his wider family. Just days before he died, he was making plans for his next overseas trip. Nothing, however, gave him as much pleasure as helping someone else less fortunate than himself.
In that respect, he truly was a man without peer.
He is survived by his son Peter, daughters Glenys, Jennifer and Leigh, 10 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.
The funeral was held at Addington Raceway on Monday 3 July, 2006 attended by about 1500. The white hearse was led down the straight by the pacer Bowencourt because she has such a close resemblance to Blossom Lady. He left the track to the commentaries of Blossom Lady and Hands Down winning their Cups echoing around the course.
On a board in the stable is a sign on diplomacy, which reads "The ability to tell a person to go to hell in such a way that he looks forward to the trip."
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 5Jul06
Dudley Moore, who died recently in a Blenheim rest home at the age of 88, had a long and notable association with harness racing. Along with his brother Dennis, he bred and raced the wonderful pacer Caduceus, and stood at stud the successful sire, Tuft.
Caduceus, by U Scott from Little Ada, won 28 races in NZ, 18 in Australia, and took a record of 1:57.8 in the US when he was 12. He was trained by Jack Litten to win the 1960 Inter-Dominion Grand Final at Harold Park at his sixth attempt, when he was nine.
Moore was a former steward of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club and was a regular vendor at the national yearling sales.
He is survived by five children, including Dennis, who bred the 2005 NZ Cup winner, Mainland Banner.
Credit: HR Weekly 29Oct06
In his era, he was a champion professional track sprinter, and twice, in 1941 and 1946, won the prestigious Tuatapere New Year's Day Sheffield (over 135 yards). Between times, he was an air gunner with the RNZAF based in England and Ireland.
His flagship horse was Maida Million, a mare by Brahman he raced in partnership with Les Dyet. She won nine races before being sold and joining Eddie Cobb's stable, where she raced with great success and was four times leading aged mare in the U.S.
He trained Rustic Lad to win 14 races for Southland owner Bill Faulkner. Most notable was the one in May, 1958, giving Maurice Holmes his 1000th winning drive. As a driver, one of his most memorable occasions was one with Fiery Cross at Forbury Park, where a rein broke and he had to climb on the back of the horse to bring it under control. For that, the club made a presentation to him.
His best trotter was Bachelor Tom, a speedy and stylish trotter by Bachelor Hanover who won 14 races, and others of note included Hobart Lord, Fantastic and Noodlum's Fella. His last winning drive was Five Star at the Hororata meeting in 1996, his last training win came with Toffee Nose at Ashburton a year ago, and three years ago he was still driving at the workouts.
He was ably supported by his wife and companion Noline, who shared the same love of horses and racing. He is also survived by a daughter Robyn Robb, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Credit: HRWeekly 6Dec06
His best winner was the Keep Away mare, Peterson's Pride, who won four races - two at Addington and a double at Blenheim. In three of them she was driven by Russell Carter, who achieved greater awards later with Miss Pert, and in the other by Peter Mounce, Trevor's son. She paid $40.65 beating Scottish Chat and Armbro Pine, and gave Peter his first winning drive.
But his major triumph was preparing Mighty Chief to win two races when he was an old horse, unsound, and more or less retired from racing by his owner, Lester Clark. By My Chief, Mighty Chief had been a top trotter for Clark, winning the Dominion Handicap fron Acquit and Flying Maiden when he was just five. He won a further three as a 6-year-old, but had fewer than a dozen starts over the next three seasons.
After Clark had gone to Forbury to handle Flying Nominee for Mounce, he told him he would be better off trying one he had in the paddock at home - Mighty Chief. Mounce picked him up the next day, and with months of slow work round the country roads, a diet of swans eggs and the use of methylated spirits to harden his legs, brought him up to race fitness again.
As a 10-year-old, he resumed in grand style at Addington, winning for Bob Nyhan, beating Tony Bear and Merrin, and paying $84.75. He held his form, winning again two starts later at Greymouth with Clark driving, and was placed six times after that. He was raced lightly over the next two seasons, and gained a placing, which ended a remarkable comeback. "It was a labour of love, and they played the Addington race at his funeral," said his son John.
Mounce, who died last week a month short of his 88th birthday, has most of his family associated with harness racing to some extent.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 20Sep06
He was based at Pleasant Point when he bred No Response. He prepared the Hodgen's Surprise - Cordsworth gelding for his first two wins at Orari and Washdyke after the gelding began his racing career as a 6-year-old. No Response was transferred to Richard Brosnan at Kerrytown after Black had a stroke.
No Response won 12 races, including the Inter-Dominion Final, from 16 starts in the 1978/79 season. He also won three heats of the Inter-Dominion and the NZ Trotting Championship on the final day of the carnival. He was voted Harness Horse of the Year in 1979, the first trotter to win the title. No Response won the 1981 Rowe Cup in Auckland. He retired the winner of 24 races from 60 starts.
Credit: HR Weekly 26Oct06
Bill McDonald, the breeder and early trainer of the outstanding juvenile Starship, died recently. He was 81 and suffered from the degenerative eye disease glaucoma before cancer took its toll this year.
He was born in Christchurch. He started in the printing business, sold pet food and ran a dairy before starting work for Noel Berkett. In the mid 1960s he was breeding and training himself, with Red King, Whippet, Loyal Friend, Lord Flicka and First Girl being some of his early winners. He had a great deal of success with horses other people had given up on, including Full of Promise, the last horse he trained, who won four in succession on the West Coast circuit in 1996.
His major success came from breeding Starship, Star Heritage (dam of Star Loner, 1:54.2, Atom Star, 1:52, Star of Mine, 1:52.4) and Venetian Star (dam of Anvil's Star, 1:59.3, Soky's Special, 1:57.8 and Star Rhapsody, 1:58.1) from Star Nurse. By Good Chase, Star Nurse left 12 foals, but Starship was by far the best. He won 16 races from 81 starts, for $341,975. McDonald trained him for 12 wins before selling him for what then he called "a fortune".
For most of his career he trained at Woodend and then moved to Rangiora about 12 years ago. He was loyal to his drivers, particularly to Ian Cameron, and they would often travel to meetings together with their horses. He was a regular seller at the National Yearling Sales.
One of 15 children, McDonald grew up in the Depression and was taught to live frugally.
Credit: HRWeekly 16Nov06
His retirement has prompted a trans-Tasman search, but as Canterbury Jockey Club Chief Executive Tim Mills says, "they're pretty big boots to fill." However, Murtha's experience and depth of knowledge about racing won't be lost. NZRB Head of Broadcasting, Glen Broomhall, says Murtha will continue to work with the New Zealand Racing Board and use his lifetime of experience to contribute to the future of race broadcasting. "Reon's vast experience will be used to mentor a new generation of race callers, with a view to maintaining the high standards to which he has always been committed," Broomhall said.
Murtha's first introduction to racing was on the West Coast where his father was on the committee of the Reefton Jockey and Trotting Clubs and his grandfather was a Clerk of the Course. "It was a boyhood ambition of mine to become a race caller," he remembers. It all started in the late 1950s. A young man's dream of calling the best of them past the winning post was nurtured and practised by calling ice-cream stick races for his mates on the many small creeks and water races that surround the small, sleepy West Coast coal-mining township of Reefton. Reon Murtha, once NZ's only full time professional racecaller, describes those early races as "a feat of imagination. You had to use a lot of imagination to keep the flow going as the gaily painted ice-cream sticks, often named after popular racing stars of the day, floated down the mine water races," he recalls "They would get caught up in the brambles or eddies, and I would have to keep the commentary going, sometimes for ages."
"I was probably the youngest person to frequent the pubs in Reefton," Reon confesses, "but all with good cause." His father took over the agency for the 'Turf Digest' and 'Friday Flash', and Reon earned pocket-money operating the sale of these as a paper round. "I had a regular clientele of 109 customers, and what they didn't buy I would sell in the pubs around town."
In 1959, at the tender age of 17, Reon packed his bags and headed off to an interview at the Greymouth offices of the NZ Broadcasting Corporation. His dream - to be a race caller... But not yet, for it seemed his voice had not matured enough, and there were no vacancies at the time. However, he still joined the corporation as a technician. Little did he realise then that over the next years thousands would hear him call the winners of Inter-Doms, NZ Cups and strangely enough, royal weddings and papal visits.
In 1960, Reon's dreams finally began coming true. The Reefton Jockey Club, looking for a racecaller, asked him to try out for the position, sight unseen. They were not dissappointed. Reon used this opportunity to make a demonstration tape, and on the strength of this tape and several departures from the staff of the Greymouth broadcasting offices, he was appointed race caller to the Greymouth Trotting Club.
In the years that followed until his appointment as race caller with the Canterbury Jockey Club in 1969, Reon used the time to refine and hone to perfection his skills of race calling. He describes it as the skill of being able to put into words what your eyes can see, recognising colours and names, without interrupting the flow of the commentary.
While there was no official training for such a calling, he says training as a radio announcer on Greymouth radio stations helped him to use his voice and language in the right way and achieve his aspiration. But it isn't the easiest of professions to master. Many people can call famous past races as they happened, but few possess that extra ingredient of being able to talk about something the instant it happens, without interrupting the flow, when there are thousands of people hanging on to your every word. Each horse's name and colours have to be learned before the race starts; then when it is all over you instantly discard them and start afresh on a new set of horses for the next race.
Travelling back and forth across the Southern Alps to cover meetings on both sides of the island was hard work; so, in 1971, following the Inter-Doms, Reon packed his bags and transferred to the Christchurch offices of Radio NZ. From there, Reon's career has taken him all over the world. He has called Inter-Doms from Australia; attended the Red Mile in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1983; travelled to Europe in 1984 to attend the English Derby.
Invited as a guest commentator for the Royal wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1986, Reon ranks that as his most memorable occasion. As part of the Radio NZ team covering the Commonwealth Games at Edinburgh, Reon was invited to join a team of eight commentators covering the wedding for the ABC, and his particular section was the royal procession to and from Westminster Abbey. "We had to translate the colour and spectacle of the occasion for the thousands of listeners world-wide. My most nervous moment ever."
His career since then has been studded with both thoroughbred and harness racing industry awards reflecting his outstanding contribution, as well as mainstream awards like the MNZM he received in 2005 for services to broadcasting.
Calling such historic races as the 1980 NZ Cup duel between Delightful Lady and Hands Down at Addington has contributed to scores of great memories, but Murtha is well known as an objective caller who doesn't allow his opinions and emotions to influence his commentating. It hasn't always been easy to subdue the excitement; for example, the South Island Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes in April this year, which was won by Ombre Rose, a filly he part-owns, was just one of seven wins in which he was able to call her home first. The professionalism he maintained on that occasion and at all times has earned him respect industry wide.
"Reon has been the voice of Addington since 1971," said Addington Raceway CEO Mike Godber. "His calls of the great NZ Cups and Inter-Dominion Finals have been heard and seen throughout Australasia and made him a legend in his own right. He is the last of a great era of radio commentators who called through the 1970s and 80s. Reon has been a true professional through his background training in radio, and he was just as effective on Trackside TV and ranks right up there with the legendary commentators Dave Clarkson and Peter Kelly," Godber said.
Mills says Murtha's retirement marks the end of an era. "Racing is an industry that revolves around horses, jockeys and trainers, but there are others who put an important mark on the game," Mills said. "Reon has been an outstanding personality on the turf. Generations of race followers gew up with his voice. His name was synonymous with racing in the south. He is a true grentleman of the game - you never hear a bad word about him. He will be very difficult to replace.
Credit: HRWeekly 4Oct06
Friday, 21 April 2006 saw the publication of the last issue of the Friday Flash. As the name suggests the "Flash" was a weekly paper that covered all the weekend galloping, harness (and later) greyhound race meetings, track work and trials form and articles of general interest to followers of racing.
When it was first published on 22 June 1956, the "Flash" was confined to racing information, but over recent years, in an effort to bolster the paper's appeal, was expanded to cover a wide range of sports.
Over the years the "Flash" had been the source of much valuable information for both the punters and those with an interest in racing. Its demise will be sorely felt.
Credit: C G Steele
2006 INTERDOMINION SERIES
The carnival was held in Hobart. The Pacers Final was won by Blacks A Fake and the Trotters Final by Delft.
This really does nothing more than make his father Phil acknowledge the fact his son is shaping pretty well. "I hate to say it but I predictee before he started out that he would make the grade, not that I thought he would get to this stage so soon. I had seen enough of him at gymkhanas and workouts to think he was a natural as far as driving was concerned. If he was anyone else's kid, you'd say he was pretty talented," he said.
He could easily have passed that compliment to his son after winning the Ordeal Trotting Cup at Addington last Thursday, in which Nathan used sound judgement to make his move round the field in the middle stages and, as a result, completed it with an easy run to the finish.
"It is a confidence thing as well," said Phil, who trains the mare and races her with his wife, Bev. "I'm sure there are other young people out there with similar ability, but they will not get the opportunities to show it."
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 20Sep06
Starting from the outside of the second row, Western Dream gave them all a start, looped the field, sat parked, and ran away to win by an ever-increasing five and a half lengths. It was a far more dominant display than the Badlands Hanover filly's Nevele R Series Final win a week earlier, which trainer/ driver Tony Herlihy got an inkling about from the moment he started to warm her up. "Even in the prelim she felt like she had improved from the week before," Herlihy said. "Mark (Purdon) had said she had been jumping out of her skin at his place, and like all good athletes she had really tightened up."
Western Dream headed home with Herlihy after her victory, as there are more goals in store for the remainder of the season yet. "We are going to go across for the Victorian Oaks and the Breeders' Crown," he continued. "It has been the plan right along to just take it from race to race, but she seems to have come through her trip south really great so we may as well go when you are racing for that sort of money."
Money isn't something that Western Dream has ever had any difficulty earning, because after Friday's victory she has now won 13 and tallied a whopping $325,480 in stakes for her breeder/owners Vin and Daphne Devery. Like the programming decisions that concern the filly, Herlihy and the Deverys have also shared the training duties throughout Western Dream's career as well, Devery having his name alongside hers in the racebook five times and Herlihy the other 12.
Their association goes back many years, and one of the first horses Herlihy ever drove for the couple was Western Dream's dam Dreamy Atom, steering her to victory in the last of her six wins, the 1994/95 NZ Sires' Stakes Fillies Championship. "I am just really grateful that Vin and Daph decided to place her with me," Herlihy said, humbly. "It's great to have horses like her in the stable, and when they kick on from the ability they showed as a young horse like she has." So is Western Dream anything like her mother? "No, not really," Herlihy answered. "Dreamy Atom was a smaller, stockier mare, whereas Western Dream is not. She was actually quite rangy as a 2-year-old, but she has strengthened up now though."
Following her sojourn across the Tasman, Western Dream will be spelled and return sometime around Christmas. Like every year when there is a standout 3-year-old filly, it will then be a question of how well she will come back the following season. "She is the type that will stay as good," Herlihy said. "Sometimes you know if good youngsters aren't going to get much better, but she has always had the scope to suggest that she will improve a lot. And I have always thought she has got a lot of stamina. I know the overall time the other night wasn't flash, but I think her effort proves that to a degree."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 24May06
Ella Powell produced an incredible effort when coming from well back with a powerful finish to win the Oaks in record time, crediting Edmonds with his biggest career win in the process. "It's good to get a victory at any time, but to win two on a Premier Night - well, that takes beating," a noticeably hoarse Edmonds said afterwards. Ella's a lot heavier than Harriet, and takes a bit of work. She hasn't got a lot of speed, but sticks on good."
On lease from breeder Ivan McNicholl, Ella Powell is raced by Edmond's wife Donna, their daughter Jenna and Donna's sister Makere Tahurangi. Both McNicholl and Tahurangi were supposed to be there on the night, but fog in Wellington stranded their planes and they missed out on seeing the victory. Edmonds is seriously considering lining the Earl filly up in the NZ Trotting Derby this Friday night, so if she steps out again it's hoped that the rest of her fan-club will be on-course to witness it.
"I trained horses for Ivan for years when I used to be in Wellington," Edmonds said. "But then about nineteen years ago I took up a job with Air New Zealand, because the kids were little and I wanted something with a bit of security. We transferred to Christchurch, and then the chance to get a wee bit of land came up so we bought Steve Little's old place. One of the main reasons I train is to give Aimee opportunities."
Aimee is the couple's youngest of three daughters, at 19. She started driving last season and won one of her four appearances, and this term she's displayed maturity way beyond her years on the track and saluted the judge five more times. Known as 'babe' around the Edmonds family's Motukarara stable, Ella Powell is normally "my" horse says Aimee. As much as the teenager enjoyed watching the big occasion last Friday night, it wasn't hard to tell that she would have loved being out there herself even more.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 29Mar06
Aged 53, Hunter had cut his teeth working as a groom for Ross Croghan, and after 18 years in the States and 18 years back home, it wasn't hard for him to know the feel of a good horse. "I had seen him race in Tasmania about four years ago, and I phoned a friend about him and he told me he wasn't for sale. But soon after Barrie Rattray brought him from his owner at the time, Eric Blomquist, for $20,000, and soon after that we heard he was on the market for $40,000. After going down there, the price didn't put us off, and he's been in the finish of all the big ones over home," he said.
That means placings in the Hunter Cup, South Australia Cup, Fremantle Cup, Victoria Cup, Tooheys Mile, Inter-Dominion heat wins, and beating Mister D G in the Ballarat Cup - 13 first three Grand Circuit finishes all told.
Hunter, who previously raced Hyperstat in the 1987 Cup won by Lightning Blue from Luxury Liner and trained former New Zealander Happy Sunrise after he finished second in the Miracle Mile, was keen on the Cup idea as soon as Anthony Butt mentioned it. "He is a horse that's always thrived away from home. I knew he wouldn't be gone when the other horse went past him at the 600m. I just wasn't concerned because I'd seen what he had done racing in the Hunter Cup against Elsu. When you click him up, there is plenty of try in him. It was a scary drive but a great one," he said.
Since arriving at Premier Stables two months ago, Flashing Red has found the regime most agreeable and the staff, especially Aimee Edmonds, quickly made him a stable favourite. "You only dream about getting horses like Flashing Red, and I knew how tough he was," said Tim Butt. "He came over in terrific order. We stuck to the game plan all through, with eleven days between races." Naturally, he was thrilled to win the race, one that his grandfather the late Derek Jones won with Hands Down and Blossom Lady. "It was terrific. We were bought up with the NZ Cup, and the Hands Down one was the best I've seen. I've had five previous starters, so it is good to get the monkey off my back," he said.
Flashing Red is owned by Norm Jenkins, a Queensland property developer.
While Butt said it was a team effort, he paid Flashing Red the ultimate compliment: "When he came to out place he was just another horse. What we got is a horse with a determination to win. There will always be a box for him at home."
(Article but John Robinson, HRWeekly, 16Nov06)
It was fitting that Cobbity Classic should run second to Flashing Red in Tuesday's NZ Cup, because he's the main reason why the runner-up was even here in the first place. Cobbity Classic's connections watched with interest from across the Tasman as Flashing Red grew in stature in the weeks leading up to the Cup; in a way, he was their measuring stick.
"We've gotten pretty used to racing him at home, so we know what he's like," said John McCarthy, Cobbity Classic's Queensland-based trainer. "Yes, we've had a few duels. And I actually think they're pretty similar sorts of horses. I didn't realise it, but someone told me just recently that they've raced against each other twenty times, and Cobbity's beaten him in fourteen of them. so seeing how Flashing Red was going so well across here, we kept paying up for the Cup.Th otherv thing in the back of my mind was that I didn't want Cobbity and our other two Grand Circuit horses (Be Good Johnny and Slipnslide) racing against each other all the time."
In the wash-up, Cobbity Classic came up a length and a quarter short of beating his more favoured fellow Australian - meaning that New Zealand's biggest event was quinellaed by a couple of Queenslanders. "Why not? You blokes do it to us enough times," McCarthy smiled. "But no this is a big thrill, and we're ecstatic. Andrew (son) drove him perfect, and he's only twenty so he will learn a lot from the experience too. Prior to the race we did talk about holding Flashing Red out and trying to lead ourselves, but this is the biggest track he has ever raced on and Red was probably the right horse to follow anyway."
Cobbity Classic only arrived in New Zealand seven days prior to the Cup, landing in Auckland then getting a connecting flight to Christchurch where he stayed with Catherine and David Butt out at Woodend Beach. And despite the 'hit and run' nature of the trip, the McCarthy clan were confident. "He is a good two-miler, so I knew the distance of the Cup wouldn't worry him," McCarthy continued. "He'd had two Grand Curcuit races back home and went really good in both of them, plus we train them in the sand so they are always pretty fit. And even though he has won a couple of Sinshine Sprints, including this year's one in 1:54, staying is his forte."
McCarthy believes that Queensland pacers running one-two in the Cup just further emphasises how far the State has come in recent years. "People under-estimate Queensland racing, yet it's gotten really, really strong lately. From oue stable alone, we won five Grand Circuit races last season. And I don't think Flashing Red's gone any better over here; you've got to remember, he had won two heats of the Inter-Dominion."
Cobbity Classic will step out again in the NZ Free-For-All this Friday, where he is expected to acquit himself well again. This year has been his trainer's first taste of Cup Week in Christchurch, and it won't be his last. "We might have to come back again now," McCarthy said. "Probably with Cobbity, because he is only eight and a year younger than Flashing Red. Or maybe one of our other two. They are not as tough as Cobbity but they have got a bit of zip."
Among the beaten brigade behind the two Queenslanders on Tuesday was favourite Mainland Banner, who finished worse than second for the first time in her 20-start career when coming home ninth. "She got a perfect walk-in start, and then galloped," driver Ricky May lamented. "Sheshould not have done it really. Waipawa Lad galloped too, and I ended up back with him so it did cost us some ground. After that I took my time getting around them. The pressure really went on all of us when Winforu went. We were following Ants (Anthony Butt on Flashing Red) round the last bend, but sh was under sufference by then. She battled on okay afterwards," he said
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 16Nov06
Th fact that he wears both caps actually put him in a slightly embarrassing situation to begin with. "We actually give trainers instructions not to buy our horses at the Sales," Carr said. "I didn't know it on the day, but Aria (Small) came up to me later and revealed that Geoff had bought our horse - for the syndicate. "So when I asked Geoff about it he said he couldn't buy a better horse for the money, then offered to look for another one if I wanted." Auckland Trotting Club officials accepted the oversight on this occasion and Changeover joined Calibrator and General George to make up the 2006 Syndicate's trio of horses. He has now won the 50-share group nearly $240,000, with Tuesday's victory his most entralling yet.
Punched out by driver David Butcher to follow Fergiemack forward, Changeover crossed to the parked position but Butcher wasn't happy with that and went again, surging to the front. The colt had done some work to get there, and he suddenly had his main danger perched right in behind him too but Changeover was equal to the task. In the end he held Fergimack comfortably at bay by half a length, stopping the clock at a brilliant 2:20.3 for the 1950m mobile. Representing a mile rate of 1:55.7 Changeover's time is the fastest by any male pacer, any age, over the trip.
"We'd had a relatively soft run to get to be parked," Butcher said afterwards. "The wind was chasing us on that part of the track, so I decided to push on; we were either going to be good enough or not. I had no idea we were going that fast, because he was fair cruising down the back. When we got to the straight and I saw that Tony (Herlihy, Fergiemack) had already pulled out, I thought it was time to make them work a bit. But hey...we've railed, most of the rest had circled, and when you are going that speed the rail is the place to be."
Some 69 people filtered out of the main stand and piled into the birdcage afterwards to welcome back their hero; Carr says he knows that many were there, because he booked all their tickets. It was fanfare galore, and a reminder of how much fun and how successful the Auckland Trotting Club's syndicates have been for the people involved. Carr took over the role of th club's Syndication Manager from Robert Death following the inaugural Trotpower Syndicate, and there has been ATC Trot syndicates every year fron 2000 since. The stakes won from those syndicates is now bordering on a whopping $1.13 million.
"It is amazing that we still struggle to get numbers sometimes," Carr said, disbelievingly. "I think this syndicate's going to have a lot more fun yet, because Changeover will just keep getting better. Plus there is another two horses to look out for...Calibrator's had two starts and gone okay but he's just a bit weak at this stage and has been turned out; and General George qalified, had three months out, and he is just back into work now and looks smart also."
From a personal perspective, Carr and Kirkbride will send four mares to stud this year including Chaangerr, who "at this stage" is booked to Christian Cullen. They have also retained a Bettor's Delight half-sister to the Sires' Stakes winner who is two and in work with Tony Herlihy.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 16Nov06
And for a while trainer Phil Williamson was considering the prospect of sitting in the stand for it all, not that that was unduly worrying him. Williamson would need a crowbar to prise his 18-year-old son Nathan from driving Jasmyn's Gift after a memorable first Group 1 success in Friday's NZ Trotting FFA, and in a somewhat surprising move, Allegro Agitato will get another chance from a stand after blowing the start in the last two Dominions and Rowe Cups. She will continue her association with Ricky May, while One Over Kenny earned her shot at the Dominion when she was seen at her demoralising best in the $20,000 Konami Trot last Friday.
With an Auckland trip coming up over Christmas, Tony Herlihy had the option to handle One Over Kenny in the Dominion, a race he has surprisingly won only one and 14 years ago with Directorship. But Sly Flyin's win in the NZ Free-For-All later in the day, which earned him a Miracle Mile invite, will almost certainly see Herlihy in Sydney this Friday night instead of Christchurch. Williamson will probably thus take the reins on One Over Kenny, and the stable could quite conceivably run the trifecta in the Dominion with these three quite outstanding mares.
It was almost certainly a unique event to have four trotting events on the one programme last Friday, and Williamson almost won all four of them. Prior to Jasmyn's Gift and One Over Kenny scoring, Lets Get Serious had caused a minor upset in downing the odds-on Tim Butt and Phil Anderson trained Moment Of Truth in the opening event, while the tables were then reversed when Smart Seeker won over the slightly unlucky Blakatak, a recent addition to the stable and yet to finish out of the money in six starts for Williamson.
Jasmyn's Gift had her chance when third on Cup Day, but an entirely different track and tactics saw her back to her brilliant best. Eased off the gate from a handy draw, Jasmyn's Gift had only one behind her in a fairly strung out field when Nathan Williamson set off at the 1800m with what amounted to a 'search and destroy' mission. Taking up the running with a lap to travel from Glenbogle, Jasmyn's Gift would not be denied in the run home as he challenged in the passing lane, and Allegro Agitato finished on out wider from three back on the fence. "She doesn't have the speed of the others, but gee she has a lot of guts," said Nathan. "She just loves the wet, so as soon as I got out there and saw how much the track had deteriorated, I became quite confident. I knew the conditions would take the sprint out of the others," he added.
The 7-year-old daughter of Sundon was well outside her own national 2600m mobile record for mares of 3:15.1, but her 3:19.5 in the conditions was still a highly commendable performance, and far too much for rivals which had far easier runs and the drop on her. Glenbogle rallied well in the worst of the conditions nearest the pylons, but Jasmyn's Gift always had him well covered, while Allegro Agitato had her high speed negated, particularly when attempting to sprint on the home turn in what had become a 'pretty shitty' part of the track.
Jasmyn's Gift has had her share of problems this past year, failing to produce her best form during an Australian campaign and having some joint soreness issues since returning this season to win four on the trot. "She's had problems with soreness for a while now, and you can't keep her 'screwed down' all the time," said Phil. "She takes a torrent of work, but you have to peak her at certain times. The race on Cup Day would have cleaned her up nicely, and I'm picking she will improve again with today's race," he added.
An improved Jasmyn's Gift will be a scary thought for her rivals going into the Dominion. Im last year's Dominion, she did a stretch and seemingly her chips at the start, but went the 'race of the century' to somehow finish third to Pompallier, a sound enough fourth on Friday. Allegro Agitato is also coming to hand nicely, and will be the hardest for Jasmyn's Gift to beat this week if she steps away with them. "She's been going away good from stands at the trials, and the ten metres will make all the difference - hopefully," said Phil. Outside of winning from 40 metres at Gore last march, in a lead-up race to winning the NZ Trotting Championship at Addington ar Easter, Allegro Agitato hasn't even attempted a stand in the last two and a half years, apart from blowing the starts of those two Dominions and Rowe Cups.
One Over Kenny won't be the worst in the Dominion either after coming off 20 metres and sitting outside the warm favourite Tozzie over the last lap. Tozzie had to work to find the lead over the first 800m, but Herlihy had him covered a fair way from home and Tozzie galloped under pressure before One Over Kenny strolled home by almost three lengths over Rhythm Of The Night and Lord Rotarian. "I was getting her ready for Auckland over Christmas - she is very good that way round - but I guess she has probably earned a shot at the Dominion now," said Phil. "The owners have been threatening to send her stud, so hopefully she has done enough to earn a reprieve in that respect anyway. As intended we pretty much gave her the 4-year-old season off, and she's still on the way up now," he added.
But the day really belonged to Jasmyn's Gift and Nathan Williamson, and he had quite a rollercoaster ride of emotions in the aftermath. A flourish of the whip as she crossed the line was soon followed by some tears of joy upon easing up, and not long after there were some tears of pain when Williamson copped a well delivered and timed hind kick from his favourite mare, flush on the shin. He was doing up a cover strap behind Jasmyn's Gift when she simply responded to entire Winforu squealing in the next stall. Williamson was hobbling around and wincing with the pain for a good 10 minutes afterwards, and will be sporting a very good bruise this week, but lost none of his admiration and joy for Jasmyn's Gift after his biggest win by far, and hers since downing Allegro Agitato in last year's Trotting Championship in record time. "She is just a lovely mare and that is not her at all - she would never kick out in her life - and I would have no qualms about sleeping between her legs. Even if I had to be getting around on crutches, you couldn't stop me driving her next week," he said.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 22Nov06
From Kerr's seat in the Public Stand, he thought Pay Me Christian had got it; but it wasn't until a fellow supporter dashed down to watch the instant replay of the finish and gave the 'thumbs up' that Kerr could actually let go of the breath that he was holding. "Along with the Oaks and the New Zealand Cup, this is one of the three races that I've always wanted to win," Kerr said afterwards. "The Derby's such a prestigious event, because it's been around for nearly a hundred years. And to me it's always the first real glimpse of what's to come when they're four or five-year-olds. Quite often the first three home in the Derby will go on to become good open class horses, even great ones."
Being his final outing for the season, and last ditch attempt at winning a Derby at three, Friday was 'D-Day' for Pay Me Christian in a lot of ways too - especially from his pending stud career's perspective. Automatically 'valued' at a million dollars when a half share in the colt was sold to Nevele R Stud for $500,000 back in December, that sort of money demands results. Kerr knew that better than anyone else, and after Pay Me Christian had run last seven days earlier things were even more intense.
"You wouldn't be human if you didn't feel some sort of pressure in that situation," he admitted. "So I'm glad he won this, because the horse deserved it. With an ounce of luck he could've won either of the Great Northern or Victorian Derbys, or quite easily finished with all three - and then people would've been talking about him in a totally different way. He's been the best 3-year-old this season, no doubt, and in winning the Sires'Stakes Final and NZ Derby he got the two big ones."
Pay Me Christian was heading out for a spell regardless of where he finished on Friday night, and Kerr says he deserves that too. "Yes, he was starting to show signs that he was coming to the end of it," he agreed. His zip wasn't quite there, and he was a little bit leg-weary after all the miles he's done. When we came back from Aussie he was a wee bit tired, and we knew we had to tread lightly for a while - that's why he was probably a tad on the fresh side for his race last week. He's only had nine starts as a three-year-old, but it's been a long season for him. People forget that he was up as early as July, and that he's had to peak three or four times during the year. And more and more lately he's started to realise that he's a colt. He thinks he's the king of the castle round home, running around the paddock and calling out; he covers a lot more ground during the week than most horses."
Pay Me Christian will be out for three months, with Kerr wanting him to resume around mid-October so that he has a couple of runs under his belt before "possibly" tackling the Junior Free-For-All on Cup Day. "The Miracle Mile is his main target before Christmas, so we'll be chasing a start in it, and after that there's the Chariots, perhaps another trip to Australia, and then back to New Zealand for our two big 4-year-old features in Auckland. Next time in we're going to experiment a bit and give him a lot more beach training. We're that close to one, so we're going to make use of it and keep him away from the track as much as possible in between races. There's nothing wrong with his legs whatsoever, it's just something we're going to try to give him a bit of variety and keep him mentally fresh."
At the end of Pay Me Christian's 4-year-old season is when Nevele R Stud and the syndicate that races him will sit down and discuss things. Regardless of when the career change eventuates, Kerr has no doubt about what sort of sire he'll be - not only because of the fact that he's by Christian Cullen, or won eight of his 13 starts thus far, but also because he's got a "terrific" dam's family.
"You just wait until he steps out again next season - he'll let down into a magnificent stallion. At the moment he's still a bit of a boy in that respect, we're only halfway there."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 5Apr06
The Earl gelding will back up this week for the $50,000 PGG Yearling Sales event, where his task will be appreciably easier with neither Brite Speed or Houdini Star eligible, and then head to Auckland for the $50,000 Sires' Stakes Championship on April 28, along with a couple of other races,before returning home for a freshen-up. He will then be set for the Breeders' Crown in August, following the same schedule and path which brought success in the $114,180 2-year-old Trot last year.
Ironically, Galleon's Assassin won the Breeders' Crown on the eve of trainer Mark Purdon spending a period on the sidelines, and he marked his first Group 1 race success since returning to the fray in January. He was also the middle leg of a winning treble for Purdon on the Premier Night, while top 2-year-old filly Top Tempo is unbeaten in three features including the Group 2 Nevele R Stakes, but the form of Jays Debut in recent weeks remains a mystery for him.
Raced by Purdon's wife Vicki and Aucklander Fred Tong, a long-time family friend, Galleon's Assassin was sorted out by Purdon from the 2004 Remier Sale and purchased for $33,000. "I hadn't had a trotter for a while and neither had Freddy, so we agreed to go halves in one and he was the one I liked the most." said Purdon. "He had a good head and eye, and a good barrel," he added. Tong, 50, raced a good trotter in the 70s in Butch Cassidy, but since has "just had the odd one or two-win horse".
Galleon's Assassin is the fifth foal and fifth winner from the Chiola Hanover mare Rob The Nest (6 wins), a grand-daughter of Robyn Evander, whose first two foals were the brilliant but ill-fated Sonofthedon and Group 1 winner Thedonsson, and since the mares Charlotte Galleon and Whosinthenest. Rob The Nest has since Galleon's Assassin, left fillies by S J's Photo and Sundon and a colt by Armbro Invasion, and is back in foal to Earl.
Galleon's Assassin's experience and class stood to him in his latest feature race success. Four Carat took up the early running, but Galleon's Assassin soon crossed him from barrier eight, as main danger Houdini Star missed the call-up and spotted the field 30 to 40 metres before they had begun. Houdini Star circled the field to join the pacemaker a lap out and give Brite Speed the one-one, but Galleon's Assassin had them both covered a good way from home. "I didn't know Houdini Star had made a mistake, but I did know I had him covered at the quarter and I was just waiting for Brite Speed to come." Brite Speed was struggling to keep up well before the quarter however, and came in a disappointing eighth. Fout Carat followed the winner around for second ahead of the Paul Nairn-trained fillies Paramount Gem and Insist, who likewise never left the fence from three and four-back until the run home.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 5Apr06
Two years ago, Williamson drove Allegro Agitato to overcome barrier nine in leading over the last 2400 metres to score in a then race and national record of 3:16.1, spoiling the party when Lyell Creek resumed his career in New Zealand. In between, only stablemate Jasmyn's Gift has spoiled Allegro Agitato's party by downing her in a superlative display last season, recording a new race and national record of 3:15.1 which still stands. Allegro Agitato recorded 3:18.1 last Friday night, but it was no less a searching contest in the cool and breezy conditions. "They really smoked along early, and while she seemed a long way from them the race really played into our hands," said Ricky May.
Allegro Agitato had only two behind her in a strung out field passing the mile, but May was soon on the move improving three-wide in the open and took up the running passing the half, proceeding to step out a quarter down the back in 29 which had everybody off the bit, before the 7-year-old Sundon mare "eased herself down" near the finish to score by two lengths over the game Some Direction, Ruthless Jenny and Toomuch To Do in a race dominated by mares.
Cracker Nova crossed fron the outside of the front line to lead early before Castleton's Mission, in very unfamiliar territory, worked wide and into the lead at the 1900m mark and took them through a rapid lead-time of 1:15. He was ready to wave the white flag when Allegro Agitato surged up on her relentless run however, and the second favourite beat only an errant Gold home.
"She can do that - ease herself down - but she was just cruising and would have picked it up again if something had come along," said May. May has been her regular pilot this season and has also won the Ashburton Flying Mile, Group 1 NZ Trotting FFA on Cup Day and $100,000 Grand Prix at Moonee Valley in December with her.
Allegro Agitato now joins such famous names as Nigel Craig, No Response and David Moss as the only two-time winners in the 49-year history of the Trotting Championship. For May it was his third Trotting Championship, having won with Warren Stapleton's Highwood and Cedar Fella, the best trotters he has driven until Allegro Agitato. "Cedar Fella was a great horse when he was sound, and Highwood could have been anything if Warren knew then what he knows now. "But they're three completely different horses - Allegro Agitato has more speed and is sound for a start."
It was Williamson's fourth training win in the event, having first signalled his arrival on the big-time trotting scene in 1996 with Role Model who downed Call Me Now, Chiola Cola and Diamond Field. Williamson, who races Allegro Agitato with Oamaru breeders Michael and Ronnie Lauren, said she will now head for "whatever mobile races there are for open class trotters," which is likely to mean a $15,000 preferential draw 2600m affair at Addington next Saturday night. If not, having accomplished her solitary mission this time in, Allegro Agitato will head to the spelling paddock before Williamson initially sets her for a crack at a third consecutive Ashburton Mile win and then suitable races at the NZ Cup Meeting, Auckland and Melbourne again.
"It is tempting to look at the Rowe Cup again, but with Delft on ten metres she is going to be jammed in there (off the front) and there's probably not much point - it's not really an option," said Williamson. "Her record from a mobile - in fact her record overall if you eliminate the races where she took no part - is quite outstanding though, and we'll just keep her to those now," he added.
While Allegro Agitato began her career with 19 races from a stand and won eight of them, more recently they have been a disaster for her and include blowing the start in the last two Dominion and Rowe Handicaps. Her only win from a stand since scoring from a 10m handicap at Addington in January, 2004, was at Gore from 40m a fortnight before the Trotting Championship in her only lead-up race. "She can be okay with nobody behind her, and that served as a suitable race to clean her up."
In 16 races from a mobile in New Zealand, Allegro Agitato has now won seven and been placed as many times, only failing to pay a dividend twice at Alexandra Park when fifth behind Delft over Christmas when noticeably below her best form, and in last year's Inter-Dominion when she galloped on her only occasion behind the gate. Overall, her record in 45 starts in 17 wins, eight seconds and eight thirds for stakes worth $356,382, with the promise of much more to come from such a lightly-raced mare.
Allegro Agitato is known about the stables as 'Cindy', a name given to her by the Laurens when she was a foal. "She grew up in a paddock with two other fillies, which looked like ugly sisters compared to her, so they called her Cinderella," said Williamson. "I've had cause to call her a few other names at times, but we all love her," he added.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 5Apr06
Martin's no stranger to such requirements though, because for years she shared a partnership with Neil Brady on both a professional and personal basis, and during that time the couple won a lot of races with the likes of Franco Ice and Sweet Talking Man. Back them Martin stayed backstage and out of the spotlight when it came to acknowledgement, quite content that she'd played her part behind the scenes. But these days she has got no choice, because things have changed. Brady's no longer in the picture, and Martin part-owns and trains a horse that is going to put her onto the victory dias time and time again. His name is Gotta Go Cullen.
"When Neil went to Australia in 2004, I thought he was just going on another one of his stints," Martin said, remembering when she and Brady parted ways. "But he didn't come back. He probably thought the place would fall apart without him - and that only made me more determined to do it, to succeed." Gotta Go Cullen is ample proof that Martin's certainly doing that. She bought the colt and his dam Sparkling Burgundy from a northern broodmare sale when he was still a foal at foot, and now the son of Christian Cullen has won five of his seven raceday appearances after taking out the $50,000 Group 2 Bromac Lodge NZ Welcome Stakes at Addington last Friday night.
Parked early before being taken to the front by Nicole Thorn, Gotta Go Cullen settled beautifully in the role until Thorn asked him to stretch out inside the last furlong. Fergiemack temporarily looked a threat when he burst from the pack 100 metres out, but Gotta Go Cullen revelled in having a new challenger and pulled clear again by half a length at the line. "It was good to feel him kick again," Thorn said afterwards. "He has been knocking off inside the last fifty metres of his races, because nothing has been sticking with him. He really flattens out when you ask him - like Christian Cullen did when he used to get let down. It's unbelievable being associated with Gotta Go Cullen, because he is just a super, super animal. And not that he isn't already, but he is going to be a very nice horse; I mean, look at him - he's like a three-year-old now," Thorn said.
Gotta Go Cullen had only raced at Cambridge and Alexandra Park prior to last Friday night, meaning little more than a twelve hour round trip from his home in Pakiri Beach, and last week's trek to Christchurch was also Martin's first venture south "on my own." Victory speech included, she was pleased once it was all over. "It's pretty scary coming all that way," she said, highlighting that the time between leaving home and arriving in Christchurch was over 37 hours. I was concerned, because it's a long way for a baby. But he just eats everything, and takes it in his stride. We stayed at Lavros Lodge, which was really good, and on arrival his tail was up and he was prancing around - the guys that shipped him said they had never seen a horse get off the truck looking so good. But I couldn't have done this without the help of Nicole and her fiance Dean (Molander), who have been great," Martin said.
The trip was a good dress rehearsal for when Gotta Go Cullen will return to Christchurch again in May fo the Sires' Stakes Final, and Martin says he will be off to Australia for the Breeders' Crown after that.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 5Apr06
Later in the day, an In The Pocket filly from the grand racemare Under Cover Lover named Affairs Of State went under the hammer. She was a serious target and went for $90,000.
"I really liked her brother who came from the Sales," recalled Driver. "I got a offer, and when I couldn't pay the bills at the time, I let him go. When I saw this filly, I thought she had a nice, wee head. She was small type, a little on the fine side, but she looked as if she could run early," said Driver.
He bought her from Lincoln breeder Hamish Roberts for his nephew 'CJ', and as Gretamaro she is rivalled only by Western Dream as the best 3-year-old filly in New Zealand. She has never missed a big event, and had raced twice as many times as any other horse in the $130,000 PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales Fillies Pace at Addington last week. She won the race, not easily from Affairs Of State, but it would be fair to say she never reallly looked like not winning it. It was her ninth win and her stakes won went to $233,554.
Driver was right when he gave driver Robbie Holmes credit for his judicious handling of the filly. He did not go to town over the first 2-300 metres, an the wisdom of this move paid off because he was able to secure cover three-back on the outer. At the 1200m, he gently eased out, and was in front and ahead of Affairs Of State at the 900m. The danger then was how well the lightly-tried, splendidly-bred but not race-hardened Affairs Of State would respond to a dust-up with the finely-honed Gretamaro. For a start, and even till near the end, Affairs Of State gave Gretamaro what-ho. It was a grim struggle, but 30 metres out, Gretamaro had her nose in front, and 20 metres further on, had a fraction more, and there was a convincing half a head between them at the end.
Driver is a meticulous trainer. He likes his horses to have their own paddock, and old Gaelic Skipper, who won him nearly $400,000, is there to keep Gretamaro company. "I'm happy to take the grass to the horse, rather than the horse to the grass. I'm very fussy, and I treat them all like individuals. There's a hot wire between them, but she'll kick out if anything happens that she doesn't like. And I've got to work her. She finished on Wednesday running half in a minute. She's not a horse I can cheat on," he said.
Next for Gretamaro is the Southland Oaks, and later the New Zealand Oaks and the Nevele R Fillies Final. And that, as a racehorse, will be the end of it. "She'll come back as an eight or nine-win horse, and that will be to tough for her," he said.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 22Feb06
He knew she was short of a hard run before winning the Caduceus Club of Canterbury Premier Mares' event over 1950m the previous week, but he was sure it would top her off nicely for the $100,000 PGG Wrightson Breeders' Stakes.
Without making a meal of it, Mainland Banner duly won, beating Imagine That by a length and a quarter and Nick Off Holme by nearly two. After being settled on the outer by Ricky May, Mainland Baner went forward at the 1250m, sat parked soon after and came away for a comfortable win by a margin that may have flattered her rivals.
"Ricky said she did not feel as sharp as she did at Cup time," said Dunn. "But she only did what she had to, and I felt she was coming away again over the last twenty metres. "She blew hard again. We've had a roundtable since, and we feel we have to increase her work a bit."
Dunn expects her to take it in her stride because she is so relaxed in training. "This is her greatest weapon, and as she matures she is getting stronger. This is the first time she has backed up with a race two weeks in a row. The other time was last May when she was very tired after the Oaks."
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWEEKLY 9Feb06
Last week's $35,000 Group 2 Premier Mares'Championship was Mainland Banner's first appearance since her dramatic Cup win, and she was up against some very classy and race-hardened girls.
So when she was used out of the gate to find the front, got taken on vehemently during the running by firstly Nursemaid and then Nick Off Holme, she was literally a sitting duck for those in behind her that had had a soft trip. But this is Mainland Banner we're talking about. One reminder with the whip, a dozen double-handed shakes of the reins, and Mainland Banner proved once again that she is the best there is.
"She was always going to need the run, so I suppose that the way the race panned out she was vulnerable," said trainer Robert Dunn afterwards. "Ricky (May) wasn't going to use her early, he was going to nurse her round the first bend and then move forward. But when That's Life Lavra put a rough stride in at the start, he had no choice. So it is nice to know that she has got gate speed as well. She was tested tonight, and she knew it too because she blew afterwards. She has been as bright as a button ever since though," he said.
Mainland Banner steps out again this week in the PGG Wrightson Standardbred Breeders' Stakes, and although she was beaten the only other time she raced twice within seven days, Dunn thinks it is a totally different story this year.
"When Molly Darling got her in the Nevele R Fillies' Final it was the end of her 3-year-old season - she had gone from qualifying to a superstar in the space of about four months," he said. "She had travelled south a couple of times, and the Oaks win a week prior had taken the edge off her. But right now she is on the way up, and she will improve with that run for sure."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 1Feb06
Last year's yearling sales top lot Mombassa came $30,000 closer to recouping his $155,000 price tag on Friday night at Addington. The Cran Dalgety representative won the $50,000 PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales Southern Graduate in the hands of regular driver Colin De Filippi, and took out the event with arrogant ease.
Untouched in the run home Mombassa paced his final 400m in 28.2 comfortably, Jackson Street was second two lengths from the winner and Christian Cullen colt Carlos was third a further two lengths behind second. The younger brother of Elsu, Mombassa has won twice in four attempts and has placed once also. His total earnings now already sit at $35,000, still a long way from his expensive initial price tag though.
Dalgety indicated that an assault on the Breeders Crown series in August could be on the cards for the son of In The Pocket.
Credit: Harness Racing NZ
Regular driver Todd Mitchell remained in Hawera for the weekend circuit, missing the Cup drive behind the Steven Reid representative. In 25 career starts Mitchell had only missed three drives on Bailey's Dream, one of which was the New Zealand Free-For-All when he had sentimental commitments to two-time Cup winner Just An Excuse. On those occasions Brendon Hill had stepped up to the plate.
Going into the Group One feature Bailey's Dream was one of four four-year-olds in the line-up. Elliot Futurity winner, and second favourite, Mr Bojangles ended his Easter Cup campaign as the tapes flew, galloping hopelessly on two occasions in the first 800m. The hot pot was once again Auckland Cup winner Mi Muchacho. He was forced to work hard three-wide for almost a lap to get to the front, and when pressured on the home turn showed his weakness yet again at Addington. Eventual winner Bailey's Dream flew inside the last 600m, crushing the favourite on the home turn before bolting away from his closest pursuers, Mighty Cullen and Imagine That.
The Dream Away gelding secured victory by one length at the finish post, while game four-year-old Mighty Cullen sprinted from three-back on the fence for second. Last week's feature winner Imagine That rallied after securing the trail for third place behind her stablemate. The favourite Mi Muchacho battled into sixth equal and will return home without a South Island victory.
Bailey's Dream paced the 3200m stand in 4.03.6, clocking a mile rate of 2.02.4. He paced his final 800m in 58.0.
Trainer Steven Reid has indicated that the gelding will now target the Messenger Championship for four-year-olds at Alexandra Park on May 5. There the Easter Cup winner will once again face the country's leading pacer, Mainland Banner.
Credit: Harness Racing NZ
Monkey King's performance to win on Friday night was nothing short of sensational, because he was last of the nine-horse bunch and being chirped up as he sped past the 600m mark. Driver Todd Mitchell waited, and waited, and it wasn't until Monkey King was fully around the home turn and straightened before his pilot pushed the turbo button. The response was electrifying, and Monkey King devoured metre after metre in time to catch Ambro The Thug just short of the post. His time for the 1950m event was a super 2:22.2 in the cool conditions, representing a mile rate of 1:57.3, and considering the last half was run in 58.1 off the front Monkey King must have covered his final stanza in close to 56!
Mitchell paid the Sands A Flyin gelding the ultimate compliment when he returned to the stabling area...
"For sheer speed, he's the quickest horse I have ever driven," Mitchell said. "He doesn't wear plugs or nothing. He's just that bloody relaxed, he doesn't really do anything until you pull him into the clear and ask him to go. They had gone that hard early tonight that I knew they had to come back to us - I still didn't think he could win from where he was though. And cripes, when I pulled him out at the top of the straight he nearly went into a gallop because he was going that fast. Bailey hasn't got speed like him."
Monkey King has won five of his nine starts thus far, and Friday was a welcome return to the winner's circle for a horse whose finishing burst is now firmly entrenched as his trademark. He did the same thing on debut back in October when runing third, making up a tonne of ground behind Waipipi Express, then won four in a row, and in the outing prior to last week he took lengths off Awesome Armbro to run second after giving that rival a mighty head start turning for home and pacing his last half in 55.2.
Monkey King's only other two outings resulted in an inglorious 'last of 13' when he failed to score up behind the mobile at Alexandra Park at the start of this month, and prior to that he ran fourth during what was a horror trip across the Tasman in January. "Over in Aussie he was a dead horse all week," Mitchell said. "We had a lot of trouble with him tying up in the muscles, and he just didn't feel like himself at any stage. It has taken a month to get him right, probably even longer."
Monkey King is trained by Steven Reid, and his victory on Friday capped a stellar night for the Pukekohe stable. Reid trained the winners of the first two races at Alexandra Park - La Bella Mafia and Man On Mars - and in Mitchell's absence he made a rare appearence in the sulky and even drove the first of those himself.
In charge of the team in Christchurch last week was Reid's right-hand-man Brendon Hill, and he took a lot of care when ungearing a very fractious Monkey King after the Flying Stakes victory. Asked if the 3-year-old was always like that, Hill replied "he is when he is right. When they are as good as him it's the sort of thing you don't mind putting up with though," Hill said. "It's just him. He's like Bailey - he's got heaps of character. And speed? He's got enough of it to make you fall out of the back of the cart."
Now that the dust has settled on the Flying Stakes, the focus switches to this week's big one for the 3-year-olds - the NZ Derby. There is a glint in Mitchell's eye as he thinks about his prospects with Monkey King, and quite rightly so too, because the horse is right at the top of his game again and he proved last week tha he could win from anywhere.
As much as Mitchell seems to have a mortgage on the biggest of Addington's feature races, the NZ Cup, having won four of the last seven, a NZ Derby winning drive is something that has eluded the talented Waikato reinsman so far. And that is despite fashioning a good record in the Flying Stakes too; Mitchell won the race in 2003 with Allstar Blue Jean, again last year with Bailey's Dream, and now has a 'three from the last four' record thanks to Monkey King. "I pulled the wrong rein with Allstar Blue Jean, and should have gone earlier; I ran sixth," Mitchell lamented. "Then Bailey got run down by Badlands Bute last year. It would be nice to win the Derby with Monkey King, because he's not paid up for anything else like the Sales Series or Sires' Stakes. He never showed enough early on."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 29Mar06
Before the running of the Paul Renwick Kitchen and Joinery Free-For-All at Addington on Friday night there was one question on punters lips. Would Auckland Cup winner Mi Muchacho re-live his horror Addington debut in November? The second question was simply if he doesn't handle the home turn bend, who beats the favourite home?
Punters answered the riddle correctly when their second elect Imagine That fought bravely to take out the feature event on Friday night. But the race was not without drama.
Looking slightly awkward in his gait, Mi Muchacho loomed to sit parked outside of Imagine That in the running and when racing around the home bend the favourite appeared to be stopping. He retreated to be approximately three lengths from the leader on the turn before straightening up and charging again. Pacing strongly Imagine That maintained her advantage over the opposition, holding off the fast finishing favourite by a half-head at the finish. Waipawa Lad did well to rally into third just ahead of Bailey's Dream.
Mi Muchacho had to withstand an enquiry after it appeared he had cut off Bella's Boy in the run home. The JCA later dismissed the protest and the connections were issued with a warning to improve his racing manners.
The victory was a great way for Imagine That to lead into this Saturday's $100,000 Easter Cup. She paced the 2600m mobile in 3.13.6, recording a mile rate of 1.59.8 and the final 800m and 400m in 56.8 and 28.2 respectively.
Imagine That has now tallied 15 wins from 46 career starts. She has placed on 19 occasions and has earned just over $375,000 in stakes.
Credit: Harness Racing NZ
Margaret came up from Ashburton for the big event, though the race was not particularly clear to her. She has impaired vision and cannot walk. She can't read and can't see television. "I lost it all about five months ago...it's awful," she said. "But I love being part of the syndicate and having the horse to race. It is my only interest, and Rob Carr has been so good. He phones me and tells me what is going on," she said. As it happened, Margaret bought the last share in the syndicate. "Rob told me there were two men interested but they hadn't paid the money. So next morning, I was down at the bank first thing and had the money away that day," she said.
Margaret will be back at Addington this week, but she is not so confident that Changeover will match it with Gotta Go Cullen. Trainer Geoff Small thinks the same as Margaret. "We have got a nice horse who has improved slowly all year, but Gotta Go Cullen is very, very good."
Changeover was bred by Carr and Don Kirkbride, who bought her dam Chaangerr off Bunty Hughes and Alan Meadows after they had bred seven foals. "She didn't come cheap," said Carr, who manages all the ATC Syndicates. "She was in foal to Artsplace, and they kept the foal she had. We sold Changeover for $28,000, and I had gently suggested to the trainers selecting for the syndicate that they avoid buying one that I had bred," he said.
If Small heard him, he didn't listen. "I had always wanted one from that family," he said. "He was early in the Sale, I had a budget and he made it. For Rob, it is a double coup," he said, adding that he was indebted to the usual high standard of help he had received staying with his old school buddy, Jeff Whittaker. By In The Pocket, Changover is expected to develop form that will make him a Classic chance at three.
Carr and Kirkbride have kept a Bettor's Delight filly from Chaangerr which is with Tony Herlihy, they have a weanling filly by Presidential Ball and the mare is in foal to Bettor's Delight,
Christian Warrior came off a nice trail on the outer to earn $33,150 for second, while Mombassa held his ground for third. They outclassed the others.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 17May06
Alinghi ran up boldly before the corner and looked a worry for a time. But other than that flurry, there was nothing of matter for the final 15 seconds except the gap to second, and if Alinghi would hold it - which she did not.
Dreamy Atom has been a gem for Devery and his wife, Daphne. The Soky's Atom mare won six races and was 2-year-old Filly of the Year in 1998. As a broodmare, she has been a source of good income, having left Happy Dreamer which was sold to the U.S. after two starts here; Dream Royale, which won her 13th race at the weekend in Queensland; the Tim Butt trained middle-grader Presidential Dream, and Western Dream, the best of them all. She has raced only 16 times, and won 12. Her stakes are more than $260,000, and there is fair expectation it will be close to $300,000 with another high placing in the Oaks on Friday night. The Devery's have one more from Dreamy Atom to come, a filly by Artiscape, which is being weaned anytime soon.
The Artiscape is one of only two foals they bred this season. The other is a Julius Caesar colt from a Smooth Fella mare; two others died soon after foaling. To supplement numbers, a Badlands Hanover-No Time Franco filly was bought at this year's PGG Wrightson Sale.
There is still much ahead of Western Dream. She will contest the Australian Oaks in late July, and she has the Breeders' Crown heats and, in mid August, the Final. "We plan to give her a spring spell and bring her back for the mares' races in late summer and autumn," said Vin. He recalled that his success has come a long way since the time he raced the Johnny Globe mare Facetious with his brothers, Alan and Ray. "She won four of five, and it the fourth grandam of Western Dream," he said.
Western Dream is three short of equalling the number of wins by the Devery's former star, Honkin Vision. "He won fifteen, And every Cup Week when we come up, we call in and see him on the way home. We always look forward to that," he said.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 17May06
Now in her late 50's, Wych has been in hospital care and wheelchair-bound ever since she suffered a stroke five years ago. So even going along to 'local' racemeetings in Auckland and Cambridge requires a great deal of effort; getting on as plane and flying to another city seemed like too much of a task.
But McJorrow stuck to his guns, Wych finally relented, and after what unfolded last week she is coming back - on November 14 to be exact, where she'll be perched proudly ringside to watch Winforu take on the country's best pacers in the NZ Cup. "Mary really didn't want to go south this week," McJorrow reiterated. "But I just had this 'sixth sense'. And knowing what Geoff's comments were leading into the event, I thought this was going to be Winforu's best chance of getting some form again, even though he had drawn the second line."
Geoff is Winforu's trainer Geoff Small, and McJorrow says the Patumahoe horseman was adamant about making a statement on Friday night - as far as the horse was concerned, and as far as the Cup itself was concerned too. "There is no joy in going back and getting boxed in, so the plan was to push forward if we got the chance," he continued. "It was kind of nice how he managed to cross over to the lead right in front of the grandstand where we were watching him from, too. Winforu's a bit bigger and stronger now, and in a way, he was almost due for a win after being unlucky lately."
And what a victory it was. The In The Pocket entire never took his foot off the accelerator once he reached the front, and after speeding home in 27.8 and 29.3 he stopped the clock at a blistering 2:20.5. Not only was it a fantastic performance under the icy cool conditions, because twice he had to battle head-first into a strong easterly wind, but Winforu's time also equalled the national record for an aged male pacer and was the first NZ record this season.
"Mary's certainly got a good set of lungs on her," McJorrow smiled, re-living the final moments of Winforu's victory. "But she just gets such a thrill out of any of his wins, especially since she bred him herself and has followed him all the way through.
"Knowing that the winner of last week's race automatically got into the Cup was always very much in our minds, so it's great that now we don't have to worry. He's better fresh, and we were hoping for the easiest run into the Cup as possible; we didn't really want to go to Kaikoura. His only other race before then will be Ashburton now."
So what does being in this year's Cup mean to the couple? "It's a huge thrill," he said. "Being in Australia to watch him in last year's Inter-Dominions was great, but I accept the fact that the NZ Cup is the 'Holy Grail' of harness racing in this country. And it's any horse owner's dream, especially when you've bred him yourself. You've only got to look at how many horses are bred and raced, and what a small percentage of them actually make it into the Cup. I know Geoff's always wanted to win the race - and I know Winforu's no Elsu either. But if you are in it, you can win it.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 11Oct06
But in the end and where it counted, Ferjiemack and Gotta Go Cullen were locked together as they hit the line - inseparable, even in today's world where technology can sort out the closest of race finishes. Both horses deserved their victories because they worked hard for them...Gotta Go Cullen burned plenty of early petrol into the first bend to wrest the lead that Thorn so dearly wanted, and Fergiemack had been parked from the outset before receiving cover from the only mover in the race (Christian Warrior) 800 metres from home.
At that stage, having gotten away with a couple of easy quarters and seeing where Herlihy was, Thorn let Gotta Go Cullen "go a little bit" and they sped down the back straight in 28.6. The final quarter was half a second faster still; Fergiemack peeled out of his one-one position on the last bend as Changeover surged through on the inside as the line drew nearer, only to fall a half-neck short.
It took what seemed an age before the dead-heat was declared, and even back at the stables you could tell that Thorn was still trying to get her head around what had just unfolded. "It has just started to sink in now," she said, knowing she had created her own little piece of history. "It feels like we lost, but we won. To even draw with Tony in a Group 1 is amazing though, because he is one of the best drivers in New Zealand."
Prior to the Sires' Stakes Final, Gotta Go Cullen had been the star 2-year-old all season, winning five of his seven starts and being placed in the other two. He had even proved to good for Fergiemack in his first three raceday appearances, but many believed that the gap between them had closed - especially since Fergiemack had won his next two starts, and the fact that Gotta Go Cullen had not raced for seven weeks.
Thorn's mind was at rest after the latter's slashing midweek trial at Rangiora. "It wasn't so much the way he went in the trial, but how he recovered," she said. "He showed he was ready for tonight, and that he wasn't stressed by anything. And it was so good to feel him try after he was headed, because he hasn't had to do that much. I was looking for Tony because I know his horse has always got that devastating finish, and my boy had not learnt to race them up until now. He is just going to keep getting better.
For Fergiemack's trainer/driver, he was quite happy to walk away with a shared victory in the Sire' Stakes Final rather than being on the losing end of a nose decision. "He just cocked his head a little bit and got sideways down the straight," Herlihy said, re-living how close Fergismack came to costing himself the race. He made us worry a little bit the first time I started him, and he has lugged out a couple of times since then too. Hopefully the trip down here will help him mature up a bit."
Also by super sire Christian Cullen, Fergiemack never burst onto the 2-year-old scene in the same fashion that Gotta Go Cullen did this season, but he is certainly making up the lost ground now. He has kept improving throughout," Herlihy said. "He has always been good-gaited, and he is still growing and strengthening."
Herlihy says he would definitely rate Fergiemack "in the top five" when it comes to the juveniles he has driven. "I have had some nice ones," he said. "Chokin was the best, and Montana Vance was another good youngster. Bella's Boy was a nice 2-year-old too, and had he not run into a freak like Light And Sound he probably would have won a lot more. "This fellow is pretty exciting though, because he has got a lot of potential."
Fergiemack and Gotta Go Cullen will resume their rivalry when they both step out in the NZ 2-year-old Championship at Alexandra Park on June 16.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 24May06
Butt says Earnshaw was "in the picture" for the drive on Tribute, and said he couldn't see any reason why he'd lose it. "He's won the New Brighton Cup, the Kindergarten Stakes and a heat of the Sires' Stakes Series with the horse, so he really knows how to drive him. He's a good, little horseman, and he did the job for us last week," he said. Earnshaw, in fact, has driven Tribute six times for three wins, two fourths and a miss from his 35 starts.
Tribute set a solid pace in front of his stablemate The Flyin Doctor for much of last Friday's Cup, and he was as strong at the end as he was a lap out. The Flyin Doctor closed well and was a close second, while Roman Gladiator was a sound third, and looks on the verge of hitting immediate winning form.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 20Sep06
The Armbro Invasion 7-year-old furthered a great trot for trainer Kevin Fairbairn in such events lately, with Whatsundermykilt having won the $30,000 Ashburton Flying Mile in 1:57.6 before downing Glenbogle in the $35,000 trot at Kaikoura, and he will now take a two-pronged attack into tomorrow's Group 1 $75,000 NZ Trotting FFA.
Whatsundermykilt was a scratching on Tuesday, but there was nothing amiss with the 8-year-old Sundon gelding. "He is a more lightly framed horse and didn't need two runs in three days, but Glenbogle is a fat bugger just like me, and did need the race - it won't do him any harm anyway," said Fairbairn.
Glenbogle and Whatsundermykilt, the second and third foals from Happy Highlander, a winning trotting mare by Kiltie Boy whose next two dams were by Record Time and Colossal, have returned in rare form this season and Fairbairn says it is simply due to an injury-free and uninterrupted preparation. "Whatsundermykilt put his foot through a grate at the trials here at the start of last season and was lucky not to take his leg off, and that set us back for the rest of the year. Glenbogle had a few niggles along the way as well, but has been perfect so far this time."
Glenbogle began last season well when second at Ashburton to Allegro Agitato and third in the corresponding race last year, but placings continued to be his lot, outside of a win in the Bruce Skeggs Cup at Cranbourne in March. He was runner-up on six occasions during last season's lengthy Australian campaign, which included the Bill Collins Mile, Dullard Cup, Cochran Cup and John Slack Memorial Cup at Ballarat. The latter was won by Whatsundermykilt and the Kaikoura race was the fifth time the half-brothers have quinallaed a feature trot, with the score at present 3-3 to Whatsundermykilt, which all began when Glenbogle upset his stablemate at odds of 30-to-1 in an intermediate trot on Cup Day three years ago. "If they can keep going like this, Happy Highlander must be in the running for a broodmare award, which wouldn't be a bad effort for a mare with such an obscure pedigree."
Young Shane Walkinshaw also won with Whatsundermykilt at Ashburton and Kaikoura, and while he considered winning with Glenbogle and also Woodlea Life on Cup Day as a career highlight, he will be back on the former tomorrow. "There really isn't much between them, but whereas Glenbogle has been a real tradesman, Whatsundermykilt has the razzamatazz. We are only starting to see the best of him now - he has real quick speed when peeling off someone's back."
Walkinshaw, who turned 21 last week, has a cool head for such young shoulders and is a rare talent. Not really from a 'trotting' background, he nevertheless 'caught the bug' at a very early age just from being around the odd horse. He father Paul was a hobby trainer during the 90s, where his best horse was Battle Cruiser (3 wins). Ricky May drove a bit for Dad and he became my idol - I wanted to be a driver and just like him," said Walkinshaw.
"Winning a race on Cup Day was always a dream. I left school when I was sixteen, but the last year I was only there because I had to be," he added. Walkinshaw spent a year with Tommy Behrns and did further work experience in other stables before joining Bruce Negus three years ago.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 16Nov06
"He had that viral infection of the lungs last season, and sometimes they don't come back from those things. And I was starting to wonder whether he would come back from it at all. We were even starting to consider whether his future lied only in racing in America. But he turned the corner with his previous run, and the past week he has been as good as ever," he added.
Higgs took any number of positives from the result. White Arrow now has form for tomorrow's NZ Free-For-All and Higgs can now look beyond this week to the Grand Circuit again, but the satisfaction comes from getting White Arrow back to his best at home, having only had the one workout or trial this time in in September. "When a horse is not right in the lungs, it can take a long time to come right and trials only place undue stress on them. So it was best to bring him along in a controlled enviroment (at home) and get him properly fit with racing, without knocking him around too much."
White Arrow was not ready for a likely searching assignment in the Kaikoura Cup and Higgs had already given the NZ Cup away, not making the last payment, before he raced at Addington on November 3 where he got home almost as well as Flashing Red and Howard Bromac after being last at the half (55.5, 27.5) and finishing a little over three lengths from the winner.
"We reached a point where we could have busted his gut trying to get a Cup start, but it could have undone all the good work we have put in all year. We felt it was best to back off a bit and consider the best long term interests of the horse. It has only been the last week or two that he has been truly cleared to race by the vet. This is a genuine Grand Circuit horse, he is not going to be just a battler at that level."
The latter comment was hard to disagree with after White Arrow overcame the outside of the second line in the mobile 1950m to score in a 1:56.6 mile rate over Likmesiah and Badlands Bute, who were both on the ballot for the Cup. With Higgs free-wheeling in front with speedster Man With The Money, Todd Woodward was on the move from five-back on the outer a lap out; White Arrow took up the running passing the half and went on to fight off Badlands Bute on the outer and Likmesiah's late charge along the inner. "It was in nobody's best interests to try to keep White Arrow wide when he came around, and having burned early, it was only a matter of time before Man With The Money was going to run out of gas anyway."
For both Woodward and Higgs, who races White Arrow with his sister Elaine and Dunedin's Russell Nieper, it was their first wins on Cup Day. Nieper also races Highview Badlands and promising sorts in Radar Installed and trotter Sunshine Boy, all trained by Jim Curtin. "It's just great to have him back. He is the stable star and as long as he is going well, the rest can all be running last and you'd still feel like you're going okay."
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 16Nov06
Part-owner, co-trainer and driver Justin Smith had Some Direction beautifully placed on the outer early, so well positioned in fact that he didn't even need to ask her to move until the field approached the final bend. Once he set her alight Some Direction swept around the field and trucked home better than anything, winning the 3200 metre event in a creditable 4:11.7.
The victory put an end to the run of 'big event almosts' that her and her connections have had to contend with lately, because she has run fourth in each of the last three Group 1 races she has tackled - March's Trotters Championship (to Allegro Agitato), last year's Dominion Handicap (Pompallier) and the NZ Trotting Free-For-All (Allegro Agitato) a week earlier.
It seems like Some Direction has been around for ages - and literally, she has; the Sundon mare gained her first win at Waskdyke in February 2001, over five and a half years ago! In all she has made 120 starts, and has now won 20 of them. Considering that last Friday's win was her first major one, her stakes tally of over $216,000 in amazing in itself, but if anything it just highlights how consistent she's been throughout her career. For the record, those 120 outings have also yielded 17 seconds, 13 thirds, 24 fourths, 11 fifths and 11 sixths...only 16 times has she not taken home a cheque.
"Yeah, she goes pretty good most weeks," said Smith afterwards, in his typically understated manner. She's got speed and she can stay - she hasn't really got any faults. She would be impossible to replace." Now nine, Some Direction still looks and is performing like a horse half her age, and there is no talk of retiring her just yet. "When she won her last race last season, it was one of her best performances ever; that helped decide it," Smith said.
Some Direction's been victorious at Addington 11 times, Ashburton (four), Washdyke (twice), and Rangiora, Oamaru and Forbury Park (once). As that suggests, she is not a horse that the Smiths go very far with. "She's never been a good traveller, even on short trips," he said. "And she's no quite as good the Auckland way round either. There's always another race for her here at home."
Some Direction's next main target will be the Cup Meeting at Addington, where Smith says that backing up three days apart won't worry her one bit. In the touch she's in, it would be no surprise to see her grab an even higher accolade...
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 18Oct06
The grand old campaigner was never in the race after starting from the second row, and even trainer/driver Tony Herlihy conceded that "things looked hopeless" early on. By the time they had swung for home, nothing had changed - Sly Flyin was surronded by a wall of horses and chewing steel, throwing his head in the air. "I thought at the top of the straight that we only needed a gap," Herlihy said. "That's why I had pulled the blinds and his plugs by then; I knew if some space came that it probably wouldn't last very long, so I wanted to have him all revved up and ready to go."
Waiting for his moment to come, Herlihy somehow managed to squeeze Sly Flyin through a narrowing gap inside White Arrow and then let him rip...on a surface deadened by constant rain, the way he ate up the deficit and caught the leaders in less than a furlong was truly remarkable. "I suppose his sprint is his biggest asset, and like a lot of horses he is probably a fraction better coming from behind," Herlihy continued. "But we have never really had the chance to drive him any other way because he is off long marks most of the time. He is a pretty all-round horse though, and he wouldn't give it away easy if he was bowling along in front either."
The Sands A Flyin gelding has now headed back across the Tasman searching for retribution in the Miracle Mile - a race he was primed to win last year before disaster struck. He had won the Newcastle Mile in a sizzling 1:53.6, but just days out from the Miracle Mile his trainer received the heart-wrenching news. "He was staying at Vic Frost's, and Vic rung me on the Monday saying he wasn't happy with him at all. It wasn't his legs this time - they had always looked ugly anyway - it was his near-side hoof that was sore. We got it x-rayed and discovered a growth that was pushing against the pedal bone, so he was flown to Brisbane and ha it removed."
Sly Flyin remained in Australia for about six weeks, then had another three or four months off when he got home; everybody knew it was 'make or break' time afterwards though - Herlihy would try the gelding once more and if he didn't stand up, his career was over. Strangely enough, the 'new' Sly Flyin is as sound as he has ever been. And for that Herlihy continually praises the work by Michelle Wallis at the beach, where Sly Flyin's been stationed for most of the last 18 months.
"With all the spells he has had due to injuries, he actually hasn't had a lot of racing. And he has still got the mind of a young horse. He is very energetic, and always thrives on work and wants to be out there. We bought him up and trialled him two or three times during the winter, but then when there were no races for him we backed off again. In hindsight that was the making of his preparation - because even though he hadn't raced for eleven months, he had been in work close to six. I'm just so pleased for Michelle, because winning the Free-For-All was such a big thrill for her, and all of us. If we can keep him sound, he could be around for another year or two yet."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 22Nov06
In the feature event at Addington on Friday, the Group Two NRM Trotting Stakes for two-year-olds, it was merely a training run for race favourite Fear Factor.
Returning a winning dividend of $1.30, Fear Factor showed her dominance in the first 200m when bolting straight to the lead from barrier four.
It was then an armchair drive for Blair Orange as he dictated the terms and eased the Sundon filly home under a hold in the home straight.
Ulter Boy capitalised on his trail trip, running home for second three-lengths behind the favourite and Sun Lad finished solidly down the outer for third placing.
Fear Factor has now won three races from four starts, two of which have been Group Two features for $46,000 in stakes.
She is now a clear contender in the race for Two-Year-Old Trotting Filly of the Year, with the defection of her closest rival Constar.
Constar was scratched from Friday's race due to a viral complaint.
Credit: Harness Racing New Zealand
Report For Duty made such a swift beginning from his 10m handicap that he was looming up outside the leader Tuherbs within a furlong, but trainer/driver Pat O'Reilly wasn't stopping there. He continued to push on with purpose, eventually crossing to the marker pegs passing the 1900m point.
All of a sudden, O'Reilly's pre-race plan had fallen into place - even earlier than anticipated..."I wanted to run the last mile as quick as we could," he said. "It didn't matter whether he got left parked or what, I was going at the mile. And I wasn't going to hand up to anybody." O'Reilly's tactics stemmed from knowing his pacer is such a great stayer, and faith that if he put the son of Washington VC up on the pace, he wouldn't quit on him. As it was he was left a sitting duck to a horse like Tuherbs poised in behind, but in the end his nearest rival just couldn't get past him.
You can put this down to two things - Report For Duty's scorching final sectionals of 27.8 and 28.9, generated from a horse who has an incredible will to win. O'Reilly did little more than give his pacer small taps with the right rein and whip down the straight, and if anything he was pulling away from them again at the post.
Report For Duty has now made seven appearances for six wins and a second, his only 'glitch' eventuating at Motukarara back in March when he was "knocked down" at the top of the straight before picking himself up to run Lladro to a length. There's over $53,000 in the bin for owner Jock Austin now too - not a bad effort for a horse that never got a bid when he went through the Sale ring, eventually changing hands a month later for $6000. Austin spends his days on Koh Samui, a small island near Taiwan where O'Reilly says he "doesn't do much" after making a successful living out of land development. "I have known him for 25 years, ever since I grazed sheep for him. He was a sheep-truck driver back then, and a real hard case; he worked hard too though. Jock's a great owner, but above all he is a great loser. He never gripes about anything, even if things go wrong," O'Reilly said.
The partnership's been a very lucrative one over the years, but there's every possibility that their latest winner will rise to levels not reached before. And who knows...12 months down the track, Austin might just have to make a trip backto NZ to see his horse line up in the biggest event of them all, because O'Reilly feels he has got a Cup horse on his hands.
"Maybe even two," he enthused, referring to Shea Stadium as well. "He has gone huge tonight, sitting outside Pay Me Christian during the twenty-seven quarter down the back and coming again to run third. They're both as dumb as each other. And Report For Duty' got a lot of growing up to do yet - I reckon he'll be better still in another year."
O'Reilly's two pacing stars are going to slip out of the limelight and have a quiet couple of weeks until Cup time now, and he's already got another target in mind for his latest winner. "I wouldn't mind sending him to Auckland later on," he said. "Just for the Messengerthough, not the mile. He does work better that way around at home."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 11Oct06
There's a good reason why Small's representatives are always worth following whenever he ventures away from hometown Patumahoe though - he doesn't believe in just making up the numbers or giving his owners unnecessary expenses; if a horse comes down to Christchurch, it is a serious chance. And so it proved again.
Changeover was sensational, coming from three-deep along the markers to run down a horses like Gotta Go Cullen. It's true that the latter was 'softened up' somewhat by Days Of Courage siting outside him, and Changeover had everything go his way, but he still must have paced his last half in under 55 seconds to do so and that's lightning quick!
"He is a heck of a nice horse, so it didn't really surprise me," Small said of the performance. "The only worry I had was that it was his first-up run, but he seems to have come through it okay. It did pan out for him though, he followed the speed good and kept at it. That is his real long suit."
Raced by the Auckland Trotting Club's Trot 2006 Syndicate, Changeover was resuming after a four-month spell on Friday but he was pretty ready for it. So was driver David Butcher, who got stopped on numerous occasions during the racemeeting at Cambridge the night before. "Everywhere I walked people were coming up to me and saying,'so, what are you going to do with Changeover?'," Butcher smiled. "That is the joy of having so many owners in the one horse though, they are having a lot of fun. He was always going to be a bit better with time. Because he was quite a big horse at two, but he did a good job all the same," Butcher said.
Changeover had been off the place twice in readiness for his resumption this season, and his trainer was happy enough. "His two trials up here were really good, and then he went down to Christchurch about eight days before the race. I flew down on Monday to work him at Addington, and he felt like he was ticking along quite nicely," Small said. "We opted not to go to Aussie at the end of last season because we thought he just needed more maturity. And he is really suited to Addington because it's a big track, it's where he can show off his staying prowess. At this stage of his career that is where he races best."
Changeover will reside in Canterbury for the meantime, with his main target being the Sires' Stakes Series and the next heat on October 20. Small said he's 'allowed' for another heat at the same course in case he doesn't qualify during the first one he tackles, and after the Sires' Stakes Final on Cup Day his next big mission is the Sales Series race back in Auckland towards the end of the year.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 11Oct06
"After we got such a good draw, the plan was to begin and hopefully lead then hand up to somethihg good," Walkinshaw said afterwards. Whatsundermykilt really is an amazing horse, and you've got to hand it to Kevin because both of them have got such great manners. I couldn't believe they were writing us off after his Show Day run (seventh); he just didn't handle the wet, and I was rapt in the way he ran home that day."
Ever since he first began his career, Whatsundermykilt looked as if he would go all the way to the top. Fairbairn has nursed the son of Sundon and nurtured that potential, and last week it was realised with a victory which was the biggest by far for everyone concerned - horse, owners, trainer and driver.
"Last year was going to be his year, but he nearly cut his leg off when he got it caught in a grill here one day at the trials," an emotional Fairbairn said. "I always knew he was something special this horse, because in the early days he used to give them a furlong start and still run in the money. Having Shane on him has made a huge difference, too. But no, this is very special... you know, you foal the old mare, then you have the horse on the property every day bar the ones when he's been out for a spell or in Aussie. That takes a lot of beating."
Talking of Australia, that's where Whatsundermykilt and Glenbogle are headed next and we'll fly out on December 3. Venturing across the Tasman with his two trotters is not new for Fairbairn because he has done it for a few years now, and he is adamant about the reasons why. "What, should we leave them at home and waste them?" he said. "There is a lot for them over there between now and February - the Bill Collins Mile, Grand Prix, Dullard Cup and Australian Trotters Championship, not to mention the Inter-Dominions in between. I chose not to start 'Scotty' (Whatsundermykilt) in the race that 'Glen' (Glebogle) won on Cup Day because he's not as heavy as the other horse. Besides, I actually thought that the stake - for the main trotting event on Cup Day - was pitiful; they couldn't both win it."
Whatsundermykilt and Glenbogle, sons of three-win Kiltie Boy mare Happy Highlander, have now won 11 races each and over $515,000 between them. The mare's due to foal to Sundon any day soon, her connections hoping for a filly, and she will be going back to the same stallion. Oddly enough, Happy Highlander's first foal was the Greg Patron pacer Jimmy Patron, who Fairbairn trained to run three placings from 19 starts. Six seasons passed before Happy Highlander foaled again - that being last Friday's Dominion winner, who's noe eight. Glenbogle's a 7-year-old by Armbro invasion, and following since have been Highland Rascal (6yo gelding by Simon Roydon, six unplaced starts to date), Glenloch (4yo gelding by Armbro Invasion, unraced to date), Lexie Highlander (3yo filly by Armbro Invasion) and Tossthecaber (2yo gelding by Armbro Invasion). "Glenloch's away with the fairies at this stage, but can trot nice; LexieHighlander has been turned out and is not bad, and Kerry O'Reilly liked Tossthecaber when he broke him in for us," Fairbairn said.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 29Nov06