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Doug Mangos, who drove major winners in the 1960s and 70s, died in Christchurch on Friday (6 Jan)at the age of 76.
Constantine Ronald Douglas Mangos (licenced as D R Mangos) was employed at Roydon Lodge, Yaldhurst for some 35 years. The establishment was operated by Sir John and later Sir Roy McKenzie with George Noble the trainer during the time Mangos was there.
Mangos was licenced to drive at trials in 1954 and he was granted a probationary drivers licence two years later. He was an open horseman from the 1957-58 season when he drove Highland Air to win the Winter Handicap at Forbury Park. He drove La Mignon to win the main race, the C F Mark Memorial Handicap and the Farewell Handicap on the second night of the Auckland winter meeting in 1958.
La Mignon became the dam of Roydon Roux, whom Mangos drove in her seven wins, including the NZ Golden Slipper Stakes at Waimate, Princess Stakes in Auckland and the NZ Futurity Stakes at Rotorua, at two. She won the 1971 Great Northern Derby and the Wraith Memorial in Sydney the following season. She had to be destroyed after she shattered a pastern in Melbourne in March of her 3-year-old season.
Mangos drove Scottish Laddie to win the 1963 Great Northern Derby. Scottish Laddie was trained at Trentham by Jack Hunter for Roy McKenzie. Mangos drove General Frost to win the inaugural NZ Juvenile Championship in Auckland in 1968. The Noble-trained General Frost also won the Golden Slipper Stakes and the NZ Futurity Stakes at Rotorua with Mangos in the sulky. Mangos drove Vista Abbey to win a heat of the Inter-Dominion in Auckland in 1968.
Mangos was granted a professional training licence in 1969 to prepare the Roydon Lodge horses in the absence of Noble. He drove Jay Ar in three wins in top company, the season after the gelding had dead-heated for first with Robin Dundee in the Inter-Dominion Final at Forbury Park in 1965 with Noble in the sulky.
Brent Mangos, a son of Doug, is the Pukekohe trainer of Bettor Cover Lover, who made a notable retun to racing to win the Group 1 Queen Of Hearts at Alexandra Park on December 16 after a life-threatening injury to a foot eight months earlier.
Doug Mangos had his last driving win with Initial Thought at Addington in July, 2004. He trained Talaspring to win at a Franklin meeting in March, 2010.
Credit: HRWeekly 11Jan2012
Doug Mangos, who died in Christchurch recently aged 76 had the unusual distinction of being widely known harness horseman in Canterbury over a long period without ever operating a professional stable of his own.
He was an employee for 35 years of the famous Roydon Lodge establishment at Yaldhurst presided over by George Noble and, later, with his son, John, on behalf first of Sir John McKenzie, then his son Sir Roy, and finally Wayne Francis. Mangos did manage Roydon Lodge for a period in 1969 while George Noble was in the United States but his public profile was as a race driver.
"It was really the only job I ever had and I wouldn't have swapped one day of it," he recalled in retirement. "My wife Eileen and I had a family to bring up and it was too great a risk financially to set up our own stable."
Born in Lyell, he was christened in honour of his grandfather, Constantin, a gold assayer in the area where the Mangos family were prominent. He preferred his third given name, Douglas. The son of Lyell storekeepers who moved to Inangahua in the 1940s, he helped a local trainer "Plugger" Taylor after school, before shifting to Christchurch in 1950. He found a junior position at Roydon Lodge largely thanks to the brother of his future wife, Eileen. "We were paid three pounds a week and we had 15 horses in work but it wasn't what it seemed. The boss [Noble] used to work each horse twice and ungear and wash them down after each heat so it was like having a team of 30."
Mangos, a talented sportsman in his younger days, had his first winning drive behind Highland Air in Dunedin in the mid 1950s. "You had to wait your turn then. Young drivers didn't get much of a go. The driving fee was equal to a week's wages so it was a thrill to get one."
Roydon Lodge was the leading stable in the country in that era, noted for its brilliant younger horses. Noble, an Australian, took a shine to his young employee giving him greater driving opportunities than was normal for senior professionals at the time. "The boss was a qualified architect and applied his education to training like few others. He loved talking about horses and appreciated good listeners. I was a good listener and I never stopped learning." Mangos recalled.
He found out how thorough Noble was after he had beaten the champion Lordship in a Wellington Cup with Samantha in the early 1960s. Showered with congratulations at the time, the young driver was summoned to the Noble residence a few days later for a chat, which he gradually realised was actually a severe dressing down. "There were no videos then but the boss had seen a photo of the finish somewhere published a few days after the race, which showed me holding the reins in one hand ans weilding the whip in the other. He quietly said he couldn't be giving drives on good horses to people who did that. I never did it again."
Mangos had his first New Zealand Cup drive for the stable in 1957, aged just 22, behind the Roydon Lodge mare, La Mignon, which finished third, and he later won major races behind her two best foals - the ill-fated Roydon Roux, a filly Noble rated as the best he trained but which had to be destroyed after it fractured a pastern in Melbourne at the height of its career; and Garcon Roux, the first New Zealand three-year-old to beat the then hallowed mark of two minutes for a mile.
Jay Ar, a later Inter-Dominion champion, General Frost, Julie Hanover and Garcon Dór were just some of the headline horses Mangos drove for Roydon Lodge, while Holy Hal, Sapling, Rain Again, Master Alan, Danny's Pal and Garry Logan were top outside horses he was associated with. "I won a New Brighton Cup with Garry Logan when it was on the old grass track there. He was part of a four-horse bracket Felix Newfield had in the race. Felix was away and Maurice Holmes was on the best of them, Great Credit. Doug Watts, a terrific horseman, was driving another one, Guinness, and said to me at the start at least he had not been engaged for the worst one. Garry Logan shot straight to the front and was never headed." Mangos recalled.
Doug Mangos enjoyed a rewarding period as a freelance driver in Auckland in later years and then trained a few horses at a time in Canterbury on his own account, chiefly for sale overseas. Isa Rangi and his last winner, Talaspring, were among the best known.
Combined with his acknowledged skills with horses and his loyalty to family and employers it made Mangos a widely popular figure in the racing fraternity.
Credit: David McCarthy writing in the Press
Bryce Buchanan passed away last week after a short illness, aged 68.
A respected and forthright horseman, formerly from Southland before settling in Canterbury, Buchanan was the father of Glenys and father-in-law of Terry Chmiel. He was successful in all aspects of harness racing, as a breeder, trainer and driver and studmaster.
He gained his licence in 1960 with a recommendation from Charlie Dillon, moving to Templeton in 1964 to work for Jack Carmichael. In 1968 he gained a licence to train his own horses, and soon after settled briefly at Ohoka. He returned south, and in 1976 had established Cedar Lodge Stud, where he stood the stallions Knowing Bret, Gaines Minbar, Transport Chip and Mister Hillas.
It was a time when he had great success as a trainer, winning 20 races in the 1980-81 season, 16 in 81/82 and 19 in 82/83. Horses of this era included La Valaise, Really Sly, Lord Dalrae, Seafield Celeste (5 wins), Sly Chip, Kiwi Dillon, Chippies Girl and Kiwi River. It was also the time he bred Maestro by Gaines Minbar from Dreamy Melody. He was sold to Bob Knight as a 2-year-old, and (as Our Maestro) developed into a great pacer, winning a heat of the Inter-Dominions and a Miracle Mile.
In 1994, he moved to Winton, and then to Leeston in Canterbury where he trained in partnership with Glenys. Terry spoke of the influence he was to their family and career. "He was always there to give us help and advice, and provided the property from where we train. He gave us owners, and was always so good with our kids. He was straight up, and said what he thought. That was him. The salute I gave on winning on Saturday (the Sapling Stakes with Boom Gate) was really for Bryce," he said.
Buchanan's biggest winner was probably the grand trotter Cedar Fella, who won him seven races in the early 90s, before he won a further 10 for Warren Stapleton. Smart horses he trained with Glenys were the trotters Power In Motion(6) and Lord Rotarian(5), Superkev(6), Don't Tell Kate(4), and Buster Mee(3), and on his own account Rupeni, Pocket Boy, Diggers Rest, Truly Princess(3), Don't Tell Kate(3), All Care(3), Lover's Wish(3), One Night In Bangkok(3), Power In Motion, Lord Rotarian, Beelzebub(3), Just Ella(6), Caste Di(5), Megaman(4), Franco Revel(4) and Castle Van(4).
He trained two winners this season and 137 since 1985. Along with 74 trained in the five seasons before that, his winning total as a trainer was probably near 250. His best seasons as a driver were between 1981 and 1983 when he won 55 races, and he'd won at least 100 before adding a further 80 from 1985. In giving his family opportunities, he drove only 12 times in the past 11 seasons.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 15Feb2012
Ken Robertson, who won numerous standardbred races over 54 years training on the beach at Ocean View (near Dunedin), has died at the age of 83. Robertson achieved most of his success with unsound horses or those considered past their prime. He was an exponent of beach training before it was generally popular.
There was a private funeral for Robertson as he requested. It was attended by his wife of 54 years, Carole, and only child, Carla, who is married to Leithfield Beach trainer, Robbie Holmes. Roberson had a winning experience as an owner a month before his death when his black and cerise colours were carried by Double El at Cromwell. Carla arranged for him to lease a share in the promising Holmes-trained pacer a fortnight earlier in view of his failing health. Double El has since been sidelined with a foot problem.
Robertson was born in Cromwell in November, 1928. He lived in Dunedin as a youth close to the Forbury Park racecourse and gained experience with trainer Alec Crawford. He was at Ocean View when he bought his first horse, Red Glare, for "next to nothing". Robertson trained and drove Red Glare to win at Kurow in 1954 at odds of 25 to one. Nicknamed "Brickie" he was then involved in the building trade and trained as a hobby.
He turned professional in the 1960s after many requests to try horses whose owners felt needed a change of environment or were unsound. He won the main race at Forbury Park in October, 1965 with Lauder Scott, the outsider in a 10-hosre field. Lauder Scott was then a 9-year-old and had not won for 12 months.
Adioway and Master Alan were the same age when they won good races for Robertson. He considered the win of Adioway in the Mobil Oil Flying Mile at Addington in 1968 as his best. Adioway came from last at the top of the straight to beat some of the best horses in commission. Adioway had won 8 of 19 starts when trained at Yaldhurst by George Noble. The gelding was unsound and had not raced for two and a half years when he was leased by Robertson and Jim Crack, of Invercargill.
Robertson rejuvenated Master Alan to win the Southland Invitation Stakes at Gore in 1967 when the gelding had been off the winning list for two years. Master Alan had earlier won 16 races including the Easter Cup at Addington. The trotter Morven Lad ended a losing streak of 84 starts over four years when he won for Robertson at Roxburgh in 1970.
He won with the trotter Neutron Bomb at Invercargill in 1997 at odds of 35 to one. Neutron Bomb, co-owned by Kerry Dance, was then a 10-year-old and had his previous win as a pacer three years earlier. Robertson and Dance won five races with Doone's Chip in the early 1990s.
Robertson raced horses on all bar two of the South Island tracks and ventured to Hawera where he won with Johnny Shiloh in 1973. Robertson won six races as an owner with the trotter Perfect Trust in 1990s, training the gelding for his last three wins.
Robertson knew the distance his horses worked on the beach but he never timed them and rarely took a horse to a racetrack to trial. "I work them solidly, no jogging with two or three sharp sprints, I know by the feel if they are fit," he said in an interview three years ago. His skill had not dimmed in the twilight of his career with four of his last five winners having their first starts from his stable. The last was the trotter Harvey Krumpet at Forbury Park in June, 2008, the outsider in a 14-horse field, paying $73.30 to win.
Credit: HRWeekly 29Feb2012
Omn Friday, February 17, 2012 when the family and friends of Les Hope were gathering after his funeral, his filly, Gayless Delight was running at Motukarara. Ricky May wore a black armband and the Trackside team spoke about Les's passing. Gaylees Delight ran courageously for a second.
Hope who was 72, was a Marlborough man, the youngest boy of 11 children. As a youngster, he represented Marlborough at rugby and cricket. At 15 years, he left school and became a butcher's boy. He then went shearing with his brother 'Bluey' and followed the seasons from Marlborough through to Southland.
He would winter over working in the meatworks in Gore. It was there he met his wife Gaynor. He took her back to Marlborough and into their own very successful butchery and other businesses. Hope was a publican, a property developer, a farmer and latterly he and Maurice McQuillan operated a Super Liquor outlet. Regrettably, Gaynor died some 24 years ago.
In his early life, Hope's father was a teamster with horses and dray carting gravel and goods throughout Marlborough. This love of horses took the family into racing with 'Bluey' racing the talented free-legged pacer Robalan during the 1970's. Les had many horses including some good ones, and his interest flourished particularly in later years when he had them trained by his nephew Greg Hope.
Hope was one of the many on whose support harness racing relies. They hope one day to make some money but they do not expect to, they love the horses and the convivial company and they dream that one day they will have a champion.
Credit: HRWeekly 29Feb2012
Kevin Ryder, who died in Christchurch recently aged 88, was a remarkably versatile horseman. He crossed many paths successfully, as a breeder, owner, trainer, driver and notably as a trader. He was never shy at voicing his opinion, an irregular contributor to the 'Weekly's' Letter columns, an author, and latterly an advisor of sorts to the Meadowlands video streaming.
He performed with distinction on the international stage, training and trading in the US when he was based at Yonkers in the 1970s.
Ryder was born in Blackball, one of five children raised on the family farm at Inchbonnie. In 1937, when he had just left school to work on the farm, he bought his first horse, a 2-year-old by Grattan Loyal. "I had no idea how to train a horse, but I pressed on regardless," he said. Six years later he put down a track, and 10 years after that he won his first race, at Westport in 1953 with Helen Patch, a mare he'd leased from Iris Litten. Not only did she win on the first day, but on the second day as well, by two lengths off 36 yards. Other winner for him during this time were First Dieman, Bay Prince, Private Lady (4 wins), Conquistador and Chiefly.
Ryder moved into thoroughbreds in the late 50s, standing at stud the stallions Red Jester and Prince Mahal, and they were joined by Allegiance, an unraced son of Light Brigade and Princess Medoro. In 1963, Ryder moved to Canterbury with his wife Bev and their six children - Patricia, Gavan, Francis, Melvin, Chris and Peter - living first at Clarkville then at Kaiapoi. He worked at this time for Jack Litten and Clarrie Rhodes, where Leicester Tatterson was Clarrie's private trainer. Ryder recalled: "It always amazed me how fast Leicester could harness and unharness a horse. He seemed to pick up a set of harness, hopples, bridle and boots, and in a flash the horse was all harnessed up."
He had three stints working for Litten, when he trained the speedy Peerswick, and he was with Litten when he bought Westland King as a weanling. By Goodland, Westland King set a mile trotting record from a standing start as a 2-year-old in 1966 of 2:12 2-5 which still stands today. He ran a mile record against time at the same age of 2:08 2-5, and won two at the Kaikoura meeting as a 3-year-old. "He was probably my favourite horse but sadly had bad legs." He raced just nine times in four seasons and won five races, later siring the grand trotter, Stormy Morn.
In 1967 he bought land and moved Westland King to Yaldhurst where he started a short career as a public trainer. Two of his best horses there were Apollo King - "the fastest beginner In ever saw" - and Tullamore Dew, another by Goodland - he said was "a heartbreak." Tullamore Dew could pace and trot, and in fact set records at both gaits. Ryder had thoughts he could be a Cup or Dominion Handicap horse. Philipino, yet another by Goodland, had ability at both gaits and was a good horse later for Denis Nyhan.
Another acquistion to the stable at this time was Robert Dunn, sent from Wellington by his parents because he was "horse mad." They told Ryder: "Work the hell out of him; see that he gets sick of it so he'll come back to Wellington and get on with his studies."
Soon after, in 1972, Ryder was off to America, as an attendant on air shipment of horses. He returned home and went back in 1974, taking Banksey Butler, a horse he had bought in Australia for $4000. "The business-like manner of racing in the United States always impressed me," he said later.
Horses he bought and sold while in the States included Highland Champ, Brown Brazil, Logan Lady, Urbinoro, Le True and Sogo, and those he sold while back later in NZ were Whispering Campaign, Hal Tempa, Timely Hostess, Via Vista, Tempo Cavalla, Tebaldi, Smooth Dave, Doctor Inglis, Countess Gina, Tac Warrior, Nautilus, Lumber Leon, Jester Boy, Lady's Rule, Matt Flinders, Bound To Be, Big Bucks and Matai Bret.
In 1977, and considering that he'd become a grandfather, Ryder decided to settle down and bought land at West Melton. He did what he was good at - buying and selling. He soon had three smart ones - By The Way, Ambleside and Tempest Tiger. By The Way was a smart trotting mare who won six races in one season. Tempest Tiger raced for only one season, becoming the first mare to win the Messenger Stakes when Jack Smolenski drove her and she shared the NZ mile record for a mare, at 1:58.5, with Westburn Vue.
Tempest Tiger left Franco Tiger, who won the Miracle Mile and was considered by Ryder as the best he had. "I started him three times at trials and he won them all. Then two starts at the races, one at Forbury and one at Addington, both of which he won quite easily. Keeping to my policy, I sold him to Australia where he earned over one million dollars. He did not pull an he was a flawless pacer. He had an impeccable nature and a 100% racing attitude, had a wonderful head and a nice homest-looking eye."
Ryder used his own theories for training. "I've always held the view that if a horse is really good, it doesn't matter much who trains it. The key is to get to know what suits the horse best. Some take a lot of work and others take very little, and it's just a matter of working this out. I have read various books on training horses but while you may pick up the odd handy hint from them, I don't hold much store with training by the book. I preferred to learn from experts like the legendary Jack Litten. Jack would take his horses out and trot two rounds of the track (2400m) and then gallop five (6000m). He galloped reasonably fast but not off the bit. He would not let any horse pace free-legged. He used no bandages or liniments and had no lame horses, except for his NZ Derby winner Doctor Barry, who was a bad horse to crossfire. However, one bit of advice I can give to young trainers is this: that young horse you are fairly much in love with is only half as good as you think it is."
His son Chris said his father wasn't shy of voicing a good an lengthy story, whether it was a West Coast happening, or a rather hair-raising touch and go horse trading experience. "He loved to watch my horses racing live on the computer and he took well to the internet, so much so that he would proudly tell me how he was emailing his racetrack management skills to the No. 1 track in the US.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 7Mar2012
Rod Geddes was 56 when he died suddenly at his Greenpark home recently. A dairy farmer, Geddes was a passionate and successful breeder, trainer and driver, most of his horses named with the 'Dryden' attachment.
His best horse was Dryden Amanda, trained by his father Jim for eight wins and one when they trained in partnership at the end of her career. That was when she won the Ashburton Cup from Ansett and Mytop Sweetie. Rob handled her in nearly all of her 62 starts and in all of her nine wins, including a memorable Show day performance at Addington when she came from last on the corner in a C6-8 free-for-all to beat Mighty Me and Win A Bottle. He trained the good Game Pride - Secret Sign mare Game Dryden to win seven races, and he won six with Honky Tonk Dryden. His last drive was at Addington with Coolit G T Dryden on March 30.
"He was into the horses from the day he was born," recalled his brother Jim. "From the time he was five, he was out there helping Dad, and he was driving work when he was ten. And when the kids were young it was non-stop pony club and watching them play rugby, and Rob went right through the grades playing for Waihora."
He is survived by his wife Barbara, sons Brent, who is licenced, and Ryan who was, and daughter, Nikki. Both Brent and Ryan are riders for the iconic Crusader horsemen before home Super 15 matches in Christchurch.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 25Apr2012
Frank Bebbington spent a lifetime involved in all aspects of harness racing - as a breeder, owner, trainer and driver with his latest administrative position being a recent appointment as an Ashburton Racecourse Trustee. He died recently, aged 80, before attending a meeting.
Bebbington began his work as a volunteer when he joined the Mid-Canterbury OTB. He became a member of the Ashburton Trotting Club and a steward in 1982 before joining the committee in 1985 and serving as president from 1998 until 2001. His involvement in club activities included the construction of the barn and Davidson stand, track improvements, the centennial fund, the introduction of the Hambletonian, and membership on the joint management committee. On his retirement he was made a life member of the club in 2004.
The first good horse Bebbington handled was Robert Medoro - "handy but underrated"- said recently retired club general manager Trevor Robinson, and trained by his father, Reg. He stood at stud Mercedes and Avalon Globe, and had great success with the trotters, Globe Tour and Royal Armour, who both won nine. Globe Tour was by Avalon Globe, by Lordship, and Royal Armour was by Protector and had enormous ability but raced intermittently over four seasons. He won seven races in his 4-year-old season and two from five starts as a 6-year-old, winning a double at the old National meeting, betting Break Through and Tony Bear on the first night and Johnny Gee and Break Through on the second.
Robertson said he would br missed for his smile, humour and levelheadedness.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 25Apr2012
DAVID McCARTHY INTERVIEWS BOBBY NYHAN
Q. How did you get the drive behind Cardy?
A. Actually I really don't know. I knew Wolfie from Wellington a bit but we were not friends or anything. He rang out of the blue and asked if I would take a horse over to Addington to keep Cardy company and then drive him in the Flying Stakes at Ashburton.
A. Merv Deans (husband of owner Audrey) was the only stable rep there. He insisted I go to the front. I was off 36 yards and it wasn't going to be as easy as he thought. When I went Jack Litten called out to the others and they all took off. I was annoyed because I looked bad but I had no option.
Q. You kept the drive?
A. At Forbury Park I told them I was going to do it my way. As it happened Robin Dundee who was on the way up then, beat us. Peter came down for the Hannon Memorial. I drove Gildirect who was past his best then but we were fifth and beat Cardy home. Peter said to me either the horse wasn't right or he needed a lot more work and we didn't have much time to find out. His work was stepped up dramatically. He thrived on it. Went through the Cup meeting unbeaten.
Q. You started with your father, Tom?
A. For a while but his team was never big. My first winner (1955) was Bypass at Omoto, trained by Johnny Crofts who lived next door. He predicted he would give me my first winner. It rained all day and the mist was so low you could hardly see where you were going. Dad then loaned me to Jack Litten for a few days to help out and I was there for four years.
Q. What made him special as a trainer?
A. He was just a great horseman, the best I worked with. I can't say enough about the man. They were the happiest days of my life really. When Mum said I looked tired soon after I started I said "When Jack says run, I run" and he rather liked that when he heard it. You didn't just learn about horses. You killed and dressed chickens, raised turkeys and lambs, tended pigs, handled stallions, the whole bit. Jack loved animals of all sorts. He was years ahead of most with young horses and the best of that was he didn't just pressure cook them like some. We each had a group to educate and when I paraded mine one year I pointed to one as clearly ahead of the rest. Jack looked at what seemed a potential 2-year-old star to me and said he thought he would put him aside until later. That was Happy Ending, a cup class stayer. Not many trainers would have done that. He did almost cost me the drive on Lookaway in the Cup though.
A. Leicester Roper was training him for Clarrie Rhodes then. Cliff Irvine had got him right but he was always a bit suspect. I had driven Lookaway in a trial and was to drive him in another one at Ashburton otherwise he would never be ready for the Cup. Jack suddenly told Clarrie I was needed at home. In the end Clarrie agreed to pick me up in his new Super Snipe close to the trial and bring me straight back afterward. I had never been so fast in a car. Even the fellows working on the train tracks dropped their tools to stare. I think there was something between Clarrie and Jack which sparked that. Lookaway had a nice run in the Cup but he just ran out of condition in the last 100m (4th from 24yds). He was the most brilliant horse I have ever driven. With one run at them he was unbeatable. But we didn't have a happy ending.
Q. In that?
A. He won the Allan Matson and Clarrie was desperate to start him in the Free-For-All later in the day when they had two races for the best horses. The horse just wasn't going to be able to cope with that in his condition but Clarrie overruled us. He felt awful in his preliminary and I pulled him out of the race.
Q. When you moved to Belfast with Cecil Donald it was quite different?
A. Cecil wasn't so much into young horses but he had a lot of older ones and sometimes it was a challenge just to get them worked especially in the winter. His track was good in the summer but the ground was heavy in winter and the sand track became a quagmire. Cecil was also very patient setting a horse for a race under the handicapping system then. Sometimes you didn't look too good driving to instructions.
Q. There was a heap of open class horses in the stable then. Did one stand out?
A. Probably Indecision even though he didn't have the best record and people knocked him because he was a dissappointment at stud. But he had enormous heart, a great will to win. He hardly had a sound day in his life - ligament problems mostly - and perhaps because of that he was vicious. I was the only one who could handle him at one stage. When he got to the races though, especially over two miles he tried his heart out and beat some top fields in races like the Ashburton Cup, Rangiora Cup, those sort of events. The open horses would always line up in those races then. He was certainly the most underrated.
Q. Rauka Lad was one of the best horses you were associated with?
A. He should have won Globe Bay's Cup (1972). It was the biggest disappointment of my career. I know it is an old story but he was spot on that day (favourite on both totes) and his was the run of the race. There was not much pace on early and he was never at his best when he didn't have room. He got a shove and galloped. Went a huge race afterward.
Q. Where did he come from?
A. We were at Oamaru one day and Cecil (Donald) told me to drive the float to Eddie Forsyth's (Waimate) on the way home because he was going to buy a horse off him. The horse was Dreamy Morn but Eddie wouldn't sell. Finally he pointed to Rauka Lad which had had a few starts and said "Buy him instead. You won races with his half-brother and you will with him." So he came home with us. Jack Hall bought him for £1500. He had won a race but he had fallen twice and was considered a problem. Cecil let his hopples out from 55 inches to 59 and he won nine of his next 11 start. But he was never foolproof and it caught up with him that day.
Q. Chief Command was another?
A. A brother to Indecision but quite different. He had a great nature. He won the NZ Free-For-All in front and they said Holy Hal was unlucky but nothing was going to beat him the way the race went. He was probably Peter Van Der Looy's first good horse and he trained his own later.
Q. Commissioner was a smart one?
A. Commissioner was the most unusual top horse I drove. He had one speed - flat out. I have never known a horse who could pull so hard for so long and still win big staying races like the New Brighton Cup was then. You really wanted to be in front though!
Q. Chaman was another?
A. He was the first horse to pay three figures to win after dollars and cents came in ($112) and I think it might have only been beaten once still. He was by Brahman and hit a knee bad which held him back. The old trainers had their tricks and one used with Chaman saw him just bolt in one day. A tough horse.
A. My favourite was Front Line which the Baxters who had Battle Cry raced and Jack Litten trained. He had a twisted front leg and was often sore. He was very tricky to get going early. I thought he was a wonderful trotter when you considered that. I drove Mighty Chief for Trevor Mounce when he paid $84 at Addington. Never looked like getting beaten. He kept coming back disn't he?
Q. After Cecil's death you seemed to drop out of the limelight. What happened?
A. The estate was complicated. I had a small team at Bill Pearson's Arizona Lodge near the Rangiora track and working on the works. Trio was there for a while and I had Game Way and Joy Boy. Game Way had the smallest testicles you would ever see but he was a really good trotter and he sired good winners. I thought Joy Boy was too good to go to Westport but the owners didn't agree. He won there and I lost him soon afterward. I had an option to buy the property but my wife was not keen. My biggest disappointment was that I was offered a top free-lance driving job in the North Island with a leading stable about that time but for personal reasons I could not take it up. I would have loved to have done that.
Q. You seemed to fade off the scene for a while?
A. I had a few run ins with (stipe) Neil Escott and didn't think I got a good deal (we have settled our differences long since) and I copped a big fine I thought was tough and gave it up. We ran a restaurant in Rangiora for a while and I helped (son) Mark get started with gallopers. David Butt got me back to help him out when he started at Woodend quite a few years later. His mother Jackie (daughter of Jack Litten) and I had been friends for a long time and she playrd a part in getting me back.
Q. Your most rewarding time since?
A. Helping establish the inside track at Rangiora and winning the first totalisator race on it with Hard Cash was a highlight. A team worked at improving the training track and then (stipe) Les Purvis inspected it and said it was good enough for qualifying trials so we started workouts there and it just kept improving. Brian Ritchie played a big role and Russell De Gana was another key player. When we started workouts we would take the noms over the phone, Brian would print them on a Gestetner and I'd go home and we would ring every trainer with a horse in. In some ways that old enthusiasm has gone now.
Q. You drove Cardy but what other horses stick in your mind?
A. The day Johnny Globe won the Cup (1954) will always be with me. I was just a kid but people were jumping over fences trying to get a hair of his tail. I have never seen an outpouring of emotion for a horse in my time like that day. I don't think we will ever see that again. Then there was Lordship - and not just because I am a Nyhan! He was a great horse by any measure especially the injuries he survived and still won with.
Credit: David McCarthy writing in HRWeekly 16May & 2June2012
Russell Morton described the late Murray Gray as direct and uncomplicated, black and white. "There was nothing gray about him," said Morton, who had helped at his stables for the past seven years and led the funeral service for Murray. He died at Ryal Bush on May 27 aged 63. "He had the strength and confidence to do the right thing with horses; he knew when to be patient, to get the right response or when tough love was required," Morton added.
When it came to greatest moments in harness racing, there is no doubt Giovanetto provided them for Gray. Bred in partnership and trained by him throughout his 59 start career, the entire son of Fitch II and Bella Ragazza won 18 times including the 1991 Welcome Stakes, and in 1992 the Southern Supremacy Stakes, 4yo Rising Stars, Hannon Memorial and Monsanto Free-For-All.
The paths of Giovanetto and Chokin crossed regularly and when Giovanetta finished second in the 1991 3yo Rising Stars and 3yo Sires Stakes, Chokin was the victor. The same was the case when Giovanetto ran third in the 1991 2yo Sires Stakes, the 2yo Championship an the 1993 New Zealand Cup. A year earlier he finished second in the Cup, denied then by Blossom Lady
At the time, Giovanetto was the best Gray had bred but that all changed when his half brother Holmes D G, by Holmes Hanover arrived. Gray developed Holmes D G, qualified him at Wyndham as a juvenile in 1997 and took him to Forbury Park for his debut with son Brett in the sulky. "We lost 80 of 90 metres at the start," recalled Brett. "He finished second (beaten three quarters of a length). That run created the real interest in him." Sold before he raced again, Holmes D G went on to win all-but $2 million.
One of six in a family, Gray's parents ran the Makarewa freezing works farm. He attended Makarewa Primary and Southland Tech High, excelling in athletics, cross country and rugby. After leaving school at age 15 and worked as a farm hand for a time, he went shearing. He married Jen at Milton in August, 1970 and after Brett they had two daughters, Joanna and Paula.
While still a shearer, Gray and family moved next door to the property of Ron Barron. That was when his interest in harness racing grew to participation. According to Brett, his father's involvement then was still as an amateur, gradually changing to a professional level about 30 years ago when he moved to Ryal Bush.
Gray was a successful breeder, seller, owner, trainer, driver and administrator, being a driving force and founding member of Southland Caduceus Club, head for a time of the Owners Trainer Breeders (OTB) organisation, prominent in the Standardbred Breeders Association and a Trustee for Kids Kartz. He trained the winners of about 150 races and also drove a few. When Giovanetto was a 3yo he was in the sulky six times for six wins.
Outside harness racing Gray was active in the Makarewa Country Club during its early years and president of the Ryal Bush Community Centre.
Credit: HRWeekly 13June2012
Respected harness racing administrator Jim Wakefield has been recognised for his servises to the industry in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. Wakefield has been awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM).
Pat O'Brien, the chairman of Harness Racing New Zealand, said the award was thoroughly deserved. "It recognises Jim's outstanding contribution to the industry in a number of areas over an extended period. As HRNZ's chairman, Jim was a strong and passionate leader with great integrity. Not only has he provided a significant contribution as an administrator, he has been, and continues to be, heavily involved as a breeder and owner. Harness Racing is certainly richer for his involvement and it is great for him to be officially recognised through this award."
Wakefield represented the NZ Trotting Owners Association on HRNZ's Executive from 2000 to 2010, and was Chairman from 2000 to 2003. During this time he played a key role in promoting a number of changes, in particular the development of the Racing Act 2003 on which the current industry is structured.
From 2003-06, he was HRNZ's inaugural appointment to the New Zealand Racing Board, and in partnership with his wife, Dr Susan Wakefield, he has bred and raced a number of top performers, including Sparks A Flyin, London Legend, Bettor's Strike and Texican.
On the international stage, Wakefield was chairman on the organising committee of the 2007 World Trotting Conference in Christchurch, an event considered a great success.
Credit: HR Weekly 7June2012
Q. You seemed to come into race training and driving a bit later than some. Where did it all start?
In racing not until I was 28 when I got a job at the old Roydon Lodge in Yaldhurst. We came over from the Coast when I was 12 and I was brought up with horses. Later on, I worked a team in the bush for a while. I played league right through the grades and was still playing when I went to Roydon Lodge after I answered an ad in the paper. I broke my jaw playing football soon after and that was the end of the sport. Captain Adios had just passed on when I started and Thurber Frost was the star stallion then. I worked under Ralph Bonnington who was the stallion manager.
Q. You didn't train there though? How did you find it later on taking on training a good team without the background some have had?
The granddam, Aspiring Lass, was a good mare in America and Charlie Hunter trained her down here. She had a twisted bowel at one stage. I got her back for a last season and she won the Canterbury Park Cup for us. The dam (Aspiring Gal) broke a pelvis. But she had showed plenty as a two year old. I was going to try her again but it didn't come to anything. But it was no surprise she would leave fast horses.
I spent a lot of time watching George Noble. There weren't many people who were better to learn from. A lot of it was just what you know and common sense.I started training after we set up the new Roydon Lodge at Templeton. That was a big job and it took time to get it organised. Scottish Hanover was our anchor stallion then and he did a great job. When that was up and running I was breaking horses in and thought I might as well be training them.
Q. Talking of Scottish Hanover, Roydon Scott was your first star?
He was a brilliant horse, a great horse really. I don't think people realised how good he was. I firmly believed he would be the first to run two miles in four minutes here and I think he would have done it. He had a big long stride and everything seemed effortless to him. He battled navicular disease for a long time and when Dr Irvine changed the medication rules on what we were treating him with it finished his career really.
Q. He still ran as favourite in the New Zealand Cup?
It was the owner's decision to run and you can understand wanting to win a Cup. I have to say I would probably not run had it been up to me.
Q. He was a different sort from Roydon Glen who ended up with the better record?
Roydon Glen had a lot of ability but he was always "seeing things" which made him a hard horse to drive. Peter Wolfenden drove him up north for us and didn't actually seem to think a lot of him and I had to take over when he won the Derby by lengths up there. But I could understand why Peter thought like he did. You had to be careful what you did with him in the race and where you put him. Sometimes driving him what punters might think was the right way was the wrong way.
Q. His third in the Cup must have been your biggest disappointment?
There wern't any other races to match it. He drew in, actually began too well, got into the trail and when they eased in front we were four and five back on the fence. Then when I was going to work off the fence I got held in. He flew home of course and should have won it but there wasn't a lot else I could have done.
Q. He didn't really succeed as a sire apart from the trotter Lyell Creek, and Roydon Albatross was a bit disappointing too?
Yes, you wouldn't believe Roydon Glen wouldn't have been a great success with his pedigree. Roydon Albatross was by Albatross but his maternal line was not as strong. He had the bad luck to be foaled down here late in one season instead of early in the next. That meant when he won the Nelson Cup in record time he was really a three year old and it showed what a good stayer he was.
Q. Phillipa Frost was a mighty wee mare too?
A super little mare, tough as they come. Bluey Steel, who worked at Roydon Lodge then had bred her. There was nothing of her but she wore a long hopple for the size she was (59 inch). I liked horses in long hopples. Roydon Scott wore a 64 inch hopple and Roydon Glen a 61 inch. Philippa Frost's length was really massive for her size. She had to battle Delightful Lady in the mare's races and she ran third to Hands Down and Lord Module in the NZ Free-For-All. We got a bit mixed up at the start. Slim Dykman was next to us and told me he was going to do one thing but he did it differently when the gate went. When you look back at her record and what she raced against she was a terrific mare.
Q. We always have to talk about Sundon at Roydon Lodge but Game Pride smoothed the path for him.
He was really the first of the modern trotting sires here, the ones who could leave horses with speed. He did a terrific job year after year once he got established. One thing which surprised me about him is the ability he had. His race record didn't show it but he was a dumpy little guy and we used to have to work him in the cart a bit to get the condition off him. The speed he showed when you chirped him up amazed me. There was a stallion close up in his pegigree called Bill Gallon which the Americans rated highly even though he was not as fashionable as some. He turned up in Sundon's pedigree as well so there was something in it.
Q. Sundons had a mixed reception with many trainers and probably still do. What do you put that down to?
Basically I think they have so much speed that if you let then show too much of it you can have problems. I had Jo Anne early on and she just had phenomenal speed. But Sundon was a lovely relaxed horse. He would spend a lot of time sleeping. One odd thing about him was that he would pee just before the start of every race he had. His sire Arndon was a bit different. I saw him run his world record at the Red Mile. He was sore then and drifted out into the middle of the track but still ran the fastest mile ever. Phenomenal speed. But he wasn't the relaxed horse Sundon was.
Q. There was a bit of a tizz over a positive swab with Sundon at an Inter-Dominions?
A veterinary error. I think vets should be made more responsible for their actions in these sort of cases like they are in some other countries. The owner and trainer have to carry the can.
Q. And you didn't get to drive him when he won the Dominion?
That is a bad memory. I was given three months for not giving him every chance in the Trotting Free-For-All on Cup Day. You wouldn't not try in a $35,000 race then especially a free-for-all. We were the victim of circumstances but the stewards didn't want to know. Peter Jones took the Dominion drive. He had been driving some of my team in the spring and we had talked about Sundon earlier. Then after the Dominion the siren went and they inquired into whether Sundon had checked something early in the race! My charge was quashed on appeal. It left a sour taste.
Q. Morgan James was another good horse I remember?
Just one of those great everyday horses. My friend from Perth, Mick Lombardo, talked me into selling him in a weak moment. He ended up winning $600,000 over there. Just went on and on year after year until he was about 13.
Q. First Jinja Girl and now Royal Aspirations both give you and (grandson) Sam Smolenski Harness Jewels triumphs. How confident were you this year?
Very confident. I told Sam it was his race to lose and drive accordingly and he did. Sam has a great temperament for driving. He does his homework, listens to instructions and is patient. He doesn't worry about things and thatis an asset in big races - to stay cool.
Q. On paper the immediate breed looked sort of just okay. Did you come from another angle?
The granddam, Aspiring Lass, was a good mare in America and Charlie Hunter trained her down here. She had a twisted bowel at one stage. I got her back for a last season and she won the Canterbury Park Cup for us. The dam (Aspiring Lass) broke a pelvis. But she had shown plenty as a two-year-old. I was going to try her again but it didn't come to anything. But it was no surprise she would leave fast horses.
Q. Royal Aspirations is a horse which can go on?
He's smart as well as fast. He got mixed up at the start of a race at Addington but he still tried to head for the birdcage. He knew where the winners went and wanted to be there. He has a good spell now but he can get better yet.
Q. You are a man of many talents, especially with the manipulation of horses. How did that start?
I suppose it went back to my sporting days in a way, getting over injuries and that. I started to read up on acupuncture and similar treatments and taught myself how to do them watching others and practicing. I started doing it with the race horses to stretch them before a race like an athlete does with hamstrings and other muscles and then started post race treatments. The horses are running around in circles after all and they can develop specialised ailments. A lot of problems happen in the paddock because the circles they are running in are that much smaller. So I don't like to see them turned out after a treatment as some recommend.
Q. You are also a "heartbeat" man with yearlings?
I probably did 100 horses this year at the sales. No special science, I just listen to the heartbeat. You can tell quite a lot from it. Some of them sound like a Mack truck. I think it is a fairly credible thing and more people seem to be asking me to do it. Anything you can find out about a horse someone else might not know is an advantage.
Credit: HRWeekly 25July2012
The death occurred suddenly last month of Leeston trainer Vicki Burnett. She was 40. Burnett took out a licence after the death of her former husband Peter Cowan. In five seasons, she trained seven winners and drove five.
Burnett grew up in Auckland, and despite no family involvement developed a passion and infinity for horses at a young age, competing in pony club, eventing and show jumping. She qualified as a veterinary nurse and attended courses in equine massage. She gained a reputation for her work and Mark Purdon used her services when he was in Clevedon and when he moved south.
She met Cowan when he campaigned his top mare Flying Sands in the north, and eventually they married. Among there good horses were Trotupastorm, Cullens Pride, Uroc Amy and Joy Boy, although her pride and joy was Niburu, the winner of one race, which she brought south.
In April, 2008, when Peter passed away suddenly, Vicki was left in control of a 30ha property, responsible for training, preparing sales yearlings and doing an AI course to ensure all mares could be bred on the property, all while being mother to Thomas (7) and Ellie (3). Ten mares are to foal this spring, with both Flying Sands and Flyin Score in foal to Rockin Roll Hanover.
Horses she bred included Supreme Gem and Sunday's impressive debut winner, Machs A Flyin. Torias Secret was sent to Luke McCarthy and has won over $100,000 this season and Vicki was at Menangle last month to see her run second in a Group race. On Target, racing as Im On Target, is also with McCarthy and is unbeaten in two starts. Vicki's last drive was on Dutchess at Rangiora on July 15.
Although she had battled ill-health in the past 18 months, she appeared stable and her death was unexpected. "She had an amazing attitude to her illness, never complaining and working incredibly hard," said family friend, John McDermott.
Vicki married Rick Burnett, NZ champion amateur driver in 2010/11, in September last year and they formed a training partnership last season.
Credit: HRWeekly 1Aug12
Gordon Middleton, who died last week at the age of 95, was a renowned and successful trainer of juveniles. Most of them raced with the 'Fancy' prefix, most were from mares by Truant Hanover, and the list of major wins in that category included the Welcome Stakes, Leonard Memorial, Kindergarten Stakes, Golden Slipper Stakes, Timaru Nursery Stakes and the Rotorua Futurity Stakes.
"Basically, he was before his time," said his son Carl, a high achiever as a trainer of trotters. "He would wean, gait and put them in the cart while they were still weanlings, and after that they were forever in and out of the paddock and in the cart. You'd know when they started racing at two, they'd never miss away...first out and hard to catch."
Middleton was born in Methven, one of 10 children, and left school when he was 12 to dig potatoes by hand and bag them. He became a shearer, and with his brother Clarence, set a Mid-Canterbury record of shearing 372 sheep. "Clarence was quicker, but on this day they equalled each other," recalled Carl. In the off season he worked as a bulldozer driver and drag line operator before four years in the army, serving in Egypt and Italy. On returning home, he bought a farm alongside Clarrie May and then one at Highbank where he stayed until his retirement.
His first horse was Marawiti, a filly by Lucky Jack he bought off Jack Kennedy for £100. Much to the distress of his brother-in-law Jim Nordqvist, who wanted the colours himself, he was able to register the colours of Sweden, blue with gold crossed sashes. Marawiti was notable for winning two trots on the Waimate card in 1957 and did better when sold for £1600, which was a small fortune then. Gordon later bought her back for 100 guineas when she was offered at a mixed sale in Christchurch and to Light Brigade left the open class trotter, Laplander.
Laplander won eight races including the West Coast Trotting Stakes from Briganelli and Beau Winter. He also provided Carl with his first driving win, at a Cheviot meeting held at Rangiora, and just before he left to work in the US.
He is also survived by Carl's brother Ross and sister Clare Ede, six grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 8Aug2012
WRACKLER & HARRY NICOLL: CHAMPIONS BOTH
What a combination it was. On our left was Wrackler rated "on all evidence available the world's best double gaited horse" and still the only one to win both the New Zealand Cup pacing and the Dominion Handicap trotting. On the right was his owner Harry Nicoll, arguably the greatest administrator in the history of the harness sport. An autocrat, he was the president of the New Zealand Trotting Conference (HRNZ) for over 25 years and of his Ashburton club for a staggering 48 years. Without Harry Nicholl the Inter-Dominion Championships would never have got off the ground.
An oarsman of international standard in his youth, it was said that Harry had never been to a trotting meeting until 1906 when the Ashburton club invited him to its meeting. It was not quite true. But the club was almost broke and Nicoll, a local business who successfully raced gallopers as "Mr J Case" and ran the local Racing Club was seen as a possible saviour.
Within two years Nicoll had embraced trotting and won the New Zealand Cup with Durbar, a 12-year-old he had bought here from an Australian and who raced on until he was 18. Nicoll was soon the leading owner and leading the code into class racing and handicapping by yards instead of clocks. After being thwarted by politics from heading the NZ Trotting Association he upset the famed Aucklander James Rowe for the chairmanship of the Conference in 1922 and won every election held from then until retiring in 1947.
By 1931 he was an honorary life member of every trotting club in New Zealand, joint president of the NZ Metropolitan club and later Predident of the Australasian Trotting Association. It was his offer to bankroll New Zealand horses going to Perth for the first Inter-Dominion which made the concept feasible. His Ashburton club was offering £3000 for three classic races in the 1920's making it the most successful in Australasia regardless of size.
Nicoll's Durbar Lodge near Ashburton was the leading stable with the renowned Andy Pringle as his private trainer. Nicoll bought from the United States the free-legged pacer, Wrack, by the world's leading sire Peter The Great, and the first genuine Grand Circuit horse to come to this country. He had paced 2.02.4 in Ohio shortly before his arrival - faster than later pacing supersire Hal Dale. Nicoll charged 40 guineas a service, a fee not matched for over 25 years and one Wrack could not sustain. History records he was a great success but for a time he was rejected by breeders until trainers like Bill Tomkinson, Don Warren and Roy Berry realised they did not handle high speed work and the tide was turned.
Nicoll was no sentimentalist. He sold up a lot of his horses during the Depression including Wrackler, and filly freak Arethusa, both retained by his son, Arthur. He sold his boom youngster, Indianapolis, Wrack's greatest son, knowing what he might become. In 1938 after the stallion had served 72 mares Nicoll sold Wrack to Tasmania. He died in Sydney in virtual exile the following year. It was a finale which did not sit well with many sportsmen here.
Nicoll was also controversial when Maurice Holmes, having knocked down half the field in the New Zealand Derby driving Nicoll's Arethusa, was given a suspension which ended the day before he was to drive her in the Northern Derby. "The judicial decision" raged the Truth newspaper, "could not have been more ridiculous had it decreed that in future Holmes was allowed to carry a sawn off shotgun to assist him bringing down what he desired."
Wrackler was all American-bred and his dam Trix Pointer the only Cup winning mare to leave a Cup winner. He was the champion 3-year-old and at four won the New Zealand Trotting Gold Cup in Wellington, a unique achievement for one that age. Wrackler was prepared by Don Warren to win the 1930 NZ Cup easily. It was a vintage pacing era so the Cup was run in divisions and Wrack horses thrived on hard racing. The day produced an amazing double because the Derby was the same day and won by Wrackler's sister, Arethusa, also driven by Maurice Holmes. Both horses wre typical Wracks - plain as pikestaffs, lean as whippets but with great stamina.
Warren was an expert and popular horseman with heart and personal problems. In August 1931 he was demoted by Nicoll as the Durbar Lodge trainer in favour of his assistant Jackie Behrns. A few weeks later Warren made a cup of tea for his wife and Behrns, chatted for a while and then went behind the barn and blew his head off with a shotgun. His health and demotion had devastared him. He was only 43.
At a War Relief meeting at Addington in July 1932 Behrns, having persuaded Arthur Nicoll who now owned him to try Wrackler as a trotter, won a feature at Addington at 8/8 in the betting which qualified him for the Dominion Handicap which he won four months later. At Addington about the same time he finished second in the big trot and in the very next race took on the "cream of the Dominion's pacers" in a high class race. His mixing of gaits could confuse him. In the 1934 Dominion he slid into a pace and lost his chance.
Wrackler was retired in 1935 but later returned to racing under Lester Maidens and won top trotting races at Addington as a 10-year-old. He lived a long and contented retirement carrying children to school on his back daily for many years before dying at the age of 27 in 1951.
It is virtually impossible his feat can be repeated in the modern era. Nor will any of Nicoll's successors be permitted to hold office for a quarter of a century. Wrackler and Harry Nicoll certainly like setting records.
Credit: David McCarthy writing in HRWeekly 8Aug2012
Special significance surrounded the debut win of Arden Rooney at Addington last week. He raced in the ownership of the estate of the late Noreen Stiven, who sadly passed earlier in the month, aged 70.
About 40 years ago Noreen and her late husband Doug established the Arden brand and through the deeds of Kindergarten Stakes winner Arden Bay, West Australian Derby winner Arden Meadow, Great Northern Derby winner All Hart, Sales Series Final winner Arden's Darlin, Sires' Stakes Fillies Championship winner Arden Banner, Victoria Cup winner Bettor's Strike and many others, Arden has seldom been far from the headlines.
A West Otago resident practically all her life, Noreen was born in Gore in July 1942, went to Kelso Primary School and Gore High School. A keen sportswoman, she partook in rifle shooting, athletics and tennis and got down to a 22 handicap in golf. She married Doug in December, 1961 and had son John, and daughters, Leanne and Nadine.
John, who continued to work alongside his mother after the death of Doug in 2001, said neither of his parents came from a harness background but Noreen's father Henry Kirk had trained thoroughbreds. He said joining up with friend Blake Eskdale, who had standardbreds in the district, had helped his parents into the game. At the time they operated a milk run and the section across the road from their house in Tapanui had been their horse base. Treesnable was the first horse trained there.
Commentator Dave McDonald first met Noreen at the 1976 Tapanui races. It was his first day calling gallops and Noreen "mothered me the entire day and told me how well I was doing". They were good friends from then on and before her death, Noreen requested Dave be asked to speak at her service. Dave was able to shed light on Noreen and Doug's entry into harness racing courtesy of her brother Bill who recalls taking them to the races one day. Doug, who had never had a bet, apparently put £2 on a horse he liked the look of, even though it had no form. Experts tried to dissuade him but he invested regardless. The horse won, the collect was £42 and the pair's equine-interest was up and running. When their horse operation eventually moved from the section in Tapanui, their new establishment was named Arden Lodge, but conjecture as to how and why remains. Light Pointer was a foundation mare, followed by Bayswater, dam of Arden Bay.
Noreen was diagnosed with cancer more than 16 years ago and not everyone knew. Dave did, but it didn't surprise him many didn't because that was how Noreen was. Every time you met her you felt better, she put a smile on your face and lifted your day, he said. In 2008, during a period she was quite sick, Noreen was able to make a hectic trip to Auckland and experienced one of her proudest moments in harness racing. Arden Banner won the Sires' Stakes Fillies Final from Arden's Darlin, and she had bred them both. Arden Banner was out of Arden's Dream, named Southland Broodmare of the Year in 2008. Five years earlier Arden Regal took out the same title while just over a month before Noreen's death, Winter Rose made it three for her.
Known also for her ability as a musician, her baking, her rose growing and her hospitality, Noreen Stiven will be sadly missed. As Dave put it, a most remarkable and beautiful lady, a legend.
Credit: Mac Henry writing in HRWeekly 19 Sep 2012
INTERVIEW WITH BOB McARDLE
It was nearly 40 years ago when you and Wayne Francis started Nevele R. Where do you see the stud in, say, 10 years time?
It won't be there.
Are the days of big stud farms fading in favour of stallion station type operations?
Advances in genetic techniques and the shuttle stallions have changed it. But the full stud operation still has a lot to offer if it stays at the top of its game especially in the fertility area. When you have sharebrokers, bankers and lawyers handling off-site semen in their back yard you are going to have lower fertility.
What would your late patner Wayne Francis have thought of the present stud scene?
He would be ecstatic. Many of the best stallions in the world available to breeders here was his dream. He died in 1998 and I remember telling him not long before the end we might be able to get (AI) straws for Life Sign and Abercrombie. He just said, "Wouldn't that be something" - and look at it now.
But those advances have come at a cost to breeders and the industry?
A lot of money is going out of the country and American studs now dominate our industry. Some years ago when I was at Nevele R I worked hard to combine four of the leading breeding establishments in Australasia into a syndicate. My idea was to buy the leading US 3-year-old every second year so we could be the masters of our own destiny. We could each have had 50 services and 50 more for Australia, shuttled to America and the profits would be retained here.
One horse I had in mind was Badlands Hanover and I went to America to do a deal. While I was there I found two of the four proposed syndicate members had made individual approaches to the owners to buy the horse themselves. So I thought "stuff that" and bought the rights for Nevele R there and then. I thought we missed a great opportunity not doing something like that. Now Blue Chip Farms in the States is sponsoring the Breeders Crown in Australia.
How did you set stallion fees in Nevele R's heyday and what do you think of fees now generally?
Breeders are hving a really tough time. If you are in the $5-10,000 range of fees to get commercial stock you need a $30,000 sale to break even. That is around the average. The delay in paying fees which has come in now is some help but you still have to pay. Breeders are dreamers and always have been. By the time you take a horse to the sales from a first season mare you are probably up for three service fees and without knowing how any of them might sell plus the risks involved. Wayne and I used to set fees by asking each other what we would be prepared to pay for a horse of the quality in question and go from there.
Through Bromac Lodge you are also in the dreamer category?
To some extent yes. But I am breeding 25 mares this year - I own 60 but have leased 35 out - and every one will be bred so that I have a sale market even if selling a filly. Actually we have probably done best with fillies recently but naturally we keep one filly from our top mares.
Your split from Nevele R was not amicable?
No. It ended in court. I said to the Trustees "there are no winners here just two losers." It could have been sorted and a lot of my dreams ended when I left there. I love going around selling semen. It was a great challenge mentally, you had to know everything that is going on and you had to think quickly on your feet when doing deals. I might travel 100,000km a year and I put my heart and soul into it. It gives me no pleasure to watch Nevele R not being the industry leader it was. It saddens me actually.
But you still sell semen?
I got Falcon Seelster as part of my settlement with the stud. He only lived another year but we still have 1300 straws of semen left. If you work on an eight straw per foal average that could be around 100 services and he still has strong appeal. There are two people in Australia who are just geniuses when it comes to frozen semen. They have been getting some mares in foal with one or two straws and so the numbers fluctuate. Mike Hill of Nevele R in also outstanding with frozen semen - the best in New Zealand I believe.
I seen to remember a few stories about Falcon Seelster. Was he a savage horse?
No, territorial, like most stallions. There was an incident with him, he was no boy's horse but the only knowledge you can trust about stallions is that you can never trust a stallion. Boyden Hanover was a laid back horse who suddenly hospitalised a handler one day. We had a policy at Nevele R that even if a stallion did not have a paid service that day we gave him a service because they know when they are not in the team and it makes them mean. Even Wayne, od all people, walked into a paddock at an American stud one day to look at Soky's Atom without thinking and got bowled over and ended up in hospital. Soky's Atom was a pussy cat most of the time but ook out if he was not first into the breeding barn. Not trusting any stallion is lesson number one in the stud business.
Falcon Seelster is now your only stallion property?
Yes. "A geriatric semen seller flogging a dead horse" is the best quote I have heard about that. But I believe in him. He is an amazing horse in that he was foaled in 1982 and he is still high up in the sires list and with a leading New Zealand Cup chance this spring (Franco Ledger). Because he is such an outcross from all the Meadow Skipper blood in our mares now he is a last chance saloon for many breeders.
What changes to the sales pitch do you have to make?
I don't go after the commercial breeders looking for sales toppers. His foals are never going to do that. I concentrate on the smaller breeder with a few mares looking for a cross from a horse like Falcon while it is still available. I get multiple bookings from breeders in that area. They desperately want a filly but his colts are tops too. I'm sure the commercial breeders will be knocking on the door when the semen stocks get low. I would have done 15,000km on the road on my last trip to Australia. You need to reinforce to some people that frozen semen from Falcon is no different to frozen semen from any living stallion - which is fact anyway.
How did you come to get him? He was already a successful stallion in the US.
One of those freaks of chance. He was doing a great job up there but his owner died and we happened to get on to the case from something I heard very early. We got the deal done quickly with the estate which was keen to sell. There were some very disappointed people around when they found out. We shuttled him for two years then he got EVA up there and had to stay there for four years. He sired McArdle there. He was the first shuttle stallion, in reality, and owned in New Zealand. That showed what could have been done.
That race at Delaware when he ran world best 1.51 on a half mile track (1985) before a crowd of 55,000 and held that record for nearly 20 years is still great iewing on You Tube - goose bumps stuff. What made him special as a racehorse and stallion?
His breeding cross(Warm Breeze over an Overtrick mare) is an outcross, but a proven cross and as I said mares with Meadow Skipper blood gave him a lot of options. There were thousands of them. Gait and soundness were two of his biggest attributes. His horses have a lot of stretch in their stride so that even if they were smaller than average it didn't affect their gait stretch. Courage Under Fire has a similar attribute. The other thing about Falcon Seelster horses is soundness. He ran in 51 races himself and his stock proved durable on the racetrack.
The drop in the number of mares available must make your job more difficult?
There used to be 9000 mares being bred from when Nevele R started and Australia had 19,000. There were 2800 here now two; 2200 yearlings and there will be 2000 foals this year. The same thing has happened in Australia. It has gone from 14,000 foals then to just over 5000 now. It does make things harder now but it is really bad news for racing people of the future.
The Australians prefer to come and buy made horses here?
Some of their leading figures tell me they are going to give up breeding and buy. But as the number of horses for sale drop so the prices will go up and it won't be so good for them then.
How do you get the message across?
I talk to trainers about it a lot. I tell them they should be working on their owners getting them to breed horses because otherwise in five years they won't have a business to operate. There can't be a better time in history to invest in the breeding industry. People who do are going to be rewarded.
The worry is that numbers have continued to drop since 1987 even through good economic times. Is your industry irrelevant to more people?
I don't believe so. As I said breeders have been hurting and they probably can't see any way out. Costs are high. Prices are good but not all that much higher compared to the rise of returns in other industries. Now is the time to return.
You spent many years dealing in horses for export. You and your brother John were pioneers sending top Austalians to Yonkers back in the 1960's (Apmat, winner of an International Series). How active are you now?
I have virtually given up that side of it. If I act as a go between now it is usually over breeding arrangements rather than selling. I used to love it but you can only do so many things when you get a little older.
Of course you raced and sold thoroughbreds too and was it a Hobart Cup which was one of your more memorable wins?
I came from Tasmania and did some amateur riding there. I bought Sir Trutone especially to win the Hobart Cup which he did(1973). A big thrill and a big day. I sold Butternut from Canterbury and she won a Moonee Valley Cup and many others. One of the first deals John and I did was sell a horse called Northern Demon from Ireland to a Whitney family stud in the States. That was big time then.
You have won nearly every award and honour going in harness racing and apart from having a sales toppers at the PGG Wrightson Sales you seem to have done it all. What now?
Topping the sales would be nice but I am changing my focus. My son and daughter now both live in Europe and I am aiming to organise the business so I can spend three months a year up there. I have been blessed to still have the health and energy to carry on and the enthusiasm is still there. But you have to remember the time comes to smell the roses along the way. That is my focus now.
Credit: David McCarthy writing in HR Weekly 19 Sep 12
George Shand, who died in Invercargill on his 83rd birthday, was a successful horseman and administrator in harness racing.
Shand was a former president of the NZ Trotting Owners, Trainers and Breeders' Association and president of the Waitaki Trotting Club when living at Waskdyke, where he operated a successful stable and farrier business.
Shand drove his first winner Lochella at Wanganui in 1951. He rode in jumping races for amateur riders about the same time. Lochella was trained by his father-in-law, Peter Gallagher. Shand was raised in Waikouaiti and shifted to Washdyke to complete an apprenticeship as a farrier with Bill Gallagher, brother of Peter. He married Peter's daughter, Aileen.
Shand won 373 races as a reinsman. Shand rated the 1976 Ashburton Flying Stakes with Mighty Gay as his major training and driving success. He bought Mighty Gay for $250. "I always had a soft spot for Mighty Gay," Shand said. Mighty Gay won the 1973 Waikouaiti Cup as a 3-year-old, the only horse to win that race at such an age. Gay Gordon, the sire of Mighty Gay, won the TAB double including the Waikouaiti Cup at the Waikouaiti meeting in 1965.
Another big thrill for Shand was winning a race at Mildura with Eastwood Jaunty, whom he raced with his daughter Pauline Hillis, of Invercargill. Eastwood Jaunty won 13 races including the Methven Cup in 2001 and 2003 and the inaugural Green Mile at Methven in 2000. Eastwood Jaunty won the 2001 Timaru Cup from a 45m handicap. Shand had his last race drive at Methven on Eastwood Jaunty when close to his 76th birthday.
Shand trained and drove Satyr to win the McCloy Memorial Handicap, the main race at Methven in 1960. He also won a race with Satyr at Forbury Park despite mistaking the number of rounds and easing up with five furlongs (1000m) to run.
He drove Dreamy Morn to win the 1973 Hannon Memorial at Oamaru. He trained and drove Borana to win the Forbury and Oamaru Juvenile Stakes and NZ Champion Stakes in the early 1980s. Borana won the 1985 NZ Cup when trained and Driven by Peter Jones at odds of 75 to one.
Shand had worthwhile success training for Timaru breeder Sam Woods snd racing the horses in partnership. He trained 10 winners out of the broodmare Worthy Scott, owned by Woods. They included open class trotters Pointer Hanover, About Time and Conclusion and Glentohi (1973 Kurow Cup). Pointer Hanover won the 1979 Canterbury Park Trotting Cup when driven by Peter Shand, a son of George. Another son, Gary has also had success as a reinsman.
George trained the galloper Waitohi when she won three races over two days at Westport in October, 1964. Co-owned by Woods, Waitohi won twice on the second day of that Westport meeting.
Credit: Taylor Strong writing in HRWeekly 19 Dec 2012
The death occurred recently of Leeston trainer John Burgess. He was 85, and when he drove a winner in the 2009/10 season he was the oldest driver to win a race in NZ.
Since 1985, he trained 36 winners, including four with Ready Money, by Nevele Gourmet, who he leased off his breeder, Bill Doyle. He also won four with Silverdale Pride, by Holdonmyheart, two with Katie May and John's Buddy, and one with La Finale.
His small stable was invariably trotters, and for nine successive seasons this century he never missed driving a winner.
Credit: HR Weekly 19 Dec 2012
Dexter has his 1000 wins.
It doesn't really seem that long ago that he was a "skinny kid" just getting his driving career underway. And here he is, seven years and 5664 drives later, and the number has raced past 1000.
This fast train of success started in New Zealand when Dexter was 17, winning at Addington with Crusader Franco, trained by his father, Robert. It peaked in the first race on the same track last Friday night when his 1000th winning salute came with the maiden trotter, No Potato.
The hard facts in between this show of remarkable youthful talent are these:
* his first winner was The Ultimate One at Geelong in September, 2006 - one of 24 drives when he was working for Andy Gath.
* three times he's driven six winners at a meeting, and it's been five on 10 occasions.
* 285 winners have been at Addington, 168 at Forbury Park and 101 at Ascot Park.
* HRNZ's marketing department reports that 366 winners have been trained by Cran Dalgety and 66 for Graeme Anderson and Amber Hoffman.
* He's just over 23. Mark Jones, who was the previous fastest to 1000, was 29 and took 12 years.
* He has won five premierships, and is on the way to winning a 6th.
* His UDR of .2817 has only been bettered by Mark Purdon (.2976) amongst those who have won 1000 races.
* his main horse helpers have been Donegal Delight(13), Texican(12), Smiling Shard(11) and Bettor's Strike(11).
While winning 1000 races is a huge feather in the cap of achievments, it joins others of equal significance, notably says Dexter: "Winning the Victoria Cup with Bettor's Strike was special. Representing New Zealand in the World Drivers' Championship was another. Getting on the front page of 'The Press' during Cup Week was good for everyone, and winning the Sportsman of the Year award here and beating Richie McCaw was up there, and he is my hero."
Dexter said it has been "a great journey. A far as my horses go, Smiling Shard has been pretty special, and of course the help I've had from Cran, that's really been everything to my career. I've had great support from so many people, but I also go to meetings and have my share of bad drives, too," he said.
The guiding hand and influence of Dalgety cannot be understated. "He's been with me the best part of five years and considering the high success he's had, it's in no way altered his personality. When he came here and was making nistakes in those first six or 12 months, my owners were saying 'who is this skinny kid you're putting up'. It was an issue, so I was doing a bit of patch-up work behind the scene." said Dalgety.
It didn't last long. Dexter went from four wins one seson to 146 the next, and in demand. "that also brought some jealousy, people wanting to give him bottom rib jabs. It happens everywhere when there's success. He was trying so hard and doing his best, but you still get the rock thowers . That hurt him. But we worked on that and he got hard and rode it through."
Dalgety said it came with being the 'Dan Carter' of the business. "And it's been good for my side of it. It has attracted new owners who see the chance of having Dexter on their horse, and it's had a snowball effect."
Another plus Dalgety has noticed is the development of Dexter's brother John. "They are very close, and if John was an adequate driver before, he has gone past that now, and it's apparent they now complement each other in the background."
Also on the cheerful side of Dexter's maturity is his ability to handle the banter when it can be sensitive. "We can get a big crew in for morning tea and there's a lot of chat that's usually healthy. He can get a bit of flak and he takes it."
In seven years, it's been a slick and focused performance. For the complete package of professionalism, Dexter has set the bar at a level that few, if any, will reach.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 5Dec12
MONKEY KING RETIRES
Monkey King, the winner of 39 races and a record $3.48 million in stakes has been retired. The harness racing 9yr-old, raced by Robert Famularo, had his racing curtailed by soreness over the past 12 months. He had his last race and 95th start when fourth to Sir Lincoln at Addington on February 4.
The Sands A Flyin-Tuapeka Vale gelding was trained for his first 20 wins by Steven Reid and his next two by Reid in partnership with Graeme Rogerson. He was prepared for his remaining 17 wins by Brendon Hill.
Ricky May, the Methven reinsman, drove Monkey King in 25 of his wins.
He won the New Zealand Derby and was successful in the New Zealand Messenger and the Harness Jewels. He won the New Zealand Cup and New Zealand Free-For-All double in 2009 and 2010 and the Auckland Cup in 2010. He paced 1.50.8 winning the 2009 Miracle Mile. He won both his heats at the 2010 Sydney Interdominions before a game second to another champion, Blacks A Fake, in the Grand Final. He returned to Auckland just five days later for his Auckland Cup success.
He developed from a talented young horse to a world-class stayer and fans loved him because of his small stature and his tenacious will to win. Most of those fans did not know what trainer Hill did. "He is actually a bit of a handful," Hill said. "He is a grumpy old bloke and would have a bite or a kick at you if you gave him the chance." "But that is just him. His attitude. He knows how good he is - which was very, very good."
The 1988 New Zealand Messenger Championship winner, Rostriever Hanover passed away on Ian Munro's 700-acre block in Otematata earlier this month. He was 29.
The son of Plat Du Jour and Rostriever Lady also won a New Zealand Junior Free-For-All, an Ashburton Cup, a DB Superstars Final, and a New Brighton Cup. All Up Rostriever Hanover won 17 of his 46 starts and placed six times for $342,895. He experienced his most successful year as a 4-year-old winning eight of his 15 starts and placing four times for $237,495.
He was owned by North Otago (Otematata) horseman and sheep farmer, Ian Munro. His late mother Lexie, who bred the talented bay gelding, also had a share in him.
Munro said Rostriever Hanover was the best race-horse that he had raced. He did the breaking in and training early on before handing over the reins to Patrick O'Reilly Junior in November 1986, when the horse was three. "Yes he's the best I've had and I'll never forget him. He was a tough old bugger but never had much luck with injuries. We did breed Waitaki Hanover as well. He was a pretty nice sort of a horse but we sold him as a 2-year-old to Fred Smith for 6,000 pounds."
Munro said after Rostriever Hanover won the New Brighton Cup he injured a knee but recovered to win the New Zealand Junior Free-For-All exactly a year later.
"He was a very nice horse but he could have been better had he not copped so many injuries throughout his career. Bad luck followed him around a bit. A week before the messenger he beat Luxury Liner, also at Alexandra Park," Munro said.
He said he tried to retrieve his pride and joy from his retirement paddock just a few days before his death but there was no way the old boy was going to let Munro catch him. "I couldn't get near him no matter how hard I tried. He loved his retirement roaming our paddocks. he was very happy in his retirement years. It's quite sad to think he'll no longer be around. "We buried him close to our house Munro said.
Credit: Duane Ranger writing in HarnessLnk
There's seldom a premiere meeting go by when Rolleston harness racing trainers Mark Purdon and Grant Payne aren't picking up Group 1, 2, or 3 spoils. And that trend continued tonight (Friday March 23) at Addington Raceway when Purdon steered Smolda and Escapee to easy Group 2 and 3 victories respectively.
Smolda trailed his stablemate Fly Like An Eagle (Tony Herlihy) most of the way to win the Group Two $40,000 Vero Flying Stakes for 3yo pacers.
Smolda, a Courage Under Fire gelding, went into the race the winner of seven of his last eight starts including the Group Two Elsu Classic at Alexandra Park on December 16.
In the lane he out-muscled his stablemate (Fly Like An Eagle) to win by three quarters of a length in 2:23.2 (1950m mobile). The winning mile rate was 1:58.1, with final 800m and 400m sprints of 54.6 and 27.3 seconds.
He is now sure to start one of the favourites in next Friday's Group One $150,000 New Zealand Derby.
Smolda is owned by Mrs Glenys and Phil Kennard, Neil Pilcher, M. A. R. Kirkwood - and was bred by P.B. Blackshaw.
Credit: Duane Ranger writing in HarnessLink 23 Mar 2012
2012 RESOURCE RECYCLING TECHNOLOGIES SUPERSTARS CHAMPIONSHIP
Gold Ace might have struggled a tad against the open class pacers in recent starts but the gifted son of Bettor's Delight proved yet again that he is one of New Zealand's best 4yo pacers when winning the Group Two $40,000 Superstars Championship
He had to be good tonight and he was downing favourite and New Zealand Cup winner and arch-rival Terror To Love by a neck.
Peter Ferguson situated him in the one-one down the back straight the first time. They were three-back on the outside at the bell and were followed ever step of the way by Terror Tor Love and Jim Curtin.
But the Steven Reid (Pukekohe) trained black entire, despite being several lengths back at the quarter, and then the widest on the turn still had too much sprint for Terror To Love and Franco Ledger (Hamish Hunter).
Winner's time for the 2600m standing start event - 3:12.8 (mile rate: 1:59.3) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 56.7 and 28.1 seconds.
Tonight's victory was Gold Ace's 14th from 30th starts and brought up the $750,000 in career stakes. His Group One victories came at Addington on November 9, 2010 in the $165,596 Sires Stakes 3yo Final and the $175,000 Golden Nugget 4yo Championship .at Gloucester Park in Perth on November 25, 2011.
He is owned by Ms Wendy Reid, D. G. Moore, M. Ng, and the D D Syndicate. Moore also did the breeding.
Credit: Duane Ranger writing in HarnessLink 23 Mar 2012
2012 GLENFERRIE FARM 4YO TROTTERS CHAMPIONSHIP
Paramount Geegee is back and could be heading for a big season on both sides of the Tasman if the way he dealt to tonight's Group Three $25,000 4yo Trotters Championship opponents is anything to go by.
The John Dickie trained driven gelding started well from his 20m handicap and Robbie Holmes had him fifth down the back straight the first time and then in the one-one at the bell.
On the turn they stalked the pace-makers before grabbing the lead three-wide at the top of the lane. They then slipped clear to win by a length in 3:21.5 (mile rate: 2:04.6) for the 2600m stand. Last 800m: 61.1. Last 400m: 29.6.
Favourite Thanesan (Anthony Butt) made up ground late to finish second, a-1/4 lengths clear of outsider Phil's Gift and Jamie Keast.
The son of Pegasus Spur has already won a Harness Jewels Final (New Zealand) and two Breeders Crowns (Australia). The way he won tonight don't be surprised if he does make it the double and treble come August 19.
Paramount Geegee's biggest wins to date have been the $80,000 Northern Trotting Derby at Alexandra Park on May 6, 2011; $80,000 NZ Trotting Derby at Addington on May 20, 2011; the $100,000 3yo Harness Jewels Ruby Ashburton in June 2011; the $165,000 and $100,000 Breeders Crown 2yo and 3yo Trots at Melton in August 2010 and 2011.
All-up Paramount Geegee has now won 17 of his 26 starts and placed six times for $556,005 in stakes.
He is owned by Mrs J. R. Davies, J. B. Davies, C. B. Blackwell, J. J. Hope, Mrs J. E .Sutherland.
G. F. Gimblett and Studholme Bloodstock Limited did the breeding.
Credit: Duane Ranger writing in HarnessLink 23 Mar 2012
Smolda was magnificent in defeat when second in the Group 1 $150,000 Ricoh New Zealand Derby at Addington last Friday night.
But all was not lost for the multi-armoured All Stars Stable and its tight three, Neil Picher and Phillip and Glenys Kennard. As well as being part-owners of Smolda, they are also partners with Gavin Douglas and Phil and Margaret Creighton in Fly Like An Eagle who won the classic after everthing went right.
It was not as if everything went wrong for Smolda, but he did have a predictably hard slog; up from the back before the last lap, up second outside Scandalman at the 1000m, appearing to struggle at the 400m, up again to head him at the 250m, only to be caught by his stablemate who had just enough gas after a soft run behind Scandalman. It was a run of great fortitude. Mark Purdon gave him credit for it. "The other horse could not have done what Smolda did," he said.
Fly Like An Eagle had a perfect run in the trail behind Scandalman. "When Smolda comes round, I won't be letting him go," said Jimmy Douglass, Scandalman's tiny Australian driver, before the race. Purdon didn't press the point when he came up, although Smolda was keen to get on with it. Closer to home, Scandalman was soon in a bit of bother. "He wasn't as good tonight," said Douglass. He hadn't raced for three weeks and he needs a race at least a week out. We couldn't find one at home and couldn't get over here for the first night. I think he was a run short."
Fly Like An Eagle had been on the ladder of steady improvement, following his Northern Derby fourth with a game lead-up second in th Flying Stakes, only to be collared late by Smolda. This has all come from a late start to the season, forced on him by the operation to remove two bone chips from a knee when he was in Ballarat as a late 2-year-old. "I wasn't really unhappy at the time," said Purdon. "He was needing a break and the three months he had out after that was really to his benefit," he said.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 4 Apr 2012
It would be hard to recall a better young trotter than Escapee. Some will come to mind and may be as good, but it would have to be special to be better.
Escapee has won seven of her 11 starts. There were two seconds, when she started off, and her untested win in the Group 1 Seelite Windows and Doors New Zealand Trotters Derby at Addington was her sixth on end.
In the domnating form she's now in, it's hard to believe how the losses occurred. But for the record - second on debut to All Shook Up, disqualified from fourth behind Flying Isa, second in the Jewels to Flying Isa, all at two; and 12th on the grass at Orari when first-up as a three-year-old.
It was unfortunate that You Rock was not there - forced out owing to veterinary treatment - because that may have given her competition the others couldn't. No Boundaries was the best of them, more than three lengths back, after running a trailing second throughout.
The performance of Escapee was no less than what Mark Purdon expected. "I thought she was actually better this week, than last week, when she won the Oaks," he said. "And she reminds me very much of Dependable, same frame, same way of going, and I trained him at the same age." Purdon, in fact, gave Dependable 10 starts at three and won three, including two Group 1s.
Escapee is owned by his breeder, Trevor Casey, a big man in the game in so many ways. Sponsor Michael Taranto was on the mark when he said: "It's great to see an owner and a breeder who puts back so much as a sponsor, get a reward like this." Casey said "It was a relief. The pressure is on when you have a $1.20 shot."
Escapee still has much ahead of her, with a trip north to come, and You Rock, will be waiting, and Not Likely as well. Not Likely, a strong third in the Oaks, was not at her best for the Derby and galloped when leading at the mile. She has also been sold, to Australian Ray Cahill, but will stay with trainer Andrew Grant until after the Jewels.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 4Apr2012
Owners Clive and Rona McKay had a speedy return on a horse they bought on Friday. On the morning of the premier meeting at Addington they paid Spreydon Lodge for a half-share in the 2-year-old Franco Nelson, and by the time the night was over, they had part of the payment back.
A colt by Christian Cullen, Franco Nelson had made a stunning debut a fortnight earlier, beating Border Control and Sir Tosti Mach. The Purdon-Payne pair were in again, badly off at the start, but the big danger was Ohoka Punter, off the pole, and Franco Nelson was drawn to follow him out. That's what happened, but instead of Okoka Punter doing enough to hold him out, he didn't.
Franco Nelson worked up the passing lane for Craig Thornley to win the Avon City Ford Welcome Stakes by half a head, and the McKays were $11,000 better off. The money should keep coming because driver Craig Thornley said he would only keep getting better. "It was a big training effort by Steven (McRae) to win a Group race at just his second start, but the horse is very good. Ohoka Punter got a length and a half on me turning in, but I didn't panic, and just chased him up."
While Thornley is uncertain what Franco Nelson would do next, he thinks it won't be very much in the short term. "I know Steven has the Breeders Stakes in mind. He is a very good trainer, and if he has a plan he sticks to it."
After leaving Franco Nereus, Fanco Noriega and four others before Franco Nelson and a filly by Live Or Die since, Notafella Franco was offered at a Spreydon Lodge dispersal sale a year ago in foal to Badlands Hanover where McRae, Andrew Stuart and Gareth Dixon bought her for $8000. The colt foal was born dead, and she was not served this season.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 4Apr2012
Habibti went to the head of the first season trotting class with an emphatic display in the $25,000 Glenferrie Farm NZ 2YO Trotting Stakes at Addington last Saturday night.
In the first juvenile trotting feature of the season, where favouritism had been disputed between Royal Aspirations and Paramount Queen, Habibti was eased away from the seven gate by David Butt but a quick burst at the 1300m landed the flashy chestnut filly in front and Butt was able to dictate things from there. Another spurt with a 29.6 quarter down the back took the stuffing out of the chasers and Habibti was on her own in the run home, crossing the line with three and a half lengths to spare over Sheemon and Paramount Queen.
On a blustery night which subdued times noticeably, Habibti posted 2 27.8 and a 2 01.9 mile rate and this was only .3 of a second outside Kylie Ree's national filly record. The all-comers mark is still held by Tony H at 2 27.1 after a titanic struggle with the freak filly Jo Anne in the 2001 Trotting Stakes.
Habibti has been in pretty much every battle from the start of the season and she has now had two wins, three second and three thirds from eight races for Rangiora's Robert 'Bolty' Paterson and David and Catherine Butt's Birchbrook Breeding Ltd. Bred by Gaby Maghzal, Habibti is the fourth foal and first filly from the Sundon mare Ten To One, who began racing at five for Dick Petrie and who retired at 11 with six wins, five of them at seven. Her first three foals have qualified without racing yet, with Maghzal acquiring her as a broodmare and her second foal Gabrielli, after first racing a close relation and smart juvenile Signor Gabrielli some 30 years ago. Paterson also races Musgrove, a winner of $170,000 and a game third from 40m two races earlier.
Habibti was coming off a slightly disappointing second at Rangiora the previous week, when she was gunned down by Rosemma. "We had her blood done after that and it turned out she was a bit crook," said David Butt. "She's only made two wee mistakes in her life - in her first start back in January and then in her first look at a grass track at Methven. She's always appealed as a good staying type and she's getting stronger all the time," he added.
Habibti is not paid up for the Sires Stakes in a month's time, bu Butt said they will "have to look at the late entry fee now. Initially I wasn't that keen because the $6000 is only for the one race - it doesn't put you back in the 3yo series. But we'll have to think about it now that she has won it I guess."
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 12Apr2012
Inter-Dominion champion I Can Doosit pretty much wrapped up the Horse Of The Year title with another dominating display in Saturday night's $80,000 NZ Trotting Championship at Addington. This was his eighth straight win dating back to November's Dominion when he made an uncharacteristic break and the sequence includes three Group Ones and two G2s, with two further G1s now seemingly at his mercy back in Auckland in coming weeks - the $200,000 Anzac Cup and $150,000 Rowe Cup.
With his 26th win from just 43 races, which includes five G1s in all, I Can Doosit is now also just $22,000 away from being New Zealand's latest millionaire trotter. In this respect he will join Lyell Creek, Take A Moment and One Over Kenny. So it is getting to a point where one has to ask 'what more can you say' and 'what's left to prove?'. The asnswer to the first question is a little disturbing because I Can Doosit is actually getting better all the time, now being much smoother in his gait.
The big Muscles Yankee gelding has developed tactical speed to compliment his endless staying powers and Mark Purdon used that to great advantage in the Trotting Championship. It was a race which promised to be a wonderful match-up with the remarkable Stig but in the end that clash proved a fizzer. Stig was not a shadow of his former self on this occasion and the writing may well be on the wall for the injury-plagued rising 10-year-old. Improvement is expected the Auckland way, but Paul Nairn will need to somehow find plenty. Instead it was left to Jaccka Jack to run the race of his life for second, and for Clover Don to pick up his third G1 placing.
Breeder-owner Ken Breckon, who has almost certainly wrapped up at least one of those titles for the season as well, is now coming under intense pressure from European interests to take I Can Doosit to the Elitlopp at the end of May, and while that is something he would love to do, logic or common sense would seem dictate it won't be happening for the time being. Taking on the best European trotters over a mile at the 1000m Solvalla track in Sweden at such short notice is a daunting prospect to say the least. Tremendous gate speed is critical when the guns are blazing at the Elitlopp and it is a task which has already proved well beyond Pride Of Petite, Lyell Creek and Sundon's Gift. As a gelding, I Can Doosit is not eligible for the Prix d'Amerique in Paris at the end of January. "I haven't even spoken to Mark about it yet, but with such a big and powerful stable to run, it's hard to imagine when and how he could get away," said Breckon. "Plus I know just how desperate he is to win the Dominion, the one G1 race in New Zealand to elude him," he added.
Purdon has a plan to spell I Can Doosit after the Rowe Cup and set him for the Dominion again, and then there is the likelihood of a new $300,000 race at Melton next February to replace the Inter-Dominions. The 6-year-old I Can Doosit should have won the Dominion in 2010, but after a tough run in record time he was just nutted by Stylish Monarch and a great drive from Ricky May. He was raging hot favourite for this season's event, but he made that rare mistake at the start, and he wasn't at his best that day either. Quite simply, I Can Doosit can win a lot more money by staying at home over the next 12 months, than tackling the best trotters in the world on their home turf.
So the answer to the latter question is a lot easier than finding more superlatives for I Can Doosit. But Breckon is not discounting the idea of taking I Can Doosit on to the world stage if at all possible at some point and he won't be lacking for any encouragement about a "trip away" from wife Karen. "There's some longer distance races on the European Grand Curcuit in our winter which would suit him nicely.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 12Apr2012
Hands Christian well and truly announced his arrival on to the big stage with a thrilling win in a grand finish to Saturday night's Easter Cup at Addington.
Not that the Christian Cullen gelding hasn't been in the limelight since he began his career in earnest as a spring 3-year-old, when it took Gold Ace to narrowly down him in the Sires Stakes, but the more recent version is proving a much more mature model and this was his first G1 win when he has looked fallible at times in the past. "He has been a bit of a late developer, both physically and mentally, but he has shown glimpses of genuine ability at times," said Mark Purdon. "We've had some very big offers along the way, but I'm quite pleased we kept him now," he added.
One of those glimpses was at the Jewels last year when Hands Christian split Gold Ace and Terror To Love in a similarily nose and head grandstand finish, but he has sort of been living in their shadow for much of the time. Gold Ace and Terror To Love have seemingly been waging a private war, with the recent Superstars being just a return to their epic encounters as late 3-year-olds, but Hands Christian has always been lurking and on this occasion he beat them both fairly and squarely and on their merits.
After bobbling away and missing the start by 10-12 lengths, Hands Christian bided his time towards the tail of the field and he still had only Franco Ledger behind behind him at the 600m. Purdon began his charge soon after and flushed Terror To Love for a drag into the race, but coming wide from so far back hardly seemed a recipe for success at the time. But this had been a solidly run affair on a cool and windy night and the race would be one of quickly changing complexions as class became the biggest factor.
Just as the doughty Mah Sish had put Franco Emirate away early in the run home, Gold Ace and Terror To Love loomed alongside and seemed all set to go at it again. For once Terror To Love was obviously going to get the better of Gold Ace, off the back of a kinder trip for a change, only for Hands Christian to bomb them both right on the line. A time of 4:04 was more than respectable in the conditions and Hands Christian had come home in 56 and 27 and change to get around them.
"I sort of set him for this when we decided against a start in the Auckland Cup. He was very unlucky in the Superstars when I decided to try for an inside run on the home turn and he never really got clear. I thought we'd wait for Easter when he might have got a bit of a head start on the good ones. Things didn't work out that way, but he still got the job done."
This was just another outstanding Premier carnival performance from the all conquering Purdon & Payne stable, a G1 double on Saturday night being complemented by three supporting acts by Trilby, Harrison Maguire and Southwing Arden, and following on from Escapee's Trotting Oaks and Derby double and the quinella in the NZ Derby. The All Stars Stable won 14 races and well over $300,000 in stakes over the three nights, taking their seasonal tallies to 101 wins and $1.85m, the latter figure easily more than twice any other stable. And just to cap things off, the Easter Cup was a race the stable co-sponsored.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 12Apr2012
The Trevor Casey owned and bred Escapee notched up her sixth win from 10 starts - and fifth in a row - when dealing to her eight filly opponents. Purdon had her situated in the one-one and then parked down the back straight before running away from them in the straight to win ridiculously easy.
The daughter of Sundon trotted the 1950m mobile in 2:25.3 (mile rate: 1:59.8) - with final 800m and 400m sprints of 58.8 and 29.7.
It was Escapee's second Group Three victory in two months. On February 11 she had a two-length victory in the $25,000 Hambletonian Classic, at Ashburton.
Escapee almost looks a home run in next week's Group One $80,000 New Zealand Trotting Derby.
For the record Purdon and Payne trained five winners at Addington tonight. The others were Arden Tetrick (race one), Springsteen (race 3) and Three Pints (race 12).
The Kennards also have a share in Arden Tetrick, while Pilcher also has shares in Springsteen and Three Pints.
Casey is also a co-owner of Three Pints.
Credit: Duane Ranger writing in HarnessLink 28 Mar 2012
Canterbury harness racing fans got to see the very best of the Ray Green trained Sir Lincoln at the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club's meeting held at Addington Raceway today (Saturday).
The brilliant son of Mach Three could not have been more impressive in pole-axing his opposition by four and a half lengths in the $25,000 Group Three Summer Cup over 2600 metres, a distance his trainer had previously believed was beyond the best of his capabilities.
“He’s really at his best at 2200 metres or less, but he even impressed me today, maybe I’m a little biased,” Green said. Sir Lincoln was driven by James Stormont in the absence of regular pilot Maurice McKendry who is engaged to drive Sovereignty in tonight’s $250,000 Inter Dominion Trotters Grand Final being held at Tabcorp Park in Melton, Victoria.
Stormont speared Sir Lincoln straight to the lead from a handy draw, but with favourite Gomeo Romeo on his back the win was far from guaranteed. “He had to work at the start and finish of the race, so I thought his performance was quite awesome really,” Green added.
Gomeo Romeo stuck gamely to second while former NZ derby winner Captain Peacock put-in a much improved performance rattling home late for third. Champion pacer Monkey King would have satisfied his connections finishing on nicely for fourth, while fifth placed Mah Sish was again solid, but looks to be anything but a grand-circuit performer.
The winning time for Sir Lincoln was 3.12.9, sprinting home in 56 and 27.5 for the final sectionals. Next-up for the North Island trained pacer will be the Magic Mile at Ashburton in a week’s time where Green is hoping Sir Lincoln can better his career best 1.54.5, which he recorded when winning the Harness Jewels at Cambridge as a three year old.
The absorbing battle between Carabella and Bettor Cover Lover had a softer round at Addington last Saturday. It was a predictable quinella, with Donegal Delight a clear third in the Group 1 PGG Wrightson NZ Breeders' Stakes.
Ricky May made a planned easy exit off the gate. From wider out, Donegal Delight was first into the corner, beating Flyover for speed, and took the trail once May was comfortable about moving past. As they settled on places up front, Bettor Cover Lover was settling on one at the back, and was quite a distance off the pace at the 1600m. She had help from there to make up the deficit, and was parked at the bell.
In any other company, Bettor Cover Lover would have dealt with the testing trip, but here it was Carabella again and no-one knows better than Brent Mangos that getting close is one thing and getting past another.
"She's such a strong horse and 2600m is really her pet distance," said driver Ricky May, who has now driven her in 17 of her 19 wins - Gareth Newton called upon for a juvenile win in Auckland, and Kyle Cameron in her fourth win, as a 3-year-old at Ashburton. "And Benny (Hill) said she had improved, and she had." Hill said h would be taking Carabella to Menangle for a race next month.
Ten Diamonds was fourth and unlucky not to finish closer, and the Hill-trained mare has since joined the stable of Robert Dunn.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing i HRWeekly 9Feb2012
It is just as well Tim Butt came away with the Hunter Cup, won by Choise Achiever, in Melbourne last Saturday night. His luck on this side of the Tasman has taken a hammering, winning and losing three races in as many weeks with erratic runners. First it was Cam Before The Storm relegated from first at Blenheim. A week later at Motukarara, Enough's Enuff lost a maiden, and then a master blow, winning the $200,000 PGG Wrightson Sales Series for 3-year-old fillies with Elusive Chick and losing it to a JCA decision and Dancing Diamonds at Addington.
Elusive Chick had been taken to the front by Colin DeFilippi with a lap to run, and put what appeared to be a winning break on the pack on turning in. Only Dancing Diamond emerged with the purpose of pegging her back. Between starting her chase and getting there, Elusive Chick had come off her line by three sulky widths, without causing any hindrance to the progress of Dancing Diamonds. But when Dancing Diamonds arrived at the wheel of Elusive Chick, further drift occurred. And while Blair Orange never stopped driving Dancing Diamonds out, it was noticable from three camera angles he was forced to jiggle the cart at least twice to avoid the possibility of hooking a wheel.
DeFilippi told the panel that at no stage did Orange appear to stop driving Dancing Diamonds and said the horse could have won had she been good enough. Orange based his appeal on the line DeFilippi ended from where Elusive Chick started, the issue he had with his sulky inside the last 100m, and the fact the margin was tight - half a head. In defending the drift out, DeFilippi said: "They're not motor cars."
The JCA made speedy work on the matter, resting their decision to relegate Elusive Chick on the requirement of a horse maintaining a straight line to the finish. It was a friendly fight, with the connections of the new winner saying they didn't like to win that way, and the Elusive Chick people gallant in defeat. Dancing Diamonds has not been quite herself since a hard run first-up, and Orange was anxious to give her cover. That's the trip he gave her.
The filly was bred by Phil Creighton and Stewart Gillan and they sold her as a yearling for $110,000. But there was a hiccup in the detail, putting trainer Mark Purdon in the position of going to Creighton later and asking him if he wanted to keep a half-share. The Bettor's Delight filly races for Creighton, his wife Margaret, and Braedon and Caroline Whitelock. Asabella, the dam of Dancing Diamonds, had a colt foal to Art Major this year and has been served by Bettor's Delight.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 9Feb2012
2012 IAN DOBSON SUMMER TROTTING FFA
Dr Hook was back to his best with a sharp sprint to comfortably beat outsider King Charlie and Clover Don in 2 24.5 for the 1950m mobile. The favourite, Paramount Geegee took little part in the contest because of a minor tie-up issue.
The trainer, Paul Nairn commented "He wasn't quite himself before Christmas. I had the vet go over him, so I gave him 10 days off and that's all he needed."
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 9Feb2012
2012 MAURICE HOLMES VASE
Franco Ledger secured his place in the Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup with a barnstorming finish to cut Franco Emirate out of first in the Group 3 Maurice Holmes Vase at Addington last week.
Considering the competitive lead-up opportunities in Southland compared to those available in Canterbury, this was a cracking training effort by Hamish Hunter. The last horse to achieve a similar result for the province at this time of year was probably Giavanetto, for the late Murray Gray and driven by Jack Smolenski.
Franco Ledger had not raced since beating seven others at Invercargill on April 22, and his best effort from six previous starts at Addington was a third behind Gold Ace and Terror To Love in March over 2600m.
Hunter's previous Cup hope was Malaz, who ran fourth in 1986, 26 years ago. Like Franco Ledger, Malaz started his campaign by winning fresh-up at Addington in August, and followed that with three unplaced starts before the Cup. Hunter's brother Henderson was 27 when he won the Cup with Trusty Scot in 1978.
Standing starts have been Franco Emirate's achilles heel, but he was safe enough and looked the winner when he loomed up wide on the turn and hit the front soon after. Rangataua Ray was honest again, edging past the pacemaker Ohoka Texus who ran with his usual freedom in front until being swamped late. Stunin Cullen was in the bunch and fifth, leaving the impression that he will improve with every start.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 12Sep12
2012 NZ FREE-FOR-ALL
Harness Racing's 2012 Group One Woodlands New Zealand Free-For-All run on Canterbury Anniversary Day during the Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup Carnival in November will be run over the distance of one mile (1609 metres).
Addington Raceway and Events Centre and The New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club announced that this prestigious race to be held on 16 November 2012 will revert to a distance of one mile having been previously held over 2000 metres.
Conditions include the event to be contested over one mile from the mobile barrier with the field restricted to 10 starters plus one emergency. Configuration from behind the mobile will consist of a maximum front line of six and a maximum second line of five starters.
After a thorough period of consultation within the industry and discussions with leading horseman it has been decided that the first six horses to finish in the Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup along with the winner of the Group 1 NRM Sires' Stakes Three Year Old Final three days earlier will be automatically invited to start in the Free-For-All mile.
The balance of the field will be selected at the Club's discretion.
The race will carry a stake of $150,000. In addition to this, a special bonus of $5,000 each will be paid to the trainer and driver of the winner if the current New Zealand record for the mile is broken.
Addington's Racing Manager Brian Rabbitt said "Cup Week in Christchurch is the greatest week in harness racing in the country and it fits well that the best pacers throughout Australasia can compete at this Carnival over the ultimate speed distance of a mile.
We get the top echelon of pacers going for glory on the Tuesday in the Cup over two miles (3200m) and now they have the opportunity to compete over a mile three days later. We have been thinking of this concept for some time now and it's been a while since we've staged a flying mile at Addington.
Only the best pacers competing at the time will be eligible given the criteria, and this coupled with an attractive bonus should ensure the sparks are flying."
"Recent feedback from leading horseman has been positive and supportive and we feel that this initiative is a natural progression considering the success of the Harness Jewels and that series having a strong focus on mile racing."
Addington's Racecourse Manager John Denton went on to say "The track at Addington Raceway is somewhat different now than what it was back in 1991 when the last mile was run here under normal conditions.
With the introduction of the pylons in 1995, the passing lane in 2000 and the fact that the gradient is significantly better now, I'm confident that the current New Zealand record could be given a shake given ideal conditions on the day."
* 1.52.1 - New Zealand Record for one mile for a pacer held jointly by Smolda and Kiwi Ingenuity.
* 1.56.0 - Addington Raceway Track Record for one mile held by Blossom Lady set in 1991.
* Between 1985 and 1991 there were 105 mobile mile races staged at Addington with 11% of these won by saddlecloth 1 and 10% won by saddlecloth 2. Interestingly, 10% of the races were won by saddlecloth 5 and 8.5% were won by saddlecloth 10.
* 9 - The average race starters over the last four years in the Woodlands Free-For-All.
Credit: Ged Mooar
2012 NEVELE R FILLIES FINAL
O Baby reignited the race for top dog status amongst this season's 3-year-old fillies with a blistering turn of foot to race away with the $150,000 Nevele R Fillies Sreies No.34 Final at Addington on Saturday afternoon.
With dual G1 winner and favoured Twist And Twirl battling into fifth after plenty of early pressure, the title is still up for grabs and will likely be settled in this week's New Zealand Oaks and at the Jewels. Twist And Twirl will certainly appreciate the extra distance of the Oaks, but the race could still be wide open when the draws are done for a mile at Cambridge.
O Baby once again proved she is right up to the best in this group however when she carried Natalie Rasmussen to the biggest win of her brief and intermittent driving career in New Zealand. Rasmussen had no option but to ease O Baby back to last early from the outside of the front line, but with plenty of sparks flying up front over the first 800m, out of the early action was the best place to be and Rasmussen had O Baby in the three wide train and tracking Elusive Chick when it really mattered over the last 800m. Elusive Chick was brave after being camped three wide in the open, but O Baby had been sitting pretty and went whoosh over the closing stages to score by almost three lengths.
Rasmussen wound up second with Blacks A Fake in last year's Inter-Dominion in Auckland and her first driving success here was a good one with Vi Et Animo in the Methven Cup in the spring, but she had never been in this sort of position before. "I never really thought about much after the draws came out and even though we were travelling easily down the back, I didn't think about maybe getting up when we swung for home either," said Rasmussen. "But just towards the finish I thought to myself...oh shit...I'm going to win. O Baby had no luck in the big races while in Auckland, but she's quick and she's strong - she has a bit of everything and is versitile," she added.
Rasmussen, a 'third stringer' for the All Stars Stable behind Mark Purdon and Blair Orange, completed a memorasble day when Minnie Moose won the Pascoes The Jewellers FFA three races later, again accounting for partner and 'boss' Purdon with the favoured Southwind Arden and again for breeder-owners Braeden and Mrs Caroline Whitelock. The Whitelocks had an even more memorable day as Paddy Brown had started the ball rolling when bolting away with the ChCh Casino Pace for Orange.
This year's Fillies Final was a torrid affair right from the start and O Baby's 2:21 and 1:56.3 mile rate in a cold and breezy easterly was exceptional, second onlt to Carabella's 2:19.7 in much better conditions last year and since the race went to 1950m 14 years ago. Purdon had to do his utmost to keepThe Burning Question from crossing in the first 400m, and then Twist And Twirl soon had the attentions of Dancing Diamonds and Here We Go Again, the latter maintaining the pressure as Carpenter's Daughter and Alchemist also made midrace moves for position. In the end it was the three horses in the three wide train over the last half that filled the first three placings.
"She wasn't a big foal but she could be very naughty - Caroline would have to take a stick with her at feeding time," said Braeden. "Mark has always said she's like a big horse in a small body trying to break out," he added. O Baby won last year's Sires Stakes in Auckland, but having just missed at the Jewels a race later, this success at Addington and in Canterbury was special and the best yet for the Whitelocks as breeder-owners. They race dual Sales race winner Dancing Diamonds ($342,000) with Phil and Margaret Creighton after buying her at the Premier, but she has yet to win a G1 and O Baby has now won two and $243,000.
More to the point for them, Caroline is a daughter of Nelson Dalzell of the 'Moose' breed and hails from Culverden, and O Baby descends from a family which produced Nelson Derby for her great grandfather George Craw in the 1920s. Nelson Derby was from Norice and the Whitelocks got back into this family when they acquired Tuapeka Star (Smooth Fella-Sakuntala) late in life and bred the good racemare and now producer Braeside Star. That Soky's Atom mare has left good winners in Ohoka's Artsplace, Braeside Derby, Johnny Bravo, Paddy Brown and the promising Bettorbeastar, and O Baby is the first foal from her only unraced daughter in the Artsplace mare Braeside Lady. Artsplace was a big factor in this race as he also sired Twist And Twirl and Carpenter's Daughter.
The second foal from Braeside Lady in a Bettor's Delight colt has died, but the mare has a weanling brother bound for Karaka next year and she is back in foal to Mach Three. "Our rule is always to sell the colts and keep the fillies and never have more than six broodmares, so sometimes we've sold the odd filly like Meredith Maguire (2nd in Fillies Final two years ago). "We'll be guided by Mark on what's best to do with O Baby, but maybe we'll have to make room for her one day and it'll be her mother that has to go.
"This has been a wonderful day for us, but we had a jolt earlier to remind us what has happened here and that many other people are still hurting."
Credit: Frank Marion writing in HRWeekly 16 May 2011
2012 SEELITE WINDOWS & DOORS SIRES STAKES 2YO TROTTERS CHAMPIONSHIP
Mo Hahn leaves for Cambridge on Friday and Sheemon will be on the float with him. Not only are they fairly new paddock mates but they both make the trip taking winning form from Addington with them.
Sheemon scored a narrow win by a neck for Dexter Dunn over Habibti in the Group 2 Seelite Windows & Doors Sires' Stakes 2YO Trotters Championship. Habibti has never missed the first three in ten starts this season. Sheemon has won three from nine starts and only once been worse than third. In their last three clashes, Sheemon has now beaten Habibti twice and Habibti won the other.
As usual, Habibti tried to beat them for stamina, but she was not able to get away with her hard-running style this time. Paramount Queen led the chase and joined her before she was beaten back over the last 100m. In the meantime, Dexter had cut the corner with Sheemon. It allowed him to pinch some ground, and the son of Monarchy was soon up the lane and closing on Habibti. It was just the little touch of genius that turned hope into reality.
Trainer Kevin Townley is keen on getting back to Cambridge, where the Jewels have been fair to him before. "I've been placed with horses each time there now," he said. But Sheemon has the speed to win it, and he's up a level on Townley's previous contestants, Neville Vaughan, The Ultimate Galleon, Medora and Dream Machine. "All along I've meticulously watched every race for the 2-year-olds," said Townley. "I'm not saying Sheemon is any better than the others, but I can't say I've seen any that are better."
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 16 May 2012
2012 PGG WRIGHTSON YEARLING SALES 2YO OPEN FINAL
Because Cran Dalgety didn't set his sights above the dashboard with Bit Of A Legend, he was quite surprised a big race came his way so soon. The little colt was a commanding winner of the $250,000 PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales 2YO Open Final at Addington, taking advantage of a good trip against the hard ones namely Five Card Draw and Alto Christiano.
He swept up the passing lane after sitting on the tail of Five Card Draw, drawing clear to win by two lengths. Five Card Draw was a brave second, having to face up to and fight off the pressure from Sir Tosti Mach, who ran too keenly outside him. Mitchell Kerr made a bold move when he took Alta Christiano forward from midfield before the bell, only to find Sir Tosti Mach unwilling to yield alongside him and leaving him in an impossible spot. They ran three in line until Sir Tosti Mach dropped off on the corner.
Predictably, they were sitting targets for a late arrival and no-one was better placed to arrive in style than Dexter Dunn with Bit Of A Legend. Which was a result that really caught trainer Dalgety on the hop. "Two months ago we thought it'd be nice to pick up a 2-year-old race and then put him aside. That was pretty much what we thought of him. So we went off south to start him off, where he ran second to Supreme Mach, then he went half good the week before at Ashburton. He's got the good run today, but I feel he's lifted again," he said.
Dalgety could see a lap out that the favourites could find themselves on sticky street if there was no reprieve. "Mitch probably had four sets of bad luck when you look at it. His horse went huge. The long straight sorts them out and then they'd made it a race for the swoopers."
Dalgety had four in the race, an achievement in itself, which is a result of a stronger focus on younger horses and their extensive range of opportunities. As part of that operation, he has a second barn, with 14 boxes, and Dave Moore has the responsibility to run it. "They'll do 14 colts, and when they've finished whatever stage they're at, 14 fillies will come in. We try and keep the barn full. You could go for a boutique stable with 10 or so and then you might finish up with a couple that really go good enough. This is the path I'm committed to, but it can't be done unless you have very good staff.
Dalgety has also been in the choice position of replacing Mark Jones with one no less gifted in Dexter Dunn. "He's on a roll and we're getting some of it," he said. Dunn has actually been in cracking form, winning a Group double at Ascot Park late last month, the Messenger and Sires' Stakes Final at Alexandra Park 10 days ago, and then a Listed-Group 2 combo last Saturday.
Bit Of A Legend is by Bettor's Delight and Dalgety didn't need much pushing to buy from Studholme Park where he has bought and spent well in the past. "He's a half-brother to London Legend (25 wins), who was a good horse for me." Dalgety has also been pleased the way ownership has turned out for 82-year-old Ross Stanbury, a past administrator of the Banks Peninsula club. "Ross used to buy one a year. So I gave it some tought, sat down with Ross and said we'll change the game plan. Now he's buying a bit in four, so there's usually at least one racing and one coming up."
Sir Tosti Mach caused a false start while Flaming Flutter, a stablemate of the winners, was in quite a state after it and took no real part.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 16 May 2012
2012 CANTERBURY BREEDERS NEW ZEALAND OAKS
Zac Butcher drove his first Group One winner and trainer Barry Purdon had his best night at southern headquarters in a long time when Cheer The Lady triumphed in a thrilling $100,000 Canterbury Breeders New Zealand Oaks at Addington last Friday night.
After going out on his own account, Purdon won the 2YO Sales race back in 1996 when Gran Montana upset Bogan Fella and brother Mark, but his biggest night out at Addington before this was a couple of years later when Holmes D G won the Derby and Anvil Vance the Easter Cup. Purdon has won the Oaks before with Pacific Flight and Julie Vance back in the early 90s, but that was when training with father Roy and Mark drove.
For young Butcher, 21 last month, this was easily a highlight in a career which has been rapidly heading skyward for four seasons now. Wins by Bettor Sweet and Cheer The Lady took his tally this term to 96, just two behind his father David in the race behind Dexter Dunn (145) by the close of the meeting. In his previous three seasons as a junior, Butcher has won 18, 45 and 59 races. The latter figure took him into third among the juniors, but he has Matt Williamson well covered this season and the century is only a matter of weeks away.
Butcher, who won last years Gr2 Delightful Lady Classic in Auckland with Precious Rose, made a critical decision at the 1300m which ultimately paved the road to gold. He was following Twist And Twirl at this point, but when she made her move from four back in the running line to eventually wrestle the lead off Here We Go Again, Butcher opted to stay in when most would have latched on. Another critical point came passing the 700m when Living The Dream, who had followed Twist And Twirl, began to give ground and carted Pemberton Shard and Elusive Chick back with her.
Butcher was improving three wide on the back of Precious Rose while all this was happening, and a short time later Cheer The Lady was able to drop into the one-one. In effect Cheer The Lady had spent little in manoeuvring into such a challenging position, and she had Twist And Twirl covered early in the run home. O Baby, favoured by a good draw on this occasion but inconvenienced by the stubborn longshot Strata Star for a good half mile, had a brief time in the lead before winding up four back. She had some luck when Elusive Chick moved one off and got lost, the three back position enabling her to out finish Here We Go Again for a close third.
This was a frenetically run affair on a bitterly cold and windy night and Cheer The Lady's 3:11.6 was the second fastest ever recorded behind De Lovely's 3:10.9 two years ago, which was the third of David Butcher's three Oaks within seven years. "Things panned out really well in the end, but you need a bit of luck in these races," said Butcher. "She's a tough sort which follows speed really well. Twist And Twirl fought back in the run home, but when I gave my filly another one she went again," he added.
By Bettor's Delight and the fourth of four consecutive filly foals from the Albert Albert mare Galleons Cheer, a granddaughter of No Regrets, Cheer The Lady was bred by Gary Allen and prepared by Aimee Edmonds for the second day of the 2010 Premier Sale, where Purdon sorted her out for $57,500. She was one of seven sales purchases that year by Purdon for a syndicate comprising the 18-member Auckland syndicate Clear View Racing No.2 headed by Len Oughton, along with Terry Henderson, Kevin Riseley, Ted Edwards, Hawkes Bay's Thomas Corson and John Lohman, the latter on hand from Perth. Six of those yearlings have raced and five have won, with the others including Precious Rose($126,650) and Smo($47,528), with only a Real Desire colt not making the grade.
"Cheer The Lady never really impressed us at all last year until a few weeks before the NZ Cup meeting when she resumed at Cambridge," said Purdon. "I wasn't confident then and when she got parked, I thought we're in trouble here, but she just got beat a nose. Then she won in Auckland a week later and she hasn't looked back since. She's a great doing filly - the only thing that bothers her in not enough feed - and she's kept improving with racing and as she's got stronger," he added.
Purdon decided not to make the $15,000 late payment for the Fillies Series, as "you had to win a heat to justify that and then you could draw bad in the final." This meant he could freshen her with a six week break from racing after winning at Alexandra Park in mid March, where she erased Carabella's NZ record in posting 2:40.7 (MR 1:57.5) for 2200m mobile, and set her for the Oaks and Jewels. Apart from driving Precious Rose into second in the Sires' Stakes behind Twist And Twirl at Christmas, Butcher has driven the long striding and deceptively fast Cheer The Lady in all her 11 races this season, where she has now recorded six wins, two seconds and two thirds for $109,717.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 23May2012
2012 GARRARD'S SIRES' STAKES 2YO FINAL
A good night became a great one for the Barry Purdon stable when Five Card Draw completed a Group One race double in the $180,000 Garrard's Sires' Stakes 2yo Final at Addington last Friday night.
With Bettor Sweet starting the ball rolling by earlier upsetting Mark Purdon with Didjamakem Bolt, who was racing out of his class in 2-3 win company due to the one-win mobile having to be dropped, Five Card Draw also completed a Bettor's Delight treble with Oaks winner Cheer The Lady for Barry with five starters in three races for the evening.
Purdon won the inaugural Sires Stakes in 1984 with Billbob and others in Auckland with Chokin and Montana Vance, along with Matai Mackenzie at Addington at Addington 12 years ago, but Addington has become the stomping ground of younger brother Mark since he moved to Canterbury in the mid 90s. His dominance of age group features at Addington has been such that the All Stars Stable has won the Sires Stakes no less than six times with Il Vicolo, The Court Owl, Light And Sound, Likmesiah, Fiery Falcon and Major Mark. But Purdon's juvenile firepower has been well down this season, partly because he has been buying yearlings in Australia, and only Sir Tosti Mach was eligible and qualified for this final.
The latter was a sound fourth and one of seven starters by Mach Three which filled the second to sixth placings, which would have been some sort of record had Five Card Draw not held such a big hand for Brent Mangos. Cran Dalgety also held a good hand for the race with three starters even without last week's Sales race winner Bit Of A Legend, and for about the first 1700m, it seemed as though Dexter Dunn was going to provide for an action replay. Just as he had done with Bit Of A Legend, Dunn used the electric speed of Abraxas to cross Five Card Draw at the start and then happily hand up and wait for the passing lane. Barry Purdon and Dalgety were both getting feelings of déjá vu when Abraxas poked up inside Five Card Draw at the furlong, but Mangos was just kidding and the least concerned of all.
With favourite Alta Christiano out of play early, Five Card Draw had got some easy sectionals before heading down the back and into the stiff southerly, and he had plenty in reserve on the occasion, coming away again near the finish. This was Five Card Draw's fourth win from six starts and having also won the Young Guns, th gelding has already earned $224,000, with another $75,000 awaiting them at the Jewels. Five Card Draw is Breeders Crown eligible, but Purdon will then turn him out and be back for the Sires' Stakes in the spring, "otherwise they don't get a break".
Bought from breeders Wayne and Jay Abernethy for $57,500 from Karaka last year, Five Card Draw was one of just two purchases that Purdon secured and he races the son of Blistering Belle with Auckland's Tyronne Cooke, Charmain Nausbaum and Alan Dormer. Purdon also bought a Grinfromeartoear-Erineyes colt in Los Amante shortly after in Auckland and while he qualified in February an "is going to win a race or two", Purdon is thankful he didn't acquire more at the time. "We couldn't find owners and wound up with shers in both of them as it was," said Purdon. Five Card Draw has "always looked like a nice horse from day one" though and Purdon expects him to improve further as he grows and strengthens into a 3-year-old.
The Paul Kerr camp was bitterly disappointed after Alta Christiano galloped early after being restrained by son Mitchell. "He's over reached and struck himself and what happened was just greenness," said Paul "He's never galloped before and panicked. They do pick the worst times to do these things," he added. If this seemed bad enough, things got worse for junior driver Mitchell. He was going to win the following event with Chianti, but the well-bred filly broke down so badly inside the 200m that she had to be put down.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 23May2012
Round six in the epic Bettor Cover Lover - Carabella title fight went to the latter at Addington last Friday night and the score is now 4-2, but the points are still about even and the big rounds are still to come.
Carabella was at her brilliant best in the $40,000 Premier Mares Championship, but Bettor Cover Lover lost no admirers in closing to within a head in what was essentially a match race. She probably gained some in getting so close after Carabella had things all her own way. Among those admirers are the connections of Carabella, who were far from confident going in. Still bemused by how Bettor Cover Lover could pick them up at Auckland last month, and suitably impressed by a stunning trial by their arch rival on the Monday, the connections figured Carabella to be vulnerable.
"We didn't have much choice about leading tonight and we knew Bettor Cover Lover would be coming," said trainer Benny Hill. "Carabella has had this habit of knocking off when clear in the run home, and we talked about that before the race. Ricky (May) managed to get her home this time, but it was a little too close for comfort and it's quite a battle isn't it," he added. Easing up when the work seems to be done almost cost Carabella at the Jewels last year and it may well have been a factor in Auckland, such was Bettor Cover Lover's late rush, but May made sure he kept Carabella's mind on the job at Addington.
After getting a relatively easy time of it, May had Carabella stoked up down the back and with Storm Light struggling to stay in touch coming to the turn, Carabella managed to put a winning break on Bettor Cover Lover early in the run home. Carabella paced home in 56.1 with even quarters in 28.2 and 27.9. Bettor Cover Lover was spotting her a decent lead a lap out and while she got handier at the half, having to get around the game Storm Light made the difference in the end.
Hill, May and Robert Famularo know that each encounter is going to be a battle of tactics and wits, and they respect Bettor Cover Lover as much as anyone. But they have another card to play when needed. "What we do in the future will be dictated by the barrier draws, but I can't wait for the day when we have to drive Carabella from behind. When that happens, we've seen what she can do in the Oaks. She's a better horse when chasing, than being chased."
Carabella is being very carefully managed as a 4-year-old and is in for a very light season. She may even be kept for just racing against mares through next season as well. Her connections are just worried about next week's race for the moment, but a trip to Sydney for the $200,000 Ladyship Mile at Menangle on March 3 is definitely on the programme. Carabella will then come home and be set for the Jewels at Cambridge, although Famularo is not overjoyed about that prospect. "Everybody is on a hiding to nothing there," said Famularo. "You can head there and draw barrier one and it is race over. Or you can draw six and your race is over," he added.
There's a couple of good races for Carabella at Melton in May, although the $100,000 Queen Of The Pacific is only a week out from the Jewels, and Hill might prefer a lead up race to Cambridge in Auckland when the time comes. Whatever is decided, Carabella will have no more than 7-8 races this season, and Famularo for one will be quite happy to follow the same sort of programme next year as well. "If you pick you spots, you can still win some serious money, without taking on the big boys," he said. "$200,000 Australian is serious money for instance. Most of the present top open class horses are getting a bit long in the tooth now and won't be around in a year or two, although there seems to be plenty of depth coming through. We'll just have to assess things at the time, but we won't be rushing into the (NZ) Cup or the Grand Circuit just because she turns five. There is plenty of time for that carry on."
In the meantime, the fans have another mouth watering clash with Bettor Cover Lover in the NZ Breeder's Stakes to look forward to next week, followed by the Ladyship, where De Lovely could also be a factor. With so much doom and gloom surrounding the industry at present, at least the horses are providing something to look forward to.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 25 Jan 2012