Outbreak of COVID 19 (CoronaVirus) worldwide following its initial detection in Wuhan, China (December 2019). WHO declared a pandemic on 11 March 2020
Donald Trump was acquitted of both impeachment charges on 5 February 2020
Bush Fires raged throughout Australian states especially NSW and Victoria causing death and destruction (peaking December 2019 –January 2020
Credit: Peter Craig
Level 4 COVID 19 lockdown in place for four weeks commencing 26 March 2020 throughout NZ
All racing in NZ ceased indefinitely as at 24 March 2020 (last meeting held at Addington on 20 March)
Credit: Peter Craig
Aged 87, well-known racing identity Ivan Schwamm has passed away, only months after training his last winner.
It was just October last year when his four-year-old trotter Majestic Sunset and driver Jimmy Curtin combined to win at Timaru.
“I got him for nothing off Bruce Negus. Bruce bred him, and trained him, but didn’t really like him.
According to an interview he gave at the time , the victory at the Phar Lap raceway was clearly a thrill : “It was so great at the races today, the number of people that called out to me, owners, trainers, drivers – many of them I’ve known for years and years. It’s a fellowship and I love it.”
It’s an industry he was part of for nearly 70 years, after first gaining his license while living in Palmerston North in 1954-55.
Trotter Perekop was one of his early success stories, while Rocky Star was a stand-out. Against a field of 25 starters, he took out the 1966 Hawera Cup and was a 10-race winner.
It appeared Schwamm also had an entrepreneurial streak. He started out milking cows and shearing, and in the 1960s negotiated the sale of numerous horses to North America.
“I would hire an aeroplane to take a consignment of 21 horses at a time and I was in the business for 10 years”.
He was associated with some great horses. He trained and drove the great mare Tussle to success early in her career after regular trainer and owner Cliff Irvine was away overseas. Tussle ended up winning 38 races including the 1987 Interdominion final at Addington.
He also drove Ruling Lobell to victory in the Group 2 Welcome Stakes in 1976. Starting a $2.90 favourite he won by five lengths for trainer Des Grice.
1976 was his best year for driving with 11 wins while as a trainer, he had 122 winners from more than 1700 starters from the 1950s through to the 2020s. The veteran trainer-driver had a stable at Leeston on the outskirts of Christchurch but did most of his work with the horses on the roadside.
Known for his bold driving tactics, in 2010 the then 77 year old drove his own horse Doc’s Delight to a win at Rangiora. It was his first for two seasons.
At the time the horse was trained by Lew Driver. He followed that up with Saltwater Gold’s success at Orari in 2015.
He will be remembered as one of harness racing’s most enduring characters
Credit: NZ Harness News, 8 April 2020, David Di Somma
Lochie Marshall – A club man through and through
Harness racing stalwart Lochie Marshall is being remembered as a tireless worker for the industry.
Born “Lachlan MacArthur Marshall” he died in his home town of Geraldine this week after a battle with Leukaemia.
He had a long association with the sport, as a race-caller, trainer, and administrator. He was a past president and life member of the Geraldine Trotting Club, which is currently celebrating its 150th year.
“He was part of the club’s fabric,” says current Geraldine president Mark Weaver, “the sort that makes every club stick together.”
“As a builder his skills were handy …... and the number of trials and work-outs he organised, well god knows how many.”
As a commentator Marshall was described as a “chanter” and he was a regular at racetracks and on the airwaves. He called his first races in 1964 as a 19 year old and while South Canterbury and Central Otago were his most common gigs, he did have stints further afield at Forbury Park, Hutt Park and Riccarton.
He commentated until the early nineties, about the same time he started training winners.
He had 13 wins from 196 starters, exclusively with trotters. His most successful association was with Missie Castleton. She has had 81 starts for six wins and $62,701 in stakes.
Marshall trained her up until his deteriorating health forced him to transfer her to other stables.
Harness Racing New Zealand says “Lochie was very well known and very respected throughout the industry and his craft will be sadly missed by all.”
Credit: NZ Harness News, 24 Mar 2020
It is testament to the sort of man Father Dan Cummings was that after decades of enormous success in harness racing that is rarely the first thing which comes to mind when you think of him.
Father Dan went to see his big boss upstairs on Saturday afternoon, taking his last breath after a battle with cancer that eventually moved to his lungs.
There was little shock in his death, it had been coming for 15 months, since he was diagnosed with the illness and decided to not go down the treatment path.
“He wanted to enjoy what time he had left and he did,” said his brother Peter after “Danny” passed away aged 75.
“He made the most of his last year but when he got back from the sales he started to get worse and struggled with his breathing at the end.” That Father Dan made the most of his final year is hardly surprising because that was how he lived his life.
He entered the priesthood straight out of school and upon being ordained spent much of his working life in the Dunedin diocese (the church’s region).
A priest can affect a lot of lives in that time, especially one as popular as Father Dan and he was also at the centre of one of New Zealand’s great tragedies, being the parish priest at Port Chalmers when David Gray shot and killed 13 people in the Aramoana massacre in 1990.
“That was a pretty intense time for Danny, being the parish priest during something that bad,” says Peter.
But away from a life of service, Father Dan was Danny to his family.
Danny loved animals, a love he got from his mother Joan who set up Tuapeka Lodge in 1965.
While that extended to harness racing it was originally focussed on rodeo, where Danny held the New Zealand record for bulldogging, which is when a rodeo rider jumps from a horse on to a steer or calf and wrestles it to the ground.
This would suggest Danny was a bit of a hard bugger.
“He loved the rodeo and was very good at it,” says Peter.
But after Mum passed in 1977 Danny (the third of eight children), Peter and sister Julie (Davie) took over the stud with enormous success.
“Danny was the breeding and horse expert, I was the farmer and Julie managed it and sometimes prepared the yearlings,” explains Peter.
Tuapeka Lodge generally kept their yearlings to 10, selling almost all the colts and keeping the fillies.
Dan would train some, including one of their flagship horses in Maureen’s Dream, but it was mainly the colts who made Tuapeka Lodge the respected nursery that went on to prepare 10 yearling sales toppers.
Many of them traced back to unraced mare turned superstar broodmare Sakuntala.
The family bought her in 1974 and she left 13 winners from 18 foals, including Tuapeka Star who numbered the 1979 Tatlow Stakes at Moonee Valley among her 22 Australian victories and she went on to leave the great Iraklis.
“He was one of our favourites,” remembers Peter of the stallion who won the NZ Cup and Miracle Mile and over $1million.
He was one of two NZ Cup winners from the Tuapeka breed, the other being Monkey King, even though he wasn’t bred on the farm he was from a mare who was.
Sakuntala’s progeny or their progeny have resulted in over 30 horses to win more than $100,000.
But good horses alone do not legends make and Father Dan was a harness racing legend.
He was ahead of his time with his website and yearling pics and as a man who commanded respect without trying.
Come sales time he would be sitting on his lawn chair outside the stables of the Tuapeka Lodge draft, a parish priest to an entire industry.
“He could be hard when he needed to be. He was very demanding,” laughed Peter.
“He liked things done the right way but we never had a cross word and neither did Julie with him.
“But he loved the horses and really enjoyed his involvement with Southern Bred Southern Reared in recent years.”
Tuapeka Lodge will continue, with younger family members keen to help Peter and Julie.
“I think we have a lovely bunch of horses to take to the sales next year,” smiles Peter.
And they will have somebody looking over them from above. A legend.
Credit: NZ Harness News, 30 Mar 2020, Michael Guerin
Gavin Smith has made the tough call to pull the plug on the career of Great Things Happen, his first and only Group 1 winner to date.
The big eight-year-old gelding by Love You has battled a myriad of issues arising from poor conformation and bad gait throughout his career, racing only 45 times over six seasons for his 16 wins and $234,000 in stakes for Smith and breeder Ted Edwards.
“His feet are actually the best they’ve ever been at the moment and physically there’s not a lot wrong with him,” said Smith.
“He worked 3.15 home in 27 the other day and normally you’d be pretty happy with that, but he’s just not the horse that he was.
“He’s only running at probably 85% and you can’t be at that when competing against the big boys.
“His main problem has been his gait and hitting his near side hind shin, but it’s just been one thing after another in recent years and I think things have built up and got the better of him mentally.
“He deserves better and as he won’t tolerate retirement very well, we’ll find a trekking home for him, and then there will always be a paddock here for him.”
Smith recalls seeing Great Things Happen when he was offered at the Premier Sale by Edwards and passed in.
“I could see he had bad conformation then and I thought he would hit himself, so he wasn’t one that I was going to buy.
“But Ted offered to do a deal on him and as he was well enough bred, so I agreed to take him.
“For a start he was big and weak and just hopeless and at one point I threw in a paddock and had pretty much finished with him.
“But I never got around to making the call to Ted to tell him he’d been sacked.
“There were sentimental reasons that went with him as my first child (daughter Hayley) had been born the morning of the sales or the day a horse called Great Things Happen came through the gate.
“And then each time I brought him back in, he got better and better as he got older and stronger.
“He would hit himself but he wouldn’t break, so you knew he had a big heart and a big motor.”
Great Things Happen made rapid progress when he did begin racing and at one point won five races in a row as a late four-year-old.
As he’d made open class after just 16 races, Smith then sent him to Greg Sugars in Victoria to “harden up” in lesser company and Great Things Happen won four of his seven races there, including a Warragul Cup.
Back home in the spring of 2017, Great Things Happen won the Ashburton Flying Mile in 1.55.4 over a top field and then he bolted away with the NZ Trotting FFA on Cup day in a 1.56.9 mile rate.
That was a national record for 1950m which still stands and it is faster than Tough Monarch’s 1980m record set at the last Cup meeting.
At this point, Great Things Happen seemed to have the world at his feet and he went into the Dominion as a hot favourite.
But he was an abject failure that day and it has been a real battle since for Smith.
Great Things Happen was going good again in the early part of last season and after skipping the FFA, he was again one of the favourites for the Dominion, but again he performed poorly due to a virus that had swept through Smith’s stable.
“He’s always been a lot of hard work, but the Dominion proved a bogey race for him being at the wrong time of the year.
“When things dry off he gets allergies from the dust.
“We got him back a year ago to win twice at Addington, but then he broke a splint bone, and this season has been a real struggle.
“We’ve been managing a succession of little issues for 2-3 years now and it’s got to a point where everybody concerned has said enough is enough.”
Credit: Harnesslink Media, 2 March 2020 : by Frank Marrion courtesy of the HarnessXpress
Top harness racing mare Wainui Creek provided a boilover last night at Addington Raceway when she won the $100,000 PGG Wrightson Standardbred Breeders Stakes paying $18.00 on the tote.
The win gave North Island driver Scott Phelan an emotional Group One success.
It was a well driven race by North Island driver Phelan. He led early and then capitilised on a great run in the trail behind Bettor's Heart and driver John Dunn who was determined to park Princess Tiffany,the hot favourite for the race.
That made it for the Barry Purdon trained Wainui Creek and the Bettor's Delight mare finished best up the passing lane to get a deserved win by a head at the liine.
Wainui Creek paced the 2600m mobile in 3-12.9 a mile rate of 1-59.3 with the closing 800m in 57.2 seconds.
Credit: Harnesslink Media, 15 Feb 2020