YEAR: 2007


Dennis Smolenski is a lucky man. His charming wife Jill is one of harness racing's elite ladies - and she is the proud owner of a horse. Sometimes, that can be a tricky area. Not quite up to the mark, attachments, things like that. But this is One Dream. And Jill is particularly attached to her, and Dennis is happily attached to them both. So he should. She is more than up to the mark, adding the Group 1 Wayne Francis Memorial NZ Oaks to her Nevele R Fillies win of the week before at Addington last Friday.

And while it gave Jill another reason to bless her good luck, she was thinking the win meant more to Dennis than it did to her. "It was a race Dennis was really keen to win. He'd gone close before with Gina Marie and Gina Rosa, and knows how special Oaks wins are," she said.

For driver Frank Cooney it was just another day at the office, more or less. He reported faithfully that she felt sharper than she did in the Nevele R Final, and thought she looked a bit brighter in the coat. He said he had nothing to worry about - other than an early hic-cup when a hopple shortener pin got stuck - and it was just a matter "of not doing the wrong thing". He was not surprised the lead did not come to him immediately. "I had an inkling one or two might come out better than us, and it was nice to get that cover until we got to the back," he said.

Jill was again the epitome of graciousness, so thrilled that so many friends and family came to join her and share the success. "And we're so looking forward to Ashburton because my sister Rhonda and her family are coming up from Outram and they've never seen One Dream before." They are one of many who have written, phoned, faxed and texted Jill with nice words about One Dream. "They've come from all over really, but some are from people who we have never heard of. It's incedible really where that interest comes from," she said.

Jill has spent a lifetime in harness racing, joining Ross Dynes after leaving James Hargest School in Invercargill when he had Berry Hanover and other stallions of National Bloodstock's. She moved to Hamish Hunter's, where she was licenced and won a race with Ryal Avenger, and then went back to Dynes before taking up a Marcus Oldham Scholarship. This was in Geelong, for a year, which she said was 'brilliant'.

She went to Sandy Yarndley's on returning, then suffered a broken back after being kicked by a horse. Her next move was to Almahurst Farm, where Max Bowden stood Knight And Deigh and Oblivion II, and where she got her A I ticket. Then on to Roydon Lodge, Prebbleton Farm, Wai-Eyre Farm, Studholme Park and Woodlands Stud.

It was a career move that has taken her and Dennis to caring for broodmares, foals and yearlings owned by Stonewall Stud and Rod Croon. "It was time to step back, and work without the deadlines of managing a stud," she said. "We have about forty-five mares, and this season we had twenty-four foals and they're coming in every fortnight for handling. So there could be that many we will be preparing for the yearling sales."

Jill and Dennis have three mares of their own, including Solitaire, the dam of One Dream. They also have a half share in Maggicolo, an Il Vicolo-Regal Guest mare in foal to Red River Hanover, and with Clare McGowan a half share in Corzanello, a Totally Ruthless-Rear Window mare in foal to Western Terror.

The Smolenskis will eventually return to Canterbury, but Jill says "we are happy where we are and will do that only when we're ready. We're passionate about the industry. We have dreamed about having a lovely filly, but One Dream has exceeded it." And Dennis says she's deserved it. "She's brought thousands of foals into the world - it's nice that she's got one of her own."

Behind One Dream came Running On Faith, a bold finisher, and Smoke N Mirrors who flew the gate and trailed the leader.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 23May07

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