A year ago, the connections of Lauraella had a nervous couple of weeks leading into the Harness Jewels at Cambridge. Because there were two massive hurdles to overcome, and one of them was out of their hands altogether...firstly, could the filly earn enough money to make the cut-off for the 2YO Diamond field - and furthermore, even if she did, could Mother Nature play her part and install enough power and balance into the lanky filly's frame in time to make her competitive. after all, Lauraella hadn't even won a race at this stage.
In the end the two mountains became molehills; Lauraella's third in the Sires' Stakes Fillies Championship on May 2 lifted her to eighth in the Jewels rankings, and then she went out there and romped away with the 2YO Diamond in NZ record time. Twelve months on, and it's a vastly different picture in many respects: Lauraella has hardly been beaten as a 3YO, and her earnings that count ($323,224) are nearly double that of her nearest rival Joyfuljoy, placing her at the top of the tree.
After her domination continued in the $150,000 Nevele R Fillies Series Final at Addington last Saturday, this year's Diamond looks hers to lose. "She's a brilliant retirement present," says Sandy Yarndley, adding the he and wife Jan are getting a big kick out of "following her everywhere". The couple began scaling down their mammouth involvement in the industry a couple of years ago when selling off most of their farm at Ohaupo to Ken Breckon. Sandy says they have still got shares in quite a few mares, but these days life is all about enjoyment. "I used to fit 'play' around work commitments, now it's the other way around," he smiled.
"I'm playing a lot more tennis, and we also bought a house at Thornton Bay on the road to the Coromandel; you catch snapper off the beach there."
Lauraella is raced by the Yarndleys together with Max and Judith Hunter, under the banner of the Hardwood Breeding Syndicate - named for the fact that the filly's dam Black Maire is named after "a type of hard wood." "We've known Max and Judy for about twenty-three years," Yarndley continued. "They'd raced the odd galloper before, and had been involved in quite a few syndicates with us too. So a few seasons back we offered them the chance to join us in this venture, and now we're all having a hell of a lot of fun."
Black Maire was a Falcon Seelster filly out of the Vance Hanover-Black Watch mare Corbie that won the Yarndleys four races and nearly $40,000. Having captured half of her 18 appearances and nearly $540,000 to date, second foal Lauraella has far exceeded all expectations. "And to think we were one bid away from letting her go at the Sales," Yarndley recalled. "I said to Pynes that if she reaches $80,000 - sell her; she'd gotten to seventy-five, and the next bid would've been eighty. Barrie Rattray from Tasmania was the underbidder, and I even went up to him afterwards and asked if he wanted to take her for the price we were after. But she was a real gangly thing by the time the Sales came around that year, and in the ring she didn't look half as good as she had three or four weeks earlier. Even last year, she was over sixteen hands when we turned her out as a 2YO after the Jewels - so she's always been a big girl."
Buoyed by the fact that Lauraella ended her first season by winning the Jewels at Cambridge, the Yarndleys and the Hunters also took a lot of heart from trainer Geoff Small's opinion. "Geoff always said that she'd need time," he said, knowing that what Lauraella achieved this season is still 'pinch yourself' stuff. A couple of months ago he even said to me how much she reminded him of Mainland Banner. For all his differences, I can't speak highly enough of Geoff and what he and the staff have done for this filly. And David (Butcher) is such a cool driver too."
With a lifetime involvement in harness racing, the Yarndleys are no strangers to success and have raced plenty of good fillies in the past. But it's Lauraella who is taking them to another level, and the juggernaut doesn't look like stopping anytime soon. "We've had horses like Hot Shoe Shuffle and Coburg, but they always seemed to run into one that was better. This year, I think we've got the one that's better."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 13May09
Because numbers are thin at the top end, I Can Doosit will line up in the Group 1 NZ Trotting Championship at Addington this Friday night. That's half the reason why, the other is the horse's undeniable talent - which was on display again in no uncertain terms when I Can Doosit waltzed away with last Saturday's $25,000 Lone Star Bar & Cafe 4-Year-Old Trotters Championship. The son of Muscles Yankee joined in and breezed on by near the business end of the 2600m Group 3 event, putting away his stablemate Pocaro and the rampant pacemaker McCready with ease as he won in a super quick 3.18.
Co-trainer Mark Purdon wasn't in the sulky this time, the reins instead being handed to Blair Orange as Purdon sat behind Pocaro, and he got to experience I Can Doosit's continuing dominance from another perspective. This was win number eight from just 12 starts and the fifth in succession for I Can Doosit, who was having his first look around Addington after a northern assault that saw him burst onto the trotting scene.
"There's been real improvement in him over the last eight to ten weeks," Purdon said, not meaning to state the obvious. "And there's some very nice horses in that intermediate grade in Auckland, but at his last start before returning south I was just so impressed with how he picked them up inside the last one hundred and fifty metres. He's a very, very promising type."
I Can Doosit is the third foal of Chiola Hanover mare Sheezadoosie, following in the footsteps of Continentaldoosie (1 win) and his highly regarded year-older full-brother Sno's Big Boy (11 wins to date). Purdon knows the breed well too, because he trained Sheezadoosie throughout her career and drove her in all but one of her seven victories. "She was never a naturally-gaited trotter," he recalled. "She's got better as she got older, but she was never fool-proof and wasn't one of those horses you could throw the reins at. So she did pretty well to get as far as she did."
Purdon considers himself "very lucky" to have I Can Doosit in the stable. The gelding was bred by Ken Breckon's company Breckon Bloodstock Ltd and is owned by a syndicate he manages called Breckon Bloodstock, and if I Can Doosit hadn't been a late withdrawal from the Sales as a youngster he could have well been doing all his winning for someone else. "He got hurt, doing significant damage to the tendons around the fetlock in a hind leg after being caught in a fence," Purdon said. "I had inspected him at Yarndley Farms leading up to the Sales, and he was a real standout. There's no doubt that he would have been a $100,000 yearling had he not got injured."
I Can Doosit began his career at Winton less than a year ago, running third on debut before winning at Oamaru and then Timaru during May. "He just scraped into the Jewels, but if anything he was on the way 'down' again because he'd done a lot in a short time. Tony (Herlihy) drove him for us that day, and he said the horse wanted to do it but just couldn't handle himself over a mile. Pocaro was way above him at that stage; he's really closed the gap now."
Purdon has both trained and sat behind some star trotters in his time, and even though he knows I Can Doosit's not quite up there yet, he says the 4-year-old's not far away. "He's such a great stayer, that's his forte, and I think his performance and time last week reflects that he's ready for the next level. You can do anything with him - go to the front or sit parked; he's a real nice horse. And we haven't ruled out this year's Rowe Cup with him either."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 8Apr10
Ken Breckon couldn't believe his luck - flying back from Melbourne last week on a seat in row 13. He'd gone over from Auckland a few days earlier sitting in row 13. Here he was, 13 years since his entry into harness racing after buying a filly by Butler B G from Sandy Yarndley. And here he is, at Alexandra Park, watching I Can Doosit start from gate 13 in the $250,000 Dream With Me Inter-Dominion Trotting Grand Final.
The outcome was a stunning Kiwi triumph over the Australian star Let Me Thru, with Stylish Monarch closing on them well but too late for third and Raydon was fourth after a tough ride in the open for much of the last lap.
Breckon is one of the young pillars of the industry, and only the pressure of his booming Hydroflow business has forced him to step down from the vice-presidency of the Auckland Trotting Club. But his breeding and racing activities through the purchase three years ago of the iconic Yarndley Farms nursery are multipling by the month. "We've got twenty-three of our own mares and I'd like to have fifty, and they'll be at the top of the market," he said. "In the past we've sold three or four yearlings at the Sales, but we're getting to the commercial level now and next year we should be offering ten."
As well, he's a champion supporter of local stables, with Mark Purdon and Grant Payne training three, Steven Reid five, Tony Herlihy some, and syndicate horses with them and Geoff Small.
Breckon will be the first to say it hasn't always been as smooth sailing as it is now. Losing his brother Peter from a sudden heart attack at the age of 43 eight years ago gave him the impetus to extend his interests when it could have worked in reverse. "We'd always been racing people. My father and my grandfather were keen on the punting side. Our work took us into the farming community, where we'd meet stock and station agents and retired farmers and they all had horses. Peter probably had a bigger desire than me to get started. He was a good talker and got me across the line, and we went and bought the yearling that was Megaera through the late Leo George."
I Can Doosit is an early product of Breckon's enterprise. He is from Sheezadoosie, a good trotting mare by Chiola Hanover who won seven races and is the dam of a 3-year-old sister to I Can Doosit. Like the runner-up, Let Me Thru, he's achieved stunning results at a young age. Both are only five, and both are magnificent types by Muscles Yankee. "We've had our up and downs this Summer, and Mark's been under pressure with the horse," he said. "From a layman's point of view, he's done a huge job to peak him on a very short campaign."
Part of the chorus were his sons, 9-year-old Andrew and 11-year-old George. "I encourage them to come. When we bring them to the races our horses win - or win more often. The folk here say if they were theirs, they'd be here every week." Breckon is confident of his growing committment to harness racing. "It's going through a lull, but it will bounce back. The future is globalisation. You can see it here with the number of people here tonight, and horse not only from Australia but Sweden. And the sponsors of the next Inter-Dominions are a firm from Sweden."
Breckon is going that way himself. With a staff of over 100, he has expanded into Australia and Fiji, and there are five full-time on the farm. He has plans to spend $2 million on the farm, including a new house and room for guests.
Breckon was never too certain of victory, even when I Can Doosit appeared to clain Let Me Thru with some finality. Let Me Thru was a thorny fighter, and rallied from being passed and being down half a length 50 metres out to close again and miss by a neck. Chris Lang jnr knew Maurice McKendry would give up the lead on Sovereignty when he came looking. "He's not silly," he said. "Springbank Richard brought himself undone racing outside us like that. It may have been why we lost by a neck and the other horse won by a neck. My horse felt good in the warm-up. When we got to the front, I thought 'good luck' to the others if they can run him down. I always felt he was a show of winning down the straight. Next year he'll be bigger and better."
The win was another training triumph for Grant Payne and Mark Purdon, who had their moments when I Can Doosit was patchy during a successful three-race, two-win Melbourne campaign in February. "I didn't expect to beat the Aussie horse, and my horse has never raced that well doing it tough," said Purdon. "It worked out well because Raydon took us right to the corner, but Let Me Thru kept on fighting."
Stylish Monarch went from early leader to second behind Sovereignty and then three-deep when Let Me Thru took over. "I had to use him a bit early and I was in two minds whether to come out when I couold have," said Ricky May. "He's going super."
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 13Apr2011