YEAR: 2013


Reg Curtin who died recently aged 77, was a prominent trainer for over 50 years and who made a lifelong career with horses largely out of initiative and a determination to succeed.

He had no connection with horses before a schoolboy association with Denis and Bob Nyhan at Xavier and neither had his family but Reg was determined to be with horses. He would bike out from Aranui to the Don Nyhan stable then at West Melton in the early hours of a weekend morning and bike home that afternoon. He then took up a full time position with Tom Nyhan at Weedons, and after that stable downsized he struck up an association with the Jack Litten stable where he formed a lifelong friendship with Ray Morris for whom he later worked. While there he also first met his wife Bette.

His mother had died when he was young and his domestic skills forced by necessity were notable including knitting. Bob Nyhan recalls that, unlikely as it seems, Reg Curtin could knit any style faster and more accurately than many women.

Hoping to advance his driving career Curtin then spent some time with Southland trainer Jim Maconnell whom he always held in high regard and he drove his first winner when Rosedel won on the last day of 1955 at a Southland meeting. Denis Nyhan remembered Reg as a talented driver with light hands and a special ability to get horses away from standing starts. He virtually retired from driving when his son Jim became a probationer in the mid 1970's with Mike De Filippi often handling the older horses in bigger races.

Reg had returned to Christchurch to work for Don and Doris Nyhan, whom he idolised, and then set up training hiself at Yaldhurst in the late 1950's. He developed a small team largely aimed at provincial meetings for a small band of loyal owners such as Gordon Edge, Les Lisle, Syd Hitchcock, Jock Galletly, George Smith and Ken Rutledge to name the main players. Edge helped him buy a 5ha block in Dawsons Road for $4500 where he lived the rest of his life. It was from this stable that Jack Smolenski, a close friend, set up his first public stable operation. Horses like Stoney Burke, Star Raider, Bobby Direct, Bredwardine and Looking Forward were among winners in this era and La Garrison was a smart performer at age group level.

As a young trainer Reg was given Diamond Hanover to prepare for the New Zealand Cup and was told by another special hero of his Maurice Holmes (who gave Jim Curtin his first raceday drive) that had the driver followed instructions he could have been placed. It was one of his great regrets. In the 1970's Reg Curtin struck up a close association with Robert McArdle. He trained many "Bromac" horses to sell to the United States which resulted in several trips there. For that reason he never had a large racing team.

From the mid 1970's for more than a decade he produced a succession of top performers often bred by the owners. However the one he regarded as the best he trained was McArdle's Montini Bromac a member of one of the strongest crops of foals of any era (Lord Module, Roydon Scott, Main Star, Locarno, Haughty Romeo etc) which he beat more than once as a 2-year-old at Addington before going to Australia and America. He was later a successful sire leaving Montini Royal for Reg's good friend, Peter Yeatman. Reg was well known for his habit of reeling off a series of impressive fractions his best horses had run in training but Montini Bromac's were never matched in his eyes.

A series of grass track stayers highlighted this period. Rebecca's Pride(Methven Centennial Cup) and Our Location(Methven and Kurow Cups) headed the list when these races were targeted by all the top stables. Later Stopwatch captured similar events after having won the Group 2 Ballance Stakes against a strong field at Wanganui as a 3-year-old. Westburn Vue was an outstanding sprinting mare for Barney and Colleen Breen and gave Curtin his biggest training win in the Group 1 Standardbred Breeders Stakes. Probably of more significance to him was that she gave Jim Curtin his first winning drive at Timaru in 1977.

Up Tempo was a high class filly of this time for Marjory and Dougal Steel and played a big role in Jim Curtin's rise in the drivers ranks. While still a junior he piloted her to third in the DB Fillies Final (now Nevele R) and she was second to Times Up in the New Zealand Oaks. Greg Patron, a son of a moderately performed mare from the stable in Mother McKay, was the next star to emerge going to the verge of the best classes before being sold. In later years Kimmorley, Villa Santi, Les Lisle and Kaye At Quinns were smart performers. He at one stage raced gallopers successfully posting wins at Riccarton.

A serious, almost fatal, training accident in 1994 followed by related illnesses including kidney diabetes and heart problems effectively curtailed Reg's full time training career though he liked to keep an eye on Jim and Roddy as they helped prepare the team. For some time before his own last illness Ray Morris turned back the clock and helped out each day at the Curtin stables. Ultimately health issues meant Reg was confined to watching the horses on television.

Perhaps more than most professional trainers, Reg Curtin loved his horses and if in his eyes sometimes geese became swans it was based on his affection for them. As long as they tried their best he was on their side and he could become emotional about their highs and lows.

His pride in the successes of Jim and Roddy was apparent to anyone near him on a racecourse. That strong loyalty to family and those who gained his confidence was reflected in his relationships with a circle of close friends who met regularly over many years. Only one of the around nine males of that group, Bob Nyhan, now survives.

Reg Curtin was a man of principle. He had a strong religious belief and never put dollars over duty when it came to dealing with horses and their owners. His genuine personality won him a host of friends in the racing community. Haunted somewhat by the death of his mother when she was 30 and his only brother, Des, before he was 50 with heart problems he took special pride in "making it" well into his seventh decade.

Most of all, after many years of battling to succeed and then when he had done that battling health problems, Reg Curtin never lost his great, almost childlike, enthusiasm for his horses, harness racing in general and the people in it.

Credit: David McCarthy writing in HRWeekly 20Nov13


YEAR: 2012


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


YEAR: 2011


There was a bonus of dramatic proportions for those lucky enough to be at Addington on the loveliest of Autumn days last Saturday.

They saw the wickedly talented Carabella wave goodbye to 12 others in the Nevele R Fillies Final, they again watched Flying Isa dominate the trotting 2-year-olds and record his fourth successive win, but none came with the back-of-the-bunch brilliance that catapulted Western Cullen to a dashing win in the PGG Wrightson Sales Series Open Division Final. But in reality that was no more than a stunning sideshow.

The main act came from two 3-year-olds in the Group 2 Vero Flying Stakes, usually the warm-up to the New Zealand Derby. It was a surprise to get a finish this good, but Gold Ace and Terror To Love made the race an unforgettable exhibition of spirited comptition.

They started the home run with Gold Ace moving powerfully past the others, the hunting Terror To Love clearing his back to challenge on the right. They ran past the empty public grandstand where 20 years ago young and old would have paid for the privilege of seeing a fascinating tussle between the pair. The bay horse, closer to black than brown, soon narrowed the gap and levelled.

Gold Ace was ready for him, rallied, and fought him long and hard. That was just when it seemed Terror To Love had managed to get the better of him. By now the heat of the battle had less than a second to run. Gold Ace had it...then he might've. And soon doubt. Terror To Love had pushed right on the line. Close? This was a measure in millimetres.

No-one knew it moreso than Mark McNamara, who in the commentary box gamely went for a dead-heat. These are cheeky calls, but heroic when they come off. This one did. Unseperable. Two truly great horses sharing the triumph. Peter Ferguson, the driver of Gold Ace, used a comfortable cliché when he said it was "great for racing". And that was the truth of it.

Jim Curtin eased Terror To Love in the early rush to find the back of Gold Ace. Ferguson was out well and tracked along with the trail on the outer. Curtin was poised to pounce. Gold Ace had the advantage of being in front, Terror To Love the challenge of getting past. "The race was always set up by what they did in the Derby," said Ferguson. He agreed that Terror To Love headed Gold Ace. "I always knew he was there, right behind us. And when he went past, I thought we would run a nice second. Then, inside the last fifty metres, I felt him lift. It was going to be close. And even when it's very close you usually have half an idea who has won, but this time I had none, and neither did Jimmy." Curtin thought the same. "I hope I'd got past him, and I thought I was going to beat him, but horses like that are just so hard to get past."

The pair will meet again in the Harness Jewels at Ashburton where both want front line draws and will run smart time if they do.

Gold Ace, another siring triumph for Bettor's Delight, had missed at least five days work with a leg injury after his NZ Derby win. Trainer Steven Reid was concerned that any longer would have made him worried, but the recovery happened in good time.

The result was one of those occasions that made an Autumn day at Addington one to treasure. Thanks to Terror To Love and Gold Ace, there's no doubt about that.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 18 May 2011


YEAR: 2011

Jack with Yankee Loch

Old habits die hard in the harness racing game so it is just as well that age is no barrier to success.

Ask former top trainer Jack Carmichael, of Templeton. He recently renewed his licence 71 years after he first went racing and soon revealed that old skills also die hard, producing his own Flaming Frieda, driven by Ian Cameron, to win at Timaru.

"It was just circumstances, really," says the modest veteran of well over 700 wins. "I retired a few years ago (2005) and handed in my licence so I wouldn't be tempted to take on a horse. I didn't believe in just going on for the sake of it. I was going to breed from a mare I had, Frieda Holmes, and sell the foals as yearlings." He first foal fetched $9000 and the next one $20,000. Then "Hoagy" as he is widely known (after the composer of the famous song Stardust) was unhappy with the $9000 offered for the third foal, Flaming Frieda, and took her home.

"I had her here and was working her along and, well, with the cost of training fees today I thought I might as well do it all myself. I was getting up at the same time and pottering around with them anyway. I never changed my routine really, everything was here and I didn't think I had forgotten how."

Carmichael's career is steeped in trotting tradition. He began by riding in saddle races on the West Coast in 1940, including the noted saddle pacer, Mankind, a minor legend of the era. Jack drove his first winner, Dawn Grattan, at Hokitika in 1942. "I was related to Wes Butt (whose property was known as Mankind Lodge) who had a big team then and worked with him. I was in the army at the time. We were sleeping under the public stand at Riccarton and training there. I managed to get weekend leave to go over and drive and it was hard to get in those days." Those were the days when it took 12 hours for the average equine rail trip to the West Coast, after which horses campaigned there for weeks at a time, giving rise to the quip "trained on the train". "You certainly didn't do much with them between races. They often raced twice on the same day and with the travelling that was about it."

Carmichael went on to star in much bigger arenas. He trained and drove the 1973 New Zealand Cup winner Globe Bay for Christchurch garage proprietor Stan Wheatley, who bought his dam after her half-sister, which he owned, was "nobbled" at a Hutt Park meeting. Coronet Lass started Jack off in the training ranks after years of working with Butt and farming. Chequer Board, Glen Moira, the erratic but brilliant Micron, and Astralight were among his many stars, but his record in Inter-Dominion trotting finals with Precocious(1975) and Yankee Loch(1989) were special highlights.

The aptly named Precocious had an unusual career. When she was a two-year-old, an unnamed colt jumped the fence and put her in foal. The resulting filly, appropriately named Over Fence, was not only a good winner but later left a high class trotter in Precocious Lad. "I only trained Precocious at odd times. Bob Mitchell had her at the 1973 Inter-Dominion and I went over to drive her. We were off the back mark and it wasn't going to be easy. An old bloke there took me aside and told me the locals would make things tough for me in the final but I should remember that stewards might give me a 'holiday' but they wouldn't take the race off me. Sure enough, one driver in particular tried to push me off the track for a whole round. I gave as good as I got, remembering that advice, and won the race. There was a long enquiry but the old bloke was right. They gave me a month's suspension but we kept the race. The other driver, Bert Alley, became a good mate of mine."

It was experience against the tough Australian drivers which paved the way for the second Inter-Dominion triumph with Yankee Loch in 1989, also held across the Tasman. "I had a good mare called Kate's Return. She frustrated me until I found out she loved going to the front. When I went over to Australia they just attacked me all the way and ruined her chance. So when Yankee Loch's turn came and I knew he would race best in front, I rang an Australian driver, Jim O'Sullivan, who had won big races at Addington at that time and asked him to drive him in the series. Jim went to the front and they didn't attack him like they would have if it had been a Kiwi driver. Yankee Loch beat the hot favourite, True Roman."

Jim Curtin drove Yankee Loch in New Zealand to win several major races. But Ian Cameron is the "stable driver" at the moment. "When you go to the trials, fellows like Jim are either away at the races or booked up. Ian has always driven quite well in my opinion and he helped me out when I went to workouts. He's done nothing wrong."

Jack bears no grudges against Australians, incidentally. His wife, Dorothy, comes from there and they have had a long and successful marriage. Besides his work with horses, Jack put in years of administration with the Owners and Trainers Association running trial meetings at Addington. He is one of the select few elected to Addington's Hall of Fame.

So are there any more champions in the pipeline? "No, I wouldn't say that. Flaming Frieda (by Courage Under Fire) is a little bit better than average. She went through a bad spell when I had to tie her up to do much with her but it was Jim Dalgety who reminded me that perseverance was the key to success. She can do more yet and I have some Badlands Hanover youngsters out of the mare. I have tried one of them (Harvest Boy) and when he lined up I even put a fiver on him because I think he will be alright, but he needs a bit of time."

Time is something Jack Carmichael feels he still has plenty of. "I've been lucky but I notice a lot of horsemen seem to live to a good age. I think the early-to-rise and early-to-bed might have something to do with it."

Jack, 88, this year and the oldest professional trainer in the country, is still fascinated by horses after 75 years working with them. By any standards, the career of a genuine stayer.

Credit: David McCarthy writing in The Press 2 July 2011


YEAR: 2011

For any harness racing fans who had forgotten just how good Auckland Reactor was they were given a fresh reminder at the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club's meeting held at Addington Raceway tonight (Friday).

The brilliant son of Mach Three stepped perfectly in the Avon City Ford Cup (2600m stand) for co-trainer Mark Purdon who settled the entire handy on the outer for the most part of the race, before coming with a well-timed finishing burst to grab the Cran Dalgety trained pair of Smiling Shard and Bettor's Strike short of the line.

It was a superb fresh-up performance by Auckland Reactor and the win guaranteed him a start November's Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup. For the connections the results was undeniably satisfying, but for trainers Mark Purdon and Grant Payne, it was the horse's stand-start manners that were given the biggest seel of approval.

"He stepped perfectly to be honest, we could have run into trouble shortly after the start but he managed to dodge a few, to his credit the horse handled it beautifully," said Mark Purdon.

With a three wide train developing a lap from home, Purdon was forced to sit, wait and hope for a run over the concluding stages. His wish was grant 300 out, the brilliant pacer unleashing a whirlwind finish to snatch victory from a game Smiling Shard. "I didn't want to give him a hard run first-up and wanted him to be running on at the finish apposed to getting tired, so it was a logical choice to sit and wait," says Purdon.

Auckland Reactor appeared settled and relaxed throughout, a far cry from his previous start, where six months earlier he pulled himself into the ground during the running of the Trillian Trust Auckland Cup, eventually dropping out to finish second last.

"He travelled good tonight and never really got right on the steel until the last 500, when I pulled him out he felt terrific and just kept on coming," Purdon said.

It was certainly refreshing to see the Auckland Reactor race with such kindness and tractability, allowing Purdon the freedom of choice when comes to how he chooses to drive the talented pacer. And while he ticked all the right boxes in tonight's feature, and seems destined for a date with the New Zealand Cup, the same can't be said for Franco Emirate who completely muffed the start, driver Jim Curtin getting too far back to even consider a pursuit.

The big son of Christian Cullen will be causing the connections some unhealthy headaches as the attempt to rectify the horse's inability to step cleanly. West Melton trainer Cran Dalgety will come away well satisfied with Smiling Shard, who still looked a little pretty, and Bettor's Strike. Both horses performed with distinction.

Perhaps the run of the race could be bestowed upon champion pacer Monkey King, who after being slow away, made up tremendous ground in the straight and looks right on song for a NZ Cup three-peat. Four year old Terror To Love was given no chance after driver Anthony Butt dropped his guard at the 900 and was humped four wide, the son of Western Terror was then sent via the cape turning for home and finished a meritorious seventh.

The winning time for Auckland Reactor was 3.15.9, home in 55.8 and 28.4. It was the seven year old's 27th win from just 38 starts.

Bring on the Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup on November 8 at Addington Raceway.

Credit: Ged Mooar 3 Oct 2011


YEAR: 2011


Paul Davies, the bloodstock agent who buys horses for Otago owner, Russell Nieper, remembers the day Jim Curtin trialled Franco Enirate at Addington. "He came back laughing," Davies remembers. "He said he had just driven the fastest quarter he had ever trialled a horse there and he had trialled a lot of horses. He thought he was a bargain even though the price was substantial," Davies said.

The Nieper, Davies, Curtin triumverate have been a force in harness racing for several years since the retired Otago supermarket owner first contacted the agent. "It was a ring out of the blue. Russell said he had raced a lot of horses and a lot of slow ones and was looking for a new direction."

Highview Badlands, a substantial yearling purchase, was among the first, a winner of the West Coast bonus and nine in all which Davies had recommended to Nieper. Quick Reflection and Radar Installed are among several Nieper successes buying tried horses. "Russell was happy to go that way instead of breeding and it is my job to sort them out. Franco Emirate became available after he had won one race. The price was substantial but it has proven worthwhile. Russell is a great owner and client. He lets Jimmy make the racing decisions and he backs my judgement in buying horses, some of them for very good money. You can hardly do better than working with somebody like that."

Nieper started out racing horses with colourful southern personalities such as Noel Crighton and Murray Hamilton and said he had his share of success with both. "Young Pointer was placed in a Rowe Cup and now I have got into gallopers with Murray as he moved into them and I have a share in Kid Columbus which won the Grand National Hurdles at Riccarton this year. I have had a good association with those blokes." Only a week before Franco Emirate's triumph at Addington the Nieper/ Curtin team was posting a double at a modest Manawatu meeting with Hokonui Ben.

Jim Curtin is always a man to take one step at a time. To drive another horse to win the New Zealand Cup when he could have been driving his own - and possibly could have won all going well - is a rare feat but the product of some astute thinking. "It wasn't just the starts. The standing starts showed me he was a little immature for those big races at this stage. We will see how he goes in the free-for-all on Friday before I get down to details about what happens next. The Miracle Mile might be a possibility but ideally I would like to go over later for races like the Victoria Cup."

Franco Emirate never gave his $1.50 backers any cause for concern while Mark Purdon and Grant Payne's All Stars stable produced the next three home, headed by Ohoka Dallas in the hands of Colin De Filippi.

On a more important note, Jim's wife Sandy noted that when Franco Emirate wins a race with a rug as a trophy it is invariably red. "I'm glad. I like red and he looks good in it. If he goes to Australia he will certainly be wearing a red rug."

Credit: David McCarthy writing in HRWeekly 10 Nov 2011


YEAR: 2010


Paul Nairn is harness racing's most talented trainer of trotters in this country and last Friday night (October 16) the Leeston horseman picked up yet another group victory. Dr Hook made it seven wins from 18 starts, when in the hands of David Butt the son of Dr Ronerail kept many of the country's best squaregaiters at bay, winning the Group Three Canterbury Park Trotting Cup.

It was a typically fluent trotting performance in those famous colours that once belonged to the great Jack Litten and Caduceus.

Anthony Butt found the front very early on with Ray before conceding the lead to cousin David on board the loose favourite. The move posted Stylish Monarch three deep and desperately in need of a clear run in the home straight, but with slick sectionals of 57.7 and 28.6 it was left to Master Bomber to breach the gap, eventually falling short by a neck with Stylish Monarch closing well for third. With the race being run over 2600m this year, the first time since 1986, it wasn't hard for the winner to eclipse Basil Dean's former record of 3.22.4 set back in 1984, Dr Hook stopping the clock in 3.17.9.

David Butt has struck up a solid relationship with Dr Hook after replacing Jim Curtin. "It was a bit of shame for Jim really that he had that wrist problem," says Paul Nairn. "Jim was getting on good with the horse and he's just starting to become a bit more solid, but David's doing a good job with him now and will continue to drive him for as long as he wants." Butt and Nairn have combined to collect some pretty hefty ransoms over the years, Call Me Now, Above The Stars and Stig, as well as Kahdon have all won group one races with Butt in the sulky.

Nairn is loath to compare Dr Hook to any of the other great or even talented trotters he has trained in the past, preferring to let them simply perform to their merits. "I just train them and try to have them as good as I can get them, I don't make to many comparisons and leave it up to the horse to do his thing," Nairn said. A close relation to champion trotter Stig, Dr Hook will now head to Ashburton on Monday for the Trotters Flying Mile on a track that Nairn believe will suit the five year old. "The big track will be perfect for him, he'll get around the bends nicely and he's raced well over a mile before."

Credit: Steve Dolan writing in 19 Oct 2010


YEAR: 2006

It may not have been the NZ Cup as hoped, but White Arrow's 68-to-1 upset in Tuesday's $35,000 Firestone Direct FFA gave co-owner and trainer Wayne Higgs just as much satisfaction, and even more relief. "He has probably got more winning this race than what we could have logically hoped for in the Cup, but the biggest thrill is having him back to his best," said Higgs.

"He had that viral infection of the lungs last season, and sometimes they don't come back from those things. And I was starting to wonder whether he would come back from it at all. We were even starting to consider whether his future lied only in racing in America. But he turned the corner with his previous run, and the past week he has been as good as ever," he added.

Higgs took any number of positives from the result. White Arrow now has form for tomorrow's NZ Free-For-All and Higgs can now look beyond this week to the Grand Circuit again, but the satisfaction comes from getting White Arrow back to his best at home, having only had the one workout or trial this time in in September. "When a horse is not right in the lungs, it can take a long time to come right and trials only place undue stress on them. So it was best to bring him along in a controlled enviroment (at home) and get him properly fit with racing, without knocking him around too much."

White Arrow was not ready for a likely searching assignment in the Kaikoura Cup and Higgs had already given the NZ Cup away, not making the last payment, before he raced at Addington on November 3 where he got home almost as well as Flashing Red and Howard Bromac after being last at the half (55.5, 27.5) and finishing a little over three lengths from the winner.

"We reached a point where we could have busted his gut trying to get a Cup start, but it could have undone all the good work we have put in all year. We felt it was best to back off a bit and consider the best long term interests of the horse. It has only been the last week or two that he has been truly cleared to race by the vet. This is a genuine Grand Circuit horse, he is not going to be just a battler at that level."

The latter comment was hard to disagree with after White Arrow overcame the outside of the second line in the mobile 1950m to score in a 1:56.6 mile rate over Likmesiah and Badlands Bute, who were both on the ballot for the Cup. With Higgs free-wheeling in front with speedster Man With The Money, Todd Woodward was on the move from five-back on the outer a lap out; White Arrow took up the running passing the half and went on to fight off Badlands Bute on the outer and Likmesiah's late charge along the inner. "It was in nobody's best interests to try to keep White Arrow wide when he came around, and having burned early, it was only a matter of time before Man With The Money was going to run out of gas anyway."

For both Woodward and Higgs, who races White Arrow with his sister Elaine and Dunedin's Russell Nieper, it was their first wins on Cup Day. Nieper also races Highview Badlands and promising sorts in Radar Installed and trotter Sunshine Boy, all trained by Jim Curtin. "It's just great to have him back. He is the stable star and as long as he is going well, the rest can all be running last and you'd still feel like you're going okay."

Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 16Nov06


YEAR: 2004

Thanksgiving holds out Jazz Legend

When Tommy Behrns heard the bang of the hammer after he had put in a bid for $31,000 on Lot 71 yearling at the Inter-Dominion Sale last year, he said to himself "I'm crazy". A seller of horses, one who had never raced a 2-year-old trotter before, and with not an owner for the colt in sight, Behrns knew he was playing a dangerous game. "But I truly liked the horse. I had picked him on conformation, and just got carried away at the time," he said.

His sire was the fast Speedy Crown horse King Conch and his mother was the superbly-bred but elderly Diedre Hanover, who died last week, and was offered by trotting enthusiasts Gary Allen and Trevor Casey. Diedre Hanover had also left good winners Sunny Florida, Diedre's Girl, Arnover and Roysimon, and to come was this season's Great Northern Trotting Derby winner, Hurricane Flyer.

With the damage done, Behrns went to the Dellaca brothers, Richard and John, Brendon Richards and Paul Young, and sold them each a fifth. "It wasn't easy putting it all together - I'd be telling a lie if I said otherwise," he said. But Thanksgiving soon took the weight off his sholders. "He just trotted from from day one. He didn't take any making," he said.

Still big and overgrown, Thanksgiving won his first two starts, then made an early break and ran last behind Damian Carlos at Addington last month. Driven by Jim Curtin, Thanksgiving swept up out wide near the 600m in the $35,000 NRM Sires' Stakes Championship and soon had Hoops covered. Jazz Legend, by Holdonmyheart, made a spirited run in the straight, and failed by only a head to reverse the result.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly


YEAR: 2003


He might be aptly named insofar as his self-confessed "battling" connections are concerned, but Last Link did the best possible thing by breeder/owner/trainer Bob Porteous and driver Craig Newfield when he took out the $21,504 Christchurch Casino Trot. For both, it was considered their biggest win, surpassing the Sundon gelding's success on the final night of the Inter-Dominions on the course in April, for a similar stake when racing those who had not qualified for the Final won by Take A Moment.

Last Link is the only horse that Porteous has in work nowadays, having sent his sister Sunworthy to stud, and for Newfield, apart from Dark Shadow, a pacer he trains for Porteous which has won twice at Addington since May, he is pretty much the only horse that Newfield has been required to handle on raceday in recent years. "I have been in the game long enough and haven't been successful so it is time to look for other things," said the 43-year-old Newfield on Tuesday. "So, I am getting out, but whatever is around the corner, I don't know just yet," he added.

Newfield, who bought the 38-acre Templeton property of his father Felix when that top horseman moved to the Gold Coast about 10 years ago, is presently sub-dividing a 10-acre block of that land, running about 30 head of cattle and working for nearby breeder Mike Stratford. "When there isn't Mike's horses to be done, such as weaning the foals, I am working as a labourer for Mike in his property development. We are also doing a bit of hay contacting in the summer."

Newfield is actually a little lucky to have been involved in Last Link's two biggest wins at all. While he began from the start by handling Last Link in his 2-year-old days, a hand injury saw him replaced for a time last year by Jim Curtin, who won twice with him at Addington. When Curtin became committed to Golden Blend however, Newfield won with Last Link when they were reunited again for the first time, beating Sonofthedon at Addington in October last season, and they have been associated ever since.

Porteous says he could have also sold Last Link a few times over as well. "We have turned down $85,000 for him, knowing that at our age we will never get another one half as good as him," said Porteous. "I was talking about it one day to Mike De Filippi, and he said you could spent that much looking for another one. I have had my share of 'clunkers' over the years, and at my age we are starting to feel the pace a bit. So he is all that is keeping us going these days. Some have turned him back because he knocks his knees, but he can just keep on knocking his knees as far as we are concerned," he added.

Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 13Nov03

<< PREVIOUS  1 2  NEXT >>

In the event that you cannot find the information you require from the contents, please contact the Racing Department at Addington Raceway.
Phone (03) 338 9094