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Harness racing in the Wellington region was decimated by the track closure of Hutt Park in the 1990s. However the heart of the sport is still beating strongly with recently retired Upper Hutt bisinessman Reg Caldow.
Caldow has been involved in Harness Racing since 1984, first owning horses in partnership with Gary Allen now Chairman of HRNZ, and Keith Gibson of Roydon Lodge Stud. From those beginnings, interest in breeding and racing took a strong hold and to date Reg and wife Barb have won over 200 races in New Zealand, Australia and USA.
He recalls his Hutt Park days with a sparkle in his eye. "As always in these ventures family become committed, while I was President and with Barb running the bar and daughter Sandi secretary of the OTB, it wasn't long before one of the Christchurch boys, Jimmy Curtin, stole Sandi off us. We fought hard to get a decent facility for visiting trainers and owners but then the powers that be decided we were a 'C' grade club and should race for $4,000. The writing was on the wall and it was all over by 2001."
His love of the straight out trotter has been sweetened with the success of the likes of Mountain Gold, an open class trotter raced in a short venture by some of the best known thoroughbred breeders in NZ. Golden Blend, who was bought as a weanling with Gary Allen winning 8 from 18 starts and also a brother to Sheeza Doozie. Also, Lord Burghley who won 6 including the Open Class trot on Cup Day in 2007. Both of these went on to win over 20 races each for Chris Ryder in the USA.
Reg and Barb now breed from a core of six pacing and six trotting mares, including Starlitnight who is a sister to Stars and Stripes and Light and Sound. Her first three foals all broke NZ records. Since then she has left recent winner Sirius Star. This mare is in foal to Auckland Reactor for a double up of Sokys Atom amongst others. Star Of Venus, whose first foal is Star Of Dionysis, a winner of 5 to date also recent debutant Vegus Star. She is in foal to Bettors Delight.
Star Of Isis, was picked out of a paddock of weanlings at Dave Phillips property early in 2009. She had 7 wins and 2 seconds in 9 starts in 2013, now has a Somebeachsomewhere filly foal, who is well stamped, and will go back again this year to pick up on two strains of Matts Scooter.
Russian Bride whose third dam is Olga Korbut. "This dam family is set to come up with another great one when crossed with Art Major. We have a yearling filly by Art Major and a filly foal by Stunin Cullen," said Caldow.
Summer Solstice has to date produced $100k winner Chalde. She has a Well Said yearling filly and a Courage Under Fire weanling colt. Red Electric Moon's second dam is a full sister to Soky's Atom, so the mating to Auckland Reactor was waiting to happen.
The Caldows have bred a number of trotting mares from the family of top producer Galleons Dream, a Chiola Hanover mare, who has left Inter Dominion winner Galleons Sunset. U Dream is a maiden mare by Love You from Galleons Dream who won two races in quick succession and had to retire to stud. She is in foal to Majestic Son. Empress Maria is a SJ's Photo daughter of Galleons Dream, unraced due to injury, who foaled to Muscle Hill. Olesya, a Paramount Spur daughter of Galleons Dream, also foaled to Muscle Hill who has a Muscle Hill filly. Petite's Legacy is a granddaughter of Pride of Petite who has a weanling filly by Majestic Son and is in foal to Muscle Hill. Anreca Hest is the dam of The Fiery Ginga. There are lots of multiple crosses to Somolli and Speedy Crown, Rodney and Victory Song. Zhenya is a Muscle Mass daughter of Starcus who won five and is now in Australia to race with Jodi Quinlan, before returning in foal to NZ. Danielle Daunoi, unraced, an outstanding breeding potential, this mare by Yankee Paco was bought as a yearling in Australia purely for breeding. Caldow has a rising three-year-old filly by Love You out of the mare in training at the moment. Samarais an Earl mare from a daughter of Charlotte Galleon who has a weanling by Lucky Chucky.
In recent times, apart from what is mentioned above Caldow has raced some out of Steven Reid's barn including Selkie, Red Skywalker and William Wilberforce. Others include Star Of Dionysis(5 wins) for Jim Curtin, as well as Alpine Gold (4 wins), Barb has had Suu Kyi (5 wins) with Sandi and sister Julia as well as Boys Will Be Boys (7 wins including Auckland Winter Cup) and Major Dave (3 wins), Star Commando (2 wins) out of the Bruce Hutton barn, as well as Isaac (3 wins) and The Black Forest (1 win) and, of course, Lord Burghley. Also Star Monarch won 2 out of Revell Douglas barn in Pukekohe and half-sister Zhenya who won 5 for Phil Williamson, now in Australia.
While there are a number of trainers involved, over timw Caldow has moved most of his mares to Auckland with the help of Alabar Stud. Those who are instrumental in the success in the north include Dave Phillips, Brent and Susan Donnelly and Gary Hackett.
"As far as my interest in harness racing is concerned I have no doubt Ifall into the category of a lot of people where the interest in breeding winners, my family involvement and mares that I still have keep me motivated. Stake monies are woeful most of the time, although I have taken advantage of the Harness plus scheme, and have won six this year alone. I cannot understand why owners and breeders did not continue to support the concept. I also do not understand why we can lift the prize money for Group 1 races while the maidens are running round Addington for $7,000. I also do not understand why it has taken so long to reach agreement amongst the Racing Board and Government to pass legislation to stop all betting privately offshore. I am quite clear that the reduction in breeding mares has in many ways been good for us. Years ago when there were 8000 mares or more to breed from, there was a lot of breeding that should not have been undertaken.
"We enjoy the travel, for example last Christmas we went to Westport and Reefton to watch Sar Of Dionysis and Star Commando race, then off down the Haast over to Queenstown and up to Omakau to see Matty Williamson win by ten lengths on Zhenya, and then up to Nelson on the way back to Wellington to watch Star Commando win. Believe me we know just how fortunate we are to be able to do this and never take it for granted," Caldow finished.
Credit: Duane Ranger writing in Harnessed Sep 15