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HORSES

 

YEAR: 2021

Covid stopped him being there but it couldn’t stop Ray Green from delivering the training performance of a lifetime as Copy That staved off his rivals to win the IRT New Zealand Cup at Addington on Tuesday.
Green watched on from his living room as the horse he selected to buy before he was even a year old powered to a front-running victory in New Zealand’s greatest race four years on.

With Green stuck in Auckland and owners, Meg and Merv Butterworth forced to watch on from Australia all New Zealand Cup responsibility was left to driver Blair Orange.

When Orange took Copy That to the lead his 76-year-old trainer knew from his lifelong involvement in harness racing that his horse was nearly unbeatable from that point.

But it didn’t mean he wasn’t in for one of the most stressful four minute periods of his life.
“He was never going to get beat once he strolled two easy halves (800m), I thought they were never going to beat him.”

“Self Assured is a very good horse but we have beaten him in the past in the same scenario and I think our horse is a lot stronger this year.”

“So, you see him in front and you think they can’t beat him, but then you think maybe they can.”
“It was stressful, you don’t realise how stressed out you were until it's over.”

“It was very emotional once he crossed the line.”



Orange delivered a front-running performance fitting of his status as New Zealand’s premier reinsman by expertly controlling the New Zealand Cup tempo.

After his brilliant effort to guide Copy That to his commanding win, the reinsman was typically humble, suggesting he was lucky to land the drive on such a brilliant horse.

“It is a very special moment, it is the pinnacle of our racing year and it is hard enough to get a drive in it let alone a leading chance,” Orange said.

Copy That’s victory offered redemption for his camp after the pacer was a victim of a controversial start to last year’s event which severely affected his winning chances.
The pacer’s win also completed an epic journey which started when Green and wife Debbie bought the horse home from a weanling sale for $7500, which has looked like a bargain price for some time.

Green admitted he and his wife have had their ups and downs with the pacer since, but it was all made worthwhile when Copy That wrote himself into the greatest chapter of New Zealand harness racing’s history.

“It wasn’t all beer and skittles, it took a while for him to materialise.”

“But I always knew he had a bit of speed, so you persevere and this is the end result.”

“I have had a lot of the drivers be very good with him in his progress, they’ve looked after him when he was doing things wrong and I appreciate all of them.”

The Greens sold Copy That to the Butterworths as a three-year-old, which allowed the Australian owners to live a second New Zealand Cup dream following their victory with Arden Rooney in 2015.

“Debbie never wanted to sell him, but you have got to be realistic, we are not rich people and when you are offered a lot of money you have to sell,” Green said.
“We have still got him to train, so it has been a win-win, the owners that bought him have been great.”
“They are very loyal owners.”

“I am just extremely grateful for this horse, there are a lot of people involved.”

“From the vets to the staff, to (Lincoln Farms owner) John street, there are so many people.”

Though robbed of the chance to see his career and life defining win in the flesh, there was one advantage from Green being able to watch the New Zealand Cup from home alongside his wife and his staff.

Celebrations started before Orange and his team on the ground got the hopples off Copy That.

“There is a party going on here, there is champagne sprayed everywhere,

“It is almost like one of those formula one podium jobs.”
Copy That scored in a 3.58.8 winning time by a two and a half lengths over defending champion Self Assured, with South Coast Arden third.


Credit: Johnny Turner

 

YEAR: 2021

Just like harness racing fans across Australasia, the team behind Sundees Son were left utterly speechless when the star trotter produced one of the greatest trotting performances in New Zealand’s history to win the Group One Dominion at Addington on Show Day.

The Robert and Jenna Dunn trained six-year-old didn’t just break his own national and race record set in his brilliant win in the 3200m feature last year, he absolutely smashed it, setting a new mark few thought was possible.

Perfectly handled by driver John Dunn, Sundees Son crossed the line in the jaw-dropping time of 3.56.6 – a massive 4.9sec faster than his 4.00.5 win in the race last year.

And even more incredibly, his time was 2.2sec faster than what Copy That’s clocked when winning the New Zealand Cup over the same trip on Tuesday.



Emotions flowed from owner-breeders Colin and Nancy Hair, as well as from the training team behind the star squaregaiter including Robert and Jenna Dunn and her father Craig Edmonds.

Understandably, it was a combination of jubilation from witnessing a stunning victory and a sense of disbelief after their trotting star had produced one of the most remarkable performances in 110 editions of the Dominion.
“It was unbelievable,” Jenna Dunn said.

“Sunny is a special horse and with him anything is possible, but it is still unbelievable that he won like that.”

As unique as his stunning victory was, so is the way the team behind Sundees Son come together to make him a success.

The Hairs have pulled off a breeding miracle with their Sundon mare Stardon, while Jenna and her father Craig Edmonds and John Dunn and his father Robert all contribute to the fine-tuning of a superstar trotter and his career.

“I am just so lucky to be a part of it, Dad does a lot of work with the horse and Johnny does too, it is a real team effort.”

Colin and Nancy Hair were understandably speechless after watching their trotting star rewrite history.
It could take several days for the gravity of what they witnessed on Friday to sink in.
“I still don’t believe what just happened,” Colin Hair said.

“It is just incredible, I think it will take some time to sink in.”

Sundees Son’s performance and winning time surely rates him in the top tier of trotters around the world.
With little to prove in New Zealand, taking on those global superstars seems an inevitable option.

“With Covid we have never really considered going anywhere, the Interdominions were never an option,” Hair said.

“I have always said that unless Craig can go with him and John can drive him and he can race in Robert’s colours he won’t be going anywhere.”

“But now he has won a lot of the big races here twice, we will have to consider going somewhere.”

The Dunn team produced another brilliant training performance in the Dominion with Mataderos just a length behind his stablemate in second.

The trotter also smashed the 3200m national record as he continued his rise from battling Aussie bush trotter to Group One star in just his 13th start in New Zealand.
The Dunn stable also produced Chief Of Staff for the race of his lifetime, finishing fourth behind third placegetter, Bolt For Brilliance.


Credit: Johnny Turner

 

YEAR: 2020

Champion trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen took a chance with Self Assured and it paid off when the star pacer exploded away from his opposition to seal their fifth consecutive win in New Zealand Cup at Addington.



The All Stars stable duo went into the country’s biggest harness race knowing they had the most talented of horses, but one they rated just a 50-50 chance of stepping away safely when the starting tapes flew.

Those concerns evaporated in the first few strides when Self Assured effectively sealed his victory with a brilliant beginning.

The faultless display came after Purdon and Rasmussen took a calculated gamble by taking the five-year-old off the unruly starting position and then putting their masterful training skills to work.

“The Cup is about winning and I took him off the unruly because I didn’t think he could win it from there,” Purdon said.

“He was going to have to go around the field.”
“It was a risk, if he had drawn on the inside you would say I have done the wrong thing.”

“I was disappointed when he missed away in the Cup trial, but we did a lot of practice between then and today and he got it right.”

Purdon and Rasmussen not only cemented their place in New Zealand Cup history with Self Assured’s three and a half-length win for his Victorian owner Jean Feiss.
Spankem and Rasmussen held down second, ahead third placed Ashley Locaz and Tim Williams, to seal a race trifecta for the superstar trainers.

Yesterday may have appeared like just another day at the office for Purdon and Rasmussen as they collected three group 1 wins and the trifecta in New Zealand’s most sought after race.

But that is far from how Purdon sees it.
“Having horses like this is what you do it for.”
“And you have got to count yourself lucky.”

“Most trainers have only got one of these type of horses and we have just filled the first three placings in the New Zealand Cup.”

Self Assured’s victory was Purdon’s sixth win in the New Zealand Cup as a driver, equalling the late Cecil Devine.

The master horseman has now trained winner eight times, six of them in partnership with Rasmussen.
The thrill of winning the country’s biggest harness race is yet to fade as Purdon keeps etching his name into its history books.

“You do get the same thrill from each win in the Cup, especially when you do it for different connections each time.”

“It is lovely to do it for Jean, she has been such a great supporter of ours.”

“She is so passionate.”

“We have had horses in the past where I have suggested they have a better earning capacity in Australia after they’ve climbed the ladder here.”

“But she wouldn’t take them off us.”

The beginning that handed Self Assured a huge early advantage over his stablemate Spankem and the favourite Copy That was the biggest talking point following the running of this year’s New Zealand Cup.

As Self Assured was settling into his handy spot in the trail behind his stablemate Ashley Locaz, Copy That was drifting back through the field.

The North Island pacer was among several runners drawn on the inner that appeared to be disadvantaged when the starting tapes were released.

After his slow start from barrier 1, Copy That eventually settled last with a huge task in front of him to catch Self Assured and Spankem.

The effort the Ray Green trained pacer put in to try to get into the race told and Copy That faded into eight placing.

Green labelled the start of the New Zealand Cup a disgrace, after the race.

Credit : Johnny Turner, Harnesslink, 10 Nov 2020


Credit: Johnny Turner

 

YEAR: 2020

After nearly 50 years’ involvement in the harness racing industry in this country Sam Ballantyne has died in Christchurch, aged 74.

A studmaster, trainer and driver Ballantyne was born in Scotland where he bred horses, just as his father had done.

He also raced horses regularly throughout the UK at venues such as Prestatyn in Wales and it was during this time he crossed paths with now prominent Auckland trainer Ray Green (of Copy That fame).

They would become mates.

“The UK scene then was like a league of nations. I’d bump into Sam twice a week and I’d drive horses he bred and then sold on, he was right up there with the best.”

“He was associated with a lot of Derby winners – he was a top breeder and he sold a lot.”

In the 1970s he made the decision to go to New Zealand. According to Green he was “looking for some adventure in his life.”

After settling in Christchurch he married into one of the country’s most prominent harness racing families. His wife Judy was the daughter of Freeman and Peggy Holmes, of Noodlum fame. He also set up his stud operation, Eastwood Lodge.

“He was a top stockman," says retired bloodstock agent Bruce Barlass, who worked at the Lodge for five years (1978-83).

“His care for the horses, especially broodmares and foals was paramount”

Among the other people he employed were now top American-based trainer Mark Harder, Grant Payne and the late Dennis Smolenski.

“In the biggest years 250 mares would be served there, to the two stallions Plat Du Jour and Nardins Byrd,” said Barlass. Other stallions there over the years included Australian champion pacer Preux Chevalier.

Gee du Jour (Plat du Jour – Geena) won the 1991 Rowe Cup while Folie Bergere,a Plat du Jour – Del Parole filly, trained by Ballantyne, finished third to the colts in the first ever Sires Stakes final in 1984.

After starting out in the mid 1970s, Ballanytne trained the last of his 73 winners (Amenophis) at Addington on January 2011.

As a driver he had 35 wins with Graikos arguably his best horse (8 wins – 17 starts).

Among his stand out performances was a second to Lord Module in the Group 1 Pan Am Mile in 1979.

“He was very professional,” says Green , “and his horses were always immaculate.”

“He would fit in with anyone, he was likeable and agreeable.”

Sam Ballantyne’s funeral will be held at Westpark Chapel, Burnside on Saturday, Dec 5 at 2pm.

Credit: Obituary



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