From a $150 riding hack to the greatest stake winning trotter to race down this end of the world...that is Stormy Morn, winner of the Dominion. The $26,000 cheque he took home for owner Peter Moore after New Zealand's top trot took his earnings to over the $140,000 exceeding the winnings of the other leaders, Scotch Tar, Easton Light and No Response. Only Petite Evander has won more than Stormy Morn and she did a lot of her racing in the Northern Hemisphere.
Stormy Morn had demonstrated his toughness earlier in the carnival when he won the NZ Trotting Free-For-All after being wide all the way. On Saturday night trainer-driver Tony Perucich had the Westland King gelding right back in the field to the 2000 metres when he pressed on to tackle and pass pacemaking Game Way, dragging About Now up with him. With 1600 metres to go, he was still in the lead, About Now trailing ahead of Brother James and Regal Flyer on the outer, and Game Way still down there on the rails. Once into the straight, it was all on with challenges coming thick and fast. But hang on in typical fashion Stormy Morn did while Game Way, About Now, McShane and Jenner fought out the minors close up behind him.
The winning margin to Game Way was just half a head with a similar distance back to About Now. It was enough to make Stormy Morn the top stake winning trotter in the country.
Christchurch plumber Peter Moore originally bought Stormy Morn for $150 as a riding hack for his daughter Dianne. The Westland King gelding had been tried as a two-year-old but hadn't shown anything. And when tried again some years later he immediately showed up as a trotter destined for the top with a seemingly never ending string of placings. He fulfilled that promise earlier this year when he took the Australasian Trotting Championship and crowned everything with victory in the Dominion.
The win was also Perucich's biggest and most prestigious win. He'd previously hit the headlines by winning the New Zealand Juvenile Championship and the Welcome Stakes when Trio was a two-year-old. He had that horse down with him for the Cup carnival too, but it raced without much success. Perucich was based in Christchurch but moved north to Pukekohe a little over two years ago. "There was more racing up there, more mobiles and more money," he said. "But I miss Canterbury and would like to come back one day." He put the win down to the seven-year-old's great staying ability. "He's as tough as they come. He trotted around to the lead when the pace slackened off."
The run of Game Way to run second was another top performance. It was only his second run since breaking down in the Dominion last season. He won on the first day of the meeting with a genuine gutsy performance. "We're really lucky to be here," trainer Alec Purdon said. "He's had no work since that win...only some light jogging." Game Way is still plagued with unsoundness but the stallion "won't give up. We'll keep hoping...he'll probably start at Ashburton in the invitation trot there," he said.
Doody Townley was delighted with the run of About Now. "She stuck on well but wasn't good enough to get there. It was a good one." McShane battled on for his placing after being back on the outer to the 600 metres when he moved up to be closer, but wide, with fine northerner Jenner following him all the way.
Credit: Graham Ingram writing in NZ Trotting Calendar
Trevor Thomas, a special guest at the Methven Trotting Club's centenary celebrations in October, died suddenly in Christchurch earlier this week, in his 77th year.
His father, Lou, was a respected Canterbury horseman associated with several useful horse including Purser, Huon Voyage, Battle Colours and Excelsa.
After three years at Christchurch Boys High, Thomas left school at 15 to work for his father. "I helped him for the best part of 10 years, and after I thought I knew enough, I decided to go out on my own. Then, after I was married I got a job working for the railways to pay the house off, and then went back to the horses."
Thomas still vividly recalls his first winner, Waroonga, at Addington in 1947. "It was just after my 21st birthday, and one of my father's owners gave me £5. My mother suggested I should put it on Waroonga, saying I must be a poor driver if I couldn't back my own horse. I ended up putting £2 each-way on him and he won paying £175 to win, and £27 for a place. It was a record at Addington for some time."
Thomas trained 88 winners and drove 108 during his career. Some of the more notable performers included Jaunty Hanover, Canis Minor, Lopez MacFaber, Genesis and Alec Peterson. "Canis Minor was the best I had. He wasn't blessed with natural speed or brilliance, but he would just grind the opposition into the ground. He won the Pan Am Mile Consolation in 1980. He went 1:57 earlier in the night, and then Lord Module came out and won the final later on in perfect conditions. I reckon we would have run him close if we had started in the final. He also won an Inter-Dominion heat at Harold Park in Sydney, breaking the track record in his first start there."
Genesis was another top-liner for Thomas. After winning the Sapling Stakes as a juvenile, Genesis went on to win another 9 races, before being sold to North American interests. "I always maintained he was a horse we never saw the best of," Thomas said. "I also drove a few good ones. Joy Boy was a great old campaigner who used to win races off huge handicaps. I was behind him when he won the Manawatu Cup off 85m, and the Hawera Cup from 90m. He was a great grass-tracker and loved the mud, but had bad legs. I drove Lord Louie to win a New Brighton Cup, and I won a lot of 'Country Cups'in the 70s."
Thomas was also associated with the brilliant squaregaiter Stormy Morn, winner of 32 races including the 1981 Dominion Handicap and the 1982 Rowe Cup. "His owner Peter Moore brought him to me after he had been turned away by several others. I qualified him within a month, and then raced him. In his first season he started 21 times and got 21 cheques. Then he was given to Tony Perucich up North, going on to be a terrific trotter."
Thomas is no stranger to race accidents. He has broken a leg, an ankle, an arm, an elbow, has had several bouts of concussion and even cracked his spine in one skirmish. "Half my problem was staying in the cart," he quipped. His last driving success was at Reefton in 1990 behind Megavite. "I wouldn't mind another drive just to get the feel of it again. But when you get to my age, if you haven't done any good then it is either your own fault or you're no good. Besides, the style of driving has changed so much. It is all get up and go these days, and it becomes fairly low key to us older ones."
"In fact so much has changed. People used to get dressed up and go out to the races frequently. It was a big social occasion, but now if you have got a horse in with half an hour between races it is too rushed. But now they are bringing in Sunday racing, and it may help pick up the up the atmosphere again. It would have been no go in my day, but now I guess you have to keep up with the times. I think it may be a good thing though."
Thomas has no doubts as to who the best horse he has seen is. "It would definitely have to be Highland Fling. He was amazing. Although it is hard to make comparisons, if he was racing under today's conditions, he would be even better."
"And when I look back, I would not have missed it for the world. I've had a lot of fun and enjoyment."
Credit: NZ HRWeekly 4Jun92
STORMY MORN - Bargain Buy