Springbank Richard booked his ticket for the Harness Jewels in Cambridge with a brilliant win at Addington last Saturday night.
It was the second start and second win for the son of Sundon in his 4-year-old season, which, for him, only got going earlier this month. That meant he was in 'catch up' mode for a place on the Jewels leaderboard, but his winning cheque of $27,315 from Saturday's First Sovereign Trust 4YO Trotters Championship has now put him well into the 'safe' zone. And what a victory it was, because Springbank Richard was used twice to get to the parked position and yet he made a star-studded field look second-rate when he forged away on the turn and won comfortably.
"He's so easy to drive," says Nathan Williamson. "It's almost a case of don't be unlucky, and that's it. He was fair bolting on the turn tonight, and I could've put a couple of lengths on them; he tends to wait for the opposition a bit. He's definitely the best horse I've driven."
Prior to his winning resumption at Invercargill three weeks ago, Springbank Richard was last seen romping away with the Victoria Derby way back in July. His late start to 2007/08 is all part of the master plan, one where trainer Phil Williamson is looking much further down the track. "We wanted to give him as light a season as possible, because he's a lean, mean machine," Williamson said. "And as he gets stronger, we hope he'll keep getting better. We've just got to man-manage him from here. I mean, you could get carried away and start in a race like the Rowe Cup - but why would you do that and risk undoing him, whereas if you wait then you can start him in it five years in a row."
As firmly as his feet are on the ground, Williamson can't help but be excited about the horse that's now won his last six outings - and eight from nine since joining the stable. "Horses like this are born, they're not made," he said. "And he could be something special for sure."
Williamson said Springbank Richard will have an easy time before the Jewels now, with at least one more run somewhere on the cards, and then the star 4-year-old could even go north early for a race at Cambridge or Alexandra Park - "for a look around the place. I think the Jewels is going to be very much about the draws," he warned.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 27Mar08
Nathan Williamson says Springbank Richard feels like his old self again this season. Well, to be more precise, - his 'young' self.
Williamson set Springbank Richard alight nearing the home turn in last Friday night's $25,000 Anthony Shearer-Bestwood/Pink Batts Ordeal Trotting Cup at Addington, and the pair rushed on by Speculate who had led from the get-go. The latter had pinged along at a near record pace in front, and to her credit Speculate came back at Springbank Richard to be only half a length away at the line. But this was to be another sought-after trotting title that went the way of 'Team Williamson'.
And 21-year-old Nathan was understandably beaming about Springbank Richard's performance; not only because the gelding won, but more importantly how he felt in doing it. "He's like his old self again," Williamson said. "Her felt like it last week to, even though he was a bit fresh that night." That was the night Springbank Richard clipped a wheel with 1500 metres to run, breaking and losing all chance in his first start of the season. Stipendiary stewards slapped Williamson with a $350 fine for careless driving, but the young man took it on the chin because he knew there were more positives to be taken from the bigger picture.
"He was actually touching a wheel that night, and over-racing. In his action her throws his back leg out a long way anyway, and because he has grown a bit it just meant we needed to make his cart slightly longer. He sweated up quite badly, but the trip up here and everything did him the world of good."
Williamson believes Springbank Richard "needed" the year of hard racing in the top grade that he had last season, plus he needed time to grow. "As a three and 4-year-old, he was better than the ones he was racing up against. And he used to be about a $1.10 favourite most starts, so it was a case of 'go to the front and don't get unlucky'. But now they are all as good as each other, so he has to race in the field. I'm pretty excited about him this year actually."
Despite agreeing with his son that there was "a lot to be said for having a season of hard racing", Williamson's father Phil considers that they "made a mistake" with the son of Sundon last season - not having him ready enough, early enough. He's more forward at the same stage this time in," Phil said. "And that was the plan, because they brought the Dominion forward; he had a much shorter spell, only five weeks. From here we might look at the Banks Peninsula Cup with him, because it is a race we have never won before - if he's good enough we'll be in it; if he's not, we won't. One Over Kenny's got to come down yet, and there's a lot of other good horses out there ... take Speculate for example, she went fantastic tonight. She's shown that she's a very special horse."
FOOTNOTE: Had she managed to hold out Springbank Richard in the Ordeal Cup, Speculate would have set a NZ Record. The official time of 3:14.8 that she recorded in finishing second would have sliced three-tenths of a second off the existing mares mark over 2600 mobile - which, ironically, is held by Springbank Richard's former stablemate, Jasmyn's Gift, who set it when winning the 2005 Ordeal Cup. Springbank Richard went close to the geldings' and entires' mark himself, his 3:14.7 being just half a second slower than Romper Stomper's record set in the NZ Trotting Free-For-All on Show Day, 2007.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 23 Sep 09
Stig achieved something he'd never done before when he won at Addington on Saturday. He set a NZ Record.
The undisputed star of trotting in Australasia has now blessed us with 13 victories to date, but he seemed to lift the bar even higher again in the $75,000 United Fisheries Free-For-All because he literally gave his rivals a start and a beating.
Nearly four lengths out of position on the outside of the second line when the mobile pulled away, Stig was dangerously giving some talented types even more of an advantage than he needed to. And over the sprint trip of 1950 metres, the task ahead could've very easily turned into 'mission impossible' after such a tardy beginning.
But this is Stig we're talking about - and like he's done numerous times before, the great horse just got down to business and produced an unbelievable performance. Narrowly avoiding two breakers early, the son of Armbro Invasion was never closer in than three-wide all the way around the bend into the straight the first time. Soon afterwards he had cover behind Sovereignty, and by the time the 800m pole came and went he had crossed over to be up outside the new leader King Charlie.
Rounding the home bend it was obvious that he was travelling sweeter than anything else, and down the straight driver David Butt did little more than flick Stig with the whip as he checked inside and out for dangers. There were none really, and at the line he had the fast-finishing Springbank Richard covered by a neck. Then gasps emanated from the small on-course crowd as Stig's time was announced...2:22.7, a scintillating mile rate of 1:57.7, and more importantly it meant that he had smashed a full 2.2 seconds off the existing national make held by Castleton's Mission.
Afterwards, trainer Paul Nairn admitted that Stig even surprises him sometimes. "It's just his will to win - he overcomes things," Nairn said. "I knew myself that he was no cert today, drawn where he was over the sprint trip, and it wasn't a great start he got. I don't know what happened there; Davey just said he got too far back and couldn't make up the ground. It's not the first time he has done that though (surprised me), he's just such a great stayer."
Nairn always had last Saturday's Listed event in the back of his mind for Stig, but only if he pleased him in training. "He had a three-week break after the Dominion, and has been in work about six weeks since, and if he wasn't up to this today I wouldn't have been worried. But when I worked him last Friday he seemed fit, and I thought he was ready to compete."
"There is a chance I will go north to Auckland now for the Cup Meeting, and will have to make a decision on that in the next week or so. The main problem with that is the young ones I've got at home, but I suppose I could also take up the likes of Red and Brite N Up to make the trip worthwhile."
Nairn says a couple of the youngsters he has in work "could make 2-year-olds," including a sister to De Gaulle named Mamselle who's "a nice wee trotter" and Landora's Pearl (Earl- Landora's Image) who "trots along a bit too".
Credit: John Robinson writin in HRWeekly 4Feb09
2009 HELLER'S SMALLGOODS DOMINION