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
Once upon a time, Paul Nairn took a horse to the Coast and couldn't win a maiden with him. The trotter raced with aplomb on both days at Westport and then again at Reefton, but still it was three months before he cleared the ranks of beginners; hardly anything to get excited about. Today, he's square-gaiting's latest superstar - the new benchmark that all other top trotters have to aspire to.
Such has been the meteoric rise of a 6-year-old that is known simply as Stig. "I wasn't even sure he would make a horse to begin with," Nairn recalled. "And when I first got him I didn't think much at all about what sort of potential he had - I was just trying to see what he could do. He only qualified a couple of weeks before he went to the Coast, and he was always a bit awkward in his gait so you couldn't let him go or he would break. And because of that I started to worry I was teaching him not to try. But he was always a willing horse that would do what you wanted him to."
Stig continued his dominance with another emphatic victory at Addington last Friday night, his fourth from five outings this term, and as far as trotting events go it was as big as they come - the $300,000 Heller Tasty Dominion. Things didn't pan out for the Armbro Invasion gelding during the running though, and driver David Butt even admitted afterwards that he thought they were in trouble with a lap to run.
At that stage he and Stig were last on the outside and stuck in a three-wide train that was going nowhere, a situation that Butt counteracted by launching the gelding four-wide down the back straight. Horse and pilot were still fair coasting around the home bend though, despite the exertion, and they sailed down the home straight to win comfortably in the end by nearly a length in close to record time.
"This is a big thrill," Nairn said. "Because it is a special event, with a lot of history attached." The Leeston trainer has been to the top of the Dominion tree before, having also won the event back in 1995 with Call Me Now, but he stops short of drawing any similarities between the two great trotters. "It's hard to compare horses from different eras," he said. "But Call Me Now was a real good stayer, and so is this bloke."
Nairn wasn't entirely happy with the way Stig was trotting leading up to last week's Dominion, which gives the horse's performance even more notoriety. "He has never been a perfect-gaited trotter, but compared to what he was like as a 4-year-old he is a lot better this season. It's hard to have them dead right all the time."
The winner of 12 races and over $406,000 will now have a month out, and Nairn says Stig's next main target is the Rowe Cup in May. During his spell, Stig will have a nagging area near his off-hind fetlock attended to. Some stitches haven't dissolved like they should have following the operation Stig had to remove a piece of sesamoid bone, and Nairn says it's little more than a "pimple-like" superficial wound that weeps from time to time and hasn't affected his ability to perform whatsoever.
He does thank his lucky stars when thinking about the last time Stig had to have an enforced latoff though. "He fractured his sesamoid, and could have very easily been history," he said. "But sometimes things go right, and sometimes they don't. Take Inspire for example, she was working as good a Stig but then broke a pastern in training a couple of months ago. She is in foal to Sundon, but I would like to have another go with her. That's the plan anyway."
Nairn is one of harness racing's greatest trainers, and his effort in producing Stig to win the Canterbury Park Trotting Cup first-up this season - the horse's first appearance for nearly a year - was a truly remarkable feat. yet he is almost 'embarrassed' by any moment in the spotlight, preferring instead to extol the virtues of either the horse or whoever's sitting behind them on racenight rather than take any credit himself.
With a horse of Stig's quality in the stable though, speeches on the victory dias are something that he might just have to get used to. "He has got all the right ingredients," Nairn said, answering the question about whether Stig could be one of the sport's all-time greats. "He's pretty relaxed and doesn't pull in his races, and he can make his own luck. Plus he can stay, and he has got enough speed. So he has got a bit going for him, for sure."
Strangely enough, Nairn has never trained a pacing winner. "The first horse I ever took to the races was a pacer, one that belonged to my grandfather called Spanish Lace. But I've got one at home at the moment that I reckon could win a couple. "She is four and named Carlo's Call, and is actually by Call Me Now - out of a mare that could pace and trot."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 26Nov08
If Stig lost any mana having an off-day at Kaikoura, it was forgotten and forgiven as he won it back with a handsome win in the $100,000 First Sovereign Trust NZ Trotting Free-For-All at Addington on Friday. Idid It Myway came with his customary strong, late run for second, heading off Roydon Flash and Awesome Imace.
The effort suggested that Stig is near enough to a good thing in the $300,000 Heller Tasty Dominion Handicap. He was unforgiving when he resumed after a long break to win a stand over 3200m at Addington; he was brilliant winning next over a mile at Ashburton, and then the real Stig stood down from what he normally does at Kaikoura, a track that can be tricky for some.
Trainer Paul Nairn said he probably didn't like the track there being "shifty", but perhaps more telling was that he was "annoyed" the day before by his stablemate Day Of Reckoning who was in season. In any event, he was a box of birds getting back home, and if Nairn wasn't "overly confident" on Show Day, he has a right to be now.
Safely through this week's mission, Stig will have a small operation to remove a stitch that has caused a wee weeping bump above the offside hind foreleg after he broke a sesamoid a year ago. "For some reason the stitch hasn't dissolved," said Nairn, "we will get it out soon."
Stig, of course, still has some way to go to match and better the feats of Call Me Now, Above The Stars and some of the other top trotters Nairn has trained, but it shouldn't be long before he is there and gone past. "This horse is still getting there," said Nairn. "Call Me Now ran 4.05 and still holds the New Zealand record for 2000 metres." Beyond this meeting, Nairn is taking his time. "I'm happy to leave the page open after this. He will most likely spell, have a month or so off, and then get ready for the Rowe Cup."
Stig is raced by Tim and Andrea Butt, Ross Thomas, of Christchurch, and Jim Boyd, of Hamilton, whose musical talents in the birdcage did not reach the same high notes that Stig did on the track. Butt originally tried to syndicate Stig as a yearling with 12 shares at $5000 each, but when only two were taken up, they were left with 10.
Springbank Richard was eight lengths from Stig, and driver Nathan Williamson said he'd be driving him differently in the Dominion, hoping he will settle better. "We knew it would take him a few starts to find his feet in this grade. I would like to drive him cold, and see what he can do with one run at them."
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 19Nov08
Stig will still be favourite, but Our Sunny Whiz, who did not run on Show Day and Houdini Star and Mountbatten who did, are right in the mix in a race that is now wide open. It may not suit Romper Stomper, in spite of his obvious ability at the top level and his dashing late passing lane run to catch Houdini Star and Mountbatten. Romper Stomper had done his case no good by galloping on the grass at Motukarara and doing the same on Cup Day, but there was good form just behind that when he rattled home for third in the Canterbury Park Cup behind Whatsundermykilt.
Trainer Robbie Holmes did not rate him out of it. He made a couple of gear changes and thought the mobile would be the key to it. He settled him three-deep, behind Mountbatten and the early leader Rhythm Of The Night, and kept making ground on Mountbatten after Braig had retired from a bitter war between the 700m and 400m. "I saw Ants (Anthony Butt and Mountbatten) tiring and my horse just kept digging," he said.
For Holmes, this was his first Group 1 training success. The 8-year-old by Armbro Invasion is raced by Phil Sherley, a Hamilton insurance agent, and John Dickie, who trained the horse and won a heat of the Inter-Dominions last year, and then decided that his best chance with the horse was putting him on the beach. "It's been a real challenge," said Holmes,"but I love training trotters, and I've got half-a-dozen in work and they're all either racing or not far off it."
Hougini Star was a neck off winning and a short head in front of Mountbatten, and there was a gap to Petite Sunset who doesn't need much improvement to join the elite group.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HR Weekly 21Nov07