Smooth Performer's front running win in the $45,000 Nevele R Stud New Zealand Oaks was good news for the Southland syndicate who bought her sire Top Performer for $32,000 at auction in March.
Top Performer (1:55.6US) is to stand at Henderson and Shelly Hunter's stud farm at Edendale next season. Top Performer stood in Canterbury last season after earlier being at the Kenwood Stud in Cambridge. Smooth Performer is from the first crop of the son of Niatross. She is owned by Harness Racing Conference executive member Ollie Haines and his wife Irene who bred her from Annie Smooth (3 wins)who had her race career cut short by injury.
In an action replay of the Great Northern Oaks finish, only with the placings reversed, Smooth Performer hung on to win by half a head from Smooth Gretna, who had trailed three back on the fence for Glen Wolfenden. The previous week she had got up to score by a short neck but David Butcher's strong drive on Smooth Performer got her home. He was able to dictate the pace with few
serious challengers and sprinted home in 57.8 with the overall time being 3:17.5, 1.6s outside Happy Hazel's national record.
The hot favourite, Seaswift Franco, was trapped three and four wide over the first lap and then sat parked, leaving Jack Smolenski cursing the outside barrier draw and the bad luck which has dogged him since Time's Up won 10 years ago. Her effort deserved a better fate and the rich DB Fillies Final might provide her connections with some compensation. The racing luck was with Smooth Performer in the Oaks, leaving her connections over the moon. Trainer John Butcher described her a natural from day one while Haines, the vice-president of the Cambridge Club, said it was easily his biggest thrill in racing. It was Smooth Performer's seventh win in 13 starts and took her earnings over $96,000.
The first three home were clear of their rivals although c2 horses Camara Vance, who trailed, and Silky Midas, running on well after being second last most of the journey, did well to run fourth and fifth ahead of Alamidas who battled in the run home after improving wide the last lap.
Credit: Gary Birkett writing in HR Weekly
Just An Excuse kept his unbeaten winning record when he set up a race record to win the Wyatt and Wilson Print Superstars 4yo Championship. He thumped 12 others, giving all but Muscle Machine a start, and recorded 3:15.1 for the 2600 stand. The previous best for the race was Defoe's 3:15.8, followed by Christopher Vance and Hoppy's Jet who both went 3:16.6.
Just An Excuse is raced by his breeders Ollie and Irene Haines; Ollie, a former HRNZ Executive member whose last trip to race a horse at Addington was 11 years earlier with the classy filly, Smooth Performer. He has culled his stock considerably since then, and Just An Excuse made his arrival when only a few were left.
A 4-year-old by Live Or Die, Just An Excuse is trained by Robert Mitchell who said the horse "has been a bit of a revelation. He has never ceased to amaze us, and he's come along when I was looking to cut back a bit. I haven't had a horse who has done what this guy has done," he said. Mitchell has been behind enough good ones to know where Just An Excuse stands, including the open class Court Martial pacer Hoover, Rain Girl and Royal Consent.
The only concern Mitchell had was the gap of three weeks between races, and what effect the trip away from home would have on him. "He was quiet for a couple of days, then started kicking his bucket in the yard, so he handled it okay," he said.
Just An Excuse is the sixth foal from My Excuse, a Smooth Fella mare, who has since left a Make A Deal filly, now two, and a yearling filly, also by Live Or Die.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing HRWeekly 09Oct02