Something very rare happened at Addington on Saturday.
Stylish Monarch won - and paid double figures. This is the horse that usually lines up showing around the $2 mark, thanks to a super-consistent career where he has finished further back than third only 5 times in 21 starts.
Saturday was the son of Monarchy's first real test in the 'big time', and that combined with a tricky second-row draw saw him overlooked in pre-race calculations. After a gem of a drive from Ricky May though, the 6-year-old punched home best to win the $40,000 United Fisheries Ltd Trotting Free-For-All.
"Most of the time he's pretty lazy during the prelim, but today he was really onto it," an impressed May said afterwards. "And usually the good ones have got something wrong with them or some little quirk, but he's foolproof. He's a really nice horse."
It was a stellar moment for Stylish Monarch's trainer Murray Tapper too, winning the biggest race of his training career. "He's the best I've trained, for certain," Tapper said. "And I've had some nice horses before, but nothing like him."
Stylish Monarch is making a habit of taking his owner Anne Patterson and trainer to new heights..he was the first horse to win when the new stabling facility at Addington was opened last May, he won Tapper a race on Cup Day in November, and now he has got a Free-For-All which contained a few prized scalps to his name.
Things aren't going to stop there though, because Tapper's convinced that Stylish Monarch's ready to target one of the biggest cherries of them all - May's Rowe Cup in Auckland. "I've never taken one out of the South Island, I normally head south," Tapper said with a smile. "But he's just a real professional horse. He's got a 'couldn't care less' attitude and the all-round game. He's the sort of horse you dream of, really."
There is one trait that Tapper wishes his star trotter didn't have though, and that is an extreme love of water. "Him and his mate Domination are buggers for playing in it," he says. "You'll go out to the paddock, and if there's any water to be found - sure enough, they'll be splashing around in it. I don't have concrete troughs any more because he has already smashed a couple of those, and he puts his foot right through the plastic ones. So you've just got to be really careful and keep an eye on them."
That responsibility will be David Gaffaney's for the next wee while, as Tapper says he is going to leave Stylish Monarch with the Rangiora horseman for now. "David's going to jog him around the roads and take him to the beach. He will probably have another couple of runs before heading north, and I'd like him to have one or two up there before the Rowe Cup too."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 10Feb10
Within a day or two, Stylish Monarch will be on his way to Richard Brosnan's place. Murray Tapper has sent him north with Samantha Ottley, and the next time he sees him will probably be on May 7, the night of the Rowe Cup. "Richard has won more races than I'll ever train," said Tapper. "Depending on what happens, I'll have no need to go up until the day of the race," he said.
Tapper trains New Zealand's best current trotter from Pleasant Point, inland from Timaru and just minutes from where Brosnan became one of New Zealand's training icons. He will be caretaking the new top dog because that is where Stylish Monarch is, following his decisive win over Braig and the rising star I Can Doosit in the $80,000 Gary Thompson/ Fred Shaw NZ Trotting Championship last Friday night.
While Stylish Monarch set his own terms in front after starting from the pole, the best of the opposition thinned itself out - Musgrove galloped early, I Can Doosit lost ground and got well back, and Springbank Richard returned with the offside tyre off it's rim. The school of open class trotters has gradually become alarmingly light and Stylish Monarch is suddenly out of the intermediate grade, in the best and at the top of it.
For one quite so young and yet to leave home, it will be a new experience and he will face a formidable challenge with the arrival at the Rowe Cup carnival of the much-travelled Australian star, Sundon's Gift. Tapper said Stylish Monarch - the winner of 11 of his 23 starts - will have three starts in Auckland.
This rapid rise to the top for Stylish Monarch does not surprise Tapper, who just four years ago left the safety of regular pay at the freezing works to take on the more chancey one of a horse trainer. He was not moving into new ground. His father Peter was training in Gore when he won the 1958 New Brighton Cup with East Dome. The family later moved to Pleasant Point where Peter ran a drapery shop and trained a small team. One of them was Family Fun, who had one start before joining Clem Scott's stable and winning six races.
His son was keen. He drove at the annual gymkhana around the local golf course, and recalled the visits of Manaroa and No Response. Murray was employed in his youth by Eric Ryan, Terry McMillan and David Gaffaney, and recalled that Ryan won 18 races in one season while he was there and Viva Remero was one of the many nice horses he had at the time. His first driving win was with Time Bandit at Waikouaiti, and the first of his eight training wins with the classy trotter Syndication was at Roxburgh. Then Zesty showed up and won five. "It was about then that a number of people asked if I would train a horse for them, so after being at the Works for eighteen years, I left."
In reality the career change was not as good as it looks now. "I had a horror start, for the first couple of seasons. I was going terrible. The horses had a virus, and I was wondering why I had left the Works." But Domination, who has won seven, came to the party and the arrival of Stylish Monarch soon put paid to any lingering thoughts like that. "Right from the start he was a proper professional, and he just has the ringcraft."
Tapper and driver Ricky May - who won four races on the night - were a little concerned how he would perform from one off the mobile, so for a lap of the prelim May sat him on the gate. Braig tried hard up the passing lane and for a moment, near the eighty metres, gave the look of one about to succeed. But Stylish Monarch was pulling away at the finish.
Former stablemate Duplication, now in Canada, was a good sale out of the stable, and younger ones showing promise are a 2-year-old brother to Jasmyn's Gift and a Monarchy close relation to Stylish Monarch.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 14Apr10
2010 SEELITE WINDOWS & DOORS NZ TROTTING FREE-FOR-ALL
Sitting amongst the crowd at Addington to watch Monkey King capture his second consecutive NZ Cup last Tuesday, Murray Tapper hoped it wasn't the only big two-mile event that Ricky May would win during the week.
Three sleeps later, those wishes came true when May extracted Stylish monarch off a tight spot three-deep on the fence and urged him to a narrow victory in the $200,000 Group 1 Heller's Dominion Trot.
"Stylish Monarch's whole season so far has been aimed at this race today," Tapper said afterwards, knowing that every other trainer in the race would've felt the same. "And it means a lot to a guy like me. We're just a little stable from Timaru, and don't have a big team of horses or thousands of dollars to spend at the Sales. For anybody with trotters, this is our New Zealand Cup and it's pretty surreal to think we've won it."
With 11 wins and 10 placings from his 27 appearances prior to the start of this season, his 'CV' already including a Group 1 victory and runner-up prize in the most recent Rowe Cup, Stylish Monarch had all the right credentials to win at his first crack at a Dominion.
Raced by Anne Patterson, the son of Monarchy went 'bang' first-up for 2010/11 when he won at Addington early last month, looking a lot more advanced than when he resumed at the same time last year, but if anything the 7-year-old them seemed a notch below his own high standards when running third at his next three outings - appearing to have every chance to finish closer each time.
Even the public's support reflected this last Friday...a horse that had gone out favourite more often than not was suddenly showing double figures. "He probably should've finished a length closer at Kaikoura," Tapper reflected. "Ricky said he was just cruising in front. But he was looking at all the seasgulls and everything else that was going on that day, and didn't seem to knuckle into it when it mattered - perhaps he thought there was another lap to go. I specifically lined him up at Kaikoura because he was still big in condition, and thought the trip there and back plus his race would've been like having two races together."
"Then on Cup Day here, seeing his race live I thought he should've run second at least. But after watching the replay I changed my mind, because he was held up down the back straight and again at the two hundred. So I was always happy leading into this race, never disappointed."
Arriving on-course last Friday, Tapper thought 'I've got a show here', noting that the Dominion field didn't boast a champion like Lyell Creek or Take A Moment but nevertheless was "one of the strongest fields overall for a long, long time". And the icing on the cake was Stylish Monarch walking away with a NZ Record next to his name, his time of 4:02.9 slicing more than two and a half seconds off the previous mark held by Take A Moment. "It's nice to have that (the record), but it wouldn't have worried me if they went 4:10." Tapper claims. "It proves that he can do the times, but I suppose we've always known that."
For now, Stylish Monarch is having an easy week as Tapper plans his next assault. "I think he deserves it, doesn't he? Not too much of an easy time though, otherwise he'll get too bulky on me. We're looking to go north sometime next month."
Tapper has been training full-time now for about five seasons, and has 14 in work. He paid tribute to his brother Kim for helping with the team, and also made special mention of Samantha Ottley who's been "a vital part of the operation" for three years. The heights that Stylish Monarch is reaching are a world away from the 18 seasons Tapper spent as a freezing worker.
"I was getting too many horses around me, and too many people were asking to train one for them. So I thought we'd give it a go; if it didn't work out, I could always go back and get another job. But we've survived, that's the main thing. Everybody dreams of getting a horse like this, you just never think you're going to."
Now that a Dominion has been added to his trotter's list of accolades, Tapper says everything else from here on in is a bonus. "Whatever happens we're going to have a great season. There's the three biggies isn't there...this, the Inter-Doms and the Rowe Cup. The first one's in the bag now, so let's see if we can go and get another."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HR Weekly 17Nov2010
Ken Breckon couldn't believe his luck - flying back from Melbourne last week on a seat in row 13. He'd gone over from Auckland a few days earlier sitting in row 13. Here he was, 13 years since his entry into harness racing after buying a filly by Butler B G from Sandy Yarndley. And here he is, at Alexandra Park, watching I Can Doosit start from gate 13 in the $250,000 Dream With Me Inter-Dominion Trotting Grand Final.
The outcome was a stunning Kiwi triumph over the Australian star Let Me Thru, with Stylish Monarch closing on them well but too late for third and Raydon was fourth after a tough ride in the open for much of the last lap.
Breckon is one of the young pillars of the industry, and only the pressure of his booming Hydroflow business has forced him to step down from the vice-presidency of the Auckland Trotting Club. But his breeding and racing activities through the purchase three years ago of the iconic Yarndley Farms nursery are multipling by the month. "We've got twenty-three of our own mares and I'd like to have fifty, and they'll be at the top of the market," he said. "In the past we've sold three or four yearlings at the Sales, but we're getting to the commercial level now and next year we should be offering ten."
As well, he's a champion supporter of local stables, with Mark Purdon and Grant Payne training three, Steven Reid five, Tony Herlihy some, and syndicate horses with them and Geoff Small.
Breckon will be the first to say it hasn't always been as smooth sailing as it is now. Losing his brother Peter from a sudden heart attack at the age of 43 eight years ago gave him the impetus to extend his interests when it could have worked in reverse. "We'd always been racing people. My father and my grandfather were keen on the punting side. Our work took us into the farming community, where we'd meet stock and station agents and retired farmers and they all had horses. Peter probably had a bigger desire than me to get started. He was a good talker and got me across the line, and we went and bought the yearling that was Megaera through the late Leo George."
I Can Doosit is an early product of Breckon's enterprise. He is from Sheezadoosie, a good trotting mare by Chiola Hanover who won seven races and is the dam of a 3-year-old sister to I Can Doosit. Like the runner-up, Let Me Thru, he's achieved stunning results at a young age. Both are only five, and both are magnificent types by Muscles Yankee. "We've had our up and downs this Summer, and Mark's been under pressure with the horse," he said. "From a layman's point of view, he's done a huge job to peak him on a very short campaign."
Part of the chorus were his sons, 9-year-old Andrew and 11-year-old George. "I encourage them to come. When we bring them to the races our horses win - or win more often. The folk here say if they were theirs, they'd be here every week." Breckon is confident of his growing committment to harness racing. "It's going through a lull, but it will bounce back. The future is globalisation. You can see it here with the number of people here tonight, and horse not only from Australia but Sweden. And the sponsors of the next Inter-Dominions are a firm from Sweden."
Breckon is going that way himself. With a staff of over 100, he has expanded into Australia and Fiji, and there are five full-time on the farm. He has plans to spend $2 million on the farm, including a new house and room for guests.
Breckon was never too certain of victory, even when I Can Doosit appeared to clain Let Me Thru with some finality. Let Me Thru was a thorny fighter, and rallied from being passed and being down half a length 50 metres out to close again and miss by a neck. Chris Lang jnr knew Maurice McKendry would give up the lead on Sovereignty when he came looking. "He's not silly," he said. "Springbank Richard brought himself undone racing outside us like that. It may have been why we lost by a neck and the other horse won by a neck. My horse felt good in the warm-up. When we got to the front, I thought 'good luck' to the others if they can run him down. I always felt he was a show of winning down the straight. Next year he'll be bigger and better."
The win was another training triumph for Grant Payne and Mark Purdon, who had their moments when I Can Doosit was patchy during a successful three-race, two-win Melbourne campaign in February. "I didn't expect to beat the Aussie horse, and my horse has never raced that well doing it tough," said Purdon. "It worked out well because Raydon took us right to the corner, but Let Me Thru kept on fighting."
Stylish Monarch went from early leader to second behind Sovereignty and then three-deep when Let Me Thru took over. "I had to use him a bit early and I was in two minds whether to come out when I couold have," said Ricky May. "He's going super."
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 13Apr2011
An hour or so after Chris Lang was still puzzling over a very off day for Sundon's Gift, stablemate Let Me Thru continued his dazzling form by winning the Second Heat. He has the edge over the opposition at present. He made a winning fist of leading and holding off Sovereignty by a neck, and he won on Auckland Cup night from Sovereignty by a little less than that after sitting parked.
Driver Chris Lang jnr said he was even better coming off a sit. "But he can do it anyway; lead, sit parked, or come off the pace. He doesn't do a thing wrong. We can't find a fault with him," he said. Lang's the one to talk about that. He has won nine straight on the big 5-year-old. His imposing record is 18 wins and three placings from 25 starts. I'm always confident he will run well wherever he is in the running. He could have started racing fiercely tonight after being revved up getting to the lead, so I just let the reins go and he backed off," he said.
Lang has seen enough of Sovereignty to know how hard he is to beat. "He wouldn't want to draw fourteen in the Final and Sovereignty to draw somewhere good on the front."
There was much to like about the run of Stylish Monarch, who was parked early and trailed later, and Master Bomber who came into it with a tidy burst. Stylish Monarch blew heavily after the race. "He'll be one of the big improvers," said driver, Ricky May. "He takes a lot of work, and the more racing he gets, the better he gets." Stylish Monarch has not won on the track from six attempts, but the breakthrough is anytime soon.
Lets Get Serious went for a gallop after 600 metres and Musgrove did the same 600 metres from the finish.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 30Mar2011
There was never much doubt Raydon would again find the form that made him a star at four. He hasn't travelled all that badly in the meantime, but it's still been 15 months since he last won - and that was at Alexandra Park on December 18, 2009.
Following that and before the Rowe Cup a year ago, he hurt a hock that meant a spell of more than three months. He didn't race for nine months. It's been a trail of redemption in the meantime, a trip that co-trainer Barry Purdon knew would eventually have a pleasing outcome. It could be as close as a day or two away. He has emerged from a solid block of form with the ultimate turnaround - a strong win over Stylish Monarch who roared past the tiring Sovereignty inside the last 20 metres.
Raydon had looked sharp in his Heat the week before, and that came after an encouraging third on Auckland Cup night behind Let Me Thru. Purdon was ready for it. "He looked really good twelve months ago, but it's taken him a while to adjust to the new standard," he said. "There's been no pressure on him. We've just taken him quietly. We always felt it would happen, and it has. He has just stepped up a level."
Stylish Monarch made the transition from middle class to upper class without quite the form hiatus that affected Raydon. He has won 15 races, or roughly 40% of his starts, and he rarely finishes out of the money. He has got better with each run at the meeting so far; a third, and a rattling good finish for second after being near last with a lap to run. Again, he recovered as if there was another three or four lengths of benefit to come.
Maurice McKendry said the false start put a keen edge to Sovereignty. "He pulled a wee bit, but I was quite happy with him," he said.
First night winner Dr Hook got back and was buried from the outset, and he ran on without turning heads. "We were there to get some money, but it just didn't turn out our way," said trainer Paul Nairn.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HR Weekly 6Apr2011
Paul Nairn is harness racing's most talented trainer of trotters in this country and last Friday night (October 16) the Leeston horseman picked up yet another group victory. Dr Hook made it seven wins from 18 starts, when in the hands of David Butt the son of Dr Ronerail kept many of the country's best squaregaiters at bay, winning the Group Three Canterbury Park Trotting Cup.
It was a typically fluent trotting performance in those famous colours that once belonged to the great Jack Litten and Caduceus.
Anthony Butt found the front very early on with Ray before conceding the lead to cousin David on board the loose favourite. The move posted Stylish Monarch three deep and desperately in need of a clear run in the home straight, but with slick sectionals of 57.7 and 28.6 it was left to Master Bomber to breach the gap, eventually falling short by a neck with Stylish Monarch closing well for third. With the race being run over 2600m this year, the first time since 1986, it wasn't hard for the winner to eclipse Basil Dean's former record of 3.22.4 set back in 1984, Dr Hook stopping the clock in 3.17.9.
David Butt has struck up a solid relationship with Dr Hook after replacing Jim Curtin. "It was a bit of shame for Jim really that he had that wrist problem," says Paul Nairn. "Jim was getting on good with the horse and he's just starting to become a bit more solid, but David's doing a good job with him now and will continue to drive him for as long as he wants." Butt and Nairn have combined to collect some pretty hefty ransoms over the years, Call Me Now, Above The Stars and Stig, as well as Kahdon have all won group one races with Butt in the sulky.
Nairn is loath to compare Dr Hook to any of the other great or even talented trotters he has trained in the past, preferring to let them simply perform to their merits. "I just train them and try to have them as good as I can get them, I don't make to many comparisons and leave it up to the horse to do his thing," Nairn said. A close relation to champion trotter Stig, Dr Hook will now head to Ashburton on Monday for the Trotters Flying Mile on a track that Nairn believe will suit the five year old. "The big track will be perfect for him, he'll get around the bends nicely and he's raced well over a mile before."
Credit: Steve Dolan writing in harnesslink.com 19 Oct 2010
Stylish Monarch turned the tables on Inter-Dominion hero I Can Doosit when the pair met again in last Saturday night's $80,000 Garry Thompson/ Fred Shaw NZ Trotting Championship at Addington.
Stylish Monarch blazed to the front from his wide draw in the 2600m Group 1 event, and in all fairness I Can Doosit had every chance to run him down after receiving an economical trip on the outer. But when it came to the crunch, I Can Doosit couldn't, falling short by half a head as the clock stopped at 3:16.4.
"It's developing into a pretty good rivalry," said Stylish Monarch's trainer Murray Tapper. "And there isn't much between them. I Can Doosit's probably got a bit more acceleration, but my horse is a touch more consistent. If you look at the big three trotting races over the last year - the Rowe Cup, the Dominion Handicap and the Inter-Dominion Final - he's won one of them and been placed in the other two; no other horse has been in the finish of all three. His consistency is unbelievable."
Saturday's victory gave Stylish Monarch back-to-back wins in the NZ Trotting Championship for Tapper and the gelding's owner Anne Patterson, having won the corresponding event in early April last year when he defeated Braig and I Can Doosit in the slightly quicker time of 3:15.9. "I think he could go 3:14 if you asked him to," Tapper said. "And I said to Ricky (May) afterwards that it looked like I Can Doosit had headed him up the straight, but he said our horse was still working up to top speed."
Once the field for Saturday night's event was finalised, Tapper compared it to a line-up of rugby players. "There was a lot of Division One players, but really only two or three All Blacks," he said. "And because I reckoned we had the best horse in it, I thought we should drive him like it; not necessarily lead, but get ahead of most of them. Any wins a good win, and any Group 1 win is special - so is this horse I think."
Stylish Monarch is set to return north now for the Rowe Cup on Friday week, an event he'll go into without another lead-up race but that doesn't worry his trainer. Following that, the Monarchy gelding will have a three to four-week spell as the first focus for the new season centres around defending his Dominion Handicap title in November.
Then the small-time Timaru trainer with a big-time horse will break new ground and head to Australia with his star trotter - something he would've never imagined himself doing before Stylish Monarch came along. "Prior to him, I never had a horse good enough to even take to the North Island, let alone across the Tasman," Tapper said. "But he loves travelling as much as I do, and you always know he's going to do his best. Ninety-nine percent of the time, he'll trot all the way too."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 28Apr2011