Off track, Secret Potion was hansomely served by those in the Black Type categories: the trainers - Mark Purdon and Grant Payne ; the breeder - Brian West; the owner - Studholme Bloodstock Ltd, and the sire - Courage Under Fire.
On track for the Nevele R Fillies Final, there were other matters to think about. The wide front-line draw was one, and the driver was not a familiar name at Addington. Two years ago, Nicole Molander had not been as busy on the track as she was about to be. She had won two Group 1 races with Gotta Go Cullen, but that was back in 2006 and there had been some slow days between then and now. In the 2007/8 season she won six races. Her Blonde Type profile did not glitter like the others, but that's been changing.
It started with a phonecall that led to employment with Mark Purdon and Grant Payne, and running their northern base with Jordan Compain. It brought her in touch a year ago with Secret Potion, and with a confident and aggressive drive it brought her another Group 1 success over stablmates Meredith Maguire and Lancome in the $150,000 Nevele R Fillies Final at Addington last Saturday. She caught the back of Meredith Maguire, who followed up Lancome, sat parked from the 800m outside Royal Cee Cee, and then sparked again when she had to. Lancome was unlucky, Molander was not.
Tall and slim, Molander had also won some Group 2s with Una Bromac and Gotta Go Cullen and Listed races with Sue Dreamer and Collectable. And now Secret Potion, with not one but two Group 1 wins, has given the former Christchurch girl a career with great scope and potential. Back further, Molander was schooled at the very best academies. After early work for Wayne Ross, she joined Jack Smolenski. "He was the person who guided me, and opened doors for me later."
The first one came when Smolenski had most of his horses turned out, and he was able to place Molander, or Thorn as she was then, with Barry Purdon. "Three months there and I was the only girl." After that, she worked for Dave and Clare McGowan and part-time for Steve Hunt. She was then told that Mark had some horses coming up and he might need some help. "I thought, I couldn't work for him...I was scared." Not quite scared enough to say no, and soon she was caring for Auckland Reactor and Highview Tommy at Barry's for the stable, and soon there were six of Angela Purdon's as well. "Now we have fourteen in the barn at Pukekohe and we're looking at expanding with another one."
Molander is the first to admit how lucky she has been, with another early highlight being the driver in the Inter-Dominions of the trotter, Lanson. More recently, as senior trainer in the north for Purdon and Payne, Molander has had opportunities she never thought would happen. "I'm so thankful. It's not that easy for girls in this game. There are quite a few in Australia, but it is hard here and there aren't many of us.
Molander was surrounded by her family after the race. "A day like this pulls at your heartstrings. All the family is here: Dean and our daughter Ella, my parents Peter and Claire Thorn, my sister Amanda, and my uncle Murray Thorn is here from Australia. It's just awesome where I am. The family is just a huge part of it. I don't get down here that often, and they're all here. Having another one will not stop me." As she is expecting, Molander's last day driving for some months will be on Jewels Day at Cambridge.
In the meantime, her 150th driving win is one racing memory the Molander and Thorn families will treasure forever.
With five runners in the Group 1 Nevele R Fillies Series Final, it was no surprise that trainers Mark Purdon and Grant Payne were going to make their presence felt. However what did surprise many, was that the first three over the line all came from All Stars stables and that none were the race favourite.
As the 1950 metre pace began, Aziza sprinted through to the lead before Royal Cee Cee took over, shuffling the race favourite, De Lovely, deep on the markers. The Purdon and Payne runners sat toward the tail of the field from their wide draws until Lancome moved three-wide with a lap to run as stablemates Meredith Maguire and Secret Potion followed behind her. From here the race belonged to the Canterbury-based trainers.
Turning for home it was Secret Potion in front and with 150 metres to run the Purdon and Payne runners kicked it up a notch. Secret Potion charged ahead with Meredith Maguire chasing her down, but Secret Potion and driver Nicole Molander were just too strong. She claimed her second Group 1 race with half-a-length to spare over Meredith Maguire with Purdon in the sulky. Third in, by half-a-neck, was fast-finishing Lancome with driver Blair Orange.
Secret Potion has had a wonderful debut season with seven wins and three placings from her 14 starts. Her stakes have reached $236,474 for Studholme Bloodstock Ltd, who also own Lancome. The $80,000 won from Saturday has seen Secret Potion take over from Meredith Maguire as the Harness Jewels 3YO Diamond leader. Only one last major race remains for the three-year-old fillies until the Jewels fields are selected, the Group 1 NZ Oaks this coming Friday.
Earlier in the day trainer Geoff Small took out the Nevele R Fillies Series Consolation with Indulge. With David Butcher in the sulky, Indulge held out the race favourite, Flying Pocketlands, by a nose. Indulge is currently ninth on the 3YO Diamond leader board.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 19May2010
De Lovely showed talents her mother didn't whe she slayed the best fillies in town at Addington last Friday night. She sped away from 13 others in the $125,000 Wayne Francis Memorial New Zealand Oaks, cracking the New Zealand record of 3:11.8 set by Pullover Brown by running the 2600 mobile in 3:10.9.
This was a steamy mile rate of 1:58.1, and driver David Butcher said there was "no real let-up" in the tempo of the race from the start. Butcher was up and gone from the second line soon after the start, with the pace set at various times by the stablemates Meredith Maguire, then Secret Potion and from the 800m by Lancome.
Butcher had De Lovely tucked in within three lengths of the leader at that stage, and most were starting to feel the pinch turning in. De Lovely descended on them so quickly that she was level, past and clear inside 50 metres. "Her mother" - Copper Beach, who won the Oaks in 2004 - "couldn't have done that," said Butcher. "She could wind up and keep going, but this filly is better gaited and has more sheer speed. She could be as quick as anything I've driven, and that puts her up there with TinTin In America."
Butcher has noticed a new dimension to her growing abilities, and after a quiet race last week he wasn't afraid to see if she had it. "I asked a bit more of her tonight, and she stepped up a notch."
The race was also a triumph for the rising 29-year-old Falcon Seelster, who has had a long and remarkable influence as a sire in Australasia. Nevele R purchased the horse in 1995, and he has been notable for endless numbers of top performers, 269 who have gone 2.00 or better. As a broodmare sire, the exciting Franco Emirate is from the Falcon Seelster mare Elisit Franco, who won three of sixteen starts and is the dam of a yearling colt by Live Or Die.
It was another classic David Butcher drive and another Geoff Small New Zealand Oaks. De Lovely burst away from her rivals in New Zealand Record time last Friday night to give Small his fourth win in the Group 1 feature.
The pace was on from the outside with Suidelike Meisie firstly then Meredith Maguire leading. Butcher was first to move from the midfield on De Lovely and once Secret Potion had found the front he ended up lobbing the one-one for the ride home. Lancome made a dashing move to lead down the back straight the last time but life didnít change for De Lovely and Butcher until he showed her clear air rounding the home bend.
De Lovely burst out of the one-one like a cannon and quickly put the race beyond doubt. Lancome fought well and the remaining minors were battled out between Meredith Maguire, Royal Cee Cee and Secret Potion.
De Lovely pulled together a nice link with her win also. The Wayne Francis Memorial NZ Oaks was won by a daughter of Falcon Seelster, a stallion Francis was instrumental in bringing to our shores in the mid nineties.
The crowning glory of De Lovelyís win was the New Zealand record she posted. 3.10.9 clipped 0.9 of a second of another Small Oaks winnerís time, Pullover Brown, in 2003.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 26May2010