Mark Purdon has chased around a few brilliant In The Pockets in his time. Like a lot of trainers and drivers, he was on the receiving end of the good old fashioned hidings that Under Cover Lover, Christian Cullen and Courage Under Fire dished out, and it took a while before he could join the party with one of his own.
"I probably had about six or eight In The Pockets when I trained up north, and they were pretty much all flops," he said. "Ouch was a good horse, but he had been already 'made' by Geoff Small when we got him. Apart from him there wasn't much to speak of. That was just bad luck though; you only had to look at what horses like Christian Cullen and Courage Under Fire could do to know that In The Pocket left stock of extreme quality."
Purdon has finally got himself one now. The tide turned when John and Ann Seaton, Tim Vince and his partner Janine Browne parted with $55,000 to buy Light And Sound at the Yearling Sales this time last season. After being narrowly beaten on debut in December, the In The Pocket half-brother to Stars And Stripes has strung together five sensational victories, the latest of them in the Ferrymead Restaurant & Bars NZ Welecome Stakes.
Using his speed to work to the front early, Light And Sound never looked out of second gear, and he only needed a sharp sprint home in 57.9 and 27.9 to hold nearest challenger Russian Road at bay. There was nothing awe-inspiring about Light And Sound's overall time for the 1950 metre event, but it was hard not to be impressed with the way he went about his business.
Harness racing fans have grown accustomed to the superlatives that follow Light And Sound around now, so probably the freshest news on Saturday night was the mention of plans to geld the 2-year-old. "It is a hard call to make," Purdon said. "If he was in America, there would have probably been a contract out on him by now, by someone trying to secure his siring future. I am surprised no-one has contacted his owners about that. In my heart I would love to keep him a colt, but I am a racehorse trainer and I have got to advise what is in the best interests of the horse."
The subject of gelding Light And Sound surfaced after his trip north to Alexandra Park for his debut. "He is just too colty, and he behaved very immaturely when we went to Auckland in December. He got his leg over a fence while he was being stabled in Pukekohe, and although he is paddocked on his own he did the same thing back here at home prior to the Sapling Stakes at Ashburton. He is actually a lovely colt, but he gets very dominant around other horses. It happens though, when you get horses at their peak and they are feeling good, that is when they get dynamic. That is why we have not travelled again with him. If he is on a float or a plane around other horses he is the sort that would kick out; you could end up having a puffy joint and then it would take a couple of days before you could work him again. But I have no concerns at all that he wouldn't come back after being gelded, because he is such an athlete," Purdon said.
Plans to geld Light And Sound will be shelved for the meantime though, as focus now switches to his two remaining missions this season...the PGG Yearling Sales Series Open on May 3, and the Garrard's Sires' Stakes Final a week later. "He has got a lot of brilliance, this horse. If they took him on in a race he could pace his last mile in 1:56. He is special."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 04Apr02
Peter Revill felt a gentle nudge in the side of his ribs as he thumbed through the pages of his PGG catalogue. It was a beautiful sunny day back in March 2001, and Peter and his wife Wendy had stopped off at Yarndley Farms during an inspection tour to watch a parade of yearlings. They were shopping for a horse, and stood like two wide-eyed kids in front of a toy shop window.
"Oohh, I like that one," Wendy murmured to her husband, pointing to a striking individual with a rich, reddy-brown coat. Looking up to catch the horses lot number, 132, Peter turned to the corresponding page in his book and realised that by coincidence he had already marked it. This horse buying business was all new to the couple, and there were guidelines to follow; whatever they bought had to be a filly, because they were looking for a broodmare first and foremost, and she had to be by Soky's Atom, that was Peter's wish. Lot 132 was both, and got a big tick placed next to her name. Wendy noted that the filly was also called Classical, which was exactly the sort of studies she was doing at the time, so that was enough for her.
The Revills kept their options open though, and came Sale Day the choices had been norrowed down to three...Fantasy Star, Classical and Listen To The Rhythm. And of course there was also the budget to consider. The first on the list was going under the hammer in Christchurch, so Peter flew down from the North Island specifically. But he returned home empty-handed, having been one of the last to shake his head at $26,000. Off to Karaka the next day, and Geoff Small did the bidding on behalf of the Revills, securing Classical $20,000; within half an hour, someone else paid $80,000 for Listen To The Rhythm.
History now shows that the couple couldn't have made a better choice. Fantasy Star was renamed Personality Plus and has won three races and $30,528 to date; Listen To The Rhythm has saluted the judge just as many times for $47,823 in stakes, and Classical's record stands at four victories and $247,565.
The most recent of those wins came at Addington last Friday night, when Classical beat the other two fillies and eight others in a powerhouse display in the PGG Yearling Sale Series Fillies Final. It was the 3-year-old's first victory this season, and ended a frustrating couple of months for trainer Geoff Small. "That's an understatment," agreed the Patumahoe horseman, sighing with relief. "It has been a pretty soul-searching experience. She didn't have one main problem, just lots of little ones. And there wasn't anything we could pinpoint - nothing we could actually fix. It was worse than having a bad horse in the stable - at least you know that they can't perform any better."
Small says the decision to bring Classical to Christchurch wasn't made until after a workout on February 1, and even he wasn't completely convinced. "But Peter said to go for it," he cotinued. "She had a messy week, what with a couple of days travelling and then a trial at Rangiora on the Friday where she ran second to Mister D G. But I wasn't real happy with her; it wasn't a workout that I thought would be good enough to win the Final." The tide turned last Monday though, when Small put the half blinds on Classical and gave her a private run at Addington. "She worked super, coming her last quarter in twenty-six seconds flat.
Wearing the new gear again at Addington last Friday, driver Maurice McKendry felt that she was the Classical of old, saying that when he asked her to sprint to the lead she accelerated so fast that she "dug holes in the track." Small is not convinced that they are out of the woods just yet though, and for that reason he has only planned as far ahead as next week's Nevele R Fillies Heat.
But for the Revills, who leased a racing share in Classical to their friends Owen Whyte, Mike Ringrose and Dean Biddlecombe, they are back on cloud nine once again. Peter, 60, is a retired bank manager, and Wendy, 49, calls herself "a compulsive student." She recently completed a bachelor's degree in psychology, and has started on her next assignment, a diploma in classical studies. "That is my passion," she said. Peter has been back at the sales this week, and this time he was looking for a colt.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 19Feb03
The 2003 Wayne Francis Memorial NZ Oaks will be remembered for more reasons than the win by Pullover Brown. Foremost will be the dramatic failure of the hot favourite Champagne Princess. Next will be the astonishingly quick time Pullover Brown took to win the race; her 3:11.8 clipping more than a second off the New Zealand record of 3:13 held by Elect To Live.
Add to that the fact Geoff Small had four of the 14 starters in the race; Alta Serena was relegated from third for causing interference to Unrehearsed and Lady Toddy; Anthony Butt continued to bag May's biggies, and Mayor Heather set the race alight when driver Jo Herbert refused the chance of a trail behind Champagne Princess. This was where the race director gave up and left the players to run it themselves.
Jack Smolenski had worked Champagne Princess smoothly through the pack, and after 600 metres only Mayor Heather stood between a hard run in the open and a controlling one in front. As to be expected, Smolenski pressed on. But he was soon surprised, then alarmed, to find that Herbert was not thinking the way Smolenski thought she should have. When he got to the mile peg, after running hard for 400 metres, Smolenski took hold of Champagne Princess, giving the impression of dropping into the trail while there was still time to do so. But this was not an option Smolenski considered. "I didn't know much about the other horse, except it was trained somewhere in the North Island, and I didn't want to run the risk of getting in there," he said. Champagne Princess sat parked, where she pulled hard.
Butt was head of the chasing pack, and he settled Pullover Brown behind Mayor Heather until moving off the marker line at the 500 metres. Champagne Princess was disappearing quicker than a dropped stone on the corner, where Alta Serena was causing trouble to Unrehearsed and consequent interference to one or two others. Mayor Heather also left the stage pretty quickly in the straight, and that's where Pullover Brown pulled away to win by more than two lengths.
While it was all going Pullover Brown's way, the running of the race was not entirely favourable to her stablemate Classical. Going the speed they were meant late gaps and spaces for the back runners, and Classical and Coburg both came generously into the finish in this manner. Classical was four-deep on the markers, and cut a healthy chunk out of Pullover Brown's margin inside the final 200 metres.
Pullover Brown is raced by a syndicate of five headed by Chris McLeod, who had not been to Addington before, nor Chrischurch for that matter. With a group of friends, he leased Dinavinetto from Steve and Anne Phillips, and raced her for a win and six placings from 43 starts out of the Shane Hayes stable. She was then returned to the Phillips for breeding, who put her in foal to Armbro Operative. "I was actually quite taken with Dinavinetto, and then I spotted a weanling filly by Armbro Operative being offered at an all age sale up here," said Mcleod. "We bought her for $2,500. We didn't have a trainer for her, but I had my eye on Geoff Small because I knew he was so good with young horses. I just phoned him, but he didn't know me," he said.
Anne had originally bought Dinavinetto, by Fitch II from the Mercedes mare Precious Dina, at Ted Hooper's Dispersal Sale, and they still have her but perhaps not for long. "We have an Iraklis filly and one by D M Dilinger from the mare, so we have the breed. We have offered Dinavinetto, in foal to Armbro Operative, to the syndicate, so she's there if they want her," she said. Phillips was in Christchurch for the week, caring for her father Des Grice who has been in ill-health, and extended her stay when Pullover Brown made the field for the Oaks.
Along with Operation Dynamite and Armbro Innocence, Pullover Brown has carried the banner for Armbro Operative, which is good news for buyers who were able to buy his stock at deflated prices at the recent PGG yearling sales.
Small, who has made a meal of winning big races at Addington over the last 12 months - with Elsu and Classical - said that he believed that the Armbro Operatives had a preference to sitting on the pace. "Most of the Armbro Operatives I've seen seem to like it that way," he said.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in NZHR Weekly
Welcome back, Falcon Seelster. And what better way to acknowledge his return than the success of Elsu in the $100,000 George Calvert Cleaning New Zealand Derby.
The winner of the Sales Series Pace for 3-year-olds last November was back on the same platform after he called the shots over the last lap to beat Light And Sound. At one stage, brief though it may have been, Light And Sound appeared as if he would rally and take the challenge further. And had the race been a month and another race or so later, this may well have been the case. But this is little more than speculation because Elsu was superior on the night, and David Butcher was tactician supreme. He controlled the pace and wasn't worried he had Light And Sound on his back. "The draw was a big thing, but the race pretty much fell together. Considering the racing he's done, Light And Sound has done a huge job," said Butcher. He put trainer Geoff Small in the same category. "Geoff has done a super job. When Elsu came back in after his break, he only trialled fair, but Geoff has got him back to this level,"he said.
Butcher himself was lucky to be his partner. He got "both barrels" from a youngster earlier in the week, and feared he had broken his left leg. He was relieved of such anxieties by his doctor, and has since laboured on in some discomfort and pain.
Small had his own concerns as he tightened Elsu up for the Derby. "He became muscle-sore after he came back in after racing at Auckland. I could see how it happened. He did the damage skidding up to the fences before I brought him back in, and he was sore over the back. Clare McGowan has done a wonderful job using the machines on him, and Dave McGowan has carried on with the massage since we've been down in Christchurch." he said.
It is possible Elsu will campaign next in Australia, with the preludes for the New South Wales Derby on May 9 in mind for him.
Many of the owners of Elsu were on-course to enjoy the occasion, none more so than Joyce Walters, Geoff's aunty, who originally bought him as a yearling for $32,000 and now owns half of him. The rest is owned by the Double Up Syndicate, of eight sharholders, the estate of Dave Hudson and Pat Small, Geoff's mother. "I was a bit hesitant for a start, knowing there'd be eight or nine other people involved who I didn't know. But it's been brilliant. We've all had so much fun,I'd do it again," she said
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in NZHR Weekly
He was born in 1924, served during the Second World War in Fiji, and returned to work on the family farm at Winslow. Together with his father Ben, he moved to Prebbleton in 1951, where they stood Brahman at stud, followed by Lopez Hanover, Bandit, World Skipper, Cardshark and Melvin's Strike.
He trained such good pacers as Smokey Lopez, Ceremonial, Petro Star, Courtier, Deference; Royal Lopez, Glamour and Jonboy Star, who all won the Sapling Stakes, and the NZ Oaks Winners Have Care (driven by Bob Young) and Ruling Lobell (Denis Nyhan).
"Des drove a bit, but when Rona (whom he married) saw him for the first time and he nearly fell out of the cart, she suggested he shouldn't drive again," recalled his daughter, Anne Phillips. "They always had a top young horse, and Des was very proud when Have Care won the Oaks as an outsider," she said.
Later he employed Jeff Whittaker and Geoff Small, and when he stopped training, he gained great pleasure following their training careers.
Twenty years ago, he changed direction after he felt harness racing was not able to sustain the business they had. He sub-divided their property and Anne said he was "challeged by skills" needed to do this.
He is survived by Rona, his sons Roger and David, and daughters Anne Phillips and Judy Ingram.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 24Nov04
When it comes to winning Group races with young horses in this era, few do as well and none do better than Geoff Small. He has a piercing accuracy to zero in on such events, and that's what he did with Copper Beach in the $100,000 Wayne Francis Memorial NZ Oaks.
Not among the hot fancies, not even among the warm ones, yet Copper Beach raced under her odds to win the classic by nearly two lengths from That's Life Lavra who came from the back with Imagine That. Neither got the sweet trip David Butcher gave Copper Beach.
He dreamed of a run behind Petousa just off the pace an got it. Princess Alberta made it a race for the stayers, and those around her gradually dropped off, with the exception of Copper Beach. She was full of chirp when she came off Petousa's back on the corner, and quickly turned it into a clear advantage.
"She was cruising it when I came into the corner," said Butcher. "She's always been a nice filly, and she's got a bit of bottom to her like some of the other Beach Towels in Geoff's team. And it's the first decent run she's had for a while."
Copper Beach is raced by the Les Girls No.2 Syndicate, which includes Edith Margison, from Manurewa, Annette Hudson (Pukekohe), Sharn Riley (Papakura), Joyce Walters (Waiuku), Geoff's wife Aria, and Helen Hobson from Christchurch. They bred Elsu as well as Copper Beach, who is from a Payson's Brother half-sister to the dam of Elsu. The mare Les Payzen Star has also left a 2-year-old filly by Holmes Hanover and a yearling colt by Dream Away, and was served this season by Falcon Seelster.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in NZHR Weekly
Now in her late 50's, Wych has been in hospital care and wheelchair-bound ever since she suffered a stroke five years ago. So even going along to 'local' racemeetings in Auckland and Cambridge requires a great deal of effort; getting on as plane and flying to another city seemed like too much of a task.
But McJorrow stuck to his guns, Wych finally relented, and after what unfolded last week she is coming back - on November 14 to be exact, where she'll be perched proudly ringside to watch Winforu take on the country's best pacers in the NZ Cup. "Mary really didn't want to go south this week," McJorrow reiterated. "But I just had this 'sixth sense'. And knowing what Geoff's comments were leading into the event, I thought this was going to be Winforu's best chance of getting some form again, even though he had drawn the second line."
Geoff is Winforu's trainer Geoff Small, and McJorrow says the Patumahoe horseman was adamant about making a statement on Friday night - as far as the horse was concerned, and as far as the Cup itself was concerned too. "There is no joy in going back and getting boxed in, so the plan was to push forward if we got the chance," he continued. "It was kind of nice how he managed to cross over to the lead right in front of the grandstand where we were watching him from, too. Winforu's a bit bigger and stronger now, and in a way, he was almost due for a win after being unlucky lately."
And what a victory it was. The In The Pocket entire never took his foot off the accelerator once he reached the front, and after speeding home in 27.8 and 29.3 he stopped the clock at a blistering 2:20.5. Not only was it a fantastic performance under the icy cool conditions, because twice he had to battle head-first into a strong easterly wind, but Winforu's time also equalled the national record for an aged male pacer and was the first NZ record this season.
"Mary's certainly got a good set of lungs on her," McJorrow smiled, re-living the final moments of Winforu's victory. "But she just gets such a thrill out of any of his wins, especially since she bred him herself and has followed him all the way through.
"Knowing that the winner of last week's race automatically got into the Cup was always very much in our minds, so it's great that now we don't have to worry. He's better fresh, and we were hoping for the easiest run into the Cup as possible; we didn't really want to go to Kaikoura. His only other race before then will be Ashburton now."
So what does being in this year's Cup mean to the couple? "It's a huge thrill," he said. "Being in Australia to watch him in last year's Inter-Dominions was great, but I accept the fact that the NZ Cup is the 'Holy Grail' of harness racing in this country. And it's any horse owner's dream, especially when you've bred him yourself. You've only got to look at how many horses are bred and raced, and what a small percentage of them actually make it into the Cup. I know Geoff's always wanted to win the race - and I know Winforu's no Elsu either. But if you are in it, you can win it.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 11Oct06
Margaret came up from Ashburton for the big event, though the race was not particularly clear to her. She has impaired vision and cannot walk. She can't read and can't see television. "I lost it all about five months ago...it's awful," she said. "But I love being part of the syndicate and having the horse to race. It is my only interest, and Rob Carr has been so good. He phones me and tells me what is going on," she said. As it happened, Margaret bought the last share in the syndicate. "Rob told me there were two men interested but they hadn't paid the money. So next morning, I was down at the bank first thing and had the money away that day," she said.
Margaret will be back at Addington this week, but she is not so confident that Changeover will match it with Gotta Go Cullen. Trainer Geoff Small thinks the same as Margaret. "We have got a nice horse who has improved slowly all year, but Gotta Go Cullen is very, very good."
Changeover was bred by Carr and Don Kirkbride, who bought her dam Chaangerr off Bunty Hughes and Alan Meadows after they had bred seven foals. "She didn't come cheap," said Carr, who manages all the ATC Syndicates. "She was in foal to Artsplace, and they kept the foal she had. We sold Changeover for $28,000, and I had gently suggested to the trainers selecting for the syndicate that they avoid buying one that I had bred," he said.
If Small heard him, he didn't listen. "I had always wanted one from that family," he said. "He was early in the Sale, I had a budget and he made it. For Rob, it is a double coup," he said, adding that he was indebted to the usual high standard of help he had received staying with his old school buddy, Jeff Whittaker. By In The Pocket, Changover is expected to develop form that will make him a Classic chance at three.
Carr and Kirkbride have kept a Bettor's Delight filly from Chaangerr which is with Tony Herlihy, they have a weanling filly by Presidential Ball and the mare is in foal to Bettor's Delight,
Christian Warrior came off a nice trail on the outer to earn $33,150 for second, while Mombassa held his ground for third. They outclassed the others.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 17May06
There's a good reason why Small's representatives are always worth following whenever he ventures away from hometown Patumahoe though - he doesn't believe in just making up the numbers or giving his owners unnecessary expenses; if a horse comes down to Christchurch, it is a serious chance. And so it proved again.
Changeover was sensational, coming from three-deep along the markers to run down a horses like Gotta Go Cullen. It's true that the latter was 'softened up' somewhat by Days Of Courage siting outside him, and Changeover had everything go his way, but he still must have paced his last half in under 55 seconds to do so and that's lightning quick!
"He is a heck of a nice horse, so it didn't really surprise me," Small said of the performance. "The only worry I had was that it was his first-up run, but he seems to have come through it okay. It did pan out for him though, he followed the speed good and kept at it. That is his real long suit."
Raced by the Auckland Trotting Club's Trot 2006 Syndicate, Changeover was resuming after a four-month spell on Friday but he was pretty ready for it. So was driver David Butcher, who got stopped on numerous occasions during the racemeeting at Cambridge the night before. "Everywhere I walked people were coming up to me and saying,'so, what are you going to do with Changeover?'," Butcher smiled. "That is the joy of having so many owners in the one horse though, they are having a lot of fun. He was always going to be a bit better with time. Because he was quite a big horse at two, but he did a good job all the same," Butcher said.
Changeover had been off the place twice in readiness for his resumption this season, and his trainer was happy enough. "His two trials up here were really good, and then he went down to Christchurch about eight days before the race. I flew down on Monday to work him at Addington, and he felt like he was ticking along quite nicely," Small said. "We opted not to go to Aussie at the end of last season because we thought he just needed more maturity. And he is really suited to Addington because it's a big track, it's where he can show off his staying prowess. At this stage of his career that is where he races best."
Changeover will reside in Canterbury for the meantime, with his main target being the Sires' Stakes Series and the next heat on October 20. Small said he's 'allowed' for another heat at the same course in case he doesn't qualify during the first one he tackles, and after the Sires' Stakes Final on Cup Day his next big mission is the Sales Series race back in Auckland towards the end of the year.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 11Oct06
If there was possibly any doubt about Changeover's status before the NZ Derby last Friday night, a little over three minutes later there was none left whatsovever as he destroyed his rivals. Not the best field ever assembled for the time honoured event, granted, but Changeover made them look even more 'second rate' with a superlative performance.
The In The Pocket colt worked hard to hold the lead early, kept up a sizzling tempo throughout, and then pulled away at the finish to win with ease by two and a half lengths in 3:11.8. It was victory number 11 in a 20-start career, he's earned over $650,000 in stakes now, and there is not a 3-year-old in Australasia that can get near him - all qualities that befit a champion. But Changeover's trainer Geoff Small isn't quite ready to label him that; not yet anyway. "I hope he is," the typically reserved horseman said. "It's a bit early for me to start saying that though. He's just an all-round nice horse...good around the stable, and good on the track."
Small knows a thing or two about training champions, having also put the finishing touches on Elsu during his illustrious career. But you won't get him to draw comparisons between the two pacers, other than Changeover's achieved more during the early stages of his career. And Small's "hopeful" that one day Changeover might even be able to bring home about the only big-race trophy that is not in the cabinet, a NZ Cup.
Changeover could even tackle the event as early as next season, but not if he goes to Australia for the Breeder's Crown. A start in the latter is still to be decided, and in the meantime there's a possible trip across the Tasman prior to the Harness Jewels. "We'll start in a Prelude of the NSW Derby on April 20, but only if we can fly out of Christchurch," Small said. "That will all be decided this week, if not, we'll just stay in Canterbury and go for the Jewels. He is eligible for the Breeder's Crown, but it is a long season too. We'll let the horse tell us, and if he's still bucking and kicking after the Jewels then we will look at the Crown for sure."
What is scary is Small's opinion of where Changeover will go from here, ability-wise. "He's a bit older and stronger at three than he was at two, and you'd have to assume he'd carry on his merry way. We've got a bit of work to do this season yet though, with other big races to target. But I'd expect him to get even stronger as a 4-year-old."
Friday night's NZ Derby was also a triumph for Small's right-hand man David Butcher. It's an association that first started with the horse All Hart, and it's been formidable ever since. The job that Small does off-track is completed with equally as much aplomb by Butcher on it, yet he's quick to unload the credit. "Geoff's such a good trainer - he's meticulous," Butcher says. "He puts hours and hours in, and he does the numbers. The key is getting the horses 'up' at the right time; and Geoff's super at it."
Butcher was also the raceday pilot behind Elsu of course, and doesn't want to talk about him and Changeover in the same sentence either. "No I don't want to compare them - because they're individuals, and I'd rather keep them apart. Changeover was always going to improve, and you'd like to think that he'd be as dominant next season too because the same horses follow you through. The thing about him is that he does everything easy in himself, and that makes it a little bit harder on the others."
In talking about his pre-race thoughts about the Derby on Friday night, Butcher says he didn't have a 'Plan B' in case Changeover was beaten out of the gate; quite simply, he wanted to lead. "When your horse is that good, you don't leave anything to chance," he said.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 4April07