November 2018

Picketts Ridge Too Hot In Trot

Bruce Stewart

Picketts Ridge won his fourth race at the Riverton meeting on Sunday and Gore trainer John Ryan realises he’s going to have to travel with him.

The Skyvalley gelding, owned by Ryan and Tony and Philippa Holland is now rated R75 and his days of racing consistently in the province may be numbered.

“He’s going to get handicapped out of it shortly. We won’t be going to the Cup meeting or anything like that. We may have to take a wee trip up there at some stage to see how he can handle those trotters,” said Ryan after the five year old came off 30 metres to beat King Cassidy by a head in the Neville Cleaver Fishing Aparima Handicap Trot.

Picketts Ridge, in only his second season of racing is one of the province’s most promising squaregaiters. At the end of last season he was starting to show his qualities and the rate of improvement has continued this season.

“He’s developed a wee bit more. Last year he couldn’t handle a 1000 metre track. At his first start at Gore he’d just break round the corners but that was also because he was recovering from injury. Last season we stuck to the big tracks.”

Ryan says he’s trotting a lot better this season and is more relaxed on race day.

“This season he’s working 10 seconds quicker on the Gore track and he’s handling the bends a lot better. He’s had three runs on a 1000 metre track now…… I’m real happy with the way he comes to the races. He goes to sleep in his stall and is more relaxed about it all.”

Driven by regular driver Nathan Williamson, Picketts Ridge settled midfield early before following King Cassidy forward with just over a lap to run. At the 550 metres mark King Cassidy took over from pacemaker Grace O’Malley with Picketts Ridge up challenging. King Cassidy and Picketts Ridge set down to fight out the finish and there was a head between them at the line.

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Picketts Ridge (6) beating King Cassidy – Photo Bruce Stewart

“He (Williamson) said he didn’t trot as good today. I put it down to leaving the old shoes on. I should have perhaps reshod him. It’s been a bit of an experiment in the last couple of weeks. I went from a mid weight heavy shoe with him to aluminiums and he won two races. The old saying is weight takes away the speed. He’s handled the transition (shoe changes) well in that respect,” stated Ryan.

Ryan is a dab hand with trotters, he previously trained ten win mare Golden Gate.

“She had sheer speed. I’m not sure whether he’ll get to that speed but he’s only had ten starts.”

Sunday was a good day for Ryan with Golden Gate producing her first foal at Macca Lodge – a colt by Love You.

“I got a photo from Brent (McIntyre). The mare’s looking happy and the foal looks a bit bedraggled.”

Meanwhile it was a good day for good mates Alan Lindsay and Cleland Murdoch.

The Invercargill based owners who have a share in quality pacer Swamp Major won with separate horse yesterday.

Zenola’s Art at odds of 14 to 1 won the Ryder Plumbing and Roofing Mobile Pace for Kirstin Barclay and Paul Ellis, while in the next race Triple VC owned by Murdoch and the Fanny Allen Trust overcame recent bad luck when he won the SBS Bank Mobile Pace. Ryder Plumbing principle Trevor Ryder also bred and shares in the ownership of Swamp Major.

 Zenolas_Art_winning_at_Ascot_Park_950_x_365.jpg Zenola’s Art (9) gets up on the outside to beat RnR Windermere – Photo Bruce Stewart.

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Favourite Triple VC winning for trainer Murray Brown and driver Nathan Williamson – Photo Bruce Stewart.

Triple_VC_owners_950_x_474_2.jpg Celebrations with the Murdoch’s, Lindsay’s and race sponsor Trevor Ryder -Photo Bruce Stewart.

 

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 Alva and Cleland Murdoch with trainer Murray Brown – Photo Bruce Stewart

Meanwhile Murray Little in partnership with his nephew Malcolm and Malcolm’s wife Sarndra won the Fillies and Mares Feature with Excellent, while Allaboutdreams owned by Malcolm and Sarndra came in a half a length back in second place.

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Excellent beating Allaboutdreams – Photo Bruce Stewart

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Airpark Flyer Wins Cup

Bruce Stewart

The Riverton Cup was always going to be tactical and when driver Matty Williamson took Airpark Flyer to the front with 1600 metres to go he knew his brother Nathan on Franco Santino, sitting at back of the field, was going to have to be good to beat him.

With a lap to run Nathan did move Franco Santino forward to sit parked but Airpark Flyer proved every inch a stayer when he out muscled Franco Santino winning by a length and a half.

 

 Airpark_Flyer_winning_Riverton_Cup_950_x_343__2_.jpgAirpark Flying winning the 2018 Riverton Cup – Photo Bruce Stewart.

The Dali five year old owned by Graeme Harris and Heather Jerard started his career with trainer Peter McClelland.

“I always love the horses. As a young fella I worked part time up in Auckland as a waiter round the race tracks. I always wanted to own by own horse. My neighbour Peter McClelland asked me if I was interested in buying him. I fell in love with him and stuck with him through wind operations. I thought it was good to name him Airpark Flyer like the old freight train that he is. It’s good for putting my business name out there,” said Harris who owns Airpark Canterbury – the only South Island privately owned 24/7 off-site airport car parking business.

Airpark_Flyer_returning_950_x_594__1_.jpgReturning – Photo Bruce Stewart.

Airpark_Flyer_birdcage_950_x_447__1_.jpgMatty Williamson, Airpark Flyer, Trent Yesberg, his fiancé Sarah Clements, Heather Jerard and Graeme Harris – Photo Bruce Stewart

Harris has really got the racing bug and is enjoying the success Airpark Flyer’s bring to Jerard and himself.

“His stable name is George. Trent brought him down yesterday. He checked him in the float and he was vitually asleep. He’s got a kind demeanour about him but he’s like Mike Tyson going into a boxing ring. When that gear goes on him he knows it’s game on.”

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With all the spoils – Photo Bruce Stewart

Airpark Flyer won his first race for McClelland in November in 2017 at Rangiora when driven by Williamson. His form then deserted him and in September 2018 under the guidance of his new trainer Trent Yesberg he returned to the same track to record his second win. From that point on he’s proved to be one of the finds of this season, winning four of his five starts.

“He’s been a funny horse to work out but he just seems to be getting better and better. I don’t do a lot of traditional training with him. We do a lot of interval training. He’s thrived and gone to another level. I went to University and studied science and that sort of stuff and I try to incorporate a lot of that in my training techniques so whatever I do it’s backed up by science. I work very closely with my vets and I’m big on soundness,” Yesberg said.

Yesberg is perhaps best known as being one of Canterbury’s best yearling preparers but he was always going to get into the training game.

“I’ve worked with some great trainers but I’ve never seen a horse go from what he was doing to what he’s doing now. I think he’ll go a long way particularly with the way he can stay. It’s impressive.”

Like most good horses Airpark Flyer has a tremendous will to win and has developed into a robust racehorse.

“When I got him he wasn’t really quick but he’s just getting faster and faster. Now his whole body is sound and he’s really athletic. He has a great will to win. I can’t really work him in company because he just runs them into the ground. You literally can’t pull him up if you work him with company so he does a lot of his work by himself.”

And Yesberg is also big on individual feed regimes.

“I’m pretty particular with my diets. All my horses are on individual diets. I don’t feed one thing across the board. Airpark Flyer is quite a big horse and he does really well so I’ve got to be really careful with his weight management.”

And he points out that Williamson and Airpark Flyer are the perfect match.

“Yeah it suits his driving style a lot. Matty’s a nice aggressive driver and the horse loves that sort of thing.”

Yesburg is in his fifth season of training after working for Brent Lilley, Greg and Nina Hope and having also spent time in America.

“Greg and Nina have been a big influence on my career. I’ve picked up a lot of their training techniques.”

He’s starting to get a few racehorses around him and he continues to prepare yearlings as well.

“It’s a really successful part of my business. I’ve got twenty yearlings coming in for the sales so it’s going to be busy for the next couple of months.”

Yesberg says Airpark Flyer is likely to have his next start in the Geraldine Cup on the 24th November.

“The Country Cups is probably his go. He’s such a good stand start horse so that’s where he’s placed best.”

Yesberg also won earlier with trotter Missy Moo which won by twenty three and a quarter lengths. She was also driven by Matty Williamson.

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Rockabilly Singing The Blues

Bruce Stewart

The half-sister to Chicago Bull, Rockabilly Blues, lived up to her breeding when she won on debut at the Young Quinn Raceway at Wyndham today.

The giant four year old mare by Rock N Roll Heaven is owned by her trainers Katrina and John Price and prior to today’s race had had six workouts and a trial. She qualified at Ascot Park in September and has been given plenty of time to mature.

Rockabilly Blues drew four on the second line and driver Nathan Williamson settled her three back on the outside. At the 450 metre mark Williamson sent her forward and she was five wide at the 400. She came down the middle of the track resolutely and held on to beat Miss VC by three quarters of a length. Her winning mile time was 1-56.5.

“I had to start my run a wee bit before I wanted because there was a bit of cat and mouse in front and I didn’t want to be left with a 200 metre sprint. I came out early and forced their hand. She probably peaked on her run but she should improve. She lugged in a wee bit when I came wide on the track but that was expected because I was coming so wide,” said Williamson.

He also noted the mare was a bit more fired up today.

“She’s been good at the workouts but she was a lot more worked up today being her first race start. When she gets more seasoned she’ll get better. She’s not as good when she gets worked up. She’s a very high speed mare.”

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Driver Nathan Williamson and Rockabilly Blues (orange colours) looking for options after the gate leaves for the mile trip  – Photo Bruce Stewart.

 

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Rockabilly Blues (12) winning at Wyndham – Photo Bruce Stewart.

Rockabilly_Blues_returning_950_x_699.jpg Returning to the winners circle – Photo Bruce Stewart

Rockabilly_Blues_birdcage_950_x_687.jpg Winning connections – Photo Bruce Stewart

Rockabilly Blues is the third foal out of the three win Christian Cullen mare Chicago Blues. The first foal Chicago Bull, won two races as a two year old for the Price’s before he was sold to Western Australia. There he has become a millionaire pacer for trainer Gary Hall Senior and has now won 40 races and $1,820,709. He was one of the early favourites for this Tuesday’s New Zealand Cup but had to be withdrawn after suffering from fractures to his whither region.

The mare’s next foal Chicago Cub was sold at last year’s yearling sales for the top price of $190,000. He was bought by Emilio and Mary Rosati and renamed Perfect Stride. He’s won two of his three workouts for Ray Green in Auckland.

The Rosatis were on-course today and won the first race with their Muscles Yankee mare Zoey’s Gift.

Zoey_s_Gift_950_x_488.jpg Bev Williamson, Matty Williamson, Zoey’s Gift, Phil Williamson, Mary Rosali and Emilio Rosali – Photo Bruce Stewart

Meanwhile maiden trotter Superfast Pat finally got his complete trotting game together when he won the Leithfield Nursery Gold Chip Final by an amazing thirty and a half lengths.

The four year old Lauren Pearson trained trotter got away nicely and was taken straight to the front by driver Brent Barclay.

The previous week at the Riverton meeting Missy Moo won by twenty three and three quarter lengths.

Records suggest that David Moss’s win by forty one lengths at Ascot Park in September 1990 is the widest winning margin ever recorded by a trotter in the south.

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Robyns Playboy Smashes Record

Bruce Stewart

There were plenty of surprises related to Robyns Playboy’s win at Wyndham today.

With a winning margin of an impressive nine and a half lengths, and a time of 2-53.0 – a new track and Southland record for both three year olds and all-comers, Robyn’s Playboy was the standout performer of the day.

“We were hoping for cover and to drive him for just one run. He hadn’t had a workout and had a fair spell,” said Gore trainer Ross Wilson after the win.

Driver Craig Ferguson sat the Shadow Play gelding parked for the first 800 metres before he took the lead. With 400 metres to run he had his eight other rivals struggling. On straightening Ferguson pulled the ear plugs and Robyns Playboy instantly extended his lead, going down to the finish line nine and a half lengths ahead of I’m Trouble.

“He’s just got a great cruising speed and doesn’t stop. He’s got a real big motor in him we know that. It was very pleasing.”

The time 2-53.0 bettered Return To Senders 2014 Three Year Old and All-comers track record of 2-55.1, broke the long standing 2007 Three Year Old Southland record held by Rider On The Storm (2-54.5) and equalled Nex Time’s Southland’s All-comers record of 2-53.0. The time was only 0.5 of a second outside of the National Three Year Old record of 2-52.5 held by The Dorchester.

Robyns_Playboy_winning_at_Wyndham_950_x_266.jpg Easily winning – Robyns Playboy – Photo Bruce Stewart

Robyns_Playboy_returning_950_x_745.jpgComing off the track with Craig Ferguson – Photo Bruce Stewart

This season Wilson has seen Robyns Playboy become the real deal and live up to the high opinion he had of the horse when he started his career last season.

“Initially he could run but didn’t know what to do. You’d pull him out and he’d just muck around beside the other horse. He’s cottoned on now. When you pull him out he’s got to get going. He’s been working with Bridey (Bridesdale Robyn) the last couple of weeks and she went well at Addington. There’s not much between them. He’s the all-round horse. He’s got gate speed and he can stay.”

So now the main worry for Wilson is where to place the quality three year old.

“I don’t know what to do with him now because if you start again you’re racing horses that are near cup class.”

One race for three year olds that Wilson is considering is at Gore on 27th December. It’s worth fifteen thousand dollar and is sponsored by Cadrona Distillery. The Gore Club hopes to make this race an annual feature.

“I won’t go north with him, I’ll just muck around with him down here. We’ve had a few inquiries for him but he’s not for sale. He gets you out of bed in the mornings.”

So impressed with Robyn’s Playboy is he, that Wilson plans to send his dam Robyn Maree back to Shadow Play.

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Nuggets Win To Honor And Glory

Bruce Stewart

With the scratching of Rockabilly Blues, Honor And Glory was always going to be hard to beat in today’s Nuggets Final at Ascot Park.

Although only sixth at his last start driver Brent Barclay wasn’t too disappointed with the run.

“We just got too far back. They ran a good half and a good quarter and he still made ground at the finish. At the end of the day when I analysed it, it wasn’t a bad run after all,” he said.

In todays $12,000 feature, Barclay settled the gelding four back on the inside. At the 400 metres he moved forward and was forced three wide when Bottle Rock came off the inside running line. Once balanced Honor And Glory ran home nicely down the middle of the track to beat Bottle Rock by four and three quarter lengths running the 2200 metres in 2-40.5.

“He’s still very green. Today is only his third start and he’s had a couple of workouts and a trial. We might just give him a wee spell and see what’s coming up further down the track. It didn’t feel like 2-40 (pace) today but he got to the line really good.”

Honor_and_Glory_winning_at_Ascot_Park_950_x_353.jpg Honor And Glory too good for Bottle Rock – Photo Bruce Stewart.

Honor_and_Glory_returning_at_Ascot_950_x_556.jpg Returning to the birdcage – Photo Bruce Stewart

One of Honor And Glory’s main goals is the $20,000 Super Nuggets Final at the Northern Southland meeting on 9th March.

He’s out of the former New Zealand record holder for 2200 metres Breath Of Life and is owned by Diane and Noel Cournane and The Butterworth Racing Syndicate.

Rockabilly Blues was scratched due to a minor leg injur

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 Windermere Wins For Orange

Bruce Stewart

Blair Orange knows Ascot Park well and he drove RnR Windermere to her strengths in an inch perfect performance for an all the way win today.

The big Rocknroll Hanover mare is best in front according Andrea Tither who part owns her with husband and trainer Jack.

“Three times in front for three wins,” she said.

RNR_Windermere_lap_to_run_950_x_389.jpgRnR Windermere leading with a lap to run – Photo Bruce Stewart.

RNR_Windermere_winning_at_Ascot_Park_950_x_356.jpg Running clear of Bold Ruler – Photo Bruce Stewart.

RNR_Windermere_returning_950_x_544.jpg Returning to the birdcage – Photo Bruce Stewart

RnR Windermere qualified at three and won her first race as a five year old.

“She’s taken a lot of time. She’s six and has just come right. But she’s very big and has been growing all the time. The whole breed is a bit like that. Jack has got more patience than me.”

She’s out of the maiden Christian Cullen mare Sheza Windermere who’s been an excellent broodmare for the Tithers.

Her first foal VC Windermere won four of his eighteen starts while the mare,s next foal BD Windermere won four races here and another five in Australia. Blow A Cloud followed, and won four races in New Zealand and another nine in Australia. He’s since headed to America where he’s also won races.

The race was part of the Woodlands Stud sponsored Invited Drivers Series and Andrea says once they drew Orange they were confident the mare would perform well.

“We were pretty happy when we drew him. Putting the sliding blinds on has really done the trick too.”

The only other horse the Tithers have in work is a three year old by A Rocknroll Dance out of Sheza Windermere.

“He’s a nice horse but he’s going to take time too.”

The Invited Drivers Series was won by the South Of The Waitaki Team with sixty two points while the individual competition was won by Nathan Williamson with twenty nine points. Samantha Ottley was second with fourteen points.

Mighty Flying Art Going Places

Bruce Stewart

Invercargill trainer Murray Brown is proud of the performance of Southland three year old Mighty Flying Art in the Group One Sires Stakes Finals at Addington a week ago.

Although originally on the ballot for the $166,660 feature he managed to get back in the field because of a scratching.

“Those front three got away. He had the third fastest last half and last quarter. How many horses go 1-52 (mile rate) at their sixth start,” said Brown.

Ultimate Sniper’s winning time for the 1980 metres was 2-19.0 a new New Zealand record.

Brown says his phone’s been running hot but the horse is not on the market.

“Yeah they’re going mad. Brent (owner Brent Ballantyne) bought him to race him. He said “what I am going to do next Friday if he’s sold.”

And Brown predicts the best is ahead for Mighty Flying Art.

“He’s never really had a hard run because of his draws. Up here he just followed them round. Brent Barclay (driver) has been looking after him. After his run (Sires Stakes Final) we took him home and he licked his bowl clean.”

He says his next target is the $20,000 Super Nuggets Final at the Northern Southland meeting on Saturday 9th March.

The colt was bought by Brown for $50,000 at the Sale of the Stars.

He had two starts at two, running fourth behind Another Masterpiece on debut before finishing sixth in last season’s Kindergarten Stakes behind War Dan Delight.

He won his first start as a three year old at Winton in late September before running a close second behind Memphis Tennessee a month later.

                   Mighty Flying Art after his Winton win – Photo Bruce Stewart 

His next start was at Addington in the last Sires Stakes Heat in which he locked wheels in the straight and finished an unlucky seventh.

Ballantyne also owns Mighty Flying Art’s half-brother Mightyflying Macatak which he bought for $55,000 at the sales. He’s by Mach Three and is a two year old.

“We went back and bought his half-brother. He bowls round alright but we won’t know how good he is until after Christmas. With the Mach Thre’s you just have to be a bit careful because you can fire them up a bit.”

Meanwhile other “Super” finals will be held for the Ladyship Fillies and Mares series at the Invercargill meeting on the 6th April and the Gold Chip for trotters at the Winton meeting on 13th April.

All finals are worth $20,000.

Online Nominations on the Way

Bruce Stewart

From Saturday 1st December all trainers nominating horses for Southern Harness race meetings will have to nominate their runners on line.

Manual nominations by phone have been the method by which most trainers have nominated their horses and this has put pressure on office staff.

Trainers will be able to use the HRNZ website to log onto and an online tutorial is available at http://inforhorse.hrnz.co.nz/infohorse/hrnzapphowto.htm

Wyndham Lead The Way In Supporting Young Trainers

Bruce Stewart

Many young horsemen and women struggle to advance from a driving career into training because of the expense or buying and developing training facilities.

Wyndham Harness Racing Club hopes to change that by investing in a brand new ten box stable block at their Young Quinn Raceway.

“As a Club we saw it as a good business opportunity knowing how hard it is for young people to get set up as trainers. The committee made the decision and Alan Sloan got it knocked up and built for us in record time,” said club president Russell Ferguson.

His son Craig had always expressed a desire to train and he is the first young trainer to take up the use of the facility.

Ferguson says the investment is ‘the best part of $100,000.

“Any club would see the long term benefits from something like this – it would have to be a good move.”

He says it’s purpose built with all the health and safety rules implemented.

“With the track here there’s always room to accommodate more horses. It’s working out really good.”

McNaught Has The Pedigree

Bruce Stewart

Local junior driver Kieran McNaught won his first race on the Ross Wilson trained El Dinero at Wyndham earlier this month.

“It took over 12 months to get but it was only fifty odd drives. In the greater scheme of things it didn’t take that long but timewise it feels like it’s taken forever. I was very relieved to get the job done,” he said.

McNaught has a strong pedigree when it comes to Standardbreds. His Great Grandfather is the late Davey Kerr, his grandfather is Russell Kerr and Uncle Maurice Kerr – all successful trainers and drivers in their day.

“When I was a kid I’d be out there during the holidays mucking around at Maurice’s where it all kicked off,” he said.

Russell drove thirty winners over 35 seasons of driving. His biggest winner was Rapture in the 1987 Southland Oaks Finals – a Group Three event. It beat favourite Girl George by a long neck and paid $40.80 to win. After the win it was sold to Kenwood Stud.

Russell’s first winner was Benjarbee trained by his father at Wyndham in March 1976.

Kevin, Kieran’s father was chairman of Southern Harness for the first years of its inception and was recently appointed to the board of Harness Racing New Zealand.

“Mum and Dad’s circle of friends were all into horse racing so as a wee fellow I was always dragged around the races and spending holidays at the stables, there was always some sort of involvement.”

Into his second year of driving as a junior Keiran says he’s still got a few years driving as a junior ahead of him.

“That’s providing I don’t drive the 100 winners limit but I think we can be pretty safe on that one.”

And he says it’s been a steep learning curve.

“Probably the biggest thing I’ve realised is that you’ve got to be a bit more aggressive. The way racing is now you really do have to be handy before they get trucking. So it’s just been learning how to be aggressive without being gungho. You don’t want to go gangbusters and run your horse out of petrol.”

During University holidays he worked for Clark and Tony Barron at their Makarewa stables as well as other well known trainers.

“When I was away at Uni I worked for Nigel McGrath a couple of days during the week and at the weekends or when I was light on classes. I spent about four years there.”

He also worked for Brent Shirley and Alan Paisley in the summer holidays. “There was no shortage of work during the university holidays.”

He graduated with a Resource Management Degree and now works as a Resource Management Planner for Invercargill firm Bonisch Consultants.

“I left school and went away to Canterbury University thinking that if you get a degree they can’t take it off you. I had to get into that professional environment straight away. Bonisch have come on board. They sponsor me and give me plenty of flexibility in my work hours so I can come to the races. They understand that, which is really good.”

McNaught says Harness Racing for him is generally only at the weekends.

“If I did get involved a bit more it would be a bit of a juggling act because we are reasonably busy at work. The driving came about by driving track work and at the workouts. There was a shortage of junior drivers down here so I decided to have a crack. Everyone has been very helpful wherever I’ve been and there’s always been plenty of advice and no shortage of people to talk to.”

Keiran McNaught -Photo Bruce Stewart 

Under a mentoring scheme set up by HRNZ McNaught gets one on one advice from local driver Andrew Armour.

“It’s always good to sit down and watch replays and discuss things with him. He’s always got plenty of helpful advice.”

One person he’d like to thank is Gore trainer Ross Wilson.

“He’s been monumental for not only me but other junior drivers. He’s been big on putting juniors on and sticking with them and giving them a chance. My involvement with him came out of the blue really by driving at the workouts. He gave me a crack on a couple of his better ones. I can’t thank him enough to be fair.”

Wilson has been instrumental in providing junior reinsmen and women with opportunities over the thirty eight years he’s held a trainers license.

Of the 103 winners he’s trained, fifty seven have been driven by junior drivers. Robin Swain was the first junior to drive a winner for Wilson. As a junior driver for Wilson Craig Ferguson was his most successful with twenty winners.

Keiran McNaught also enjoyed his time as a cadet and was named 2017 HRNZ Cadet of the Year.

“It’s a great concept and it’s tested a whole range of skills. The scheme does a really good job of getting you together and teaching you things that you may not pick up in day to day stable work. They may get glossed over slightly. The main aim now is to try and find winners and doing the best that I can. It’s hard when you’re not getting a full book (of drives) every week but that comes with the territory of being part time.”

For the time being Kieran McNaught is sticking to his planning job whilst driving race horses when he can.

“It’s a great hobby and it certainly keeps me out a trouble at the weekends. It’s really good fun and I’m keen to stick at in.”

Dark Horse On The Road To The Races

Bruce Stewart

Branxholme trainer Nathan Williamson is hopeful that quality trotting mare Dark Horse will make it back to the race track but he also knows there are no guarantees.

The Bacardi Lindy mare got injured in the paddock the day before she was due to race in the Southern Lights at the Northern Southland meeting in March last year.

“I noticed a wee bit of swelling in the leg. I trotted her up and she was feeling it a bit. Brendon Bell (vet) came and he scanned it and she had an injury to her suspensory. We’re not really sure how it happened,” he said.

She had two weeks off before having an operation and had stem cell treatment which helps the healing process. She was then boxed for a period of time.

“We then began walking her, starting off slowly at five minutes a day. We ended up walking her an hour a day. With a suspensory it’s got to be stretched and walking is the only way to do that.”

The walks were done by Williamson’s father-in-law Ross Jones.

“Ross ended up building a special frame on his vehicle. She was so fresh and well being couped up in the box all day that she’d get away from you if you were leading her. She liked the routine of following the truck and walked for an hour every day.”

A five minute jog was introduced to her routine and this was slowly lengthened.

“She’s doing fast work now. She’s had a month of fast work but she’s still quite a wee way away. She’s carrying a lot of condition and she’s going to take a while to come up. I’m not going to put any undue pressure on her especially when she’s on the way up.”

Williamson says the rehabilitation for a suspensory injury normally takes eleven months from when the injury occurred.

“With the stem cell treatment Brendon said you may be able to trim a month off. I don’t think we need too. We’ll just let her tell us. She seems good to go now but we just need to take it quietly.”

One thing you do notice with Dark Horse is that she is bigger in condition than she’s ever been in her career.

“One good thing is that she’s put the condition on. If her leg holds strong it’ll be a good thing. As I increase her work load I’ll put solution on and wrap her leg just to keep everything nice and tight.”

Dark Horse getting ready to jog – Photo Bruce Stewart

Since the injury she’s been scanned three times.

“The last time was before I started jogging her so that gave me the all clear. I’ll get Brendon to come and rescan before Christmas just to make sure everything is looking really good before I step her training up. You only get one chance to get her back so you have to make sure its right.”

The six year old mare is raced on lease by the Griffin Syndicate and the Seafield Trotting Syndicate and from twenty starts she’s won nine races receiving $84,541 in stakes.

“What I’ve heard from certain trainers is that if they make it back to a certain stage they’re right. If we can race through the winter then give her a break I think I could say the leg’s okay. But you never can be too sure.”

Delightful Deal in the cart with Ollie Kite with Chinese Whisper (far side) and Dark Horse on the lead – Photo Bruce Stewart 

Williamson says the 2019 edition of the Southern Lights in March is her main target.

“Last year there were good races for those higher graded trotters. If she can get a few races down here that’ll be vital. If she comes up as well as we hope there could be a trip to Addington or Auckland later in the season.”

He says she may have to go into the Southern Lights fresh.

‘She’ll have to go to at least two workouts to get her match fit, carrying a bit more condition it may have to be more. In the past she’s been one of those horses you could just tick over and she’d produce on the day but this time she’s going to have to put in some hard training miles just to get that condition off.”

Although cautious Williamson is also excited about getting the mare back onto the racetrack and has given her every chance to do that.

“She definitely feels a lot more powerful and stronger than she did before.”