‘Hunter’ Getting Close to Hundred

‘Hunter’ Getting Close to Hundred

Bruce Stewart

10th April 2021

Southland warhorse Franco Huntington despite his age, shows no sign of slowing down.

The horse whose stable name is Hunter had his 158th start at Ascot Park today. However despite trying hard as he always does, he didn’t have much luck, sitting parked and finishing last – six and a half lengths away from the winner American Lightning . A bit different to the previous week when he took out a win at Wyndham.

John Morrison and Franco Huntington after their Wyndham win

The Changeover gelding goes a long way back. He qualified at Rangiora in February 2015 for Spreydon Lodge trainer Steven McRae, but never started at the races for that stable.

He began his racing career as a four year old for Knapdale trainer Robin Swain and the Bowl A Bouncer Syndicate, winning for the combination at this third start at Ascot Park in November 2015 with odds of 19-1.

Franco Huntington had twenty three starts for Swain, winning just once, and it was then that Myross Bush trainer Doug McLachlan took him on.

“He just appeared on Tom Kilkelly’s website (Horse Trader). I leased him for a client. He only had him for a short period, then I acquired him,” he said.

He started his career with McLachlan in March 2017 and it took twenty starts before he had his first  win for the stable.

“For a start he was a wee bit difficult. The main problem was that he couldn’t race our way around so I had to do quite a bit of Chiropractor work on him. It really wasn’t until I put the murphy blind on him that things were straightened out.”

Over six seasons of racing he’s averaged twenty six starts a season, and has won ten races in 158 starts, averaging $620.34 per start.

“He’s better than the pension.”

John Morrison has won six races on him, Shane Walkinshaw two and Robin Swain and Andrew Suddaby one each.

“Johnny says he’s a perfect horse to drive. He’s got great manners.”

Franco Huntington has won eight races from behind the mobile in 148 starts, and two from the stand from just ten starts. Five of his ten wins have been at Ascot Park, two at Winton and Wyndham, one at Gore.

McLachlan says the horse has never had a day off with injury.

“He’s never even limped. He’s got beautiful legs and he’s such a strong horse. Since I’ve had the horse he hasn’t had a break, he just loves doing what he’s doing. If I take any of the other horses away it’s just mayhem. Every night he’s boxed.”

Mates – Franco Huntington and Doug McLachlan

His largest winning dividend was in June 2018 when he paid $30.80. In four of his ten wins he’s paid under $5 for a win, proving punters recognize that when he’s in the right race he’s a good bet.

McLachlan says Franco Huntington is a great horse to have around the stables.

“I jump in the cart with him every day with all the horses on the leads. He’ll stand there and wait for me to get into the cart – he’s voice command. If you’re going round the track and you yell out whoa he stops immediately.”

He’s also able to educate young and wayward horses.

“If there are any other horses on the track with other drivers and they don’t want to turn round, I can go in with him and turn them round. He’s an absolute bulldozer.”

And after his racing career is over McLachlan say’s Franco Huntington may still have a role to play on race day.

“I’ve said to Sally McKay (Clerk of the Course) that when he’s finished she can have him as a Clerk of the Course Horse. I’ve had a lot of horses in my Rodeo days that have been pick up and safety horses and he’s a good example of that. He’s not scared of carts, he’s got speed so if someone was hanging out the back of a cart he would do a job.”

Horse and trainer head home tonight knowing they’ll be back in a fortnight, looking to get the $1,986.00 he requires to get to the $100,000 stake mark.

“We won’t go to Winton next week. He’ll have three days off and then I’ll step him up again from there. As long as he’s sound and wants to do it we’ll just keep plugging on. I keep watching these show jumpers that are competing and travelling all the time. They’re seventeen and eighteen year olds.”\