Training in a Covid19 lockdown

Training in a Covid19 lockdown

Bruce Stewart

Saturday 4th April 2020

Like all Harness Racing trainers, Phil Williamson of Oamaru is in a holding pattern at the moment – just waiting for Covid19 to get to a stage where racing can resume.

“We’re in jog mode. Some horses have had some time off and we’ve carried on through with others with the hope that when they make a decision to get back to racing we won’t be too far off,” he said.

Stable star Ultimate Stride is one horse Williamson is keen to get back to the races.

“He’s not quite ready to race but if they race in May or June he’ll be ready.”

In his first season of racing as a two year old Ultimate Stride won on both sides of the Tasman, claiming stakes of close to $150,000.

Ultimate Stride on Harness Jewels Day 2019 – Photo Bruce Stewart

“He’s come up great. He’s a quality horse and it’ll be exciting to have him back racing. I’ve heard the Sires Stakes races (for horses that are now two and three years old) will be held in the new season, which will be exciting. We’ll definitely be there with Ultimate Stride and Leaf Stride (Love You – Sun Mist) if they have those kinds of races.”

Leaf Stride – Photo Bruce Stewart

The stable’s open class trotter Majestic Man is also being jogged. He’s proved to be particularly good at racing right handed and he’s missed racing in some of the richest trotting races in Auckland at the end of the season.

“He’s in the same holding pattern. He was going to go to Auckland for the Rowe and Anzac Cups but obviously they’ve been shelved. He’s in light work and just waiting on the green light as we are with our whole team.”

Williamson says one of the stable’s main challenges is proving to be the lack of availability of a blacksmith.

“My blacksmith comes from the other side of the Waitaki Bridge which is deemed outside of our region. So he can’t come across; but it’s also deemed not to be essential. They (MPI) say you can work horses with no shoes on. You can to a degree, but when you’re working on grit tracks you’ll have no feet left after a certain amount of time.”

Williamson says he’s talked to HRNZ about the issue.

“I can’t get going without my blacksmith. I can only get so far into jogging without shoes before I have to stop. It’s a problem for me because there are three blacksmiths in the area and they’re all across the river.”

Hopefully HRNZ will have some luck in convincing MPI that shoeing horses is a essential service.