Quality Two Year Old Wins Debut

Quality Two Year Old Wins Debut

Bruce Stewart

3rd July 2020

Two year old trotter Love N The Port created a good impression when he beat older horses on debut at Ascot Park yesterday.

Photo-Monica Toretto

The Love You gelding driven by Matthew Williamson stepped nicely and trotted wide early before settling three back on the outside with stable mate Springbank Mason taking up the role of pacemaker. With 600 metres to run Williamson pulled the two year old out and moved him up to challenge Springbank Mason. The two went head to head until 50 metres from the finish line when Love N The Port proved too strong, going away to win by a length and a half.

“He’s shown a bit at home and has been pretty impressive at the trials,” said trainer Phil Williamson who was confident of a strong showing.

The time of 2-55.1 bettered the track and Southland record of 2-58.1 held by Majestic Connies. The New Zealand record of 2-52.7 is held by Russell Galleon.

“He’ll go out now for a spell and come back and race at Christmas time. We’ll look at perhaps running in the Derby if all goes well. He’s got good stamina so there’s a chance he’ll be there if he’s that good a horse. We’re not getting too carried away, we want to see more but he is a quality horse.”

Love N The Port is owned by Christchurch Architect Keith Ussher and wife Sylvia White who works at ARA (Christchurch Polytechnic) as an accountant. Keith says they’ve owned horses for over twenty years.

“We haven’t had one as good as this one. He looks pretty promising but he’s still got to do it,” he said.

Previous winners for the couple include Clovelly Beach (4) and Ace Of Hearts (3) and they currently race Arocknatthepark and The Flying Fijian from Mitchell Kerr’s stable.

Keith doesn’t have any family connection with harness racing but Sylvia’s father Tom Roberts bred and raced horses including Lumumba (Light Brigade) which won five races for Broadfield trainer Jim Winter in the mid 1960s.

Love N The Port is out of the four win Sundon mare Ngaire Margaret which won once for Brent Weaver and three times for Andrew Faulks.

“She was a beautiful trotter but she had so many issues. She broke her leg early on. We ended up sending her south for beach training with Andrew.  We soon learned not to go down (to Forbury Park) – every time we went down she stuffed it up and when we didn’t go she won.”

Usher says the journey with Love N The Port hasn’t always been plain sailing.

“When we sent him down he was a colt and a bit of a handful. I think they almost considered sending him back at one stage. He was a bit of trouble but no worries now.”

This is the first horse the couple have had with Williamson.

“We can’t speak highly enough of him (Williamson). When this fella was young we could see he was a little beauty so we decided to send him to the best. The main person behind sending him south was Sylvia’s son Adam (well-known Canterbury farrier Adam White). Phil’s had him down there for about twelve months and he’s said all along that he’d never be a two year old because he was too big. He’s improved so much lately Phil thought he’d give him one race and then tip him out.”

The win continued Williamson’s excellent form with trotters in the south. He’s won eight of the eighteen trotting races carded at Ascot Park post Covid19 and he looks set to once again achieve being New Zealands leading trainer of trotters by the end of the current season. He currently sits on thirty three wins, ten clear of Robert Dunn.

Both his winners yesterday were by star trotting stallion Love You and Williamson has another promising type in Leaf Stride qualified and ready to go in the new season.

“I backed off him because he’s a great big horse. He’s got good ability and is quite an exciting horse. He’s been a work in progress because there have been lot of issues through the early part of his career. We had a few concerns around his manners early on but we’ve worked hard on that with him.”

Leaf Stride is out of a daughter of Merinai – Sun Mist, and Williamson says he’s looking at lining the horse up in September.