Max Hill Wins First Race

Max Hill Wins First Race

Bruce Stewart

19th September 2020

First season junior driver Max Hill drove his first winner at Ascot Park on Wednesday.

Driving Watch Me Now for his bosses Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis, Hill pulled all the right reins to get the mare up to win by three quarters of a length from Burnham Boy.

“She was such a nice horse to drive. It gives you confidence. I was pretty happy to drive my first winner,” Hill said.

Watch Me Now was the leading Southland three year old filly last season and is the top qualifier for next month’s rescheduled Southland Oaks Final.

“She’s a pretty nice mare. She’s won four from six. She did it pretty easy because she only does what she has to do. We weren’t sure if she’d come off the gate. We were thinking of looking after her. She flew off the gate then led up, and because she’s so good she can do that.”

Max Hill winning his first race with Watch Me Now – Photo Monica Toretto

The win was well received throughout the harness racing community.

“Dad gave me a text that said ‘call me when you can’ because he knew I’d be busy afterwards. I’ve talked to him and he was stoked. Ricky (May) text me and a few other trainers, which means a lot.”

Max’s father Brendon Hill is a multiple Group One winning trainer in Canterbury and was a good junior driver himself back in the day. In the 1998 season he drove twenty winners and was fourth on the National Junior Drivers Championship won by Jo Herbert with thirty nine winners. Second was Mark Jones with thirty five and Blair Orange was next with twenty one winners.

Max has been round horses all his life. The first horse he was allowed to drive was Real Desire gelding Cruzy Dude which won three races for his Dad. Cruzy Dude went on to win another ten races in Australia.

“He was injured and spent some time on the hills. He wasn’t a bad horse and real nice to drive.”

He also enjoyed working with Power Of Tara.

Max left school when he was fifteen.

“I went into the school holidays working for Dad and I didn’t really want to go back to school. Dad and I had talked about it. Mum understood and she was all good about it and Dad was keen.”

After working for his father and Mark Jones, he gravitated south.

“Dad and Tank have been pretty good mates for a while. When Tank comes up he goes to Dad’s place. Dad sent a few horse down south which went to Tank and Kirstin’s. I came down with the horses and worked for them while I was down here. Tank offered me a job. I went back for Covid and came back, and it’s been all go since then.”

Initially he stayed with Murray Little at Otatara to be close to the Barclay – Ellis stables at Oreti Beach.

“There was always plenty of chat with Murray and when Malcolm (Little) came down.”

Hill is enjoying his time in the south.

“I don’t see why I wouldn’t stay down here longer. There’s better opportunities. There’s too many top dogs in Canterbury and you have to prove yourself before you get drives up there.”

He’s been well mentored by a small group of senior drivers who’ve offered advice and analysis of his drives.

“I talk to Kirstin and Matty Williamson, Brent Barclay, Nathan (Williamson) and Ricky (May). I always ring Ricky because he’s quite close to me.”

And he says there’s still plenty to learn.

“More aggression. On a couple of drives I’ve let a few drivers run over me a bit. Tank and I have talked about it but it’s all about learning.”

Hill drove in Kidz Kartz and ran third in the New Zealand Kidz Kartz Cup. He’s also progressing through his harness racing cadetship and says he enjoys the wide open spaces of Oreti Beach.

“Training on the beach is new for me. I just love the driving though. It’s the best go for me at the moment.”

Despite being down south, his mates in Canterbury follow him closely.

“All my mates in Canterbury follow the racing, Carter Dalgety has got a bit of a friends group. They don’t have anything to do with horses but they just like following me and watching it back in Christchurch. Carter is a trials driver and still at school. He’s quite smart and does quite well at school.”

One horse Hill’s tagged to keep an eye on is Cab Calloway.

“He didn’t go that good at his last start but he was a bit crook. He’s one of my favourite horses there.”

He’s also enjoyed playing rugby for Drummond Limehills Star this season.

“I played Div Two and I didn’t go too badly because I hadn’t played rugby since I was young.”

Max Hill is on his way, joining Ollie Kite and Tom Nally who’ve also driven their first winners this season.