Anderson Reaches 400th Win
3rd January 2022
Ariella’s won at Omakau yesterday provided Otago trainer Graeme Anderson with is 400th training win.
278 of the 400 were trained under his own name, whilst 99 were with Amber Hoffman and 23 were with Mike Love.
I thought it was fitting that some of the story on Anderson I wrote a few years ago should be republished to give those that haven’t read it a chance to gain an insight into one of Otago’s most successful harness trainers.
Anderson’s Story – Note: The original story is published on this website in the archive section under feature stories/Graeme Anderson. https://southernharness.co.nz/graeme-anderson/
Graeme caught the racing bug at a young age through his connection to Riverton. His father Bill lived there for some of his life.
“Riverton was a big thoroughbred area in those days and Dad’s sister ended up marrying Jack Cleaver. Jack trained a very good mare back in the sixties called Shangri-La. We would always go to the Easter races at Riverton, it was a family thing, and Mum would buy us new clothes. Other members of the family didn’t love it so much but I got hooked from a young age,” he said.
Anderson was a pretty good rugby player. He played for the first fifteen at Hargest, was part of a successful Star senior side that won a few Galbreith Shields. He played for Central Pirates near the end of his playing days.
“It was a bit of a change. Out there, there were Skinners, Browns, Deverys and Hunters. Brent McIntyre also played for us, as well as Craig Hamilton. Wayne Adams played and coached us so there were plenty of harness boys.”
He also played representative rugby for Southland.
Later on, he became a successful coach, winning three Dunedin Rugby Premierships with the Taieri prems.
Some of the knowledge he gained through his rugby career he adapted in his horse training business.
“I use a lot of the sports ideas when training. I liked to keep the legs fresh before playing rugby on Saturday. If you knocked yourself around on a Thursday or Friday you’d have dead legs. So with racehorses you get them fit the week before and just leave them alone. We do heart rates all the time and keep a comprehensive diary.”
Although initially interested in gallopers he was also keen on the trotters and ventured into harness racing through Southland trainer Gary McEwan. In the early years he also worked with Central Otago trainer Murray Hamilton.
Anderson officially began training on his own account in 1998 and his first winner was Connor at Oamaru in October driven by Clark Barron.
He also trained Ando’s Prospect to win three races. She later became a good source of winners, leaving Southern Boy (5 wins), Southern Prospect (5) and Bonvoyage which won two races for him, and another nine races in Australia. He ran second to Monkey King in a heat of the Interdominions at Harold Park in 2010.
Anderson owned and trained Good Prospect – by Son Of Afella out of Majestic Chance mare Karma, Good Prospect won three races and provided junior driver Belinda White with one of her six career winners.
At that point he was mixing training with a fair bit of travel.
“I was selling a lot of horses to Perth to guys like Greg Harper. One of the Australian guys decided to buy yearlings and leave them with me. I tried to farm them out but ended up buying a property at Rimu, building a big barn and doing them myself for him. Because I was also travelling a bit and selling I was only doing it when I was at home. “
It was about then that Tony Barron started to work for Anderson after having had a stint with Barry Purdon.
The high point of Anderson’s buying and selling came in 1985 when he purchased Jay Bee’s Fella and Arden Meadow.
“They quinellaed the 1986 West Australian Derby. They were two Son Of Afella’s I sent away to Greg Harper. That was the catalyst for me doing a lot of buying and selling of horses in Australia. On my trip to America I met a couple of boys from Perth who were over there trying to do the same thing. They’d run out of money. I didn’t have much but I lent them a couple of hundred bucks to get them home. They said that they would ring me. They did and it was through them that I sold Arden Meadow and Jay Bee’s Fella.”
After Rimu, Anderson moved out to Winton where the success continued and he was able to train gallopers there, among them Xstream. He owned the mare in partnership with another harness trainer Allan Beck. She was good on dead to heavy tracks and won three races (all in a round), ridden each time by Riverton jockey Kerry Taplin.
“We had success with Xstream, Carver (3), Feel The Heat (3) and Dusty Girl (5).”
Anderson says training thoroughbreds gave him a good insight into training the modern day pacers.
“We train pacers like thoroughbreds now. They’ve all got five or six generations of American blood in them and they just don’t take a lot of work.”
After Winton he moved to Cambridge where he continued to train gallopers and travelled around Australia and Asia.
In 2003 he headed back south and set up at Wingatui, re-establishing himself as a harness trainer at Westward Beach, adding another dimension to his training regime.
“We’re lucky we’ve got the beach. It’s almost a three mile straight run. Sometimes it’s very difficult to work there but you’ve just got to get up and do it. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. The other night we got home at 6:30pm in the dark because of a late tide. We don’t have a track so we can’t cheat ourselves. We just have to get out and do it.”
He says horses get bored with just running around the same training track and the beach provides a different environment every day as the surfaces and vista changes with each tide.
“You can do different things with them. We ride a few and canter a few. We have a couple of secrets when we work them which I’m not going to tell ya. If a horse is on R n R, he may have a paddle or trot in the sea for half an hour rather than work.”
His Westward Beach stable isn’t flash – it doesn’t have any barns or boxes, so the horses live outside.
“They’re all out in the open. They’re all sand yards. It was Brenda Harland’s old place. She hadn’t trained for a long time and it was by fluke that I ended up there and I’ve never left. There are shelter sheds and plenty of trees and lupins to get their bums backed into. They’re all double rugged. With the sand hills around us it’s a lot warmer than you’d think. ”
He actually came across the facility when he took a thoroughbred that had cut a leg in a fence to the beach.
“I went out there to give it a bit of sea water treatment. That’s how I came to training at Westward Beach.”
Since then his success rate in training horses and resurrecting careers has been outstanding.
“95% of them you can improve but there’s 5% you can’t help. As long as they want to be with us we can help them.”
Despite having a straight line sand surface it’s a little surprising that Anderson doesn’t train many trotters.
“This is a great environment for straight line training and we should have more trotters.”
Anderson adopts a completely fresh approach when taking on tried horses.
“We take off all the gear, ignore everything they’ve done before and start again. We have our tests. They’ve got to work a certain time and to have a certain heart rate at the end of that to know if they’re any good.”
It’s also been noticeable over the years that a lot of his horses run without an overcheck.
“That came from West Australia. I went over there and the great trainers like Fred Kersley, Greg Harper, Ray Duffy and the likes never had overchecks and the horses were really relaxed and muscled up in the front. I came home here and saw guys pulling their horse’s heads up and the horses would be throwing themselves on the ground. I got criticised in some quarters when I did it originally because it wasn’t the done thing but there’s a few copying me now so I’m happy about that.”
In recent times he’s gathered around him a loyal bunch of owners who’ve raced some of his better horses. Names like Brian Sceat, Ray Chalklin, Tony Dow, Stephen Pulley, and more recently Pauline Gillan.
“They’re loyal but we’ve had a bit of success which helps keep them in.”
And in those early years he trained for the much famed Essemdee (Sunday Morning Drinkers) Syndicate which raced gallopers Carver and pacers Ballindooly and Eb’s Fella.
“It’s all fun when those guys are on the job.”
Two of his best horses, Titan Banner and Eamon Maguire have come along in the last five years.
“Titan was a tough horse but wasn’t as fluent in his gait as Eamon. Eamon has that high speed and beautiful gait and that helps you go a long way.”
King Kenny is one of the few trotters he’s trained.
“He came to me with a high suspensory problem. Then he went again, then I got him back. When he was sound he was just a beast. He could work better than any of the pacers could. He could have been anything if he hadn’t succumbed to an injury as a young horse. We never saw the best of him.”
King Kenny won nine races from just twenty seven starts – two for Tim Butt and seven for Anderson.
Anderson was also one of the first trainers to use World Champion reinsman Dexter Dunn and that partnership has proved formidable particularly at Anderson’s home track Forbury Park.
“I remember the first day he drove. It was Front Page Girl. Cran had it and I was looking after it. He said to me he had this boy who had come back from Australia to work for him and the clients won’t put him on so he sent him down. I’d never met him. I said to him this horse will probably win tonight. He said ‘Mr Anderson this horse has been breaking at home.’ Big Stephen (Stephen Pulley one of Anderson’s owners) said to him ‘Listen son, if Mr Anderson says it’ll win it’ll win.’ That’s how it started. He came down here as a junior and had a hell of a strike rate with me. I’m rapt to think that I was one of the catalysts for him being famous. We have that association and understanding and don’t have to say one word.”
Dunn has driven 111 winners for Anderson as a solo trainer and subsequently51 for Anderson and his training partner for the past four seasons, Amber Hoffman.
Included in that tally were five winners on one night. That night was at Forbury Park on the 16th June 2011 when the Anderson/Dunn partnership scored with No Courage Russell, Grace Rex, Terrorway, Raven and Tom and Grace.
Terrorway was one of the best horses Anderson trained during the last decade. He bought the colt at the 2008 Sale of the Stars for $26,000 and raced him with Brian Sceat and Wendy Muldrew.
Terraway raced five times in New Zealand, winning at every start. He was sold to Aussie in July 2011. He won his first five races there, and went on to win 13 races in Australia including the Group One $100,000 The Blacks A Flake, and the Group One $100,000 Cranbourne Cup. His fastest time was a 1-52.6 mile.
“He was a difficult horse to get going. He never raced until he was a four year old. He was a fizzy horse so we just took our time with him. We’d turn him out, bring him back and didn’t put any pressure on him. He was a good challenge.”
Anderson also rejuvenated and subsequently got the best out of Belkmyster.
“He arrived as a four win horse and we got him to Cup class. He was one that we had to strip everything off. He was a Mach Three and he was a bit ‘sweaty’. We went back to basics and didn’t over work him. He came from Cran’s in great order but didn’t need to be a number. He just needed a bit of individual treatment. A lot of the Mach Three’s don’t have great feet so that’s where the beach training helped. It takes away a lot of the concussion.”
Anderson’s UDR rating is a true testament to his skill as a trainer.
Over the years he’s been a solid supporter of the national yearling sales. While some haven’t made the grade, a good portion have.
Successful racehorses bought at the Sales include: Terrorway $26,000 (2008), Highview Anwell $29,000 (2011), Mako Banner $20,000 (2012), Sovereign Banner $13,000 (2013), Titan Banner $80,000 (2013) and Eamon Maguire $34,000 (2015).
Anderson still lives at Wingatui but the property has been reduced in size with some of it’ now used as an agistment farm.
“It was 20 acres when we bought it but we sold 10 acres to a developer about three or four years ago. We have a house there. That’s where the horses go after they’ve raced and need rest and recreation. When they’re ready to go again we take them back to the beach.”
List below shows winners trained by Anderson (either on his own or in partnership with Amber Hoffman or Mike Love).
- Titan Banner (13)
- Starsky’s Dream (9)
- Eamon Maguire (9)
- Spirit Of St Louis (8)
- American Lightning (8)
- Tartan Rover (8)
- Yokozuna (8)
- Ballindooley (8)
- Highview Anwell (8)
- Blechnum Grove (7)
- Expresso Martini (7)
- King Kenny (7)
- Belkmyster (7)
- Sovereign Banner (6)
- No Courage Russell (6)
- Ants (5)
- Motu Moonbeam (5)
- True Macatross (5)
Major Race wins
- 2015 Group Three Rangiora Classic – Belkmyster
- 2017 Group Two Southern Supremacy Stakes – Eamon Maguire
- 2017 Group Three Maurice Holmes Vase – Titan Banner
- 2017 Group Three Methven Cup – Titan Banner