April 2021

Cup to Mr Consistent

Bruce Stewart

1st April 2021

There was no more deserving winner than today’s MLT Wyndham Cup victor Memphis Tennessee.

The Bettor’s Delight five year old had run fourth in the Winton Cup, and third in both the Roxburgh and Tuapeka Cups so his ‘Cup win’ was due.

“He made a good beginning today off the 20 metre mark which probably helped his cause,” said trainer Brett Gray.

Memphis Tennessee warming up

Driver John Morrison settled the gelding five back in the running line as Chuckles, then Mach’s Back had turns at leading. When second favourite I’mallaboutthebase came out and sat parked, Memphis Tennessee slotted into the one one.

“That’s probably the best trip he’s had in a long time.”

With I’mallaboutthebase niggling at Mach’s Back, Morrison was in the prime spot to have a shot at the leader.

Memphis Tennessee came down the middle of the track and got past Mach’s Back, but the latter fought hard with Memphis Tennessee getting home by half a neck.

At the end of a tough battle

“He’s a very nice Country Cup horse. Pembrook Playboy and U May Cullect have been a bit too good for him. He’s been running pretty close but he can’t get past them. The Symons will be pretty happy with what he’s been doing.”

Owners Robert and Sharyn Symon weren’t on-course today. They were in Te Anau spending time with their family.

“They face timed me. We gave the Cup to their friends the Patterson’s who were shooting up. I’d say they’ll be having a few drinks out of it when it arrives.”

Memphis Tennessee started his career with Canterbury trainer Terry Chmiel winning five races before he headed south to Gray’s Ryal Bush stable in October last year.

“He’s got wee man’s syndrome. He can get a bit angry sometimes (laughter). He’s not your typical Bettor’s Delight and doesn’t work super at home but he does the job and he’s pretty consistent.”

He has now won four races from his southern base – two in the hands of today’s driver John Morrison and one each for Brent Barclay and Blair Orange.

Memphis Tennessee has now won nine races and banked $128,765 for his owners.

Meanwhile talented but inconsistent trotting mare Sekkie Monkey returned to winning form when she won the Marshalls Excavating Handicap Trot.

The six year old last won at Winton over a year ago and her formline hasn’t been pretty since.

Sekkie Monkey began well for trainer driver Nathan Williamson. With three hundred metres to go Williamson pulled the mare out to make her run and she burst down the middle of the track to beat the late finishing Miss Bamboocha by a length, with pacemaker Willangus Lad half a length back in third.

Sekkie Monkey winning for Nathan Williamson

Part of the big crowd at Wyndham today

Further down the track

Akuta Wins Kindie

Bruce Stewart

1st April 2021

Blair Orange, the winning driver in today’s Macca Lodge Kindergarten Stakes at the Wyndham Harness Racing meeting, was suitably impressed after driving the Hayden Cullen trained Akuta to beat stablemate Bollinger.

“He’s got a few gears there and feels like he’s going to be a nice staying type later on,” he said after the Bettor’s Delight colt took out the Group Three feature.

After trailing on the pegs for the first part of the race Orange took Akuta to the top inside the last 900 metres. Bollinger joined Akuta at the 800 metres and the pace sharpened.

Akuta was there to be run down, but he stuck his ears back and fought to hang on to the top spot.

“He had that will to win which you need in a two year old. He was on a loose rein all the way and when I asked him to quicken there was more there. He’ll be right up there with the better ones.”

Akuta winning the 2021 Kindergarten Stakes

Akuta is out of the Christian Cullen mare Adore To Our Dreams and was purchased by the All Stars Stable for $170,000 at the 2020 New Zealand National Standardbred Yearling Sale in Christchurch.

“He’s just got a few wee chinks. He throws his head round a bit and puts in the odd little step but that’ll be ironed out. He’s only had the two trials and that was his first start so he can only get better.”

The Bettor’s Delight colt is co-owned by Cullen Breeding Limited and former trainer Mark Purdon.

Purdon has an outstanding record in this race but this was the first time he’s owned the winner of the time honoured feature.

As a trainer he’s won the race eleven times – four in his own right; So Cool (2002), Lennon (2003), Ohoka Arizona (2007) and Messini (2013). His other successes were  with Grant Payne and Sir Clive (2008), with Natalie Rasmussen and Itz Bettor To Win (2014), and with Waikiki Beach (2015), Pacing Major (2016), War Dan Delight (2018), Flying Even Better (2019) and First Class (2020).

With the win today Blair Orange is the most successful driver in the race’s history. He’s won the two year old feature five times. Until today’s win he shared the honours with Henry Skinner.

Bettor’s Delight also became the most successful sire in the race’s sixty year history, siring five winners. Hal Tryax, Majestic Chance and Christian Cullen have produced four winners each.

There was plenty of merit in the runner up Bollinger’s performance. He was only a half a length away in second, after facing the breeze for most of the trip. You’re So Fine was a half a length away in third. Duke of Cornwell trained by Lauren Pearson had an eye catching run, but got into his work late.

The winning time of 1-59.5 was the slowest since the race was first run over 1609 metres in 2003.

Later in the programme Samhara trained by Hayden Cullen showed he’ll add interest to this year’s Southern Supremacy Stakes.

The Bettor’s Delight three year old on his first trip to Southland won the Cardrona Distillery Three Year Old Stakes, beating stablemate Stag Party by a length and a half.

In the hands of Tim Williams he trailed Stag Party for the majority of the 1609 metres and let down nicely in the straight to win in a time of 1-56.1.

Samhara will need to start once more in the province and earn enough stakes money to race in the Supremacy where he’ll face the likes of Ragazzo Mach which is likely to stay on for the feature.

Addington Double for Williamson

Bruce Stewart

4th April 2021

Despite Branxholme trainer Nathan Williamson clocking up the travel miles over the past couple of months, he’s not complaining about the arduous schedule.

It’s all been worth the effort with a good number of wins in the bag, and with another two added last night at Addington, the tally continues to grow

“You have them in good condition and you hope the breaks go their way. I was real pleased with all of them,” he said after trotters Andy Hall and Chinese Whisper both won impressively.

Nathan Williamson – Photo – Race Images

Giant trotter Andy Hall certainly has a liking for the big Addington track and from a wide draw he was eased back early before jumping onto his stablemate Kiwitrix’s back to progress forward three wide . With a lap to run he was caught out three wide by himself before sitting parked with Kiwitrix at the front of the field. Son of Patrick came up on the inside, but in a grinding finish Andy Hall hung on to win by a neck.

“I had to go forward with him and he stuck it out pretty tough.”

Andy Hall trotting to victory – Photo – Race Images

It was the Andover Hall gelding’s fifth win and third at Addington.

Kiwitrix was just over a length and a half from his stablemate in fourth place.

“He’ll improve more than the others because he improves with racing. He’ll come on with that run and I’m sure he’ll race well next week.”

Williamson also gained satisfaction with the run of Son Of Patrick whom he bred but subsequently sold. He has a two year old half-brother by Majestic Son in work.

“We like him too. It looks as though he’ll make the grade.”

Earlier in the night Chinese Whisper announced he’s very much a metropolitan horse when he beat favourite Oscar Bonavena.

“He didn’t trot all that well over the early part of the race. It was probably because he hasn’t had a lot of short distance racing. It wasn’t until we got down to the winning post that he relaxed and got into a nice rhythm.”

Halfway down the straight Oscar Bonavena was a length and a half in front of Chinese Whisper but the Sundon gelding finished with plenty of purpose to win by two and a half lengths.

“I thought when Oscar Bonovena, who is a very fast horse, was out ahead that I couldn’t pick him up but I did. I was pleasantly surprised.”

Chinese Whisper winning at Addington – Photo – Race Images

It was Chinese Whisper’s eighth win in just fourteen starts, in only his third season of racing. He’s owned by Williamson’s wife Katie and stable farrier Brendon Franks.

In the $90,000 Group One Easter Cup the Williamson runner Pembrook Playboy was a very creditable fourth in a small but high end field of pacers.

After a good beginning Williamson took the Bettor’s Delight gelding straight to the top.

“I thought over two miles at Addington I was reluctant to go for all the way tactics especially at this stage of his career.”

Amazing Dream and Self Assured both took turns at leading which put Pembrook Playboy back in the running line.

“I did expect to end up three back on the fence. I was hoping we’d get out a little bit sooner than we did. He hit the line really well. It was a great run. It was his first run over that distance. If I’d been one off and got to go when I wanted to it could have been a different result. He’s in very good form and hopefully he can measure up to the very very best come November.”

Pembrook Playboy finishing third in the Easter Cup – Photo – Race Images

Williamson says Pembrook Playboy has become well adjusted to the constant demands of travelling away from home.

“This time is the best he’s travelled away from home. He’s settled in at Dad’s really good and Ollie (stable hand Ollie Kite) is up there looking after him. He’s eating up and it’s his home away from home.”

The four year old entire will race next on Friday night at Addington in the Superstars Four and Five Year Old Pace worth $50,000.

Kiwitrix will also race again this week as well as Andy Hall, while Chinese Whisper will head home and be set for a race on Diamonds Day at the beginning of May.

Williamson’s star three year old colt Ragazzo Mach will also head north in readiness for the Group One $200,000 Diamond Creek Farm Derby over 2600 metres. He last raced in the Vero Flying Stakes where he over raced, finishing eleventh.

“I blame myself a little bit. I think I got his training a little bit wrong. He’d had a bit of travelling so I backed off his training. In hindsight it was the wrong thing to do. He was a bit fresh and underdone and secondly I put the half blinds on him to help him sharpen a little bit.”

Williamson will transport the horse north to Oamaru tomorrow.

“Going forward there’s no harm done and we’re hoping for a good draw on Tuesday.”

Williamson says the plan is to keep the horse in the south for the Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes and the Harness Jewels at the end of the season.

“He’ll travel over to Western Australia after the Jewels which makes sense as the climate will be a wee bit cooler.”

The Williamson stable is in great form at the moment with thirty six wins on the board. It’s highly likely the stable record number of wins in a season (42 in 2015) will well and truly be broken.

At Wyndham on Thursday quality trotting mare Seekie Monkey returned to winning form and Williamson is confident she’s turned a corner.

Seekie Monkey easily winning at Wyndham on Thursday

“She was hanging and breaking and not trotting nice. She had a hoof abscess burst out and I wondered it that had been festering for a while. Once that happened she wasn’t hanging the same. I also made a shoeing change. She trotted smooth and clean at Wyndham. She’s a really good mare on her day. If she was in good form I had contemplated going to Christchurch with her. We’ll just keep her ticking away down here and see what transpires.”

As of today the Oamaru Harness Racing Club have joined the Southern Harness Bureau.

The Southern Bureau now has 11 member clubs (Invercargill HRC, Winton HRC, Wyndham HRC, Gore HRC, Northern Southland TC, Wairio TC, Riverton TC, Central Otago TC, Roxburgh TC, Tuapeka HRC and the Oamaru HRC).  We look forward to working with the Club President David Ovens and the committee to understand the club workings better and assist them moving forward.

The race programming for the Oamaru Meetings will be undertaken by the Southern Harness Programming Committee which consists of Jason Broad, Geoff Knight, Clark Barron, Nathan Williamson and Brett Gray.

Southern Harness would like to acknowledge the long service of the late John Mudie who was the Oamaru Secretary from 1994 to 2016 and his daughter Jemma Barltrop who has been the club Secretary from 2016 until now.  Southern Harness already had a good working relationship with Jemma in our role compiling race fields for the club, her assistance with the smooth changeover has been appreciated.

Future enquires for the Oamaru Club can be directed to the Southern Harness Office, (03) 2179117, Email: admin@southernharness.co.nz or to the Club President David Ovens 0274 819424.