The Southern Harness season kicks off at Gore on Saturday 10th August, and the Club have once again put up a $1,000 bonus plus a cool down rug for its Spring Fling.
The bonus will be paid to the highest point’ earner for two catogories (filly or mares and colt or geldings) over the first three days the Club races in August and October. Points will be allocated from first to fifth placings.
Star Southland pacer U May Cullect is into his second week of work at Oreti Beach for trainers Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis.
Ellis says the Gotta Go Cullect gelding could kick off his 2019-2020 season at Winton on 8th September if there’s a suitable race. He carries a current rating of 97.
His first major assignment is the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru on Thursday 24th October.
In his first season of racing he became the first southern trained horse to win his first seven starts. He also paced a mile in 1-52.1 at Winton which was a track and Southland age record.
U May Cullect is one of the favourites for Southland Horse of the Year at the Southern Harness sponsored Harness Awards to be held at scot Park Hotel on Sunday 11th August.
U May Cullect in the surf at Oreti Beach with co-trainer Kirstin Barclay – Photo Bruce Stewart
Meanwhile Kirstin Barclay and Paul ‘Tank’ Ellis in their first season of training in partnership, have won the Southland Trainers Premiership recording thirty eight wins, eight clear of last year’s winner Brett Gray.
Their list of winners this season include U May Cullect (7), Wee Man Trouble (5) and Paddyproudfoot (4).
Barclay and Ellis train out of two stables – Tisbury and Oreti Beach and their first season success could see them nominated for the Southland Achievement of the Year Award.
Paul Ellis with Wee Man Trouble and U May Cullect – Photo Bruce Stewart
Southern Harness will have a new mobile vehicle for the forthcoming season.
They have taken delivery of a 2019 Ford Ranger 4WD Mobile Barrier Vehicle which has replaced the 2WD Holden Southern Harness has used since 2012.
The need to upgrade became urgent after the old vehicle lost traction a couple of times during the season.
The purchase of the vehicle has been made possible with funding from the Racing Safety Development Fund.
Southern Harness’s new mobile – Photo Supplied.
Forgotten pacer Lamborne Road is being tried again by Tahakopa trainer Brian Norman.
The rising eight year old by Washington VC last started at Addington at the end of March 2017 for Invercargill trainer Wayne Adams.
He won five races for Adams from just eighteen starts before he began suffering from a lung infection.
Norman says he’s progressing well in his new environment.
The Peter Hunter trained Unloaded won his third race in as many starts when he wore down The Croupier in the Macca Lodge South of the Waitaki Final at Addington on Friday night.
The four year old Mach Three gelding, raced by the Gottashearasheep Syndicate, sat parked for the last lap for driver Sam Ottley and proved too tough, beating The Croupier by a head.
Unloaded has won $17,490 for his connections in the last three weeks, racing in the Macca Lodge sponsored series and winning two heats and the final.
Branxholme trainer Nathan Williamson says quality trotting mare Dark Horse is due to go to the workouts next month.
The rising seven year old mare hasn’t started since running in the 2017 Dominion Handicap at Addington.
“She seems fine at the moment. I’ll probably take her to Winton for a private run in the next couple of weeks. We’ll know how much this layoff has effected her when she starts racing I suppose,” said Williamson.
Dark Horse – Photo Bruce Stewart
Williamson says his other trotting star Chinese Whisper has just come back into work and won’t be seen until November. He won both of his two starts as a three year old impressively.
Meanwhile Franco Santino will remain in work and will be aimed at the Kurow Cup.
“The way it’s worked out, he’s been ready at the wrong time of year. We didn’t have much luck last season. When he was ready to race he got a wee bit of a bug, and later in the season he hurt his leg in the box.
Franco Santino – Photo Bruce Stewart
Another Williamson trotter Hawaiian Hula (Dream Vacation – Kylie Ree) is progressing well in a new preparation. She qualified in May 2018 as a two year old and hasn’t been sighted since. She’s a half sister to Springbank Lachie.
“She had chips in her knee and was a wee bit scratchy every now and then so we decided to take the chips out. Because she was a big filly she was going to be best served with time.”
The Southern Programme Committee have decided that there won’t be a Super Nugget Final this season and instead they’ll programme six Nugget finals over the season, each worth $15,000.
Southern Harness Manager Jason Broad says both the Nugget and Ladyship Finals in the new season could possibly be run under preferential barrier draw conditions based on winning stakes.
He also says there’ll be a wider time gap between finals.
In other programming news, Broad says junior driver races will continue to be for one win horses but will also include 40-55 rating events which will incorporate horses that have won two or more races.
There’s also some consideration being given to holding $1,000 Two Year Old non-tote races from late November.
Broad says this is to encourage horses to get out for a run without incurring a penalty. It’s planned to run these on race days.
Well bred Spirit Of St Louis qualified nicely at Gore today.
The three year old gelding by Sweet Lou is trained by Graeme Anderson and was bred by Trevor Casey who shares in the ownership with some of Anderson’s regular clients including Pauline Gillan, Steve Pulley and Ray Chaklin. That trio also have shares in Eamon Maguire.
Spirit Of St Louis with Mathew Williamson qualifying at Gore today – Photo Bruce Stewart
Spirit Of St Louis is out of the Art Major mare Spirit Of Art whose first foal Dracarys has won ten races in West Australia including the Group Three Two Year Old Gold Bracelet at Gloucester Park.
Majestic Rose provided Hilderthorpe trainer Kerry Kelly with her first winner.
The Majestic Son mare was having her twenty fourth start today and her second for this season.
She was four wide going into the first turn before driver Mathew Williamson took her to the lead. She then handed up to Barham Belle. Williamson took the passing lane when the field turned in and held on to beat a late run from Justan’s Sister. She took the race by a neck.
Majestic Rose (8) beating Justan’s Sister (6) – Photo Bruce Stewart
Returning to the birdcage – Photo Bruce Stewart
Kelly who first had a license in 1984, bought Majestic Rose from the yearling sales in 2016 for $8,000.
“She was my first purchase at the yearling sales and I have no idea why I bought her. I just liked her,” she said.
“I’ve dabbled with horses for donkeys years but we had a house fire and had four young kids so we put the horses on the back burner. Because my husband (Bruce) is now retired we decided to go for it again. We enjoy it.”
In the 1980s Kelly worked for Ray Wilkie and Ron Carter at Forbury Park and later for Oamaru trainer Clarrie Woodward.
One of her first horses was Casey’s Chance (Jack Chance – Casey Girl). From seventeen starts his best placing was third at Forbury Park in April 1985 when driven by junior driver Ray Faithful.
“He (Casey’s Chance) had accidents and only had one good leg.”
Majestic Rose’s dam Duchess won once and is out of Sunvette which left the handy trotter Mountbatten – the winner of eight races.
Kelly says Majestic Rose is a flighty mare who has a few tricks.
“That’s why I like to stick with one driver. She’s a bit of a problem child at times and you have to be careful when you’re shoeing her. Her favourite trick is rearing up in the air, slamming down on the over check snapping the middle of the harness. She also likes to swing sideways. That’s why she’s got full winkers and a hood on.”
Kelly says the mare likes to keep moving while around at the start.
“If you stand her still you’re asking for big problems. Any time the starter says ‘right’ or blows his whistle she’ll go in the air.”
Kelly currently has five horses in work including Iron Woman which ran seventh today.
She’s worked for most of her life on dairy farms while husband Bruce has been a chef.
They jog their horses on a small clay track and float them to the Oamaru track which is only 1.5 k’s away for fast work.
Bettor’s Delight gelding Willison cemented his place in the first Nuggets Final when he won the Barclay-Ellis Racing Mobile Pace.
From a second row draw driver Sam Ottley settled Willison fourth last on the outside. With just over a lap to run Ottley decided to move forward and he flushed out third favourite Leap Of Faith. Ottley was left three wide when Leap Of Faith got to the lead inside the 600. But he didn’t panic and waited just before straightening up before pulling the ear plugs. The gelding gave plenty to wear down Leap Of Faith and won by a neck.
Willison beating Leap Of Faith – Photo Bruce Stewart
Returning to the birdcage – Photo Bruce Stewart
Jones says he’s a typical Bettors Delight: tough.
The three year old is out of Classical Art which won five races here as a three year old for Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen before heading to Australia. She won another seven races in Australia before being sent to stud. Willison is her first foal.
Jones bought the horse at the Australian Sales and says he’s currently the pick of his three year olds.
He’s owned by a host of owners whose names were all crammed into the race book.
The first Nuggets Final will be held at the Northern Southland meeting on 5th October and is worth $15,000.
The Ivan Court trained Silk cleared maiden ranks at her sixth start at Gore today.
The four year old Sir Lincoln mare has been placed in four of her first five starts and the win was overdue.
Silk winning her first race at Gore today – Photo Bruce Stewart
Returning to scale – Photo Bruce Stewart
Court said the mare can be a bit of a handful and she has got keen in some of her previous starts.
She’s out of the Bettor’s Delight mare Brunswick which was unplaced in eight starts for Court.
He said he was confident he’d get a win both days when he took the mare to Nelson in June, but she was unlucky on both days finishing third and fourth.
At her last start at Addington she broke during the score up and missed the start by six lengths before driver Robbie Holmes took her to the lead with a lap to run. She was run down, finishing second by three quarters of a length.
Silk is likely to have a short break and be given light cart work to help settle her for her next set of race starts. Court predicts a good future for Silk.
He says she’ll be aimed at the $15,000 Ladyship Final which will be held on the Gore track on the 12th October.
Court has a Terror To Love gelding out of the mare which he says runs along nicely but is on the small side.
Local mare Elva Jaccka won her fourth race for owners Charlie and Alisa Smaill and trainer Brett Gray.
The Tintin In America six year old hadn’t been sighted at early season workouts but Gray said her work during the week indicated she’d perform well today.
After the early rush driver Brent Barclay had to settle Elva Jaccka three back on the inside as Star Ruler shot to the lead. At the 350 Barclay was able to move off the inside running line and was up quickly to challenge a tiring Star Ruler. Elva Jaccka just needed encouraging in the run home and Barclay didn’t have to activate the hood.
The winning margin was four and three quarters of a length and her time for the 2200 metres of 2-46.6 was the fastest of the day.
Elva Jaccka easily – Photo Bruce Stewart
Back to the birdcage – Photo Bruce Stewart
At her previous start Elva Jaccka ran last at Forbury on the 20th of June but was found to have a respiratory infection.
Group One Double For Williamson
Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson had one of those dream nights in Australia last night, winning two Group One races at the Melton track, and both trotters were very impressive.
“It’s getting up there. To win two Group One races in one night and three Group One races with two horses in six weeks is a pretty good effort I’d say,” said Williamson, rating last night’s achievement.
Three year old trotting filly Liberty Stride got the ball rolling, winning her Breeders Crown Final by 19.4 metres in the hands of former New Zealand reinsman Anthony Butt.
Liberty Stride – Photo Bruce Stewart.
One race later Ultimate Stride continued on his winning way by taking out the two year old section of the Breeders Crown.
Having completed his Australian trip unbeaten – he’s won all of his four starts and has banked $87,490 for owners Emilio and Mary Rosati.
Williamson who’s no stranger to taking horses to Australia says both horses were eligible for the rich series, so a trip to Australia was always a possibility.
“We just had to make sure their form was right. Liberty Stride won at Forbury and went super. Ultimate Stride had a couple of wee issues at the Jewels so I had to get on top of that. He’s a very soft skinned horse and was having trouble with cracking his heels and bleeding. Once that happens they’re not happy. We gave him a wee bit of time off.”
Ultimate Stride at the Jewels – Photo Bruce Stewart.
Normally members of the Williamson family drive Phil’s horses on both sides of the Tasman but not this time, with Williamson hiring expat Anthony Butt.
“He’s a big race driver and that showed in Liberty Stride’s race. He probably outdrove the others. I used him when I came over for the Interdominions. With the boys (Nathan and Brad) having their own busy lifestyles with their own teams and Matty having just been away to the World Drivers Championships it made more sense to use Anthony.”
Ultimate Stride’s dam One Over Kenny won six races in Australia including the Group One Australasian Trotting Championship and the EB Cochran Trotters Cup in 2007, and a semi-final of the 2009 Interdominions.
Jasmyn’s Gift, the dam of Liberty Stride also raced in Australia but without much luck.
Williamson says Ultimate Stride will return home on Wednesday but Liberty Stride will stay in Australia to be trained by Brent Lilley.
“As a four year old mare there’s not a lot of opportunity in New Zealand. She’s up to it but it would be harder. If she gets a nomination for the Harness Jewels she’ll come back to me for that. Brent’s been a wonderful host and has looked after me really well.”
Ultimate Stride, after a busy juvenile season will now have time off.
“He’ll have six to eight weeks off and we’ll look towards racing him after Christmas. All going well we’ll head back to Australia for the Three Year Old Breeders Crown and we’ll have another crack at the Victoria Derby. It was the only one that got away from us on the trip.”
Springbank Richard won the Group One Victoria Derby for Williamson and son Nathan in 2007.
Picketts Ridge On The Comeback
Quality trotter Picketts Ridge is back at the workouts after nearly a year away from racing.
The six year old gelding has won four of it’s ten starts, has been placed four other times and is looking as though he could progress into the best grade.
He last raced at the Riverton meeting at Ascot Park in November, winning for trainer John Ryan and driver Nathan Williamson.
“He trotted really badly when he won at Riverton. He was virtually galloping in behind and trotting in front. He had an old injury in a cannon bone in one of his back legs. It was hard and calloused but all of a sudden it turned to sponge. We tried all kinds of treatments in the first month as the horse carried on working. We couldn’t get all the inflammation to go away so we just turned him out and let nature take it’s course. He was on a 100 acre block on the hills by the repeater station for six months,” said Ryan.
Picketts Ridge – Photo Bruce Stewart
The son of Skyvalley has been in work for 12 weeks and he won at yesterday’s Wyndham workouts.
“I was really pleased. He was a wee bit aggressive and fresh.”
Ryan says it appears there won’t be many races for Picketts Ridge which carries a R75 rating in the early part of the new season, so he may have to travel north. He’s got his fingers crossed that the gelding’s leg will hold up and that he won’t be subjected to any more injuries.
“I put plenty of water on it when we hose him down as well as ice treatment.”
Sweet Lou X Two
Up and coming stallion Sweet Lou sired two winners at the Gore meeting today, both of whom were from his oldest crop.
Three year old gelding Spirit Of St Louis won his first race impressively while later in the programme filly Arden’s Sweetheart was equally impressive, winning the Kentuckiana Lodge and Nathan Purdon Mobile Pace.
Purdon and co-trainer Cran Dalgety train out of Kentuckiana Lodge so the win went a fair way in recouping their sponsorship money.
Spirit Of St Louis is trained at Forbury Park by Graeme Anderson and looks to be another more than handy three year old judging by the way he won today.
He’s owned by his breeder Trevor Casey in partnership with Anderson, Tony Gow, Steve Pulley, Ray Chalklin, Pauline Gillan and father and son Kieran and Edward Corby.
The Corbys are new to harness racing after having had success with thoroughbreds.
“I’ve had a bit of luck with horses Trevor has sent me. He (Spirit of St Louis) wasn’t overly big and he had a bit of a splint so probably couldn’t have got through the yearling sales. We could have raced him at two but we just decided to take our time.”
Anderson says the horse has been in Gore for the last few weeks because there weren’t any trials or races in the Otago region.
“We brought him back in but I had to get a hip operation. I got him going and sent him down to Tony (Stratford). He’s done a lot of the work with him. He’s been down here for the last three weeks. There were workouts, trials and races here so there was no point in trucking up and down the country.”
Spirit Of St Louis won a workout at Gore on 3rd August, qualified a week later on the same track and then won another workout a week later.
“Today was the first time we really let him rip. I was pretty impressed. He had good speed and good gait. Matty (Williamson) was very happy. He qualified him and thought he’d improved a whole lot since then. He steered a bit better today because we put a Murphy Blind on him, which helped. He’s got pedigree with the way things have transpired with the Sweet Lou’s and has a strong dam side which includes Lazarus.”
The winning margin today was two and three quarter lengths.
Spirit Of St Louis winning for Matty Williamson at Gore – Photo Bruce Stewart.
Returning to the birdcage – Photo Bruce Stewart.
Winning connections – Photo Bruce Stewart
The rise of sire Sweet Lou continued later in the programme when the well-bred Arden’s Sweetheart impressively won her first race as a three year old.
From the outside of the gate driver Blair Orange had designs on the lead and was caught three wide early before getting to the top after 400 metres. Arden’s Sweetheart was bred by John Stiven of Tapanui who syndicated her. She’s raced by the The Life’s A Beach Syndicate.
Arden’s Sweetheart winning for Blair Orange – Photo Bruce Stewart.
Returning to scale – Photo Bruce Stewart
Winning owners – Photo Bruce Stewart
Arden’s Sweetheart only had to be tapped up to beat a brave Renegade Rose by a length and a half. Both horses look like promising Southland Oaks fillies.
Meanwhile leading junior driver John Morrison scored a double at Gore today winning back to back races with Stickman trained by Paul Court and trotter Solsbury Hill which is trained by Michael Hennan at Methven.
Stickman winning easily – Photo Bruce Stewart
Win number two for John Morrison – Solsbury Hill – Photo Bruce Stewart.