For the past few years Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson has packed up his horses and set up at Cromwell for the duration of the Central Otago Harness Racing Circuit. He’s dominated one race in particular – the Trotting Free For All at Omakau.
Since 2013 he’s won the race six times and in yesterday’s feature he started three horses; Smokey Mac, Jen Jaccka and up and comer Majestic Man. It was the latter that came out on top.
Williamson said the win was a bit of a surprise for him.
“He’s a very nice horse but today was a bit of a step up. This was his first free for all type race. I didn’t really expect him to beat them. He’s in the zone, in form and has got the winning habit going.”
Driver Brad Williamson sat the Majestic Son gelding parked for the first part of the journey. He moved him forward to the lead when stablemate Jen Jaccka started to progress forward realising she may well take the lead, which she did.
Jen Jaccka looked to have the race in safe keeping when she shot clear by three lengths with 300 metres to run but Brad Williamson didn’t panic and Majestic Man ground down a game Jen Jaccka to win by a neck.
“I knew it would be tough as Jen Jaccka has been really pleasing us of late.”
Majestic Man and Brad Williamson beating stablemate Jen Jaccka and Matty Williamson – Photo Wayne Huddleston Wild Range Photography
As a young horse Majestic Man progressed through age group racing at two and three.
“Last year he was running second to good horses at Group One level in races like the Derby.”
The only real blip on the radar last season was his performance in the Harness Jewels at Cambridge.
“He got a kick in the leg so that’s why he didn’t go any good in the Jewels. We had to treat him with a fair amount of antibiotics to clean up the injury. This year he’s come back bigger and better which we hoped he would and were just hoping he can improve more to get up to the very elite level.”
After yesterday’s win Williamson will give the gelding a break as he plans his path to the Jewels at Addington.
“We are going to be a bit cautious with him. We’re Jewels bound and we won’t be doing too much racing in the interim. We’ll try and have him as good as we can for that race. He’ll have a freshener. He’s in great form at the moment and it seems a strange time to back off but you just can’t keep pushing the accelerator all the time.”
The Trotting Free For All has been run twelve times since it started in 2008 and Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson has won the race six times – the last four on the trot.
His previous winners have been Alderbeck (2018), Monty Python (2017) and Springbank Sam (2013, 2014 and 2016).
“We get a great thrill out of winning any race. We try to have our horses at their best for these types of meetings. We plan to have our horses at their peak at Christmas time and at Cup time.”
Meanwhile another Williamson runner Shes Like The Wind won on debut at Omakau.
By Majestic Son out of the Sundon mare Sun Mist the three year old filly was taken straight to the top by driver Matty Williamson winning by eight and three quarter lengths. His time from behind the mobile was 2-35.4 setting a new track record for three year old trotting fillies.
“Yeah good filly with potential there. We just have to work on gait. It’s just not 100% yet, it’s just on the bends. Some horses can trot the bend really fluently and with some it takes them more time to get confident with it. It’s just a matter of having more practice and we’ll see if she gets better or not but when she does she’ll be competitive to race in the nice three year old fillies races we’re hoping.”
Shes Like The Wind winning in the Williamson colours – Photo Wayne Huddleston Wild Range Photography
Sun Mist is a daughter of champion mare Merinai which won nineteen races including a Rowe Cup and Dominion Handicap.
Sun Mist has been a great breeder for her Winton owner Michelle Caig, leaving Pretty Sunday the winner of fifteen races, Sonofearl which won twenty three and Rosemma which won eight.
Caig is presenting a quality Love You colt out of the mare at next month’s New Zealand National Standardbred Yearling Sales.
Meanwhile the Mark Purdon Natalie Rasmussen trained Funatthebeach set a new track record when he won the McLarens Transport/RD Petroleum Trotting Cup.
His time for the 2000 metre mobile was 2-22.2.
The previous open track record was 2-25.8 recorded by Bettor Think Twice in 2015.
The New Zealand record for 2000 metres mobile of 2-21.8 is held by another Purdon runner Auckland Reactor. That was recorded in Auckland in 2008.
In yesterday’s pacing feature driver Tim Williams didn’t get involved in the early rush with the Somebeachsomewhere gelding settling him at the tail of the field as Mossdale Rose, Queen Bee Bardon and
A G’s White Sock took turns at leading. When Letspendanitetogetha made a lightning move with 900 metres to run Funatthebeach hopped onto his back. At the 600 it became obvious the race winner was going to be either A G’s White Socks or Funatthebeach, but Funatthebeach was the bravest winning by half a length.
“He had trouble keeping up for the first bit because the speed was pretty torrid. It probably wasn’t until the 600 when we got round that he picked the bit up again. At the 600 I thought he’d have his chance with the amount of work Ricky (Ricky May – A G’s White Socks) had done but horses like that are not easy to get past,” said Williams.
He says the gelding has gained in confidence after winning at Geraldine and Ashburton.
“This matches his rock hard fitness and mentally he’s in a really good place. I think now we’ll look at the Invercargill Cup potentially. He’s in that grade now so you’ve got to be looking at those races. He’s not a typical Somebeachsomewhere. He’s a laid-back horse and relaxes.”
Funatthebeach winning the McLarens Transport/RD Petroleum Trotting Cup – Photo Wayne Huddleston Wild Range Photography.
Bee Wins Roxburgh Cup
It felt like a homecoming for Ashburton trainer Ben Waldron when his mare Queen Bee Bardon won the Peters Generics Roxburgh Cup today.
He was born and bred in Omarama which is just over the hill from Roxburgh, but he moved to the Canterbury region when he was ten.
“It’s a massive thrill for me to win a race like this because it’s a wee bit like coming home. Of all the big races this means as much as any of them. It’s a great bunch of guys that run the Roxburgh Club,” he said.
Many were surprised to see Queen Bee Bardon back up so soon after a gut busting run in the record breaking Central Otago Cup just two days ago at Omakau.
“All things considered it was a pretty good run. It looked bad but it was a 25 (second) opening quarter. Then she worked again shortly after settling and it was always going to take it’s toll. We had to be realistic and there was improvement there if we could just use her once (in today’s race).”
Waldron said the Gotta Go Cullen mare recovered well from the Omakau run.
“She’s as hard as nails. As she’s got older and older she’s got tougher and tougher. She’s one of those horses that bounces back remarkably quickly. She’s a good bit of livestock, you might say. She ate up and got on with it. She was tired after the run but recharged her batteries and got back into it.”
In today’s 2700 metre Cup, driver Craig Thornley settled Queen Bee Bardon last with Mr Kiwi making the pace. When Pats Dragon and Especial moved forward three wide Thornley latched onto the three wide train. On turning in Queen Bee Bardon was the widest runner and she powered home down the outside to nail Nearis Green by half a length with a head back to Mr Kiwi.
“I like to leave my drivers to do their thing otherwise I’d do it myself. We obviously wanted to give her an easier trip. Craig did a fantastic job. He’s a bloody good horseman,” said Waldron after the race.
Today’s win was Queen Bee Bardon’s seventh in forty four starts and according to Waldron in many of her races she’s been unlucky.
“She’s very rarely copped a decent run. She ran second in a Jewels Final behind Piccadilly Princess as a four year old. Generally speaking she hasn’t had a whole lot of luck. She’s been crook at the wrong time. It sounds pretty silly but her record is disappointing compared to what she feels like. She’s pretty sharp.”
Waldron says her rating of 79 puts her into a challenging grade.
“It is difficult. There is always a nice horse coming through. It’s a tricky grade because you’ve got a lot of potential cup horses on the way through. Or do you try off big marks in a race that’s a bit easier?”
Queen Bee Bardon’s next target is likely to be the $100,000 Group One New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Stakes at Addington on the 15th February.
“I’ve never been frightened to line her up. You’ve got to have a go.”
Although she’s six, Waldron feels Queen Bee Bardon is just starting to peak.
“Unfortunately she’s been a slow developing mare. She’s quite a big mare. She’s had a lot of wee niggles and quite a bad virus at one point. Sometimes these types of horses that are from left field breeding can turn up later in life.”
Queen Bee Bardon is out of the Bionic Power mare Margaret Bardon and is owned by Renee Williams (Ben’s Fiancée), Gordon Guthrie and Mike Chequer.
Guthrie and Chequer had shares in Mr Molly which Waldron trained to win fourteen races including the 2009 Northern Southland Cup Invercargill Cup double.
Although she seems to have been round the racetracks for a long time Waldron says there are no plans to retire her.
“There’s been no real reason to retire her because it’s felt like she’s got more wins in her.”
The Breen Machine
Outsider Sagwitch became the eleventh winner this season for Gore trainer Syd Breen when he won the House of Travel Lakers Summer Cup at Ascot Park today.
When talking to Breen early in the season I remember him being quite frustrated as his horses were running lots of placings at the time. But things have certainly changed since the beginning of November, and junior driver Mark Hurrell has been a big part of the success, driving seven of the winners – some penalty free.
“Mark went to school with my nieces. He kept ringing me up. I told him to keep ringing. His first drive was on Lorretta Franco. Everything he’s driven for me he’s won on,” said Breen.
Sagwitch is by Lisa Mara out of Shoshoni Sunrise, an OK Bye mare which won six races for trainer Alan Paisley including the 2002 Roxburgh Cup. He’s a half-brother to millionaire Southern Bred Southern Reared pacer Washakie.
Breen weaned Sagwitch as a foal and broke him in for breeder Lester Paisley as a yearling.
He’s now won six races from thirty five starts and banked $41,678.
After running tenth in the Roxburgh Cup six days ago Sagwitch didn’t have today’s Summer Cup on his schedule.
“I only really started him here but the race wasn’t going to get off the ground so I put him and Mucho Macho Man in. It was Santanna’s Rockets (another Breen runner) race to win as far as I was concerned.”
Since Roxburgh Sagwitch has had a quiet time.
“He hasn’t done much since Roxburgh, just four days jogging round the hill.”
In today’s feature pacing race driver Mark Hurrell drove the five year old forward, surprisingly beating out stablemate Santanna’s Rocket which had drawn his inside. Hurrell then let Jonny Cox and Santanna’s Rocket take the lead before Please Shuddup took up the running which left Sagwitch three back on the inside. At the 400 Sagwitch was second last on the inside in the eight horse field. Hurrell plotted a path up the inside and he beat Royal Bengal by a length and a quarter. The overall time for the 2200 metre mobile was 2-42.0.
“He’s just got a wicked quarter on him and saved (for one run) he can go swoosh. Mark was pretty happy with him at Roxburgh and he wanted to drive him today. He was going to go to Wyndham next but he won’t be going there now. That race today was worth two races (in stakes) anyway and he’s got a cup and a dress rug.”
Mark Hurrell driving out Sagwitch – Photo Bruce Stewart.
Breen owns the gelding with Paul and Nancy Matheson.
It paid $25.30 to win and $3.90 for a place.
“Aaron Swain dropped off a bag of feed I’d won from winning a race at a Sunday meeting (part of the McMillan Equine Feeds promotion) and Sagwitch was out in the paddock just being an absolute clown. Aaron said ‘who’s that? I said it’s Sagwitch.’ He said ‘he’s well and I said yeah he’s paying four (dollars) for a place.’ He went over to his truck got on his phone and backed him. It’s rare, but when he’s right he tells you.”
Southern Bred Southern Reared Quinellas
The Southern Bred Southern Reared breeding group received a real boost on Friday night when two horses bred by the group quinellaed the Group One $300,000 Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park in Perth.
My Field Marshal bred by Syd and Shona Brown of Mosgiel won the race by 1.2 metres, beating Galactic Star which was bred by Tuapeka Lodge in Lawrence.
Some talk beforehand asserted that My Field Marshal wasn’t a true stayer but part owner Syd Brown was quick to dismiss it. And the Art Major entire proved that he can definitely stay, giving a dominating performance in front.
“People make talk like that. You ask any good trainer or driver they’ll tell you that a sub 1-50 mile horse (like My Field Marshal) can’t do that (run a fast mile) unless they can stay,” he said.
Trained by ex-pat Tim Butt and driven by his brother Anthony, Brown says their comments after the run were very positive.
“They were thrilled. They did expect him to improve on his first run up and they’re confident that he can improve on that run again.”
The win was My Field Marshal’s twenty sixth, elevated his stakes to close to 1.5 million dollars and he gets a chance to add to that tally in this Friday’s $450,000 Group One West Australia Cup on the same track.
Brown has a three quarter brother to My Field Marshal entered in next month’s NZB Standardbred Yearling Sale in Christchurch. He’s by Art Major out of Washington VC mare Ednalea which is a full-sister to Foreal the dam of My Field Marshal.
“He’s just a strong Art Major colt. He’s not too big, not too small and he’s very wide in the front with a good strong head but people need to look at that themselves rather than hear an owner tell them that.”
SBSR horses have won the Fremantle Cup three times in the last four years with Chicago Bull winning the race in 2017 and Beaudiene Boaz in 2016. Another SBSR horse I’m Themightyquinn won the race in 2011.
Im Themightyquinn in 2011 and Chicago Bull in 2017 won the prized Gloucester Park double: the Fremantle and West Australia Cup.
Meanwhile former Southlander Graham Cooney bred two of the winners at the Bay Of Plenty Harness meeting at Te Aroha yesterday.
Cooney now resides in Tauranga and he bred Missy Memory and Comic Book Hero which are both out of Deja Vous.
Both horses were originally trained by Hamish Hunter at Ryal Bush. He won two races with each horse.
Comic Book Hero is now trained by Ray Darby at Patumahoe while Misty Memories is trained at Tuapaki by Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins.
Pres The Belle Back Winning
Quality mare Pres The Belle returned to winning form when she put away a handy field of trotters in the Brendan Franks Farrier Handicap Trot at Wyndham yesterday.
After a good beginning driver Tim Williams settled the five year old back early as Grace O’Malley set the early pace. With just under a lap to run Williams moved the mare forward and with 1100 to run Pres The Belle was in front. War Admiral looked likely on the turn to challenge. However when he broke it was up to Jeddy R Ya Ready to run the mare down but Pres The Belle was too good winning by three quarters of a length.
Her time of 3-02.3 was just outside Jess Jaccka’s track record for mares (3-01.9) and the open track record of 3-01.6 held by Pyramid Magic.
“I’ve been pretty happy with her for the last couple of weeks. She needed the run at Gore. The way the weather and track was at Cromwell we made the call to pull the pin which I think was a good move. She’s as good as what she’s ever been,” said trainer Darryn Simpson.
Coming back to the birdcage -Photo Bruce Stewart.
It was a welcome change of luck for Simpson and the mare’s owners after Pres The Belle performed under par at Addington in November during Cup Week.
“She got crook a week out from Cup Day. We did what we could and we thought we had her right but I think it knocked her and in the end we just battling to get her there.”
Simpson admits that he may have to travel a bit to place Pres The Belle now she’s getting up in the grades but her return to form is timely as there’s some good trotting races coming up in the next few months in the south.
“You’ve got to do the best for the owners. There are some races for her at Addington and some nice races down here.”
Pres The Belle is likely to start in a R50-R130 trot at the Invercargill Cup Meeting at Ascot Park on Saturday 26th January.
Yesterday’s win was her seventh for owners Stewart Campbell, Des Minehan, Stewart Heal and Dexter Nind.
Full Noise Creates Stir
Full Noise’s win at the Wyndham Meeting came with a huge sense of relief for Ryal Bush trainer Brent Gray who admitted to getting nervous prior to yesterdays’ race.
“I do because I love the horse and he is special. I’m just glad we didn’t do too much damage on the horrible day at Cromwell,” Gray said.
The stable was confident of a good showing after Full Noise had shown during the week that he’d taken no harm from his run on a heavy track at Cromwell.
“I was away for the weekend and Craig O’Callaghan drove him on Saturday and he was really rapt with him. I took him to Nathan’s (Nathan Williamson) on Tuesday and worked him and Robbie Royale there and he (Full Noise) worked really nice. I just wanted to give him a change of scenery.”
After a good beginning driver Brent Barclay settled Full Noise in fourth on the outside. With just over a lap to run Barclay had designs on the lead and moved the Majestic Son three year old forward to take over from Star Dude with 1200 metres to run. With 400 metres to run Full Noise had a four length advantage with second favourite Only One Way the only real challenger. Full Noise proved too strong beating Only One Way by a length and three quarters.
All the way down the straight it was noticeable that Barclay was driving Full Noise on one rein.
“It looked as though he (Only One Way) was going to get us but as I said he was on one rein. Brent said as soon as our horse saw him coming he got going. We’ve got a big year coming up and we have to time things just right. I just want to get his steering a bit better.”
His winning time was 3-05.7 a new track record erasing Jaccka Jack’s 2009 record of 3-06.6.
Gray was considering starting the three year old in the Hanley Formula Orari Challenge Stakes a 1850 mobile race for three year old trotters at Geraldine on Saturday 2nd February but he’s now not so sure.
“I don’t know. We could miss that. I just don’t want to go to the well too much this season. We just need to get things right for up the road (Addington). I want to stick to few stands before he goes to the mobiles like the Hambletonian.”
Full Noise is owned by Baynes Racing Limited which is Kenny Baynes and his sister in-law Penny.
South Produces Two Year Old Double
Yesterday the Price family of Winton had one on those magical days that are rare in harness racing when Perfect Stride and Pearl Harbour each won their juvenile races at Alexandra Park in Auckland.
Pearl Harbour won a heat of the Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock Young Guns Fillies Series while Perfect Stride, which they bred with John’s parents Roger and Helen Price, won its two year old race.
“It’s lovely to see the babies stepping out. We’re pretty proud,” Katrina Price said.
Pearl Harbour was broken in and developed by John and Katrina, qualifying the Somebeachsomewhere filly at Winton in mid December. She was then sent north to Barry Purdon’s stable with the aim of starting her in the Young Guns Fillies Series.
This is not the first time they’ve sent a filly north to Purdon’s. Democrat Party as a two year old was sent north in 2013. She won at her first start and subsequently in March 2014 won the Young Guns Fillies Final.
“John spoke to Barry during the week and he was pretty bullish heading into the race. He thinks she’s very strong and has plenty of speed. He was worried about the draw and he wasn’t sure what Scott (driver Scott Phelan) would do off the gate.”
John and Katrina have been very patient with Pearl Harbour knowing the potential was always there but that it needed managing.
“She was pretty hot when she was being broken in. Here at home we’ve done lots and lots of slow work. When we broke her in she did a couple of months of walking. We took her a few times to the Winton track and Nathan (Williamson) came and drove her. She had a workout and a trial and the first time he deliberately pulled her back just to educate her. In her trial there were only two runners so she when to the front. At that stage Nathan said she would have lots of gate speed but he didn’t want to pull that switch. From day one she knew how to race and had that real competitive streak.”
The Prices have entered Captain Nemo which is a three quarter brother to Pearl Harbour in next month’s NZB Standardbred Sale in Christchurch. He’s by first season sire Captaintreacherous.
Price says that Captain Nemo was a late foal that’s going to appreciate time.
“He’s at least at the same stage as Pearl Harbour was. He’s a big rangy horse with a completely different brain on him, laid back, relaxed – a big cruisy dude.”
Captain Demo – Photo Chelsea Faithful
The win by Pearl Harbour was also a bonus for West Otago breeders John and Judy Stiven who bred her dam Arden Caviar.
The Stivens have a Bettors Delight filly by Arden Caviar’s full-sister Rocknroll Arden in the sale and Southwind Arden which is also owned by them has a Captaintreacherous colt in the catalogue.
The Prices bought Arden Caviar from the Stivens after she was withdrawn from the yearling sales in 2013 due to having a skin complaint.
“She had speed but just didn’t have the racing brain. That family has so much depth to it. When you look at Winter Rose, the job she’s done and you go further back with horses like Bella’s Boy – It was a family that we really wanted to get into.”
Arden Caviar has a Betting Line colt on the ground and she has been served again by Captaintreacherous.
“In speaking to David James at Empire (Empire Stallions), the Captaintreacherous’s have a completely different attitude to the Somebeachsomewheres. We’ve had three Somebeachsomewhere’s and they’ve all been pretty hot. You’ve just had to be careful with how you develop them.”
The Price’s other success last night, Perfect Stride, (formally named Chicago Cub) was bred by John, Katrina, Roger and Helen Price and was the top selling lot at last year’s National Yearling Sale in Christchurch. He was bought by Emilio and Mary Rosati for $190,000.
Added to the magical day was a workout win at Winton by Perfect Stride’s half-sister Rockabilly Blues.
She’s won two of her three starts and will resume her racing career at the Invercargill Cup Meeting this Saturday where she’ll line up in the Arden Lodge Robin Dundee Crown.
It’s great to see Southern Bred Southern Reared Two Year Olds having success on a premier track in Auckland.
Robbie Rolls In
Robbie Royale was always going to be hard to beat at Ascot Park today.
He ran a creditable seventh in strong company at Wyndham on Thursday and today’s race was a massive drop in class.
Trained by Brett Gray and driven by Brent Barclay he began safely and was allowed to settle into his gait for the first 100 metres. With 1600 metres to run Barclay moved the five year old forward and was forced three wide by Zoned Scarlett which also improved on his inside. Barclay allowed Zoned Scarlett to trot to the front before taking the top with 1200 metres to run. From there he held the lead beating her by three quarters of a length.
“He was good in front today. We thought we’d take everything else out of play by taking him to the front and let him roll,” said Brent Barclay.
Robbie Royale beating Zoned Scarlett at Ascot Park today – Photo Bruce Stewart
It was Robbie Royale’s second win and the first for Brett Gray who took over his training last month from owner trainer Brian Norman.
He’s always shown he has the potential to progress further, but has broken in a number of his starts.
“He’s a work in progress because he’s still got a few rough strides in his gait but he feels like he’ll win another couple of races alright. He’s just very touchy in the mouth. When you grab him he’s inclined to throw his head and that’s when you lose him. You just have to go with him for the first three hundred metres until he balances up. We’ve got a softer bit in his mouth and he’s getting better.”
His sire Raffaello Ambrosia left 50 foals in New Zealand with sixteen qualifiers or race winners. The best so far is Conon Bridge which has now won twenty one races and $264,367. He was good enough in 2015 as a two year old to win a Breeders Crown.
Robbie Royale’s fourth dam Castleton Queen is the mother of Sir Castleton, the winner of forty four races and of Castleton Pride which won eleven including the 1975 Interdominion Trotters Grand Final at Alexandra Park.
Sir Castleton won nine of his first twelve starts. He started an amazing four times in the Group One Rowe Cup finishing tenth in 1981, third in 1982, first in 1983 and second in 1984. He was trained for all bar three of his starts by Mawson MacPherson.
Wayne Smart trained him for the final three races and he won them all.
Meanwhile Star Reactor credited his sire Auckland Reactor with his sixty ninth individual winner; thirty seven in Australia and thirty two in New Zealand. The Allan Beck trained mare trailed the leader and favourite Duke Of Dundee throughout the 2200 metres and she let down nicely up the passing lane to beat Duke Of Dundee by half a length with Don’t Need An Excuse another two and a half lengths back in third. Auckland Reactor prodigy have now won $1.7 million between them.
Star Reactor – Photo File
Born To Boogie wins Robin Dundee
The lightly raced Born To Boogie surprised her trainer Brett Gray when she won the Arden Lodge Robin Dundee Crown at Ascot Park today.
“I wasn’t 100% happy with her coming into this race. I thought she was a bit sharper last week. I thought she had something coming on but it’s worked out okay so obviously I was panicking over nothing,” Gray said.
After sitting parked early, cover arrived when Naiya Franco moved to sit outside leader Jody Direen. When Bridesdale Robyn shot round the field with 600 metres to run Barclay popped out of the one one and started to make his run. Born To Boogie took half the straight to get past Jody Direen and she held on to win by a length and a quarter from a late charging Rockabilly Blues.
“She’s got a bit of speed and is good with one run. Rockabilly Blues was unlucky. It was our turn for a bit of luck today.”
Born To Boogie (10) beating Rockabilly Blues (9) – Photo Bruce Stewart.
Returning to the birdcage with Brent Barclay – Photo Bruce Stewart
Born To Boogie was bred by Northern Southland Stud Macca Lodge and was sold for $17,000 at the 2016 Yearling Sales to Merv and Meg Butterworth. The Rock N Roll Heaven filly started her career with Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, but sustained a leg injury. She was sent south to the Gray stable where she qualified and won her first two races.
“She’s still a day to day proposition but we’re keeping her pretty sound.”
Today’s win was her third and Gray said the Southern Belle Speed Series will probably feature in her future programme.
Macca Lodge is offering a black Sweet Lou filly which is a half -sister to Born To Boogie at next month’s Christchurch National Yearling Sales.
Meanwhile Annie Fitz caused a big upset in the SBS Bank Mobile Pace winning at odds of 29-1.
She managed to avoid an early melee which wreaked the chances of some runners. Driver Craig Ferguson settled the Bettor’s Delight mare last of the seven runners that were left in the race. With 1400 metres to run he secured the one one. At the top of the straight Annie Fitz peeled out and came down the middle of the track to beat B Mac C by three quarters of a length. This was achieved despite getting a flat tyre at the 600 metres which finally separated from the rim after the finish line.
It was the mare’s sixth win for breeder, owner and trainer Ross Wilson.
Funatthebeach Cups King.
Hot favourite Funatthebeach pulled his army of supporters through in the Group Three $32,000 Ascot Park Hotel Invercargill Cup today.
“He felt really good and was travelling well. He’s a lovely horse to drive. He wants to win and you strive to drive these sort of horses,” said driver Tim Williams after the race.
In today’s feature pace Williams was happy to stay at the rear of the eight horse field, as Queen Bee Bardon made all the pace.
It was Shezacullengirl that carted him into the race with 1300 metres to run, before he improved three wide, coming down the straight to take up the parked spot.
“He seems to race kindly that way so I thought we’d just take luck out of it.”
In turning in, Funatthebeach mastered Queen Bee Bardon and he ran down to the finish line to beat Royal Bengal by three quarters of a length. The winning time was 4-01.6.
“Coming down the straight he dropped the bit but he ran 4-01 off a handicap so maybe he was coming to the end of it.”
Funatthebeach winning the Invercargill Cup from Royal Bengal (4) – Photo Bruce Stewart.
It was the gelding’s fourth Cup win in five starts. This season he’s won the Geraldine Cup in late November, the Ashburton Cup in December, the Central Otago Cup in early January and now the Invercargill Cup.
“He came through his race at Omakau really well because he’s such a great eater and drinker so the runs don’t take too much out of him.”
And more Cup starts are on the programme for the Somebeachsomewhere four year old, owned by Trevor Casey and Paul Hailes.
“We’re looking at the Amberley Cup (6th February) and on the February 15th there’s a Free For All race at Addington for him.”
Williams says Funatthebeach has improved since his three year old season at which time he was slightly down the pecking order amongst a highly talented group of three year olds in the Purdon Rasmussen stable.
“He’s improved a lot. After the Jewels last season they chose to geld him and it’s been a good thing. It’s helped him mature I think.”
It was the second time Mark Purdon has won the Invercargill feature. He trained Highview Tommy to win in 2011 with his training partner at that time, Grant Payne.
Funatthebeach’s breeders Braeside Lodge, are offering a half -brother by Art Major at next month’s Auckland Yearling Sales.
Meanwhile War Admiral, driven inch perfectly by Samantha Ottley, easily won the Brendon Franks Farrier Handicap Trot; the main trot of the day.
At his last start at Wyndham he blotted his formline, breaking on the final bend when challenging.
Ottley has now driven the four year old gelding three times for two wins and a second. Today’s win was his sixth from just seventeen starts and it places him third on the leader board for the end of season Harness Jewels Four Year Old Ruby.
He’s by Australian stallion Skyvalley who stands at stud at Alderbaren Park in Victoria. They’ve just been confirmed as sponsors of the $20,000 Super Gold Chip Trotters Final at Winton on the 13th April.
General Manager of Southern Harness, Jason Broad, confirmed the sponsorship today.
“They sponsor something like seven clubs in Australia. The principle – Duncan McPherson said if we support the annual Team Teal campaign that assists in the fight against Ovarian Cancer he’ll sponsor the race. We hope to run a special Team Teal promotion at the Northern Southland Meeting in March. It looks like Duncan will come over for that meeting,” he said.
Alderbaron Park also have trotting interests in America and Sweden and it’s hoped they’ll become more involved in supporting trotting in the south.
It’s been a long way back for Ryal Bush trained Rakarover.
He won his last race a year ago at Wyndham, but subsequently suffered from a quarter crack problem.
“It was a pretty bad one so we opted to put him out for the rest of the season. He was going alright at the start of this season but he actually had two quarter cracks; one on the hind leg and one on the front foot so it’s been catch up from there really. He’s a horse that when you turn him out he always gets a bruised foot so he’s probably susceptible to it,” said trainer Peter Hunter.
Hunter says Rakarover’s return to racing has been difficult.
“He had to come back straight into the Country Cups grade. They’re nice horses so you just don’t turn up and win again. Once he got down below the 60 rating in a grade, where he could show a bit of muscle, he was competitive. His last two races have been quite nice. I thought his run at Wyndham for seventh was pretty good. He ran a similar time to the winner.”
Today, in his fourth race back from injury, Rakarover, owned by Brendon Fahy, stayed out of the early rush.
“I knew he didn’t have gate speed. I knew Vin Scully would have a bit more punch out of the gate.”
Hunter placed him early in the one one behind favourite Mighty Flying Art before that horse went to the lead leaving him parked. Cover arrived soon after when Ultimate Rocker came round to sit parked with a lap to run.
“I was pretty pleased to get cover with a round to go. The back straight was pretty hard going.”
With 500 metres to run Hunter hooked the five year old American Ideal gelding out and made his challenge down the middle of the track, letting down nicely to beat a game Mighty Flying Art by half a length.
“The second horse (Mighty Flying Art) went pretty good. He worked pretty hard.”
Hunter and his wife Jo are enjoying a good season with eight wins on the board and a handy team of race horses in the stable.
“I guess I’m lucky to have owners that have owned the old brigade and have hung round and used the handicap system. Horses like Ansett Flight, My Georgie Boy and Bold Ruler. They’re handy horses and the handicap system has helped them stay in Southland. I’m lucky in that way and the horses are a year old and probably going better.”
Hunter also has some nice young stock coming through including a half-sister to Rakarover named Rakastella which qualified at Ascot Park last month. She’s a two year old filly by Art Major.
“A nice filly. We’ll probably have a go at the two year old fillies’ races. She’s strong and ran a two minute mile rate when she qualified which was pretty good considering what she had done (in preparation). She’s got a wee bit of natural ability.”
Meanwhile Hunter’s drive in the Fasttrack Insurance Nugget Final on Prince Abbey didn’t get any luck, having to sit parked in windy conditions.
He ended up running fifth behind winner Sounds Bettor which is trained by Geoff and Jude Knight at Roxburgh.
The win was just reward for the Bettor’s Delight mare which had finished in a stake earning position in eleven of her fourteen starts this season.
She’s raced by The Central Courage Syndicate. One of the syndicate members Bill Bain also owned the second horse Bunter’s Dream.
The win by Dipendra on Thursday at Wyndham was very much a family affair for veteran Winton trainer Tony Stevens.
As son Richard drove the squaregaiter to an all the way win, plenty of the Stevens family were on hand to enjoy the victory.
“He’s had leg problems and he also ties up. Dad’s really done a great job because he’s a family pet. He’s just been pottering round with him day in day out,” said Richard after the win.
The nine year old Monarchy gelding has only started twenty nine times. His career commenced as a five year old and he won at his second start.
Of the win on Thursday Richard said “He felt really good but I got away with quite a bit. Through those middle stages we were walking.”
Richard and his wife Fiona operated a home kill business for twelve years before buying the Winton Subway franchise two years ago. Last season he returned to raceday driving, taking out a Graduation Driver’s license after a thirteen year break. His first ever winner was Kilbank Craig for trainer Hamish Hunter at Gore in 1991 while his last prior to Thursday’s win was on Oreti Beach in December 2004.
“Dad wanted me to drive the horse. It’s just good to win a race in the old man’s colour.”
One of Tony’s daughters Bridget was celebrating her birthday on Thursday and another daughter Rebecca is getting married next weekend so the win adds to the celebrations.
Dipendra certainly has a rich trotting pedigree. He’s the last foal of Speedy Crown mare Becalm Lobell which won six races. As a broodmare Becalm Lobell also left Sheezadoosie which won seven and was the dam of Sno’s Big Boy – the winner of fifteen races and I Can Doosit which won thirty six races. I Can Doosit won a Dominion Handicap, two Rowe Cups and back to back Interdominion Trotting Finals in 2011 and 2012.
“Dad’s always been a gun with trotters. Horses like Three Gees and Sailor Beware.”
Sailor Beware, a Scrappy Wave gelding won five races while Three Gees won three. Other good horses with whom Stevens was associated were Wintonian (4 wins) and Beaudiene Fella which won four from just thirteen starts.
As a driver Tony Stevens drove his first winner Night Chief for father Roy at Invercargill in 1973.
Meanwhile Mach’s Back returned to winning form in the Marshalls Excavating Limited Summer Classic.
His winning time of 1-52.5 is a new track record for colts and geldings, bettering War Dan Delight’s 1-53.3. The time is also a new Southland record. The previous record of 1-53.9 was recorded by Fly Like An Eagle at Winton in October 2014.
Mach’s Back has been responsible for setting up a number of records without winning himself, so it was nice to see his name beside one this week.