January 2022

Anderson Reaches 400th Win

Bruce Stewart

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.

Graeme Anderson

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


Mighthavtime Upsets in Southern Oaks Heat

4th January 2022

Bruce Stewart

Mighthavtime dented a few reputations when she easily won the first heat of the Southern Oaks Series at Roxburgh today for Tisbury trainer Kirstin Barclay.

Driver Brent Barclay positioned Mighthavtime back on the inside with favourite Fernleigh Blackbird taking up the pacemaker role. When the gaps opened in the straight Mighthavtime shot through on the inside to win by two lengths from Feelthejoy.

Mighthavtime and Brent Barclay winning at Roxburgh-Photo Monica Toretto

The winning time of 2-40.3 was a new track record for three-year-old fillies over the 2180 metre mobile. The previous record of 2-42.1 was set by Celestial Arden in 2016.

Mighthavtime was the fifth win favourite in the seven-horse field and paid $11.30 and $4.50.

She’s by Betterthancheddar out of the Christian Cullen mare One Christian, and is owned by Murray Little.

Mighthavtime is a half-sister to Christianshavtime the winner of six races. Little has an Art Major filly out of One Christian entered in next month’s national yearling sales.

Mighthavtime’s second dam Solitaire is the mother of smart filly One Dream, the winner of thirteen races and $553,059. Her wins include the Group One New Zealand Oaks and Group One Nevele R Fillies Final. She was the  Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly of the Year in the 2006-2007 season so there are plenty of good females in the family.

Today’s three-year-old fillies feature was the first heat of the Nevele R/Macca Lodge Southern Oaks series in which all fillies have to at least start in two heats to qualify for April’s $50,000 Group Two Final.

The next heat will be at Winton on the 3rd of February.

Deserving Win for Memphis Tennessee in Roxburgh Cup

4th January 2022

Bruce Stewart

It might have been a small field, but the Peters Generics Roxburgh Cup provided the most entertaining race of the day at the annual Roxburgh meeting today.

A Bettor Act, Idealism and Tommy Waterhouse all had turns at making the pace in the 2700 metre feature, but it was diminutive war horse Memphis Tennessee that took home the prize, thanks to a brilliant drive by Johnny Morrison.

Winning driver Johnny Morrison

With the action happening at the top of the race Morrison held back all his artillery until the second half. By that stage Kirstin Barclay had taken Tommy Waterhouse to the front and he looked to have a bit of a breather. Rather than sit back and wait for a sprint home, which Memphis Tennessee may not have won due to the tight turning Roxburgh circuit, Morrison elected to move Memphis Tennessee forward to sit parked, pressuring  the leader Tommy Waterhouse. It was a tough slog up the straight, but Memphis Tennessee found plenty of heart to beat Artatac who came home late, by a head.

“It was a great drive. It was quite an aggressive race and it worked out good for us,” said Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray.

The winning time of 3-21.5 was a new Cup and track record. The previous record of 3-22.9 was set by 2014 Roxburgh Cup winner Comply Or Die.

Memphis Tennessee (8) winning the Roxburgh Cup -Photo Monica Toretto

“He’s a gutsy wee fella. He had a couple of hard runs at Addington at the start of the season then he had a wee issue. We put him out over Cup Week and that’s the best thing we could have done. He always seems to come right at Christmas New Year.”

Owned by Robert and Sharon Symon the six-year-old Bettor’s Delight gelding has been a regular runner in the south since he was a young horse. He was initially trained by Terry and Glenys Chmiel who won five races with him including the 2019 Group Two Southern Supremacy Stakes at Ascot Park. He’s been in the Gray stable since October 2020 and has now won five races from that stable, three in the hands of Morrison.

The Roxburgh Cup is part of the Southern Country Cup Series and Memphis Tennessee joins Jimmy Arma (Oamaru), Paddyproudfoot (Tuapeka), Plutonium Lady (Wairio) and Johnny Mac (Gore) as early winners in the thirteen-heat series.

The next heat is the Cromwell Cup on Thursday followed by the Riverton Cup on 12th February. The $30,000 final will be held on Diamonds Day at Ascot Park on Saturday 30th April.

Ideal Result

6th January 2022

Bruce Stewart

Ideal Dance’s win today was aided by the hot favourite Bollinger breaking with a lap to run. However his trainer Darryn Simpson and driver Matty Williamson both have a good opinion of the three-year-old, and were expecting a good showing at Cromwell.

“He’s a wee bit overgrown. But he’s getting stronger all the time and his gait is getting better, but he has got a motor,” Simpson said.

Ideal Dance warming up

From barrier one Williamson took the son of A Rocknroll Dance straight to the front.

“In front out of trouble, was a nice place to be today but he is a bit better coming off the pace.”

At the finish Ideal Dance was too strong, winning by three- and three-quarter lengths with Paradise Valley running second.

“He hasn’t done a lot, just three trials including his qualifier and today was only his second start.”

Ideal Dance winning easily

Winning connections

The three-year-old is out of Western Ideal mare Nicky’s Ideal which is owned by Gary Clarke who bred and owns Ideal Dance.

“We bought her off Paul Renwick in foal with Life Of Art who won two for me last year.”

Simpson and Clarke have formed a successful racing partnership in the last few years. Clarke is a retired engineer who’s also into property development.

“It’s been a good relationship. He’s helped me out and in the last couple of seasons we’ve been selling quite a few. We like to move a few on and keep a happy medium really.”

After training in Mosgiel, Simpson has just recently moved to Oamaru where he trains on a full-time basis.

“It’s hard being away from home and the family but it’s good. Matty and Charlotte (Williamson) have been good to me and make it easy for me when things get hard.”

Perfect Result in Hygain Revell Douglas Series

6th January 2022

Bruce Stewart

Today’s result in the Hygain Revell Douglas Junior Driver Series was perfect on a personal level and also for punters.

The winner Franco Stefan was the favourite, and the winning driver is former Northerner Kaleb Bublitz.

Franco Stefan warming up

The series is named after northern horseman Revell Douglas who tragically lost his life a year ago at Kariotahi Beach after saving his children who got in trouble while swimming.

“He was a rep for Hygain, and I got to know him when he was delivering feed. I drove for him a couple of times and he was a real good bloke. It’s great to see them (HRNZ) have a series in his honour. He was a bloody good bloke and good to have a laugh with and super understanding if you made mistakes. He was so easy to have a chat with,” Bublitz said.

Today was the first of the Series in both islands with the winner of the Series receiving a scholarship from Hygain. The horses in today’s race were allocated by ballot.

“When I Iooked at the field I was stoked to see which horse I’d drawn and thought ‘you beauty.”

In today’s race Bublitz stayed out of the early rush but always had designs on the lead.

“That was always the plan, it was just a matter of when, not if. They were all going for it at the front in the early stages. When they settled and found their places I just cruised up and got to the front.”

Once in front Franco Stefan seemed to switch off.

“He was a wee bit lazy. I had to keep him on the job. I had to pull the plugs at the half, and he did what he had to do.”

Turning into the long Cromwell straight, it looked likely the four year old would win.

“He was travelling good turning in. I just had to give a few taps to keep him on the job and to let him know he was supposed to be sprinting. All the way up the straight I kept at him.”

Franco Stefan winning for Kaleb Bublitz

Today’s win was Bublitz’s fourth having moved South after a winless run in the North with a desire for a change in luck.

“It’s a confidence thing. I’m driving for Phil (Williamson), and I’ve been getting advice from him, Brad, Matty and Nathan (Williamson) and driving nice horses which helps. I get the most chat from Brad because he likes winding me up.”

Pictures from a day at the Cromwell Trots

Bruce Stewart

7th January 2022



Duke Sold for Big Money

Bruce Stewart

Tuesday 11th January 2022

“I’ve got very mixed feelings but, in the end, it was too much money to turn down.” This is the way Southland owner Lester Smith described his feelings after the sale of quality colt Duke Of Cornwall was confirmed today.

The colt has been purchased by American owner Richard Poillucci who’s procured many New Zealand bred standardbreds over the years. They include Shartin N the 2019 USA Dan Patch Harness Horse of the Year – she won forty-six of her sixty-eight starts and banked $2,667,563.

Duke Of Cornwall winning his last race in New Zealand

The Duke of Cornwall deal reported to be worth $500,000 was brokered by John Curtin from JC International who sent Auckland Veterinary Centre vet Tim Montgomery south last week to look the colt over.

“The vet told me he hasn’t had a horse that’s vetted so well. He had a huge windpipe, it’s like a tunnel down there, large lungs and a great heart recovery. I was going to get Brendon Bell (local vet) to look at him, but he couldn’t do it until Monday and the horse flies to Auckland on Tuesday night,” Curtin said.

Curtin says this is the largest sale of a racehorse he’s been involved with.

“I’ve been selling horses since 1989 and exported 1,000. Back in the day when I was buying them for Joe Muscara, I was buying six a week.”

Lester Smith said the pressure to sell the colt came after he won at the Young Quinn Raceway on the 15th of December.

“The phone’s been running red hot ever since he ran 1-52 at Wyndham, parked, untouched and did it easy. Matty (Williamson – driver) said he had more to give. I deliberated for a week or so and finally gave them the go ahead to vet the horse on Friday. John’s been the main player and blown the rest out of the water really.”

Duke Of Cornwall running his 1-52 mile at Wyndham

The colt will head to Australia initially where he’ll be trained by Luke McCarthy with the New South Wales Derby as one of his aims. He’s also nominated for the Breeders Crown. Curtin thinks Duke Of Cornwall may only have a handful of starts in Australia. A race at Melton on Hunter Cup night at the end of the month is earmarked.

The sale also rewards Winton trainer Lauren Pearson and partner Brent Barclay who developed the colt.

“They’re happy that he’s sold. There would have been a lot of travelling up and down the country which doesn’t really excite them much.”

Duke Of Cornwall is by Sweet Lou out the Christian Cullen mare Galleons Cheer. Galleons Honour won her first start as a three-year-old at Alexandra Park in September 2009 beating Secret Potion by a nose with Twist n Shout third. She was owned by the late Kerry Hoggard and trained by Gareth Dixon.

“After her first win she was never quite the same,” Smith said.

After she finished racing in the north Galleons Honour was purchased by Smith, and Pearson trained her at Winton for a while.

“I bought her at a dispersal sale that Kerry Hoggard was having. Peter Lagan bid on her for me and we got her for $25,000. Kerry had paid $80,000 for the mare when he bought her. “

As a broodmare she left the winners of forty-four races who have won $358,973. Dazed And Confused (9 wins $32,784 – 1-56.6), Venice Beach (11 wins $92,748 – 1-52.1), Duke Of Wellington (8 wins $109,360 – 1-53.6), Rise Above This (8 wins $59,502 – 1-52.2), Broadbeach (4 wins $34,434 – 1-57.8) and Duke Of Cornwall (4 wins $30,145 – 1-52.6).

“She’s been a great mare, yielding not much change from $800,000 (including stakes and sale prices),” Smith said.

Duke Of Cornwall had his first start in last season’s Group Three New Zealand Kindergarten Stakes finishing fourth to Akuta. He won his first race at Invercargill in October when driven by Matty Williamson.

Smith has sold a lot of horses to Australia over the years, including Atitagain which won a Group One Australian Pacing Championship, finished third in the Group One South Australian Pacing Cup, third in the Group One Victoria Cup and second in the 2001 Interdominion Final at Albion Park. He won twenty-eight races and $787,945 and was named Grand Circuit Champion for Australasian. His New Zealand wins also included the 1996 Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes.

“He was the highest priced horse I’ve sold up until now,” Smith said.

Smith also owned First Glimpse which won the 1991 Oceania El Dorado Final at Moonee Valley.

Galleons Honour has an Art Major filly at foot and is in foal to Bettors Wish.

“I’ll try and race the Art Major filly. I took a bit of a risk with Galleons Honour. If she’d died foaling and the foal died there’d be no more breeding from that line. Luckily I’ve got a filly and with the mare I’ve now got two breeding options.”

Smith currently has a full brother to Duke Of Cornwall named Duke Of Scotland with Pearson and Barclay.

And he bought an Art Major colt out of fourteen win mare Spanish Armada from Fleur and Todd Anderson.

“I bought him after the sales. He’s done a couple of months work, whether he makes a two-year-old or not is doubtful.”

With Ragazzo Mach, You’re So Fine, Watch Be Now, and Duke Of Cornwall all having been sold in the last twelve months and for incredibly good money, there’s been a drain on Southland’s top end bloodstock. However we trust that as always, the next one will be just around the corner.

Duke Of Cornwall with owner Lester Smith

Lavers Cup Grand Slam

Bruce Stewart

12th January 2022

He’s as tough as teak and Art Major gelding Laver used those qualities to win today’s Yaldhurst Hotel Northern Southland Trotting Cup at Ascot Park.

Aided by One Change, Pace N Pride and Tommy Waterhouse losing their chances early in the Group Three feature, regular pilot Gerard O’Reilly took the six-year-old to the front and the horse simply ran the legs off his opposition, beating a game Classie Brigade by two and three quarter lengths.

Laver parading before the Northern Southland Cup

The winning time was 3-23.2 with the last 800 timed at 55.2 and 400 metres in 27.8.

Laver leads with a lap to run

At the finish

Co-trainer Geoff Dunn said when he first started standing starts he went well. However he suddenly began missing. “But now he’s back to it and beginning really good,” he said.

The well bred five year old is beginning to show he’s a consistent genuine performer at the top grade.

“It took us a while to figure him out. He was always tough, and he had to run them off their feet. We got his throat operated on after the Hannon Memorial and it’s paid dividends. He had a bit of an ulcer there and they cut it away. They couldn’t believe he was still racing. He’s showing more speed now.”

Winning salute

Laver is owned by Dunn and Bob and Jenny Sanford who race his dam, Venus Serena.

“They’ve been great supporters and this win is good because the sales are coming up and I’ll be able to talk them into putting their hands in their pockets (laughter).”

Geoff trains Laver in partnership with his son James.

“He’s fantastic round the stables. He organises everything, he’s really passionate. It’s a real privilege to work with your son every day and I’m rapt about it.”

Sundees Son Sensational

Bruce Stewart

12th January 2022

They came to see the champ, and he delivered.

Southlanders gave champion trotter Sundees Son a rousing reception when he returned to the Ascot Park birdcage after winning the Pryde’s Easifeed Southern Light Handicap Trot.

The appreciation shown reminded me of galloper Little Brown Jug’s return to the birdcage after winning the 1979 Southland Guineas.

Sundees Son warming up for John Dunn

The winning time of 3-24.8 was sensational and befitting of a pacer with the last 800 metres peeled off in 55.2 seconds and 400 metres in 27.2.

“He’s got the speed of a pacer,” said driver John Dunn.

Dunn took the seven-year-old halfway through the 2700 metre feature and from there he was never going to get beaten.

Sundees Son leads with a lap to run from One Apollo

At the finish

The time was a new track and Southland record for four year old and older geldings, beating the      3-24.0 recorded by Ultimate Stride in 2021. The allcomers record of 3-24.0 is held by Pres The Belle.

“You wouldn’t say he is the best gaited trotter to sit behind. He fires the off front foot out, so he isn’t the best gaited trotter to sit behind but when he gets that rhythm and speed, he’s a lot better. He must have a massive ticker.”

Back to the birdcage

On the parade

Today was Sundees Son’s twenty seventh and he’s just $8,083 off becoming a millionaire. He’s won eight Group One races, one Group Two and five Group Three features and has won over most distances. He’s trained by Robert and Jenna Dunn.

“He’s a great staying type. In the Dominion this year he showed that. If you can get going at the 800 like he did today he can carry on that speed,” John said.

Southland was lucky to see the star trotter as the plan was to take him to Australia but that was aborted.

“Yep, it was a bit disappointing. He was a trotter in form, and he deserved to go over there. We all sat down and had a round table and decided it wasn’t worth the risk.”

Sundees Son holds six New Zealand records ranging from 2-39.1 for 2200 metre mobile to 3-56.6 for 3200 metres.

Sundees Son is owned by Colin and Nancy Hair who were on-course today to see the Majestic Son gelding win. It was the second time Dunn has driven the winner of the Southern Lights. He drove Harriet Of Mot, co-trained by his father in law Craig Edmonds to win in 2016.

Sheza Gift Wins for Clarke

19th January 2022

Bruce Stewart

“She’s a nice wee horse with a big motor. She’s had a few problems with her gait, but she’s learning. Blair said she had to be good to win today because she had to do a bit of work after drawing the outside of the back line,” said owner Gary Clarke after Sheza Gift won the Woodlands Stud Gold Chip Final at Winton today.

Sheza Gift heading out to the race track

Once tapes were released, driver Blair Orange settled Sheza Gift in the last half dozen in the large field. With 1800 metres to run he moved up in the three wide train. However he was posted out in the open for over 200 metres before sitting parked for a short period. Orange then got some reprieve when Pyramid Mystic came round to sit in the death. He moved Sheza Gift out to challenge at the 400 and she sprinted down the middle of the track to beat Dominations Call by half a length.


Gary Clarke, Sheza Gift and Blair Orange

Debrief with Clarke, Orange and Williamson

Sheza Gift was bred by Bev Williamson and is by Father Patrick out of Jasmyn’s Gift – the winner of seventeen races.

“He (Clarke) paid good money for her and it’s good to see him get some success. Most of the horses we’ve had out of her (Jasmyn’s Gift) have shown a bit of bottle,” said trainer Phil Williamson. “She (Sheza Gift) has stamina like her mother.”

Williamson is grateful that Sheza Gift came back well after sustaining a serious cut to her leg in the early days.

Of the sixteen starters in today’s race twelve were trained by the Williamson family. Phil and Brad lined up four while Nathan and Matty had two runners each.

Clarke has been involved in harness racing for some time, but has recently increased his stock numbers.

“I used to help Dad cart them to the races. I’ve had farms, always had a hack and gradually got into it. I’ve got a few in work and have ten yearlings but I’m trying to get better quality stock. I’ve got a good pacer with Nathan (Williamson) called Hurricane Hendrix. I haven’t had a real good one yet.”

Among his young stock Clarke has two two year old fillies by Father Patrick – one out of Wanna Play, and the other out of eleven-win Sundon mare Escapee. Both were bought from Trevor Casey.

“I also raced trotter Have No Fear which won it’s only start here. I sold her to Australia to Emilio Rosati. I actually sold about five horses at the time after I got p….d off at the Prime Minister putting us into lockdown.”

Have No Fear won the Group One Need For Speed Prince at Melton, and five other races in Australia.

Clarke lives in Dunedin where he’s a property developer but has land at Hampden where he grazes his horses.

“I just move them around. I don’t jog them up because I’ve had a few back operations and crashes on motorbikes.”

Clarke also has horses with Darryn Simpson, Phil Williamson, Nathan Williamson and Amber Hoffman.

Two from Two for Might As Well

19th January 2022

Bruce Stewart

Diminutive mare Might As Well showed she had plenty of ticker when she came from well off the pace to beat seven rivals in the Alabar NZ Nuggets Final at Winton today.

Might As Well heading to the racetrack

The race was split into two divisions when Captain Starlight and Lou’s Deal went out hard early. Inside the last 300 metres driver Blair Orange got a cart into the race on the back of an improving Atarah. Might As Well cornered like a pro and left second favourite Mighthavtime, who was on her back, in her back wash. In the last 150 metres she sprinted home nicely without being pushed to easily beat a game Lou’s Deal by a length and a half.

“Blair said they were all flat keeping up when the leaders got through the first half in 58, but when he asked her to go she felt like a racehorse,” said owner and trainer Des Baynes.

Sprinting down  the middle of the track to win

Winning connections

Might As Well was bred by Baynes and is out of Repeat After Me.

“I really could have sold her for good money after she won a couple of races. I thought ‘what the hell, I might as well breed from her. I got Might Be Me out of her, then this filly.”

Baynes says he sent Repeat After Me to Well Said because he needed an outcross.

“Repeat After Me is a Better’s Delight mare so I couldn’t go to the stallion I really wanted to go to. She (Might As Well) was a bit small, so I didn’t push her too much. I wasn’t worried about her size because she’s got good leg extension and I know she’s got a good heart.”

After winning her first start impressively at Winton last month Baynes took Might As Well back to the Winton Workouts on Friday where she won her heat impressively.

“She’s been hanging a bit and goofing around so we put the half blinds on her, but she got too keen and she ended up going faster over that last half than we really wanted her to so we took the blinds off for today and she was a lot more tractable.”

Baynes is unsure of where the mare will next appear. The Ladyship Final at Wyndham next month is one option.

Note to trainers: The Invercargill HRC have injected additional stakes into their Cup Day meeting on Saturday 29th January to lift stake levels as follows:

  • All Non-winners events will carry a minimum stake of $11,000
  • Rating Trotters will race for $11,000 and $13,000 respectively
  • Rating Pacers will race for $11,000, $12,000 and $13,000 respectively
  • Alabar Supremacy Heat for 3yo pacers carries a stake of $15,000
  • 4yo & Older Rating mares are racing for $12,000
  • And the feature of the day is the Ascot Park Hotel Invercargill Cup, a Group 3 event for a stake of $30,000.

Nominations close: Monday 24th January at Noon

Withdrawls close: Tuesday 25th January at 10am