July 2022

Foveaux Strait Weathers a Rough Day

Bruce Stewart

1st July 2022.

When Nathan Williamson began training in 2010 Ben and Karen Calder were a couple of his first supporters and they provided him with his second training win when Burano won at Ascot Park in December of that year.

Today is terrible conditions Foveaux Strait, bred by the Calders and raced in partnership with Williamson’s wife Katie, won his maiden race in emphatic style at Ascot Park.

It was the Bettor’s Delight gelding’s sixth start and his trainer has always had an opinion of him. But he wasn’t happy with the horse’s training prior to the Invercargill Harness meeting on the 18th of June and he subsequently scratched the gelding.

“Since then I’ve changed his training around and today he went well,” he said after the gelding sat parked for a good while but came away to win by five and three quarter lengths from an unlucky favourite Star Of Arion.

Williamson says while the four year old has taken a bit of working out, things are starting to click for him now.

“He missed a few preps as a young horse so everything he’s done has been in this prep and the brain’s taken a bit of time to catch up. He’s quite touchy in the mouth and quite lean, so he’s taken a bit of time to get strong,”

Meanwhile Williamson’s two star pacers are back on the active list and on the jogging frame.

Pembrook Playboy was gelded after a disappointing end to his campaign, whilst Sand Wave ended the first part of his season on a high, winning the Listed Garrards Sires Stake Magnifique at Addington mid-May.

Both were sent to Debbie and Mark Smith’s property at Myross Bush for a short spell.

“He’s (Pembrook Playboy) taken to being a gelding well. They’re at slightly different stages. Sand Wave has more residual fitness, so he’ll come to it a bit quicker. He should be ready in the first week of September.”

The Hannon Memorial remains on the hit list for Pembrook Playboy.

Brad Williamson 400

Bruce Stewart

3rd July 2022

Oamaru reinsman Brad Williamson achieved a major milestone on Friday night when he drove Majestic Man for his 400th New Zealand win.

Majestic Man is trained by his father Phil who’s provided Brad with one hundred and fifty six of his four hundred winners and Majestic Man has been far and away the reinsman’s biggest winner.

Majestic Man getting up on the inside for win 400 for Brad Williamson- Photo Race Images

In Friday night’s feature trot Williamson settled the gelding three back on the inside and he came home strongly to win by a half a head from The Dominator.

“He normally likes to lead over those shorter trips, but The Dominator wanted to lead so I was happy to give him that sort of run. He’s not as sharp as he was as a young horse but he’s still a really nice horse and has been a victim of running into some nice horses over the last two or three seasons,” Williamson said.

The return to the birdcage – Photo Race Images

Williamson has been driving for ten seasons and he says Majestic Man has provided the highlight of his career so far.

“Running in and winning those big races in Australia was the highlight of his career and mine at the same time. Covid was around at that time and no one else was keen to go. We rolled the dice and went, and it’s what people will remember him for.”

Friday’s win was the horse’s first in New Zealand since January 2021 and Williamson says his father will map out a plan for the horse with the Ashburton Mile and Cup Week the main goals.

“I would think he’ll race here until Cup Week and Dad and the Syndicate will then decide on where he races. It’ll depend on how the horse is going.”

After the race

He says driving in Australia was a great experience.

“Driving in the Group Ones over there was a bit of a buzz. They do drive differently over there, and it does take a bit of getting used to. They’re a lot more aggressive out the gate. I think here in New Zealand we’re far more likely to have a go at the front midrace than they are. They know their speed maps a lot better. A lot of senior drivers can tell you what going to happen before the race is run.”

Brad acknowledges his family has been very important in steering his driving career in the right direction.

“Dad started it for us all, me, Matty and Nathan. Dad’s been the biggest influence but even though Nathan’s in Southland we talk a lot on the phone.”

He says Branxholme trainer Alister Black has also been a big supporter.

“When I finished as a junior Matty was still Dad’s main driver. At the end of my junior career, I started to drive a lot for Alister Black and the Thompson boys. Outside of family they’ve been my biggest supporters. Alister does an outstanding job with his horses and Ian and Lindsay have been superb to drive for.”

Black has provided Williamson with fifty three winners.

In 2018 Williamson started his training career and has trained sixty nine winners.

“I’ve been more interested in the training side of things for a long time. I enjoy getting a young horse, getting it going and trying to take it through the grades. You just get a lot of satisfaction.”

He states the Dominion Handicap is the race he’d most like to win.

Brad Williamson fact file:

First winning drive: August 2011-Gore-Graceandtamika – Geoff and Jude Knight

Best season: 2016 – His last season as a junior when he drove 70 winners. He was crowned New Zealand Junior Driver on the Year beating Kyle Marshall (39) and Craig Ferguson (33)

Most winning drives: Phil Williamson (156), Alister Black (53) Own (43)

Major Race wins- New Zealand:

  • Group Three Cambridge Flying Stakes – 2021 (Majestic Man)
  • Group Two Waikato Trotters Flying Mile – 2021 (Majestic Man)
  • Group Three Junior Free For All – 2020 (Vintage Cheddar)
  • Group Three Ashburton Flying Mile – 2020 (Majestic Man)
  • Group Three Hambletonian – 2020 (Cracker Hill)
  • Listed New Zealand Yearling Sales Three Year Old Trotters Final 2019 (Get Lucky)
  • Group Three Four and Five Year Old Trotters Championship – 2019 (Majestic Man)
  • Group Three Southern Lights – 2019 (Majestic Man)
  • Group Two Two Year Old Trotters Championship -2017 (Majestic Man)
  • Group Three New Two Year Old Trotting Stakes – 2017 (Springbank Lachie)

Major Wins-Australia

  • Group One Aquagait Equine Mile – 2021 (Majestic Man)
  • Group One TAB Trotting Grand Prix – 2021 (Majestic Man)
  • Group One Dullard Trotters Cup – 2021 (Majestic Man)

Cracker Hill Goes Amiss Again

Bruce Stewart

3rd July 2022

Unfortunately quality trotter Cracker Hill is on the sideline again.

The five year old last started in the 2020 Dominion Handicap at Addington and had returned to trainer Brad Williamson’s Oamaru barn. But a suspensory issue has put his comeback on hold.

Williamson says he’s unsure how long the gelding will be out for, as he’s having on-going discussion with his vet and Woodend Beach trainer Greg Hope.

“We’ve put some stem cells in. We hope to have him working on Greg’s walker for a while so what amount of time off and rehabilitation he’ll need I’m still not sure,” he said.

The Muscle Hill gelding has won seven of his sixteen starts, his biggest being the Group Three Hambletonian at Ashburton. He also recorded a number of Group and Listed placings.

“We’re going to give him one more go and hopefully things can hold together. There have been horses that have come back from a suspensory but others that haven’t. It depends on the injury, the horse and a bit of luck.”

Cracker Hill gave Williamson’s training career a great start and he’s still hopeful the horse can return to the racetrack.

“He’s the sort of horse you dream of getting as a young trainer. He was one of the first yearlings I had in my stable when I started training. I did get him because he was passed in at the sales and his confirmation has never been great. We’ve had a hell of a ride and just when it looked like he was coming into open class and competing in Group Ones this happens.”

The Black Flash Sold

Bruce Stewart

6th July 2022

Southland owned colt The Black Flash has been sold to clients of West Australian trainer Gary Hall Senior for a six figure amount.

The deal was brokered by Southland Bloodstock Agent Geoff Gibson-Smith and the two year old will head to Australia later this week.

The Black Flash

Trained by Nathan Williamson, the Bettor’s Delight colt which owner Neville Cleaver paid $140,000 for at the Christchurch Sales, raced twice, finishing fourth behind Don’t Stop Dreaming in the Group Two New Zealand Kindergarten Stakes at Wyndham and running second to the same horse in the Diamond Creek Farm Two Year Old Classic at Ascot Park.

“He’s been in work about four to five weeks. He’s always been a small strong horse. He hasn’t grown a lot but has got stronger. It’s a shame to let him go but the money was too good. The great thing is that we know Neville will be back at the sales buying more,” said trainer Nathan Williamson.

The Black Flash is the second big ticket horse Cleaver has sold to Australian interests. Ragazzo Mach was sold in February 2021 for huge money.

Cleaver has plenty of good bloodstock to go on with and says he puts no pressure on the Williamson stable to rush a Pegasus Spur – Sun Mist two year old trotter named Flying Without Wings that he bought as a weanling off Winton Breeder Michelle Caig.

“He’s got some of the family’s ability. We’ll qualify him in the spring and race in some of the spring two year old races.”

The colt is paid up for two and three year old Sires Stake races.

Death of Roman Gladiator

Bruce Stewart

6th July 2022

Quality pacer Roman Gladiator had to be put down recently at co-trainer Robin Swain’s property at Otama.

“He was having problems getting up with his crook back hip,” Swain said.

Swain bought him, a son of Christian Cullen, for $20,000 at the yearling sales. He and co-trainer Colin Baynes developed him to win nineteen races.

“I thought because he was by Christian Cullen it’d be worth having a crack. I remember Denice (his sister) saying that the mother, Assisi, was a very good two year old. She had seen her a bit when she was at Ashburton.”

Roman Gladiator and Robin Swain

And like his mother and father Roman Gladiator showed he could also run early.

“I took him into the Gore track one day because I’d never sped him up at home and he ran a quarter round Gore in 26.8. I thought ‘well, we’ve got something here’ because that was the first time we’d asked him to run.”

Roman Gladiator was raced by Swain, his wife Amanda and good friends from Sydney, Peter and Marie Neil.

“I was lucky to have Peter in the ownership because I probably would have sold him. We got offered some good money. Peter was in for the racing and didn’t need the money.”

As a two year old Roman Gladiator won the Group Two Welcome Stakes at Addington in 2003 while the following season his wins included the Group One NRM Sires Stakes Final, the 2004 Group Two Southern Supremacy Stakes at Winton, The NSW Derby Prelude and the $100,000 NSW Derby.

“In the prelude we got knocked over on the turn. We lost ground and got pushed six wide and back. Everyone couldn’t believe that he won because it’s a short straight and horses don’t normally win from there.”

From a career that included fifty five starts over seven seasons he won $424,516 and held two New Zealand records; the 2400 metre mobile record for three year olds when he won the Supremacy in 2-56.8, and the New Zealand 1950 metre mobile record of 2-20.4 which he posted in November 2003 at Addington.

“He wasn’t a genuine two miler, but the shorter distances were his go. He was the fastest horse I’ve ever driven for just sheer speed.”

Swain rates the NSW Derby and the Sires Stakes win as Roman Gladiators best performances.

“In the later years the ongoing back problems took the edge off him, but he still managed to win a few races.”

Co-trainer Robin Swain drove him to win ten times whilst Canterbury reinsman Colin DeFilippi drove him to win nine times.

“He’s taken us places we never would have gone, and we meet a lot of people through him.”

Anne Brinsdon

Bruce Stewart

8th July 2022

Anne Brinsdon, the matriarch of the well-known Gore harness family died recently in Gore.

“It was a bit of a blessing as she hadn’t been that well for a while,” said oldest son Peter.

Cheryl, Kate, Anne and Matthew Brinsdon with the 2012 Wairio Cup won by Phantom Grin.

Anne whose maiden name was McQuillan was 80 when she passed away.

Her harness racing interests stemmed from her uncle Bob McQuillan who trained a host of winners including Kate Smith (6), Sandy Rose (5) and Dunluce Castle (6). When Bob died, he left his horses to Anne and brother Roger.

All the horses Anne bred were trained by her youngest son Matthew from his Gore stable.

“If the horses were racing in Southland or at Forbury Park she always went to as many (racemeetings) as she could.”

Perhaps the best horses she raced were Phantom Menace and Phantom Grin which both won eight races.

“Phantom Menace only had one eye but that didn’t seem to stop her. Phantom Grin was another she raced who got close to racing in the New Zealand Cup. He ran second to Fly Like An Eagle in the Kaikoura Cup but got injured the following season so his career was cut short.”

Phantom Grin and Dexter Dunn after winning the Wairio Cup

Tony The Pony (6) winning for Blair Orange at Ascot Park

Major Menace another winner bred and owned by Anne

Mach Quillan was the last of Anne’s success stories and he turned a corner recently with wins that included The Ratto Showcase at Addington.

“He’s been sensational since October last year. He hadn’t won up until then but has since won five. Matthew always had a high opinion of him, but he had a lung infection. Once he got that sorted, the horse came good.”

Perhaps the best horse Anne bred was Lexie Lad (Son Of Afella – Kate’s Holiday) which was sold unraced to Australia where he went on to win twenty races including his first six in a row. He also had wins in America.

As an insert in the service sheet for Anne’s funeral the family arranged a mock-up of a racebook page. The page featured a special race – “The Anne Brinsdon Memorial Pace” which just happened to feature twelve of her winning horses she’d bred or raced, with breeding, driver’s names and comments on each horse included.

“We also did a video of the hearse doing a couple of laps of the Gore racecourse with Mach Quillan following behind. Shayne Kelly drove Mach Quillan. He drove Mums first winner Kate’s Highlight. Dave McDonald also did a race commentary on the horses in the race book.”

The family would like to acknowledge the help received by Dave McDonald and Julie McEwan-Franks and Quantum Print.

Rest in peace Anne.

Afterburner Provides Plenty of Entertainment

Bruce Stewart

7th July 2022.

You know when a horse wins that happens to be owned by Kenny Baynes, that you’re going to be bombarded with a string of one liners aimed at getting the attention of the press and entertaining all within hearing.

Whilst trainer Brett Gray was overseeing the debrief of his four runners in the main trot of the day at the Forbury Park Trotting Club meeting at Wyndham, Kenny the entertainer proudly strutted his stuff in his size fourteen boots calling himself Bart (Cummings) and enjoying the moment.

“He’s (Gray) just the water boy as you can see (laughter),” said Kenny.

Afterburner and Sheree Tomlinson returning after winning at the Forbury meeting today at Wyndham

Afterburner, athough trained in Brett Gray’s name, has been in the care of Kenny’s wife Jo since it was decided a change of scenery would help the gelding.

“We took him home and lightly jogged him a couple of times in the cart around the Gore track. We also changed his feed,” said Jo who sponsored the race.

In Race Eight today Andiamo made the pace. Driver Sheree Tomlinson positioned Afterburner three back on the inside for most of the race and then sprinted up the passing lane, to win by three quarters of a length from Andiamo.

“Most of his wins have been with runs like that, when he can get (just) one shot at them,” Gray said.

Afterburner three back on the inside with a lap to run

At the finish

Penny Baynes, Kenny Baynes, Jo Baynes and Sheree Tomlinson

Afterburner is raced by Baynes Racing which consists of Kenny and his sister-in-law Penny. Jo and Kenny share in the ownership of One More Moment which was the favourite in todays feature trot, but she broke inside the last 1000 metres and lost all chance.

“She didn’t steer that well and started hanging. She’ll have a break,” Jo said.

Brett Gray is a member of the Southern Harness Programmes Committee which structures the races for the season and he’s a fan of the end of season Rewards Series.

“I think it’s great for us southerners. We would have had less nominations for this meeting if the series wasn’t run. If we can have races like these once a month we’ll be sitting pretty.”

As the debrief and banter came to a close Kenny was handed the lead rope, instructed to get involved and after a quick photo opportunity was told by officials that he was required in the swabbing box immediately which typically he took in his stride.

Sheree and Kenny with Afterburner which paid $34.80 and $8.20

Jo was looking forward to heading home to have a quiet gin but she wasn’t looking forward to having “talkback host” Kenny riding shotgun.

“We’ll hear about this for the next twelve months” she said.

Speights On Tap Has Owners Shouting

Bruce Stewart

7th July 2022

“We had the pulldown blinds on today to wake him up,” said trainer Brendon McLellan after Speights On Tap won the Mervyn and Val Todd Winter Rewards Mobile Pace on his home track of Wyndham.

“He probably wasn’t finishing his races off.”

Speights On Tap winning with Sam Ottley at Wyndham today.

The gear change worked the oracle with the sixth favourite getting a nice sit in the outside running line before driver Sam Ottley brought him four wide inside the 400 metres. The Sportswriter gelding quickly got to the lead and was kept on the job to win with pricked ears, by two and a half lengths from Magic Sign.

“He got a nice run and Sam drove him well.”

Winning salute

Speights On Tap is owned by Wyndham stalwarts Bruce and Al Sinclair. They also bred the four year old.

“He may be on the market, so we’ll see what the boys want to do. They’ve been great owners and with me for a long time.”

Bruce and Al Sinclair with Speights On Tap

The race was part of the end of season Winter Rewards Series introduced by HRNZ.

“It was a good race to win.”

The win was the horse’s fourth in just twenty one starts and the winning stake of $11,000 was added to the $25,000 he’s already won.

Thefixer Back On Track

Bruce Stewart

19th July 2022

Invercargill trainer Shannon Armour was at Cup Day at Addington in 2018. Little did she know the winner of the New Zealand Cup on that day would come under her care, albeit in a different role.

The Bettors Delight eight year old has been in training to be a Clerk of the Course horse and will begin his new job when the Southern Harness Season recommences next month.

The Fixer and Shannon Armour at Wyndham

Shannon bought Thefixer through the HERO programme run by HRNZ after the horse had been re-trained by Tarryn Jones.

“I flew up to Christchurch to see him. He was a bit footsore because he’d just had his shoes off but I could deal with that. I liked the horse because he had a good nature about him. Before I got back on the plane I messaged Brodie Phillips (Phillips Horse Transport) to get him home. I wasn’t going to miss out on that opportunity,” Armour said.

Shannon is well equipped to train Thefixer for his new role as she’s been riding since she was five, and attended the New Zealand Pony Club, Dressage, Show Jumping and Equestrian Championships.

She also attended Horse of the Year Shows. Mackelmore (Courage Under Fire- Olivia’s Next) which she took to the 2020 show in Hastings achieved runner up in the Ridden Standardbred section.

“To get second against the best of the best In New Zealand was amazing. Travelling from Invercargill wasn’t cheap but that made it worthwhile.”

Macklemore won numerous other titles at Canterbury and Otago shows.

“He was not built to be a racehorse, he was meant to be a show horse.”

Armour has had her harness racing training license since 2018 and she works her horses with her husband Archie. Her best winner has been Ivana Legacy which has won eleven races.

Shannon has just completed her fourth training day as Clerk of the Course under the guidance of Sally McKay and Sophie Price and is looking forward to helping out when she can.

“The talk is that they’re going to have two Clerks of the Course. These days everyone has other jobs and some of the meetings are during the week so it’s a matter of trying to work in with your jobs,” said Armour who works for Finance Now.

“Tosti” as Thefixer is known, raced over six seasons, starting forty seven times. He achieved twelve wins, ten seconds and six thirds, and won $1,055,693.

He won three Group One races including the 2018 New Zealand Trotting Cup (running the 3200 metres in 3-53.9 the second fastest cup time bettered only by Lazarus’s 3-53.1), the 2019 Ballarat Cup and the 2019 Allied Express Sprint. His other wins included the 2017 Listed Three Year Old New Zealand Sires Stakes Classic, the 2017 Group Three New Zealand Junior Free For All and the 2018 Group Three Maurice Holmes Vase.

Natalie Rasmussen drove him to win eleven times while Jonny Cox won on the gelding once.

There is another Southern connection to Thefixer. Pauline Gillan of Lochiel shared in the ownership of the gelding when he was racing.

Armour says Thefixer is adapting well to his new role and she’s looking forward to continuing his education.

“He’s got a good attitude and despite being an eight year old he still tries to learn. When I got him the basics were there but it was a matter of giving him more practice and (him becoming) more consistent. His cantering work has really come on.”

He is also partial to Betavet Prepare; a product he was introduced to when he was with Regan Todd at Woodend Beach.

“If he doesn’t get that when he’s finished working he’ll paw the ground until he gets it.”

In August we’ll see Thefixer and another Cup Class pacer and former Invercargill Cup winner Vi Et Animo as Clerk of the Course horses. Interesting Natalie Rasmussen drove them both to win feature races –  the 2011 Methven Cup with Vi Et Animo and the New Zealand Cup with Thefixer.

Hannon Memorial Day Just Got Bigger

Bruce Stewart

19th July 2022

In past years the Hannon Memorial has been a stand alone feature at Oamaru’s September meeting, but this season a host of other feature races will spice up the day.

A new race for trotters named after one of North Otago’s best trotting mares Jasmyn’s Gift, will be run for the first time. It’s one of the new races introduced by HRNZ and will carry a $30,000 stake and Group Three status.

Jasmyn’s Gift trained by Phil Williamson won seventeen races including the Group One New Zealand Trotting FFA and Group One New Zealand Trotting Championship.

The $25,000 Diamond Creek Farm Oamaru Juvenile Stakes will also feature in the day’s programme. This race for two year olds was programmed earlier in the season but lacked sufficient nominations to run. It’s felt September will be a better time for the race as there’ll be more two year olds around in the second half of the season.

The Oamaru Stakes was run between 1941 and 1997, so September’s feature will be a special occasion after a space of twenty five years. Previous winners include Jay Ar, Holy Hal, Noodlum, Comedy Lad and Honkin Vision.

A heat of the Nevele R Fillies Series will also be run on the day, worth $15,000, with all other supporting races carrying a stake of $10,000.