March 2019

Price Gets 100th Win

Bruce Stewart

Today’s win by Yankee Party was Winton trainer Katrina Price’s 100th. She’s the first female trainer in the province to reach the milestone.

Her training career began with her father in-law Roger Price in the 1999-2000 season. Their first winner was Gypsy Road at Ascot Park in November 1999 and the Road Machine gelding was driven by Brent Barclay.

The partnership with Roger eventually produced seventy six winning races. In the 2013/14 season Katrina started training in partnership with her husband John and together they’ve trained 77 winners, the first being Surprise Party at Gore in October 2013.

Yankee Party has come a long way in a short time, qualifying at Gore in the middle of last month. She’s by American Ideal, a stallion the Prices have had a good amount of success with.

“We’ve mainly had American Ideals out of the Party family. The combination certainly seemed to have clicked. The American Ideals are nicely gaited and seem pretty easy to work with, and they want to do it (win).”

“She’s quite a big filly who has just really come to it at home. She was just a bit dumb and didn’t really know how to finish it off, then all of a sudden the penny dropped,” said Katrina.

The winning time was a smart 2-45 for the 2200 metre mobile – 10 seconds under the required time.

“We don’t normally qualify them like that but we knew the Sales were coming up so we said to Nathan it would be nice if she qualified well.”

Her half brother Stag Party sold for $100,000 while the other Price prepared yearling by Captaintreacherous sold for $110,000.

“(We’re) absolutely rapt. They’ve gone to great homes so they’ve got every opportunity, if the horses are good enough.”

On the back of her smart qualifying time Yankee Party was sent out hot favourite. She was noticeably a bit fractious prior to the start today.

“She’s been a big sleeping giant who’s woken up a bit.”

Yankee Party and Nathan Williamson heading down to the winning post for an easy win – Photo Bruce Stewart.
Returning to the birdcage – Photo Bruce Stewart
Win number 100 for Katrina Price with husband John – Photo Bruce Stewart 

Rather than give the filly a break Katrina says they may continue to race her.

“The way she’s been coming through the runs I think we’ll truck on. There’s the Ladyship and after that we’ll make a decision on what we do next.”

Price, who was born in Dunedin and moved to Balcultha as a seven year old has always been around horses. She grandfather had show ponies while her father Trevor Bell had show, rodeo and gallopers, including Eye Chance which won seventeen races. Eye Chance was by Random Chance and won the Oamaru, Cromwell, Gore, Tapanui, Winton and Wairio Cups. He also won the 2003 Sydenham Hurdles.

“I was at the shows as a little kid and later that’s how John and I met.”

She trained at Dunedin Teachers College and taught at Tweedmuir Intermediate.

“I taught for four years fulltime and then part time for another couple, working horses in the morning. I always wanted to train full time. I started off being quite scientific but the more you do you realise with every theory there’s a lot of exceptions.”

Her best season as a trainer was 2008 when she trained ten winners with Roger for a UDR of .3686. Some of the stable winners were; Presidential Reign, Scotty Mach, Cullen’s Consort and Bella’s Fella.

Meanwhile the Prices quality two year old filly Pearl Harbour has been side-lined with an injury.

“She got an infection in her knee so that’s why she’s missed the last couple of Young Guns Heats so she’s probably looking doubtful for the Young Guns Final at the moment.”

Another Price horse Rockabilly Blues has also been away from the racetrack.

“She’s had a virus. She’s all clear now and back in work. She’ll go to the workouts either this Friday or the one after and she’ll head to a Southern Belle heat.”

Meanwhile today, Leithfield Beach trainer Robbie Holmes produced two winners out of class mare Kiwi Ingenuity.

Kiwis Are Flying, a four year old by Bettor’s Delight got the ball rolling, and three races later his younger sister Team Kiwi hung to win the Speights Ale House Mobile Pace.

12 – Kiwis Are Flying winning for Robbie Holmes – Photo Bruce Stewart
Team Kiwi makes it two for Holmes – Photo Bruce Stewart 

Chinese Whisper Wins First Start

Bruce Stewart

The much anticipated debut of Chinese Whisper ended the right way when he impressively won the first race at Ascot Park today.

The three year old had been given a methodical preparation and he’s been unbeaten.

He’s won six workouts and two trials. He qualified at Wyndham on November 21st running 3-14.5 – seven seconds inside the qualifying time.

“It’s all about his education. He was pretty fractious and he’s been a work in progress all the time. He’s done a ton of miles and he still has a long way to go. He’s always had the ability but it was all about the manners,” said Williamson.

After beginning well trainer driver Nathan Williamson settled the horse in the one one. With 400 metres to run he launched the gelding three wide and he trotted down the middle of the track to win by a length and a quarter with The Commando in second. There were a further ten lengths back to the third horse Gazza Galleon.

“He trotted pretty well. There were a couple of long ones there today.”

 The style of impressive first starter Chinese Whisper – Photo Bruce Stewart
 Heading back to the birdcage – Photo Bruce Stewart.
Ella Franks, Julie McEwan-Franks, Laura Franks, Millie and Katie Williamson, Nathan Williamson, Brendon Franks, Ollie Kite and Shane Phillips – Photo Bruce Stewart.

Although HRNZ Website says Nathan’s mother Bev bred the horse he was actually bred by this trainer.

“I had a mare I was trying to get in foal to Sundon and couldn’t. Mum said she would lend me a mare and I ended up getting Little Contessa so I was pretty lucky there. I was a bit slow in getting the paper work in so that’s why it’s got Mum down as the breeder. This breeding game is a long time in the making. ”

And the name?

“I made it up just because the rest of them are named Whisper. I was trying to think about something with whisper and Chinese Whisper came up.”

Williamson originally owned Chinese Whisper with his wife Katie but his share is now owned by local farrier Brendon Franks who shoes Williamson’s horses.

“Franksie wanted to race a horse with us and it just happened to be this one and he goes okay.”

Hawaiian Hula is also in the Williamson stable and was educated with Chinese Whisper. She showed promise last season but has had to be put aside.

“She got chips taken out of her knee in the spring otherwise she would have been racing before him, as she was a bit more advanced. It was nothing major so she’ll be a nice four year old next year.”

Williamson reports that star trotter Dark Horse is back in the stable after having had two leg injuries.

“She’s back in work and it’s the long road back again I suppose. It’ll be next season for her but we’ll put a good foundation into her and hopefully the leg will stand up.”

Chinese Whisper is a well related gelding, being a full brother to Irish Whisper which won eleven races.

He’s (Chinese Whisper) one of a talented and well-bred bunch of three year old trotters in the province which include Full Noise, Get Lucky, Tolkien, Big Iron and Jaccka Jeorge.

Meanwhile one of the most talked about maiden pacers in commission, Slate, looks set to head to the races after an impressive win at the Winton Workouts on Friday.

Browns trainer Des Baynes has turned has back on offers for the Changeover gelding preferring to race him at this stage.

The four year old qualified impressively in 3-04.6 over 2400 metres, winning by six and a half lengths.

Boyd Keen On Return

Bruce Stewart

Two starts for two wins. An impressive start for the career of filly Dixie Star.

The Stephen Boyd trained Bettor’s Delight three year old lead and held on to win the $12,000 ILT Nugget Final at Ascot Park today.

“It’s great having races like this, a good incentive to come down,” Boyd said.

Dixie Star was bought at the 2017 Sale of the Stars for $8,000 and is out of the five win McArdle mare Dixie Belle. This is the Black Watch family that has produced many good fillies, like Star Of The Ball and Pembrook’s Delight.

Since her last win at Winton on February 17th Boyd has kept Dixie Star ticking over.

“We don’t do much with her at home so it was a natural improvement really. She only has the hopple runs. It seems to be working. She’s fit enough and wasn’t blowing when she came back.”

In today’s feature Northern reinsman David Butcher took her straight to the front and she showed gameness to beat off all challengers, beating the favourite Burlington by three quarters of a length.

“Richard Bull, one of my owners, is a good friend of David’s and he arranged for him to come down.”

Dixie Star winning the Nuggets – Photo Bruce Stewart
Winning salute – Photo Bruce Stewart 
Winning connections – Photo Bruce Stewart 

Boyd is now eying up the Ladyship Final for Dixie Star on March 16th at Wyndham.

“We’ll definitely come down for the Southland Oaks as well.”

Boyd says he has thirty horses in work.

“I break in a lot of horses for Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen so we don’t have many racehorses.”

Stephen has held a license for eighteen seasons and has trained in total, twenty two winners. Eleven of those wins have happened this season, four of them in Southland.

“I got out of it for a while and drove a courier truck but Dad (John) got sick so I came back to help the business.”

His father does all the freeze branding for all the horses in the South Island and he also held a trainers license. Two of the better horses he trained were Dainty Smooth, the winner of seven and Dainty Judy which won six.

Stephen Boyd’s first training win was at Westport in March 2000 when Smokey Range which he drove, won.

U May Cullect – Where Have You Been?

Bruce Stewart

There was a bit of talk around first starter U May Cullect at Ascot Park yesterday and a few punters were obviously listening.

The five year old, which started as second favourite, doesn’t have a flash pedigree but as we know in racing that doesn’t always count. The Gotta Go Cullect gelding has also been a lesson in perseverance for owner Tom Kilkelly and his trainers Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis.

“We took him to the workouts when he was three and he went pretty good. One of the guys that worked for asked me if I’d sell him. I said no. He said I’ll give you $50,000 for him. I said SOLD. The next day he popped a tendon. We turned him out and we had another go and he popped it again. So we gave him a big break on the block out at Riverton on the hill,” said Kilkelly.

Since returning to training he’s been worked on Oreti Beach by Ellis.

In today’s 2200 metre mobile driver Kirstin Barclay took U May Cullect straight to the front from Barrier Six.

Kirstin Barclay and U May Cullect blasting off the gate – Photo Bruce Stewart

And at the end of the 2200 metres he had plenty to spare, beating favourite Ohoka Achilles by an impressive four lengths running the journey in 2-41.2.

Winning salute – Photo Bruce Stewart
Winning smile – Photo Bruce Stewart
Winning connections – Photo Bruce Stewart 

U May Cullect is out of the Albert Albert mare Ides Of May which has also left Victoria May, a 1-51 horse in America, and he was bought at the 2014 Auckland Autumn Weanling and All Age Sale for $5,200.

“…We were pretty confident. His tendon has stayed perfect so far and if he stays sound he’ll win some more races. When he broke down we thought that was the end of it. A lot of people told me I was wasting my time. He’s still a day to to day proposition.”

Ask Me Major was another horse Kilkelly owned that showed promise, winning once from just three starts, but unfortunately his career was shortened by injury.

Kilkelly says U May Cullect is the nicest horse he’s raced since Shard Ark and Guns N Roses.

Meanwhile Wee Man Trouble also trained by Barclay and Ellis , did the right thing for major sponsor of the Northern Southland Cup Meeting, Dave McHugh.

He began well from the back mark and driver Blair Orange positioned him back on the outside. He joined pacemaker Crusher Collins with 600 metres to run and 100 metres off the winning post Wee Man Trouble got to the lead to beat a brave Crusher Collins by a length and a quarter.

Blair Orange and Wee Man Trouble – Photo Bruce Stewart 

The Superfast Stuart four year old has been a consistent performer throughout his short career, winning four of his seventeen starts and being placed in three others.

Drive Gets The Man Home

Bruce Stewart

The drive by Brad Williamson set up the win for talented trotter Majestic Man in the Group Three Southern Lights at Ascot Park today.

When fthe avourite Kings Landing made the lead, his driver Tim Williams put the brakes on and Williamson was having none of that. With 2000 metres to run, in the lightning move, he shot Majestic Man forward and challenged the leader.

“To be honest he’s a bit more of a speed horse but when Tim got to the front he backed off the tempo. I couldn’t allow that to happen. We had to get in a positive position,” he said.

With 1400 metres to run Williamson was on top with the Majestic Son four year old and at the finish had half a neck to spare on Kings Landing which ran home up the passing lane.

Brad Williamson and Majestic Man (6) hold out Kings Landing (1) – Photo Bruce Stewart
Back to the birdcage after win number eight – Photo Bruce Stewart.
Winning connections and sponsor – Photo Bruce Stewart 

Williamson says there was confidence around the stable that the four year old would perform well despite  having been away from racing for 65 days. He trialled at Oamaru last Saturday winning his heat by six lengths.

“He trialled exceptional. If you’d seen it you would have thought he was in with a very good show. He got home in 27 seconds and change, and was hard held. We had a lot of confidence that he was fit and ready.”

It was a super effort by his trainer Phil Williamson to get Majestic Man ready. And it was a bit of a case of revenge as Kings Landing had beaten Majestic Man on Show Day at Addington.

“A similar thing happened on Show Day. The speed wasn’t overly hot. Mark (Purdon) was up parked and he sprinted home and beat me. Today was the opposite.”

The win was Majestic Man’s eighth in only nineteen starts.

“We thought a bit of him as a young horse and he won the Two Year Old Sires Stakes Final but weakened right off quite badly after the run. He’s strengthening up and with hard racing he’s got better as he’s got older. He’s still got to step up to the open graders yet.”

The Jewels is well and truly on Majestic Man’s radar and another target is also possible.

“The Rowe Cup’s been mentioned if he’s going good enough.”

Majestic Man is raced by the Griffin Syndicate.

It was the fourth time Phil Williamson has won the Southern Lights. His previous winners were; Mystic Son (2009), Springbank Sam (2013) and Monty Python (2017).

He brought his team south early this week, starting two well-bred two year old trotters Cracker Hill and Ultimate Stride at the Winton Workouts on Friday.

Cracker Hill is a Muscle Hill – Juneamy Castleton gelding which is trained by Brad. It  beat Ultimate Stride, a Love You colt out of the millionaire trotter One Over Kenny. The winning margin was a nose but both horses we’re extended.

Ultimate Stride was sold by Lex and Heather Williams of One Over Lodge in Waimate for $160,000 at the 2018 National Sales in Christchurch. He was bought by Australian’s Emilio and Mary Rosati and left with Williamson.

Cracker Hill, which was also bred by the Williams, was passed in for $40,000 at the same sale.

Meanwhile Nathan Williamson’s classy trotter Chinese Whisper is staying put for the time being.

He was under offer during the week but the deal fell through and he’s expected to have his next start in the province at Wyndham on Saturday.

Playboy Derby Bound

Bruce Stewart

The Gore trained Robyns Playboy looked to be on target for the New Zealand Derby when he impressively beat a quality field of mainly three year olds in the Super Nuggets Final at the Northern Southland meeting at Ascot Park yesterday.

In the $20,000 feature, Zinny Mach took an early lead but Robyns Playboy’s driver Craig Ferguson pressed forward and hit the lead with 1600 metres to run.

“I thought he had a bit more gate speed and that he would hold the front but when Zinny Mach crossed him it was looking a bit dangerous particularly if Nathan didn’t hand up,” said trainer Ross Wilson.

Ferguson then dictated the speed of the race and with his ears pinned back Robyns Playboy went down to the finish line beating two latecomers Memphis Tennessee (second by one length) and Barrett a nose back in third.

Craig Ferguson and Robyns Playboy winning at Ascot Park yesterday – Photo Bruce Stewart
The winning Wilsons – Photo Bruce Stewart 

Wilson says Robyns Playboy has a strong character and can be a bit of a handful at home as well as on raceday sometimes, but today he was fine.

“Sometimes he’ll pull in the pre-lim and you can’t pull him up but he was more settled today.”

So his next start will be on the 5th April is the $200,000 Diamond Creek Farm New Zealand Derby.

“I’m not going to go for any lead up race. That’ll be his next start. He’s a very fit horse and he doesn’t take a lot of work. He hasn’t come to the end of his run yet. At home he does quite a bit of cantering on the frame and leading up to a race he only needs about three hopples.”

This will be the first time Wilson has had a runner in the Derby.

“Hopefully we’ll carry on to the Jewels. We’re aiming Bridesdale Robyn at the Jewels too. To have a horse at those events is a real thrill.”

Today’s win elevates Robyns Playboy to fourth in the Harness Jewels Three Year Old Emerald.

The win was Ferguson’s seventeenth of the season and equals his best season as an open driver and Robyns Playboy is clearly the best horse he’s driven.

“He’s got a very high cruising speed and Craig says he just waits on them.”

Meanwhile the biggest upset of the day came in the Haras des Trotteurs Southland Trotting Oaks when the Gavin Smith trained Swiss Miss beat more fancied runners in the $20,000 feature for three year old trotting fillies.

Just when it looked like Cheerful and Majestic Chevron were going to fight out the finish Nathan Williamson got Swiss Miss wound up and she stormed down the outside to beat Majestic Chevron by half a neck with a nose back to Cheerful.

Swiss Miss gets up on the outside – Photo Bruce Stewart.
Pretty happy driver – Photo Bruce Stewart

The winning time of 2-47.9 equals the race and track record held by last year’s winner Luby Lou.

The New Zealand Trotting Oaks at Addington on the 22nd March looks to be shaping up to be a fairly even contest.


Dunn Gets Two Group Threes

Bruce Stewart

The Robert Dunn filly Spellbound continued on her winning way yesterday in the Caduceus Club of Southland/Alabar Fillies Classic but she was pressured at the finish by first starter Stylish Memphis.

Spellbound lead from the start and was allowed to get away with some soft sectionals. Stylish Memphis, a half-sister to the 2016 winner Delightful Memphis, got within a head of the winner but the post came up just in time for Spellbound.

“That horse (Stylish Memphis) had trialled well so it wasn’t a surprise. It was a stroll around and a sprint up the straight. Halfway down the straight I was confident. The last wee bit I wasn’t” said driver John Dunn whose father Robert trains Spellbound.

Spellbound (2) hanging on – Photo Bruce Stewart
The winning syndicate watching her come into the birdcage – Photo Bruce Stewart.
The official group photo – Photo Bruce Stewart 

She was sold at the 2018 Sale of the Stars for $17,000 as Major Return, but was renamed Spellbound. The the Witches Of Westview Syndicate share in the ownership of the Art Major filly with the Westview Racing Number 19 Syndicate.The syndicates have some Southlanders as members, including Bruce Sutherland, local breeder Mark O’Connor; his brother Stephen O’Connor, Mike Pero Real Estate Agent Daryl Spence and the Manager of McCallum’s Dry Cleaning Paul Harrington.

She’s out of the Armbro Operative mare Return To Gold which won four races and it’s the filly’s third win in as many starts. It was the second time father and son have won this race. Yankee Dream won the classic in 2009.

“Right from day dot she showed a bit. She’s well gaited and has good manners and that’s why we’ve had a go at these early two year old races. She’ll have a wee break now and we’ll look at a Sires Stakes Heat.”

Dunn’s second win came in the $40,000 Yaldhurst Hotel Northern Southland Cup with Henry Hubert.

After bungling the start Henry Hubert finally settled into his gait with only favourite Funatthebeach behind him.

Royal Bengal lead early before Smokin By took over. Alta Maestro was then taken to the front ensuring there was plenty of early pace in the 2700 metre feature.

Smokin By then popped out of the trail and took up the running again with 1600 metres to go. With a lap to run the one off line started to form lead by Tact Maggie, Eamon Maguire, AG’s White Socks and Henry Hubert got onto the train. Funathebeach took up the inside running line. With 600 metres to run Henry Hubert was last and nothing in front was wanting to move. So in what turned out to be the winning of the race Dunn let Henry Hubert run and he showed sharp speed to move within striking distance of a battling Smokin By and Tact Maggie. Dunn pinched a bit of a break at the top of the straight and held on to win.

“I couldn’t really get him going early in the race after missing away so I had to wait for the 600. He felt super once he got pacing and to hold off A G’s White Socks was a good effort,” he said.

A G’s White Socks got within a head of Henry Hubert with Funatthebeach a further three and a quarter lengths back in third.

In a driving finish Henry Hubert and John Dunn on the inside hang on to beat Ricky May and A G’s White Socks – Photo Bruce Stewart.
Back to get the Northern Southland Cup – Photo Bruce Stewart 

Dunn says the horse will go home now and head towards the Easter Cup.

“We just have to get that standing start ironed out. We’re also looking at perhaps the Taylor Mile and The Messenger then the Jewels.”

The winning time was 3-20.6, 0.5 outside the race record held by Isaiah.

The win was the four year old’s fourth this season and puts him in the top five for the end of season Harness Jewels.

Woodham Wins Kindergarten Stakes

Mac Henry

Big wins are nothing new to Gary Woodham but the success of Flying Even Bettor in the $30,000 group three Alabar NZ Kindergarten Stakes at Wyndham on Saturday gave him a great deal of satisfaction.

Along with his wife Kerry, the Plimmerton-based General Manager Customer for the New Zealand Racing Board races Flying Even Bettor with Glenys and Phil Kennard, Ken and Karen Breckon as Breckon Racing Syndicate, along with Jim and Ann Gibbs.

The syndicate was formed three years ago and in our first year we got Spankem and The Devils Own,” Needham explained, “Another Masterpiece was the next and then Flying Even Bettor.”

The Devils Own and Another Masterpiece finished second in the Kindergartens of their year, 2017 and 2018.

“Three times we’ve tried, following the same preparation each time, and now we’ve won it,” Woodham said.

At the end of their appropriate seasons, both Spankem and Another Masterpiece were named two-year-olds of the year with Spankem going on to land the million dollar Miracle Mile at the beginning of this month.

“When The Devils Own went to Australia for the Victoria Derby last year he got a virus and was very ill. He’s back in work now with Brent Mangos and he’ll be the trainer when he races again.”

But the win meant more to Woodham than picking up a group three. For some time he has been studying the operation of harness racing in the region and doesn’t need a second excuse to visit.

“Harness Racing New Zealand used the model of Southern Harness as a text book case and I wanted to know more about it,” he said. “With the help of Kevin McNaught (Chairman) and Jason Broad (General Manager), I’ve seen it up close and love the way all the clubs are working together. They’re doing right for the region, take costs out and that allows them to increase stakes. This is my 12th visit.”

Woodham also acknowledged their assistance when the Wyndham Club raced at Cromwell earlier in the year.

“We were about to launch our new betting platform and needed their help with race times, we wanted them to finish earlier. They made the changes to work in with us and we are indebted to them.

The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen–trained Flying Even Bettor was driven by Blair Orange to give him his third win in the race. Three wide for the first 500 metres, the Bettor’s Delight was gelding no sooner one-out than stablemate Copperfield arrived to give him cover. Once in the straight Flying Even Bettor was unleashed and soon put the issue beyond doubt, to win in 1:54.4.

“He didn’t show a lot of gate speed but it worked out well,” said Orange who was sitting behind the winner for the first time. “He felt good on the turn and when he let down he found the line well.”

Earlier, Orange had won aboard the Paul Court-trained Major Sass. It was her third win from five starts, all of the wins at Wyndham. The three-year-old daughter of Art Major led out and pulled clear in the straight to win the Southland Harness Awards Ladyship Final by four and three quarters lengths in 1:56.2.

Orange scored his third win for the day aboard Ohoka Achilles who clocked 2:55.9 for the mobile 2400 metres of the Astra Stu and Jean Pace. It was a comfortable win for the four-year-old who had chased U May Cullect home at Ascot Park last Saturday. The half-brother to Ohoka Texas is trained at Woodend Beach by former Wyndham horseman Regan Todd.

After Tartan Robyn scored his second win in nine starts when taking out the PGG Wrightson Real Estate Cromwell Pace for owner and breeder Graeme Edgar, trainer Hamish Hunter described the four-year-old as a horse that couldn’t be rushed.

“He’s got a patient owner and has taken lots of time,” said Hunter, “18 months ago he couldn’t pace but turned the corner in the spring and gets a little better each time.”


 Syd Quinella’s Cup

Mac Henry

Gore trainer Syd Breen had a moment to cherish at Wyndham on Saturday when he prepared Sagwitch and Santanna’s Rocket to quinella the MLT/Three Rivers Hotel Wyndham Cup.

“I’ve never had a quinella in a race before,” an excited Breen said “but that’s the second time I’ve had three in a race and Sagwitch has won them both.”

“I broke him as a yearling and liked him, Paul Matheson bought him, then as a two-year-old sold him to Australia for $100,000,” explained Breen. “But he didn’t pass a vet test so Paul and his wife Nancy carried on with him and gave me 10 percent. He is Nancy’s first horse.

After training for a period during the 1990s, Breen had a break and described Sagwitch – seven wins – as his best, at least since resuming in 2014.

Matheson, who manages the Falls Hotel in Mataura for the race sponsoring Mataura Licensing Trust, also has a share in Santanna’s Rocket. So too has Ross Cleland, described by Breen as an integral part of his operation.

“Ross has had shares in a lot of good horses, Night Allowance was one of them.”

Another enjoying the result was winning driver and former local,but now Rangiora-based Mark Hurrell, who had finished last aboard Sagwitch in the Autumn Cup at Ascot Park a fortnight ago.

“He stepped good today, he’s not always the best away,” Hurrell said. “He was slow away last time then they went slow and sprinted home, it didn’t suit him. He’s better if they go hard and he doesn’t need to do any work.”

Sagwitch settled fifth in line but when the one-out train formed a lap out, the five-year-old was shuffled back. Last from the 1200 to the 600, Hurrell then moved the five-year-old forward four wide and he kept the run going right to the post winning by a length and a quarter in a smart 4:00.9.

“I could have moved when they went forward but I didn’t want him to do much so waited before I put him in the race, he just kept going,” said Hurrell.

Tyler Dewe’s joy after winning aboard The Commando in the Lamb Drive/Cattle Graziers Trot at Wyndham on Saturday could well have been ever greater.

The Commando was the 599th winner for trainer Phil Williamson who had expected a big run at Addington on Friday night from Ultimate Stride. The abandonment of the meeting, as consequence of the shooting drama in Christchurch, put paid to that. Had the juvenile made a winning debut on Friday, the next day Dewe would have been handed the honour of getting the 600th.

However, the win itself was enough for Dewe who joined the staff at Williamsons around Christmas time and has relished his time in Oamaru.

“It’s good to get the opportunity, I love it there,” said Dewe who was scoring on a Williamson horse for the first time. “Matt helped me get the job and I stay with Brad.”

Dewe was also thrilled to get the win for his grandfather Arnold Dewe

“He has been one of my biggest supporters and is quite ill,” he said.

The Commando was bred by Bev Williamson and passed to her son Matthew who had driven the four-year-old in all but one of his previous starts. Attendance at a birthday party in Australia meant Matthew missed the win.

Bev Williamson also featured as the winning breeder of Chinese Whisper, successful in the Neville Cronin Memorial Trot. The three-year-old out of Little Contessa was trained and driven by Bev’s son Nathan and is raced by Nathan’s wife Katie in partnership with farrier Brendan Franks.

A Sundon gelding, Chinese Whisper was racing for just the second time and despite the unruly draw of 13, was comfortable when making it two from two. Back in the field early, he got a drag up on the back of Robbie Royale commencing the last lap, led from the 900 and was too strong.

“I’ve never pulled the plugs on him yet so I don’t know what would happen but he is probably doing his best anyway,” Nathan Williamson said. “He’s got good breeding, manners, gait, speed, but physically is not ready to do much more. There’s a Gold Chip coming up for him so we’ll have to make a decision whether to carry on or let him strengthen, he should be a better four-year-old.”



U May Cullect Again

Mac Henry

We didn’t know it at the time but when the five-year-old U May Cullect put a couple of potentially career-ending setbacks behind him to win on debut at the Northern Southland meeting a fortnight ago, it was a case of ‘you haven’t seen anything yet’.

Plenty on course that day were in awe of the performance of the Tom Kilkelly-owned gelding who suffered tendon damage at three and four but came back to record a 1:57.9 mile rate when winning over 2200 metres by four lengths.

They were in all sorts of raptures on ‘Wairio Mile Day’ at Central Southland Raceway on Saturday. Drawn 13 in a 13 horse field, U May Cullect settled in the last pair and made only minor progress when the one out line moved. But just outside the 400, when driver Kirstin Barclay – who in partnership with Paul Ellis also trains the gelding at Oreti Beach – asked him to sprint, the acceleration was incredible.

U May Cullect stretched out to an eight and a quarter length win and stopped the clock at 1:52.1, just 0.2 seconds outside the track and Southland record held by Delightful Memphis. It was clearly the day’s fastest.



U_May_Cullect_950_x_590.jpgU May Cullect – File Photo

The time did however better the previous Southland 1609 metre record for entires and gelding of 1-52.5 recorded by Mach’s Back at Wyndham at the end of January and the Winton track record for aged geldings and entires of 1-53.9 which was held by Fly Like An Eagle.

“He was a bit keen out of the gate but relaxed beautifully,” Barclay said. “Then when I asked him to go, I’ve never felt any horse turn on the speed like he did.”

After his first win, Kilkelly described U May Cullect as a day to day proposition and while that hasn’t changed, he is clearly enjoying the ride.

“There’s no backing off now,” Kilkelly said.


 Cracker Hill Off To Winning Start

Mac Henry

Cracker Hill played no part in the dramatic opening to ‘Wairio Mile Day’ but was awarded victory in the first, despite being second across the line.

And for trainer-driver Brad Williamson it wasn’t even a new experience.

“That’s fourth time I’ve been promoted to first, twice after interference and twice after the winner returned positives,” he said.

Tinwald visitor Dora Explorer was called in the winner, only to be relegated for causing interference to Big Iron entering the back straight. Big Iron lost about 40 lengths in the incident before rallying to finish fourth, less than four lengths from the ‘winner’.

“I wasn’t affected by the interference,” Williamson said, “and was happy with second. He was more green in the straight than I expected and that was probably the difference between winning or coming second.”

A two-year-old on debut, Cracker Hill was passed in at the yearling sales by his breeders Lex and Heather Williams. According to Williamson, Gary Preston of Queenstown later secured the youngster, put a syndicate together and had him broken in a Jamie Keast.

“I met Gary at the Oamaru races one day, he asked me if I would train it for them. They are some of the same syndicate that races One Apollo.”

A winner at Winton last month, One Apollo is trained at Ashburton by Brent White.

“He was ready for a second prep when I got him, he’ll only have four or five races this time but will be aimed at the premier two-year-old trots, that win would qualify him for the Jewels.”

One of only two juveniles in the field, Cracker Hill’s time was 2:07.1, almost certainly a New Zealand record for two-year-old over a mile from a stand.

Cracker_Hill_950_x_634.jpg Cracker Hill taken at the Winton Workouts. That day he was wearing Nathan Williamson colours – Photo Bruce Stewart

Later in the programme, Brad Williamson also got a double for the day, the second in the sulky of Santanna’s Rocket. Trained at Gore by Syd Breen, the five-year-old clocked 1:53.7, second fastest winning time of the day. It was the continuation of a successful period for Breen who at Wyndham last week took out the local Cup quinella with Sagwitch and Santanna’s Rocket. Breen’s strike rate this season sits at 15 wins from just 62 starts.


Ellie Gets Two

Mac Henry

Ellie Barron admitted to being close to tears after her back to back wins on Saturday.

Barron is a grand-daughter of the late Owens Crooks, a prominent owner, trainer and studmaster whose funeral was held in Invercargill on Friday.

“He was a great supporter of mine,” said Barron who on Saturday scored her 16th and 17th wins aboard the trotter Nottingham K Two in 1:59.7 and pacer Paduka in 1:56.9. In 2017, her second and third wins had come on Mass Invasion, bred and owned by Crooks.

“How many owners would have given a first-season junior the opportunities he gave me,” she asked, “I learned so much from that horse.”

Mass_Invasion_returning_950_x_633.jpgEllie Barron and Mass Invasion at Ascot Park after Ellie’s second career win – Photo Bruce Stewart

Nottingham K Two, trained at Gore by George Orr, trailed the leader early before being shuffled three-back at the 1000. The winner of three looked destined to be unlucky until a gap appeared between the two leaders.

“Luckily he is very tractable, I got the gap late,” said Barron, who had considered him the best of her drives and certainly ahead of Paduka. But that changed in the lead-up.

Barron’s uncle Ken had previously trained Paduka. On Saturday he was racing from the stable of her father Clark for the first time.

“He only arrived about two weeks ago, I’d driven him in work but got a different feeling in the preliminaries. I just thought that in this field he could be a chance. I had hoped to lead, we were left parked but he was settled. Then when Nathan (Williamson, Bettors Highlight) came up he got keen and started sprinting. I thought he might have used all his sprint but he pricked his ears and I knew he had plenty left.”

Sheree Tomlinson didn’t know she was driving Fire Bug on Saturday until she saw the fields but didn’t waste the opportunity, winning in 1:55.3.

Drawn just one spot in from the outside of the second line, they went back at the start but then found a passage up the poles to soon be three back on the inner. Off the poles near the turn, the three-year-old on debut took time to work clear before finishing hard late.

“I didn’t want to push her forward in her first start so went back, I was lucky to get up the inside,” Tomlinson said of the Mach Three filly, “everything was stopping on the turn so I got her out, she did it really easily.”

Fire Bug, from the stable of Mark Jones, was the first of three Canterbury visitors on the day.

Second of the Cantabrians was Classy Kid whose 2:00.3 was the fastest of the winning stand-start times. The striking grey six-year-old, driven by Amber Lethaby – who in partnership with husband Jason also trains the son of Klondike Kid – led out but soon trailed Kiwi Bloke who held the advantage until late in the race.

“He’s never been far away and I would have led but the right horse to follow came round,”Amber Lethaby said. “I could have taken the lane but he hasn’t sprinted so well in there in previous races so I chose to come off.”

Lethaby named the good stake and shortage of stand-start races in Canterbury as reasons for making the trip south.

Arden Lustre made it three wins for the visitors when winning the final event in 2:01.9. In the hands of Blair Orange, the winner of seven flew out when the stand-start tapes were released and was never headed from then.


Boogie Gets Southern Belle Win

Mac Henry

Prominent Australian owner Merv Butterworth was on the phone to trainer Brett Gray shortly after Born To Boogie had triumphed in the fourth and final heat of the Vet South Equine Southern Belle Speed Series on ‘Wairio Mile Day’ at Central Southland Raceway on Saturday.

“He always rings, before and after a race, he sounded pretty happy and told me just to keep doing what I’m doing,” said Gray.

Butterworth Bloodstock had paid $17,000 for Born to Boogie when offered by Brent McIntyre’s Macca Lodge at the 2016 premier sale. When the filly by Rock N Roll Heaven and Niftey Franco had some issues during her early preparations, her new owner chose to offer her back to the vendor as a breeding prospect.

McIntyre said he “just threw her in the paddock” but when she started looking alright, decided to start jogging her. After about three months, McIntyre said the three-year-old was running satisfactory times and showing no ill affects so he recommended to Butterworth she was worth trying again. Born To Boogie then joined up with Butterworth’s southern trainer Brett Gray and has continued to impress.

As a three-year-old, during Queens Birthday last year, the then filly made a great start to her career, winning on debut at Ascot Park and following up five days later with success in the last Nugget final of the season. After two more starts, she was given a long break and since resuming in January has never finished further back that fifth.

Pressed forward from the six gate on Saturday, Born to Boogie made the lead at the 1100 and pressed on to win comfortably by two and a half lengths in 1:55.2.

“She is high maintenance and went a bit sore last year but has the ability,” said Gray.

Born To Boogie is a half sister to Glenferrie Hood, a son of Christian Cullen. A multiple group-race winner of 29 races in Australia, Glenferrie Hood ran third in the 2013 West Australia Derby. Nevermore, third dam of the pair, counted the 1993 Two-Year Old Fillies Sires Stakes final among her seven wins.


Born To Boogie – File

Born To Boggie is now eligible for the $20,000 final which will be held at the Winton TC meeting on 13th April.

Other winners of the heats in the Southern Belle Speed Series have been Just Dance (Wyndham), Sweet Mary (Winton) and Chitura (Northern Southland).


Slate Lives Up To Big Wrap

Mac Henry

Slate justified the decision of his Winton breeder owner and trainer Des Baynes to be patient, when the four-year-old won in 1:56.7 at just his second start.

“He was big, all legs and a bit weak, I didn’t do much with him at two or three,” Baynes explained.

In November last year, Slate went to his first workout. Later in the month he had his one and only trial, qualified impressively and continues to improve.

“He’s shown high speed but is green and inclined to over- race so has led. He’s had two front row draws, needs a few trips in behind, they go harder in the next grade so he should get them now.”

By Changeover, Slate is the third foal of Dress to Impress.

“She had a drop of speed but bad feet,” Baynes said. “Her first foal Granite was a nice horse but got injured. Her latest is an American Ideal filly and she shows a bit.”

Slate_950_x_557.jpg Slate at the Winton Workouts – Photo Bruce Stewart

Sheree Tomlinson didn’t know she was driving Fire Bug on Saturday until she saw the fields but didn’t waste the opportunity, winning in 1:55.3.

Drawn just one spot in from the outside of the second line, they went back at the start but then found a passage up the poles to soon be three back on the inner. Off the poles near the turn, the three-year-old on debut took time to work clear before finishing hard late.

“I didn’t want to push her forward in her first start so went back, I was lucky to get up the inside,” Tomlinson said of the Mach Three filly, “everything was stopping on the turn so I got her out, she did it really easily.”

Fire Bug, from the stable of Mark Jones, was the first of three Canterbury visitors on the day.

Second of the Cantabrians was Classy Kid whose 2:00.3 was the fastest of the winning stand-start times. The striking grey six-year-old, driven by Amber Lethaby – who in partnership with husband Jason also trains the son of Klondike Kid – led out but soon trailed Kiwi Bloke who held the advantage until late in the race.

“He’s never been far away and I would have led but the right horse to follow came round,”Amber Lethaby said. “I could have taken the lane but he hasn’t sprinted so well in there in previous races so I chose to come off.”

Lethaby named the good stake and shortage of stand-start races in Canterbury as reasons for making the trip south.

Arden Lustre made it three wins for the visitors when winning the final event in 2:01.9. In the hands of Blair Orange, the winner of seven flew out when the stand-start tapes were released and was never headed from then.


V Is For Victory

Mac Henry

Keith Moore was painting a roof when Miss V C, a mare he both races on lease and trains, won the $12,000 Southland Harness Awards Ladyship Final at Ascot Park on Saturday.

The excitement of winning could have been enough to create a hazard but the Winton painter and decorator had taken the risk of a fall out the equation.

“The people whose place it was called me just before the race and I got down and watched it,” Moore said, “it was very good, I thought she might have won one sooner than this.”

He had trusted care of the race favourite to son Terry, a former junior driver, who helps his father prepare the daughter of Washington V C.

“We both drive her in work,” said Terry, “we’ve got four on the go, it was overdue.”

Miss V C’s win was the first for Moore since Chief Thundercloud at Ascot Park in April 2014 and his 17th in total. Chief Thunderbird, Gillie’s Gate and Bret’s Bunny each contributed three.

The race was the sixth Ladyship final for the season, catering for fillies and mares that had contested an event for non-winners since the previous final a fortnight earlier. The first two home in each heat are eligible for a $20,000 super final back at Ascot Park next Saturday and Moore will do his best to have Miss V C there.

“You don’t get too many opportunities to race for that sort of money,” he said

Bred by Peter and Rolly Drummond of Winton, Miss V C has been leased from them for three years.

Miss VC – File photo – Bruce Stewart 

Fellow Winton trainer Des Baynes backed up with a second win in consecutive weeks when Raffy Roo took the Southland Car& Commercial Painters Pace, following Slate’s win on his home track. It was the six-year-old’s third win and second in his past three starts.

“He’s come right,” said Baynes, pointing out that a number of niggles in the past, which required veterinary attention, appear to be behind him now.

A gelding by Elsu, Raffy Roo is out of Holmezy who contested the opening race of the inaugural Jewels held in Ashburton in 2007. Trained by Hamish Hunter she ran sixth to GTH Aveross.

Homezy’s third foal is Alfie Romeo who won two from eight for Baynes. Sold to Australia and known now as Our Alfie Romeo, the Washington V C gelding has won 10 from 14 including the group three Lewis Fillies and Mares Final at Gloucester Park last month. His latest start was in a group three at Pinjarra last Monday and yielded a second placing.

Eastern Southland owners Terry and Dawn McPherson enjoyed their first taste of winning when four-year-old Love The Blues took out the Magnum Automotive Group Pace in the hands of trainer Robin Swain.

“I’d always been interested in racing but couldn’t afford a horse until I sold my farm, to Kenny Baynes,” Terry McPherson said, “I’m semi-retired now, only got 15 acres but still help out on a dairy farm.”

Their first venture was Pretty Pins, a half-sister to the big winner Carabella. The filly failed to make it to the races but has left a yearling colt by Captaintreacherous. At a later sale, the McPhersons acquired Bronte Lindenny but the mare has failed to place in 11 outings. At the same sale, they also bought Love The Blues by Auckland Reactor.

“Love The Blues had a couple of starts as a three-year-old had trouble holding his condition,” McPherson revealed.

Visiting Cantabrian but former local Jonny Cox had to wait until the second half of the day’s programme before his first drive. Success wasn’t immediate and it took until the last of the day before it finally arrived. The Doorman, trained and driven by Cox, led all the way and dominated the All Purpose Engineering & Southland Batteries Pace.


Syndicate Enjoy Success

Mac Henry

The best may be yet to come for Please Shuddup who made it win number nine this season for the Tricode Racing Syndicate when taking out the Collingwood Foodcentre Pace at Ascot Park on Saturday afternoon.

After a quick calculation, Syndicate head Peter Kett advised that the tally was made up by one galloping win, five at the dogs and three from Please Shuddup.

The four-year-old has won five from 19 for Invercargill trainer Murray Brown who says the gelding is continuing to improve, especially in the weight department.

“He should be even better next year,” he said.

Before that though, Brown has a couple of good options in mind for the son of Auckland Reactor who holds a high rating on the Southland Country Cup points table. The Winton Cup will be staged over 2400 metres in a fortnight and another two weeks on the final of the series will be a double points race over 2700 metres back at Ascot Park on Diamonds Day.

Please Shuddup – File 

Please Shuddup is a half brother to Soapbox who also raced for the Tricode Syndicate and in August 2017 provided Brown with a milestone 33 years in the making. With her win at Gore, Brown became just the second-ever trainer to prepare the winners of 500 races from a Southland base.

The Syndicate had received both Soapbox and Please Shuddup from Brian West and when Soapbox scored that win, Please Shuddup was due to have his first workout.

“I like him,” Brown said at the time.

In addition to Please Shuddup’s contribution of five, Soapbox (three) and Just Wish are the other Brown winners for the syndicate.

A couple of races earlier, Brown produced Triple V C to win the Final Touch Dominion Electric Pace. The five-year-old trailled the leader throughout and went clear in the straight.

“He was due the win, he’s been unlucky but got the perfect run today.”

The race was held in glorious sunny and warm conditions, a far cry from the heavy fog which had enveloped Invercargill for much of the morning. A result of the fog was closure of the airport, leaving John Morrison, Sheree Tomlinson and Nathan Williamson unable to make Invercargill to fulfill their driving engagements.

Morrison (39 wins) and Tomlinson (37), sit first and second on the junior drivers premiership. One of Tomlinson’s drives was to be Please Shuddup which was taken by Brad Williamson.

Nathan Williamson was the other to miss out on a win when the Matt Saunders-trained She’s Outstanding took the Autosure Mobile Pace in the hands of Shane Walkinshaw.

“Nathan rang me here (on course) about 10 to say he was back in Christchurch,” said Saunders whose mode of operation is to seek out modestly priced horses capable of winning a race or races. She’s Outstanding was previously with Robbie Rowland of Yaldhurst.

“Justin Le Lievre found him, he pretty much made me buy it. I like to get ones that can win a race without overspending,” he said.

Saunders operates the Four Square store in Tapanui and trains at the long-time ‘retired’ race course in the town.

“She didn’t show much in work but I took her to the Gore trials 10 days ago, Nathan drove her and she won. I got confidence from that. I’ll give her a shot at the next level up, she should improve from the win.”

Both Tomlinson and Morrison had drives in the Stirling Auto Repairs & Clean-Biz Trot for Junior drivers which opened the card. To ensure the horses concerned didn’t have to be scratched, local trial licence holders Tristan Larsen – who works for his father Kirk – and James Forbes – who works for Kirstin Barclay and Paul Ellis – were considered for an upgrade for the race. The stipes, connections and JCA all agreed with the arrangement. The pair got their first raceday drives and spent much of the event in the two foremost places.

Forbes on the Williamson-trained Our Foxy Lady led from the 1800, only to be cut back in the straight to finish a close up third. Larsen drove the Matt Anderson-trained Spurred By Success, sat fifth early, was left parked at the 1800 but beaten in the back straight the last time.

“Tyler Dewe rang me about 11 o’ clock and told me to get down here,” Forbes said, “we had every chance, I’m looking forward to my next go.”

“The stipes rang about 9:30,” Larsen said, “it was a good experience, we just battled at the end.”

Victory went to Dewe’s drive Horse Of Course, the Williamson-trained favourite who trailed his stablemate for most of race. A fortnight ago, Dewe had driven The Commando to be Williamson’s 599th training success. Horse Of Course was number 602.

“Brad got 600 on Majestic Man,” said Dewe, “It was good to get the win because I had the pick of the drives. He works like a good horse, doesn’t always do it on raceday but I’d happily drive him again.”