March 2021

Top Racing at Riverton Meeting

Bruce Stewart

4th March 2021

The Riverton Trotting Club carded two Free for Alls, a Nuggets Final and a heat of the Southern Belle Speed Series today at Central Southland Raceway in Winton, and they were rewarded with some top racing.

U May Cullect

The pacing FFA was won by comeback horse U May Cullect. He lead early and ran his last 400 metres in a slick 25.8 to beat favourite Pembrook Playboy.

“I was thrilled. Nathan’s horse (Pembrook Playboy) has been racing against the good ones so I thought we’d have to use our speed,” said co-trainer and driver Kirstin Barclay.

From gate four Barclay went forward to take the lead inside the first quarter of the race and dictated the tempo.

“I was really lucky to get a breather in the middle and run that quick last quarter. Nathan’s horse is so fast but you can’t catch them when they’re running those sorts of quarters.”

U May Cullect beating Pembrook Playboy at Winton

U May Cullect looked very well and primed for today’s 1609 event and Barclay says the stable is not planning too far ahead, preferring the horse to tell them where to race next.

“There are a couple (of) wee things that bother me at times but I think it’s just muscular. We just get the vet to go over him after every race and keep on top of things. But he seems pretty well within himself.”

U May Cullect’s win today was his third over a mile on this track. He’s now won nine races in fourteen starts.

Pearl Harbour capped off some good form to win the last heat of the Southern Belle Speed Series when she came from well back to beat Might Be Me by a head.

“That’s just her racing pattern. You have to save her for one run, you can’t do any work early. They ran hard early today and it panned out well,” said driver Brent Barclay.

Trained by Katrina and John Price the Somebeachsomewhere mare has now won six of her twenty two starts.

“I haven’t driven many as fast as her over three hundred metres. She’s just electric.”

Pearl Harbour beating Might Be Me

Idealism confirmed his potential among a good crop of Southland three year olds when he won the Nuggets Final today in the hands of Nathan Williamson.

Realising his main rival, stablemate Keep On Dreaming was behind him, Williamson set the gelding alight inside the 600 metres and that was the winning of the race.

“Yep super drive,” said trainer Alister Black.

On straightening Idealism mastered pacemaker Lynryd Skynryd, winning by three quarters of a length with Keep On Dreaming running home for fifth more than five lengths back.

“I think if you reversed the draws you’d probably reverse the result to be fair.”

Idealism winning his second race

Black said Idealism will be aimed at the end of season Southern Supremacy Stakes.

“I think he’s going to be a better four year old. I didn’t pay up for the Derby for that simple reason.”

Dark Horse showed quality when she won her fourteenth race winning  over a mile today.

Running in the inside running line the eight year old mare was taken one out with 400 metres to run by driver Craig Ferguson.
“She was cruising,”

She challenged pacemaker Rydgemont Son though it took her most of the straight to get past him.

“The second horse certainly made it tough for us. We really had to knuckle down up the straight.” The winning margin was just a neck.

“In the end she did it easy and didn’t want to pull up after the line. She was just foxing a wee bit.”

Dark Horse beating Rydgemont Son

The Gordon and Colin Lee trained Bertie Jones had a nice win on debut today. The four year old was an impressive qualifier on this course in January and won today’s race by two lengths in the hands of Brent Barclay.

Bertie Jones winning on debut for Brent Barclay

Trotter Gold Chain trained by Bob Butt was the biggest winner of the day, clearing out to take the line by eleven lengths.

Gold Chain winning for Korbyn Newman

The Muscle Hill mare has now won four of her seventeen starts.

Wairio Gesture

Press Release

3rd March 2021

At this weeks Riverton Trotting Club Meeting at Central Southland Raceway an extra $100 for every win by the teal pants will be donated.

This gesture comes from the Wairio Trotting Club who have a close association with the Riverton Trotting Club and wanted to contribute to the teal appeal.  Wairio Trotting Club President Darryl Hewitson said “our club is right behind this appeal and as we don’t have a race meeting in the timeframe we still wanted to be able to support this worthy cause”.

Therefor each win by the teal pants on Thursday will result in $300 being donated to the appeal ($100 Riverton TC, $100 Wairio TC and $100 Southern Harness).

The Riverton Trotting Club are hosting an 11 race card starting at 2.54pm on Thursday (4th March)  with features being the Neville Cleaver Fishing FFA Mobile Trot which sees Dark Horse and Humble Lad race over a mile.

The Ryder Roofing Nugget Final has attracted a very nice field as has the Vet South Equine Southern Belle Speed Series heat where Miss Auckland will be looking to complete her picket fence.

Race 10 at 7.04pm is the DT Kings Transport FFA Mile which has attracted a small but outstanding field of I’mallaboutthebase, Franco Santino, Robyns Playboy, U May Cullect, Vintage Cheddar and Pembrook Playboy.

This is the first meeting of the Southern Harness ‘Big Money March’ promotion.

Nutcracker Ferguson’s First Group Winner

Bruce Stewart

13th March 2021

Young Wyndham trainer Craig Ferguson won his first Group race at Ascot Park today. However he was there neither to drive or watch Nutcracker win the Group Three Caduceus Club of Southland/Alabar Fillies Classic.

He had another important event – to be groomsman for an old school mate Rory McCall, so Nathan Williamson got the drive today.

Williamson made full use of the horse’s gate speed and took her straight to the front. With the lap to run the small field were just ambling past the winning post but the action amped up inside the last 800 metres with Anna Love steaming up on the outside to put pressure on Nutcracker.

Williamson still had a good handful of horse inside the last 400 metres but the diminutive Bettor’s Delight filly had to withstand the outside challenge of Anna Love. And Woodlea Beaver was coming at her on the inside, but she held on tenaciously to beat Woodlea Beaver by half a length.

Heading back a Group winner on debut – Photo Bruce Stewart

Nutcracker is out of the Christian Cullen mare Rockin Cullen. She was bred and is raced by Paul and Brendan Duffy.

“We were quietly confident but being a first starter we didn’t know which way it would go. Nathan held them up in the middle part of the race and that was the winning of the race. He got a cheap section there and she always has a bit of fight at the end,” Brendan said after the win.

Nutcracker with winning connections – Photo Bruce Stewart

Trained at Wyndham by Ferguson, Duffy said the stable has been happy with the filly’s progress leading into today’s debut.

“Everything he asked of her she kept doing. She kept improving at each trial and workout he gave her.”

Duffy said he’s not sure how many more races Nutcracker will have this season.

“We’ll just weigh it up. We’re not big on racing two year olds. You see a few fade away to nothing if you push them. She’s pretty small which may mean she may need a break soon but everything Craig has thrown at her she seems to be handling.”

Paul and Brendan have been breeding horses for a number of years and when they bought Rockin Cullen they were buying back into the famed Black Watch breed which was started by their family in Southland in the early 1900s.

“We’ve stuck at this for long enough and hopefully there’s going to be a return. We’ve had battlers here and there with the odd one being okay but she looks something else. We went to the accountant yesterday and he questioned why we race horses. But winning today may show him.”

Nutcracker is a sister to the highly talented Yorokobi who’s raced by the pair out of the Regan Todd’s stable. He’s won two of his eight starts.

Nutcracker was the first Southland horse to win the two year old feature since Beaudiene Bad Babe won it in 2008. The winning time was 2-50.3 with the last 800 metres run in 57.2 and 400 in 27.9. Woodlea Beaver was second, half a length back.

One Apollo Wins Southern Lights

Bruce Stewart

13th March 2021

Gerard O’Reilly knew he was up against a talented mare in Dark Horse, and that she was at the top of her game. So he had to have a set strategy in order to beat the mare with his drive One Apollo in the Group Three Pryde’s Easifeed Southern Lights at the Northern Southland Trotting Club meeting at Ascot Park today.

One Apollo warming up for Gerard O’Reilly – Photo Bruce Stewart

“When he’s on his game he’s a very nice trotter. He was (on his game) today, so I thought I’d make it into a staying race and take the sprint out of the good one (Dark Horse),” he said.

Once safely away from his ten metre handicap O’Reilly set a nice even pace in a bid to ensure Dark Horse had to work from her twenty metre handicap.

“Getting him away at the start and trotting that first one hundred is the thing. He’s all good after that. I thought I’d try and take the sprint out of her in the second last quarter.”

Turning in, One Apollo had a two length buffer on Dark Horse but the southern mare was cutting into that margin with every stride. The winning post came up just in time with One Apollo holding on to win by three quarters of a length.

One Apollo on the inside hanging on – Photo Bruce Stewart

A closer look – Photo Bruce Stewart

The five year old has now won nine of his thirty eight starts with O’Reilly partnering the gelding for three of those wins.

“I was only filling in for Ricky (May) who was over on the coast so it was a good race to be filling in.”

Back to the winner circle – Photo Bruce Stewart

One Apollo was bred and is part owned by Lex Williams.

“Yes great thrill to have bred the horse and his father. One Apollo has come out and shown what the sire (One Over Da Moon) can do.”

Williams said the horse’s form dropped off earlier in the season but trainer Brent White had told him he was coming back.

“He went through a patch when he had an infection but Brent’s done a great job in getting him right and he thinks he’s back to his original self. We’re really looking forward to his next few starts.”

One Over Da Moon as a sire has twenty eight live foals on the ground.

“We’ve got two nice fillies (Moonlight Angel and Samantha Moon) by him that have run placings so as a sire he’s going well.”

One Apollo’s winning time of 3-24.1 was a new track record for four year old and older geldings or entires and was just outside the all comers track, race and Southland record. Last year’s Southern Lights winner Pres The Belle recorded 3-24.0.

Dark Horse ran the trip post to post in 3-23.4.

Pembrook Wins A Cracker Cup

Bruce Stewart

13th March 2021

Today’s Group Three Northern Southland Cup was the most anticipated race of the Southern Harness season with Pembrook Play versus U May Cullect and a mix of other highly talented horses spicing up the action.

“I was really looking forward to the race. It was such a quality race and you think you have a really good horse. It became really tactical and exciting, yeah,” said winning driver Nathan Williamson after he won a race full of action and drama driving Pembrook Playboy.

The tension went to another level when a false start was declared and Robyns Playboy got the ten metre starting strand caught up in his legs.

“It built the anticipation a bit. You could see the horses getting worked up at the start.”

In take two, both U May Cullect and Pembrook Playboy began well with Pembrook Playboy settling fourth and U May Cullect last in the seven horse field.

When U May Cullect came forward with 1600 metres to run it forced Vintage Cheddar, Pembrook Playboy and Dadndave to come out. That left Pembrook Playboy in the one one with just over a lap to run but the action was about to go off the charts.

“I was travelling really well down the back and I heard U May Cullect coming. He came so quickly and by the time I came out we locked wheels. Once we got untangled we just accelerated.”

That move forced U May Cullect four wide and with an incredible burst of speed Pembrook Playboy was up challenging pacemaker Deus Ex in a flash and he had his head in front at the 400 metres.

On straightening Pembrook Playboy put four lengths on his closest rival Vintage Cheddar and the winning margin at the end was three and a quarter lengths.

“He’s just a great horse.”

Job done – Photo Bruce Stewart

Heading back to the stables, Williamson was congratulated by U May Cullect’s driver Kirstin Barclay.

“You were coming so quick down the back there I thought wow, wow,” Williamson said.

“I was trying to catch you napping,” Barclay replied (laughter).

Williamson was openly thrilled with the result and there were plenty of handshakes and hugs from family and friends.

“That’s why we do it. To drive horses in races like that. The Invercargill and Northern Southland Cups to me are as big as Group One races. It’s in your home province so it’s a proud moment when the horses win those races. The Northern Southland Club is such a great club.”

Winning driver close up – Photo Bruce Stewart

The winning time of 3-17.9 equalled the track and Southland record held by U May Cullect.

The time was also a new race record, smashing Isaiah’s 2015 time of 3-20.1.

“He did knock off today like he did in the Invercargill Cup.”

Pembrook Playboy has now won ten races from eighteen starts – six this season. He has an unbeaten record at Northern Southland meeting.

The win lifted his stakes to over $100,000 for owner Chris Alcock.

The final sectionals were; 56.7 seconds from the 800 metres and 28.2 from the 400.

Pembrook Playboy – winning connections – Photo Bruce Stewart

Paddy O’Brien was the last Southland trained horse to win the Northern Southland Cup in 2005.

Pembrook Playboy certainly looks on track for next month’s Easter Cup.

Pictures from Northern Southland

Bruce Stewart

13th March 2021

Riley Moment winning the first. One of two winners for Tony Barron

Fireforefiddle winning in a busy finish

Another winner for Matty Williamson – Get Lucky

Hemsworth drives through for Kirk Larsen

The family of the late Ken “Fastrack” Dixon with Paul and Brendan Duffy

Lifes A Beach – second winner for Tony Barron

Thumbs up from Robbie Close after Bettor Talk Art’s win

Members of the Robin Dundee club and Ellie Barron with their Teal Raffle board

Vintage Cheddar’s Turn

Bruce Stewart

20th March 2021

Southland is fortunate to have a very strong group of Country Cup horses this season and today it was the consistent Vintage Cheddar’s turn to win.

Pre-race debate centred on the handicaps and how this would play out in today’s $20,000 Winton Businesses Cup.

Vintage Cheddar and Brent Barclay head out prior to the Winton Cup

The main players were expected to be Robyns Playboy (20 metres), Vintage Cheddar and U May Cullect (30 metres) and backmarker Pembrook Playboy who was starting off 40 metres.

When the tapes were released Pembrook Playboy galloped, adding at least 10 metres to his handicap while Vintage Cheddar settled sixth behind pacemaker Sagwitch.

Sagwitch leading the Winton Cup with just under a lap to run.

When Memphis Tennessee moved up on the outside running line inside the last 1000 metres driver Brent Barclay slotted Vintage Cheddar on his back with U May Cullect and Pembrook Playboy getting into that train.

At the 400 Barclay moved Vintage Cheddar out three wide and U May Cullect and Pembrook Playboy started to make their runs.

On straightening, he encouraged the six year old to power up and he shot two lengths clear of his two main rivals. That was the winning of the race – Vintage Cheddar holding on to beat the late charging U May Cullect by a diminishing three quarters of a length, with Pembrook Playboy a half a length back in third.

“Yeah, went super. He got a beautiful run and when Brent asked him to go he went. It was perfect. And good to get one back on Nathan (Williamson – Pembrook Playboy). He’s been a force to be reckoned with all season and finally we were able to turn the tables on him,” said trainer Alister Black.

Vintage Cheddar (7) winning the 2021 Winton Cup

Heading back with trainer Alister Black

Vintage Cheddar’s time was 2-57.9 while U May Cullect ran the journey post to post in 2-58.1 and Pembrook Playboy 2-57.3. The last 800 metres off the front was 56.4 and 400 27.3.

“It’s very competitive and I’d say this would be the strongest the Country Cups grade has been for a while. They’re all pretty even.”

Winning connections

It was a first for Brent Barclay to win his home town cup. His father Keith won the race in 1977 with Forward Play.

Black says Vintage Cheddar’s main end of season aim is the Group One $100,000 Easter Cup at Addington on 3rd April.

“He still has to front up to the top liners, which he hasn’t done, but he’s raced the tier underneath and been very competitive. We might go to Christchurch for a couple of Free For All’s then he’ll go to the Easter Cup and come home for the Country Cups Final and that’ll probably be us for the season.”

Vintage Cheddar is owned by Lindsay and Ian Thomson.

Earlier in the day Black won with three year old trotting filly Dont Ask, owned by Lindsay Thomson.

“She trotted all the way and that’s twice she’s got round now. I’ll probably wait until the Gold Chip Final. She just has to learn her trade. She’ll be better next season.”

Deja Vu in Southern Belle Final

Bruce Stewart

20th March 2021

Today’s win in the Southern Belle Final, taken out by Plutonium Lady was very similar to that of Rocker Band in 2016.

Both horses were four year olds, both trained by Mark Jones and driven by Sam Ottley, and it doesn’t end there.

Sam Ottley with Speed Series winner Rocker Band in 2016

“She (Rocker Band) was in Auckland a week before and came south and won this race (too). Mark is a big supporter of the Southland races. They look after us really well down here,” Ottley said.

Plutonium Lady and Sam Ottley head to the birdcage prior to the Southern Belle

From barrier five Ottley pressed the turbo early to take the lead.

Plutonium Lady heads to the lead from the mobile release

“She got to the top comfortably, it was always the place to be. She just got to roll along and dictate and do what she wanted. She was happy there and ran up the straight nicely.”

At the end of the 1609 metre journey Plutonium Lady held on to win easily by three and three quarter lengths from second favourite Yankee Party who came home well from last.

Winning easily with her ears pricked from Yankee Party wide out

Sam Ottley with Plutonium Lady

Today’s win was the Bettor’s Delight mare’s ninth and it lifted her stake earnings to $157,159.

“Her ratings have probably shot through the roof and its gets so hard now at that sort of mark. You just have to weigh up the options.”

Both Ottley and Jones are big fans of this mare’s Series and have supported it over the thirteen years it’s been running.

“These sorts of races are awesome and what a quality field it was today. She’s been up and down the country. It doesn’t seem to worry her. When the good money is on you just have to chase them.”

It was Plutonium Lady’s third win in a row on the back of scoring a double in Auckland.

“She’s hit a real purple patch.”

Meanwhile Leer lived up to her reputation, when she won on debut for Charlton trainer Bruce Wallace and driver Brent Barclay.

Leer is out of the Jereme’s Jet mare Bay Jet and is a half-sister to Wildwest, the winner of nine of his fifteen starts in Australia including his first seven.

Leer with her ears pricked winning her maiden race

Forbury Park trainer Darryn Simpson trained the quinella in Race Three with Emdeegee driven by Sarah O’Reilly beating stablemate Zealous Spur.

Quinella for Darryn Simpson

Sarah O’Reilly returning with Emdeegee

Both horse are owned by Geoff Clarke.

Captain Pins capped off good place form by going one better in winning Race Four, his maiden race. The Captaintreacherous gelding unleashed a great burst of speed to hit the front and held on to beat With Grace by a half a length.

Captain Pins winning at Winton


RK Finn continued Wyndham trainer Craig Ferguson’s good season in the following race when he capitalised on a good trip behind pacemaker Calico Hill to win by half a head. It was the gelding’s second win in eight starts.

RK Finn getting up on the inside for Craig Ferguson


The much travelled Ivana Legacy won Race Six, her ninth win for Invercargill trainer Shannon Armour.

The seven year old American Ideal mare has been active at Addington recently, but has returned home to Southland and finished an unlucky fourth at the Northern Southland Meeting last weekend.

Ivana Legacy (3) winning her ninth race

Her win today was one of three for Brent Barclay.

Back to the winners circle

Quality trotter Chinese Whisper made a successful return to racing when he got up to win Race Nine. It was the Sundon gelding’s seventh win in just thirteen starts for trainer driver Nathan Williamson.

He last raced at Forbury Park in October.

Driven out Chinese Whisper (10) gets up to beat Willangus Lad (4)