October 2020

Pembrook Playboy Stamps His Class

Bruce Stewart

10th October 2020

Pembrook Playboy showed all the qualities of a horse going places when he beat a tidy field at the Northern Southland Trotting Club Meeting at Ascot Park today.

What made the win memorable was that he had to sit parked, but still had the class to win.

“I was following two horses that I didn’t want to be following so I had to commit to the outside. The horse did the rest. He went great,” Williamson said.

His trainer has always known the Bettor’s Delight entire has speed but today he showed great staying qualities.

“He’s developing into a very good all round horse. That’s what he needed today, a nice hard run. He’s a pretty good horse.”

After sitting parked outside leader Memphis Tennessee for the last 1650 metres Pembrook Playboy was brave in winning by half a length from Memphis Tennessee. The winning time was 3-21.5 with the last 800 metres cut out in 55.3.

“He felt good but they were going a bit. He hadn’t raced for a while so he was busy enough out there.”

Pembrook Playboy getting the better of Memphis Tennessee – Photo Bruce Stewart

Pembrook Playboy was bought by owner Chris Alcock at the 2018 National Yearling Sales. He’s out of the three win Christian Cullen mare Dudinka’s Star whose wins included the Great Northern Oaks and the Group One Ladyship Stakes.

The four year old holds a nomination for the New Zealand Cup.

“It’s not a goal. We’ll continue to pay up. If the field falls away and he gets a start it won’t be a bad idea as part of his growing up process. He’s probably twelve months – even two years away. He’s only four and hasn’t got the ring craft.”

Meanwhile Her Majesty overcame a second line draw to lead and hang on to win the Walker Murdoch Mobile Pace.

The four year old mare driven by co-trainer Kirstin Barclay got a nice run through on the back of favourite Miss Auckland and made the lead inside the first 400 metres.

Her Majesty which is a sister to Dizzy Miss Lizzy and Lady Madonna was starting to get the stitch at the end of the 2200 metres but held on to beat Maya Angelou.

Her Majesty (10) winning her first race – Photo Bruce Stewart

Willangus Lad showed plenty of tenacity when after being headed by Insist The Win, he came again to win his second race in as many starts.

The Angus Hall five year old trained by Northern Southland Committee man Robert Wilson took over the lead after early leader Madrik broke.

The winning margin was half a length.

Willangus Lad winning his second race – Photo Bruce Stewart

Jabali came from three back on the inside to nab pacemaker Hazer by a neck in Race Five.

It was the ten year old’s sixth win in ninety two starts for trainer Ross Hope. Jabali has now won over $66,000.

Jabali and Tristan Larsen winning at Ascot Park today – Photo Bruce Stewart

Promising Sentry won the Regent Car Court/Caduceus Club Of Southland Nuggets Final for trainer Craig Laurenson.

Sentry and Rory Mcllwrick winning the Nuggets Final – Photo Bruce Stewart

The Chelsea Faithful trained Toby O’Gara capped off a memorable day when he outfinished his rival to win the GJ Gardner Homes Mobile Pace.

Toby O’Gara (8) beating Onesmartfella (3) – Photo Bruce Stewart

Back to the birdcage with Jonny Cox – Photo Bruce Stewart

Whisper Breath Taking

Bruce Stewart

10th October 2020

Chinese Whisper lit up Ascot Park today, coming from a long way back to win his sixth race and in doing so breaking a track and Southland record.

The excitement machine was the highlight of a days racing that saw for the first time, full public attendance at Ascot Park since Covid.

“I didn’t have to pull the plugs and he sprinted up pretty good. It was pretty impressive,” trainer driver Nathan Williamson said after the win.

From the back mark of thirty metres the Sundon gelding got well off the pace early. With 400 metres to run he was still eight lengths off the pace and he had to go five wide out of the last bend.

Chinese Whisper came down the outside of the track and got up a beat a brave Sundons Flyer by half a length.

The winning time of 3-26.2 was a new track and Southland record for entires and geldings. The previous record of 3-26.3 was held by Monty Python. The open record of 3-24.0 is held by Pres The Belle.

Chinese Whisper coming down the outside to beat Sundons Flyer – Photo Bruce Stewart

Plugs still in returning to the birdcage – Photo Bruce Stewart

Williamson has been very patient with Chinese Whisper who’s had only ten starts over three seasons of racing.

“He’s quite temperamental and touchy. With management he’s slowing getting there. Every time he goes out there he’s learning something different. He dropped the bit completely today. I put him on the bit with a lap to go and he travelled up nice.”

The plan now is to race him at Tuapeka in a fortnight.

The five year old is owned by Williamson’s wife Katie and farrier Brendon Franks, and is currently ranked 30th in November’s Majestic Son Dominion Handicap.

“I might base myself in Christchurch before Cup Week, take him to the Cup trial, line him up on Cup Day and see how he goes in that sort of company. Dark Horse is my Dominion horse though.”

Ragazzo Rounds Them Up

Bruce Stewart

10th October 2020.

Ragazzo Mach lived up to the big rap his connections always give him when he delivered in emphatic style at Ascot Park today.

The Mach Three colt had won three workouts and two trials so was well prepped for his debut.

From a wide draw Ragazzo Mach was forced wide early for trainer driver Nathan Williamson.

“He was a wee bit funny off the gate but he’s never been off the mobile before,” he said.

Williamson settled the colt into a nice rhythm before spearing him forward in the back straight, taking the lead and shaking off a mid-race challenge from Tac Mac.

From that point Williamson dictated the terms and he went down to the line to win by six lengths.

“He’s a pretty laid back customer but he knows he’s had a race today.”

The winning time was 2-41.4 with the last 400 metres cut out in 27.2.

In full flight. Ragazzo Mach winning for Nathan Williamson-Photo Bruce Stewart.

Returning after win number one – Photo Bruce Stewart.

Nathan Williamson, Ragazzo Mach and Neville Cleaver – Photo Bruce Stewart

The colt has been earmarked for the $30,000 Group Three Diamond Creek Farm Classic at Ascot Park on Thursday 29th October but they could also look at a Sires Stakes Heat at Addington.

“He’s nominated but we’ll just have a think about it. It’s a different level of racing up there when you haven’t had that experience.”

Ragazzo Mach was bought by Riverton fisherman Neville Cleaver at the 2019 sales for $60,000. He’s a half-brother to the useful RR Sand Dollar, the winner of seven races, and Cast No Shadow the winner of eight in New Zealand and one in Australia.

“I had Onedin Mach and this colt was the last of the Mach Threes. He was super to look at. I got Nathan and my vet Peter Gillespie to look at him. He ticked all the boxes. I thought I’d get him for forty thousand but someone at the sale was running me up a bit. If you want a nice horse you have to pay for it. I paid fifty for both Franco Santino and Hopes And Dreams,” Cleaver said.

And he’s excited about Ragazzo Mach’s future.

“I don’t want to be shot down in flames but I do believe he could turn out to be my best horse. Nathan won’t tell you that but I’m allowed to say that because I’m the owner.”

Sentry Marches On

Bruce Stewart

15th October 2020

Edendale trainer Craig Laurenson has a lot to thank Invercargill reinsman Rory McIlwrick for, as he nearly sacked Sentry – an impressive winner at Winton today – not once but four times.

“I said to Rory ‘Drive his one. It can run but I can’t get it to trail up.’ He hopped off and said that Sentry was my best horse,” Laurenson said.

As a two year old Sentry had worked 3-15 (2400) so Laurenson had no doubts about the horse’s ability.

“But I couldn’t get within a hundred metres of another horse. He’d throw himself and run off the track.”

The Big Jim five year old qualified on his home track at Wyndham in July, winning by twenty four and a half lengths and running the 2400 metres in 3-03.1.

“He ran his last mile that day in 1-56.”

He debuted at Winton in September but was pacing roughly throughout before breaking with 800 metres to run, finishing last. He then ran second at Invercargill.

“He probably should have won that day but an abscess blew out in his foot. The good thing was he didn’t whimper. He’s tougher than I thought he was so I give him full credit.”

At Sentry’s next run he finished third at Winton before winning at the Northern Southland meeting last weekend. Although that win was impressive, Laurenson says today’s victory was even better.

“Shit yeah. He was three lengths last with 1200 to run. Nowdays you just don’t do that especially with a Canterbury horse leading up (hehe hehe).”

And he believes there’s plenty of improvement in the horse.

“He’s still not right. Look at his coat. The winter down here has been a mongrel. Last night he gave my heart a real flutter. He lost two shoes in the paddock just running round. He’s not blowing at all after the run today. He’s getting over it better than I am. I found a few things about him that have helped. He’s pacing better.”

In today’ race, driver Mark Hurrell settled Sentry at the back of the field. He got a cart into the race inside the last 600 metres but still had to make ground on his own inside the last four hundred metres. He came six wide, rounding the home turn and let down nicely down the middle of the track to win by a length and a quarter from Racing Minister (later relegated). The mile was cut out in 1-55.5 with Sentry running his last 800 metres in 56.2.

Sentry striding out at the end of an easy win – Photo Bruce Stewart

Craig Laurenson and Sentry – Photo Bruce Stewart

Owned by long time stable client Ian Bennett, Sentry is out of the Christian Cullen mare On Guard.

It’s a family Laurenson knows well. He trained On Sky, a Soky’s Atom mare that won five of her ten starts.

“She was the best horse I ever trained. She went 1-50 in American and that was twenty years ago.”

He’s also trained a host of other winners from the same family including On The Double and Lord Patrol but unfortunately On Guard is not around anymore.

Although Sentry’s runs to date have been impressive, Laurenson says the biggest offer to buy him was $30,000 which came after he qualified.

“He qualified by twenty five lengths and ran his last mile in 1-56 and we said Nah.”

The horse will now be aimed at the $30,000 Macca Lodge South of the Waitaki on Show Day at Addington.

Today was the first time junior reinsman Mark Hurrell had driven the horse, and he was suitably impressed.

“He’d be right up there. He gave me a great feel. I wasn’t even going to pull the plugs because I had them covered. He just jogged that today and had no right to win from where he came from. He’s still got a lot to learn, he’s still pretty green. If he keeps going the way he is he’ll be open class.”

Bizzie Wins for Baucke

Bruce Stewart

15th October 2020

Woodlands trainer Steve Baucke has always liked Bizzie Lou and she won for the stable at the Wairio Meeting today. He bought the filly at the Weanling Sales in Auckland.

“She wants to be there. She’s a tough little nut,” he said.

Steve Baucke and Bizzie Lou – Photo Bruce Stewart

Bizzie Lou is out of the In The Pocket mare Bizzie Girl and was bred by Woodlands Stud. Bizzie Girl has also left Eliza Duska which won nineteen races in Australia including the Group Three Pink Bonnet. She ran third in the NSW Oaks. Her breed goes back to twelve race winner In Or Out , who was developed by Harry Maw.

Bizzie Lou drew the inside of the second row in today’s race, and she ended up four back on the inside for driver Matty Williamson.

“I was worried. I thought fourth might be our lot today.”

Williamson had a handful of horses turning in and once her got the gap twenty metres short of the winning post, she sprinted hard to win by half a neck from pacemaker New York Man, with another half a head back to Beaver.

“She went massive to get up. She just keeps stepping up when she goes out,” said Baucke.

Bizzie Lou (9) sprinting hard to win her first race – Photo Bruce Stewart

Back the the birdcage – one of two winners for Matty Williamson – Photo Bruce Stewart

The horse was subject to some big bets and went in as the favourite.

“Carol (Baucke’s wife) has two dollars to win and three dollars for a place and I had twenty over thirty so it wasn’t coming from us.”

Those that follow the Wyndham workouts would have spotted her winning easily last Sunday.

“She went well at the workouts the other day. She’s shown a bit of ability so there’s some nice fillys racing coming up.”

Playboy Off To The Big Dance

Bruce Stewart

25th October 2020

“Good manners won it for him today. He made the handicap half of what it should have been,” co-trainer Ross Wilson commented after Robyns Playboy won the Dan Cummings Memorial Tuapeka Cup – keeping his New Zealand Cup aspirations alive.

Robyns Playboy – File

From the thirty metre handicap the Shadow Play five year old began like a bullet and was soon up challenging for the lead.

“It made it for us when Brett Gray’s horse (Memphis Tennessee) galloped. Because if it had gone to the front it was going to be impossible for us to make up the ground.”

From that point driver Craig Ferguson had designs on taking up the pacemaking role.

“He hasn’t had the enthusiasm (recently) when coming from behind and passing them, which he used to have.”

At the finish Robyns Playboy had a neck to spare on Deus Ex.

“Even though it got close at the finish Craig said he was waiting on the other horse. He said he couldn’t pull him up after the line. He took off again.”

The winning time of 3-21.7 was 0.3 seconds outside the race record Robyns Playboy set last season when he won the Cup as a four year old.

Earlier in the week Wilson told Southern Harness Website the gelding had become a bit ho hum in his training so he and son and training partner Chris had decided to work him a bit harder.

“Normally he only has a couple of runs before his race but we’ve been hoppling him every third day since his last start. He seems a bit sharper.”

Today’s win was Robyns Playboys third this season from just five starts, and Wilson says he’s a totally different horse this time in.

“He wasn’t right last season, he had a weepy eye which indicated he had a virus so he was only 90 per cent right. He’s just a different horse this year because he’s healthy.”

While most of the New Zealand Cup candidates chose to race in the Ashburton Flying Stakes as the more traditional Cup lead up, but Wilson said they’d preferred to take a different path.

“I thought it was a bit silly going to Ashburton and getting a hiding from those good guys when we could go to Tuapeka and maybe win the race. It wasn’t going to make any difference on whether we were going to run in the Cup or not.”

Robyns Playboy won’t start again before next month’s Group One pacing feature and all the work leading into the $540,000 classic will be done at home.

“We’ll just prepare him as though it’s another race because it’s only two weeks and a few days which is the same gap as he’s had in all his races. With a galloping pacemaker we can really sharpen him up.”

Jones Get Diamonds Day Double

Bruce Stewart

29th October 2020

Burnham trainer Mark Jones became the first trainer to win both the Southland Oaks and the Southern Supremacy Stakes on the same day in the same year, with Stylish Memphis and Burnham Boy winning at Ascot Park today.

Burnham Boy warming up for Sam Ottley

In the Macca Lodge/Nevele R Southland Oaks Final, driver Ricky May took Stylish Memphis forward off the mobile with local filly Watch Me Now taking the lead. With 600 metres to run Watch Me Now and Need You Now went to war, with May sitting patiently in the trail. He moved Stylish Memphis off the inside and once the field straightened for the run home the Bettor’s Delight mare let down nicely.

“She ran past them and knocked off. She could have won by a lot more. You don’t get paid for winning by more,” said Jones.

The winning margin was three quarters of a length from Need You Now with Watch Me Now another three quarters of a length away in third.

Her winning time of 3-16.3 created a new race, track and Southland record for mares erasing Bonnie Joan’s record of 3-17.1. The time was also a new all comers record.

“The driver and the draw were in our favour. She’s a good stayer and had been running good times over in Aussie and a truly run 2700 metres didn’t worry her. The first three home are very good fillies.”

Stylish Memphis winning the Southland Oaks – Photo Monica Toretto

It was the fourth time May has won the Southland Oaks. He previously won it on Impact (1996), Flash Tactics (2000) and Mainland Banner (2005).

Stylish Memphis is owned by Wayne Higgs.

“In two weeks time at this stage she’ll head to the Nevele R Final. Wayne is toying with the idea of running in the New Zealand Cup, said Jones.”

Stylish Memphis may also go back to Australia again in the new year. Last season she won the Group One New South Wales Oaks.

“If we place her right she’s definitely good enough to win another Group One.”

The Jones double was completed when Burnham Boy led all the way and held out a game Pembrook Playboy by a neck at the end of the Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes.

Two quality warriors fight it out in the Supremacy

“The way the wee fella’s been going he’s shown he’s pretty tough so when we saw the draw I thought I’d like to roll forward and lead up if I could,” said driver Sam Ottley. “He’s a really genuine horse who drops the bits wherever you put him. When I asked him to go he still had plenty left.”

Returning the winner.

Both the Southland Oaks and Southern Supremacy were rescheduled after Covid prevented both finals from being run in April.

“We really love coming down here. Southern Harness didn’t have to re-run these races but they did which is great. They’re good races to win.”

Trainer Mark Jones was also full of compliments for Burnham Boy.

“He deserved to win a race like this. He’s no superstar but he tries really hard. He’s a good genuine race horse which you’d like a stable full of,” he said.

The four year old came into today’s final with impeccable form over short distance racing at Addington.

“The short trips back home don’t suit him but the 2700 suited him today. If he got into the New Zealand Cup this year we’d probably start him. After the way he went today we’d probably make the late payment.”

Stamp Duty (inside) winning for Blair Orange

Back to the birdcage

Tac Mac winning Race Two

Hampton winning Race Three. Note owner heading to the tote in the background.

Back to scale

Spotlight The Valley (3) winning for Sam Ottley

Returning. One of two winners for Balfour trainer Robert Wilson

Dashing Major (inside) winning the Diamond Creek Farm Classic- Photo Monica Toretto

Might Be Me winning the Southern Belle

Returning with Blair Orange

Bettor Galleon – second winner for Robert Wilson