September 2019


Cool Day Turns Hot At Winton

Bruce Stewart

The main pacing race at Winton today, the Ultimate Machete At Alabar Handicap Pace certainly lived up to its pre-race hype, featuring the return of  unbeaten pacer U May Cullect, Harness Jewels place getter Robyns Playboy and an in form Franco Santino.

In what proved to be a very tactical race it was the Nathan Williamson trained and driven Franco Santino from a twenty metre handicap that prevailed.

Robyns Playboy (20 metres) was a length and a quarter back in second while favourite U May Cullect (50 metres) was two and a half lengths back in third.

“Rapt with him. He’s just kept stepping up in the last few weeks. We’ve been thrilled with the way he’s been training. He’s always been a picky eater but now he’s starting to lick his bowl and he’s healthy. I think he may have matured and turned the corner a little bit,” Williamson said after the win.

He attributed the win to Franco Santino’s good beginning and his move to come off the inside running line with a 1000 metres to run.

“The key to it was we did have a head start on our main rivals. I was going to be hemmed three back on the inside. I had a look and saw that they (the field) were well strung out. The plan was to keep them running and make them earn every step of their handicap. As is worked out that move probably won him the race.”

Returning to the birdcage

Williamson will now consider the Hannon Memorial for the five year old Christian Cullen entire which is owned by Riverton fisherman Neville Cleaver.

Ollie Kite, Neville Cleaver and Nathan Williamson with Franco Santino

“He seems like he’s (Franco Santino) in a good place so we’ll probably look at that now.”

The winning time of 2-57.3 was just outside the track record for geldings and entires. ( 2-57.1 held by Royal Bengal).

Gore trainers Ross and Chris Wilson were also pleased with the performance of second placegetter Robyns Playboy. His time for the 2400 metres was a very creditable 2-57.6.

“I was real rapt. It was a bit of a step up for him really to see how he would measure up. He made a wee bit of a hash after the start and had a buck or two which didn’t help,” said co-trainer Ross Wilson.

He said Robyns Playboy is a naturally athletic horse and was ready for today’s season opener.

“It didn’t worry him. He didn’t blow after. He’s quite happy because he tried to kick Chris afterwards.”

The Wilson’s also plan to head to the Hannon at Oamaru in a fortnight.

“I think all the Purdon – Rasmussen horses look as though they’re going this year but we’ll just hide him in the field somewhere and see whether he runs home. It’ll tell us whether we’re going to carry on or not. I think he’s a stayer and is better covered up. In a lot of his races so far he’s been doing a lot of work.”

Favourite U May Cullect’s run for third was one of the big talking points of the race.

The six year old gelding was privately timed to run his last mile in 1-53.3 and last 800 metres in 53.1. He was credited with an overall time of 2-55.7 for the 2400 metre stand.

Driver and co-trainer Kirstin Barclay was thrilled with the run as it was the gelding’s first start since winning the Uncut Gems at Addington in the middle of June.

“He got a bit keen in the preliminary. He was just on the fresh side but as soon as he got round to the start he just walked round like an old campaigner,” she said.

The gelding made a slow but safe beginning from the 50 metre mark.

“He just sort of froze when the tape went but he stepped safely. I just can’t wait to get him lining up with horses now off a level mark because I think he’ll come out with them.”

U May Cullect was always going to have to work from the back mark and he got well off the pace early.

“A lap out I had to give him a slap on the bum because once he’s in the race he just goes to sleep. He’s just an incredible horse.”

Maidonthebeach leads heading to the 1000 metres, with U May Cullect at the rear.

Barclay moved the Gotta Go Cullect gelding forward from the 800 metres with twelve lengths to make up on the leader Franco Santino.

“At the quarter I thought if I chased him with the stick we could have got closer but he’d done so much. There’s bigger races coming up. I’ve never been so thrilled to run third. There was still a bit left in the tank. He’ll take a lot of improvement out of the run because he’s only had one private run prior to today.”

U May Cullect ran home nicely under his own steam and was the only horse making ground in the very fast run race.

He too has the Hannon on his radar.

“I’m looking forward to racing off level marks. I think his forte is coming off their back with the speed he shows.”

Play It Again John

Bruce Stewart

Gore trainer John Ryan showed what a master he is with the square gaiters today at Winton  when he produced Picketts Ridge to win the Majestic Son At Alabar Handicap Trot.

The six year old Skyvalley gelding driven by regular pilot Nathan Williamson, hadn’t raced since the Riverton meeting at Ascot Park in November last year and had only two workouts to prepare him for today’s run.

“I was thrilled with him. What a tremendous training effort by John to get him that sharp and go 3-02 on a cold day. Today was the best he’s felt as far as his gait goes. He felt really solid. He’s always had the ability to be a really good horse.”

Picketts Ridge’s winning margin was two and a half lengths over Wee Man Trouble. The winning time on a cold eight degree day of 3-02.6 was 1.6 seconds outside of the track record of 3-01.0  held by Majestic Man.

It was Picketts Ridge’s fifth win in eleven starts and he looks destined for a better grade.

The day also proved rewarding for two Canterbury drivers.

Leading reinsman Blair Orange drove three winners; Plutonium Lady for trainer Mark Jones, Rah De Rah for Tapanui trainer Matt Saunders and impressive looking Tom Martin which won his second race in as many starts.

The Paul Court trained Tom Martin lead early before handing up to Kingmaker. But when Hazer started to come round the field with 1700 metres to run Orange took the Mach Three gelding to the front again and there he stayed. His winning margin over Amore Lancôme was a length and a quarter.

“He’s a big strong guy who’s still learning but the motor’s there. He just hasn’t got the best pacing actions and he can chuck a few steps in here and there. He’s also not a great steering horse just yet but he’ll only get better. Today he was always travelling well so I was happy enough,” Orange said after the run.

Tom Martin holds out Amore Lancome

Tom Martin’s win capped off a good day for West Otago breeder and trainer John Stiven. He bought Raindowne, the dam of Tom Martin, a few years ago of Tuapeka Lodge.

Rah De Rah (3) gets the better of Glacier Coaster and doesn’t Blair Orange love it.

Plutonium Lady winning easily for Blair Orange

Later in the day Stiven produced Countess Of Arden to win her second race and his first win as a trainer.

Canterbury driver John Dunn was also in good form, driving two winners back to back.

The first was the Bettor’s Delight filly Need You Now – she beat second favourite Kickupyaheels by half a neck. The two locked wheels close to the finish and Robin Swain trainer of Kickupyaheels lodged a protest which was later dismissed.

Need You Now is raced by All Black captain Kieran Reed, former All Black Andy Ellis and the Woodlands Partnership Syndicate Number Two.

She’s out of the Badlands’ Hanover mare Lady Antebellum and is a half-sister to Billy Badger which won eight races for Robert Dunn who also trains Need You Now.

Need to Know just holding out Kickupyaheels – their wheels locked together

Need To Know heading back the winner

In the following race the father and son combination lined up three year old Sportswriter gelding Tyron’s Bit Of Lemon. He took the race out, beating Invaluable by a length and a quarter.

Tyron’s Bit Of Lemon winning on debut

Another success on the day was converted pacer Justan’s Sister which won her first race in the trotting gait for trainer Shane Matheson.

Justan’s Sister winning her first race as a trotter

Rugged Peak Wins

Bruce Stewart

Rugged Peak cleared maiden ranks at Ascot Park today in only his second start for young trainer driver Brad Williamson.

Williamson has had the chestnut mare since she was a late two year old after the horse was broken in by Stephen Boyd.

“She’s taken a long time to get trotting and is still a work in progress but she does have her share of ability,” he said.

Rugged Peak began well and was left wide early before sitting parked outside Eilish Hall. Williamson then took Rugged Peak to the lead with 1700 metres to run.

“She was a little bit unsafe at times during the running. There were a few times when I felt I may have lost her but to her credit she kept trotting.”

Rugged Peak leading with a lap to run – Photo Bruce Stewart

She held on to beat Kiwi Heir by a neck and Williamson says the plan is to give the mare a spell now and let her develop.

“Hopefully with a bit of a break and time to strengthen she’ll come back better. She does wear pretty heavy shoes in front and I would like to change that but she just needs to get a bit more confidence.”

Rugged Peak (7) winning for Brad Williamson – Photo Bruce Stewart

Returning to the birdcage – Photo Bruce Stewart

With some of the winning Griffins Syndicate – Photo Bruce Stewart

Rugged Peak is by Peak out of the Sundon mare Rugged Cross and was bred by the Grice Brothers. She’s raced by the Griffins Syndicate. They have also leased a half-brother by Bacardi Lindy named Donald Trump.

The syndicate also races evergreen trotter Monty Python which will start at Oamaru tomorrow and they also own Dark Horse which holds a nomination for the Dominion at Addington in November.

Williamson is only in his third season of training and has fifteen horses in work at his Oamaru stable.

“You start off with problem horses and do your best to get what you can out of them and then you hope you can get young quality stock sooner rather than later.”

Stable star and recently announced Otago Trotter of the Year Cracker Hill is back in work. He ran second in the Group One Two Year Old Ruby and Group Two Sires Stakes Championship.

“He had three months off and he’s just being jogged up. He’ll be ready to race over Christmas time. We’re hoping to target the big races this year. He’s put on a lot of weight and really beefed up. He’d be a hundred kilos heavier.”

Williamson also bought three quality trotting yearlings at this year’s Yearling Sales. They include a Love You colt which he paid $55,000 for, out of Allegro Agitato – the winner of twenty one races and  $446,899. in stakes.  

He also purchased for $42,000 a Love You filly out of Sierra Roydon the dam of quality trotter Show Gait. The third purchase was a Sebastian K filly out of nine win Wrestle mare Phoebe Revival for $10,000.

Williamson said all three horses and been syndicated.

“Hopefully one of them shows up later in the two year old season. That would be perfect.”

Success From Winton Workouts

Bruce Stewart

Last week’s Winton Workouts proved to be a good guide to nailing the first two maiden pacing winners at today’s Winton Harness Racing Club meeting at the Central Southland course.

The royally bred first starter Tact Eze got the ball rolling for junior driver Ellie Barron while surprising Winton trainer Trevor Proctor.

“It did really, fresh up and she’s still green. She’s had two workouts running 3-08 and 3-10 and I thought she’d be a wee bit short. But it’s her home track and there were only ten nomination so I gave her a run” he said.

The four year old Art Major mare had been given a good number of workouts prior to today’s debut.

“She had a few (workouts) over a period and Brent (regular driver Brent Barclay) said she didn’t improve in any of them. Brent went up to Addington to drive for Brett Gray and that’s when Ellie got on her. I changed her diet, worked her on the grass a bit and she turned a corner.”

Today from barrier four Tact Eze lacked early speed.

“Ellie struggled to get her up to the mobile. It’s the same at workouts as well.”

She settled three wide before getting to the parked positon beside favourite American Eryetime which lead out from Gate Seven. When Forklore made a sharp move around the field at the 800 Barron was able to move down on the running line.

At the top of the straight it was down to three horses and Tact Eze came up the Alabar passing lane to beat Yoha by a nose with a half a head back to American Eyretime. The next runner home was eleven lengths away.

Tact Eze (4) getting up on the inside – Photo Bruce Stewart

Tact Eze is out of the Christian Cullen mare Tact Lizzie which won ten races including the 2010 New Zealand Breeders Stakes at Addington.

As a broodmare she’s kept the ‘Tact’ breed in the spotlight, leaving Tact Tate which won the $100,000 Group One Nestle Four Year Old Bonanza and Group One Bohemia Crystal in Australia. He’s since headed to America where he’s also won.

Tact Lizzie’s other winners have been Tact Rousey and Tact Maggie.

Tact Rousey won only once here, but has proved to be a bit of a revelation in Australia,  winning four of her five starts and pacing a mile in 1-53.2.

Tact Maggie won five races here and has won three of her five starts in Australia.

Meanwhile Lite Percussion, which had beaten Tact Eze at the Winton Workouts last Thursday proved class is permanent when he won after having been away from the racetrack for nearly two years.

“He’s had a tendon injury. He went some really nice races before he injured himself so he was worth another go,” said co-trainer Kirstin Barclay.

At his last start prior to injury he was good enough to run third in the November 2017 Nuggets Final at Riverton behind Franco Santino and Lawrence.

Today he beat Delight N Gold by half a length. It was the Gotta Go Cullen gelding’s eleventh start.

Lite Percussion and Kirstin Barclay winning his first race – Photo Bruce Stewart

Back to the birdcage – Photo Bruce Stewart

The Geoff and Jude Knight trained gelding Deus Ex improved on his debut run for third when he too cleared maiden ranks, beating Hands Up Jack by a nose with Terror The Christian a neck back in third place.

Deus Ex (3) winning for Matty Williamson – Photo Bruce Stewart

Returning to the birdcage win number 799 for Matty – Photo Bruce Stewart